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USA: National Plug In Day Electrifies 65 Cities

Electric cars and plug-in hybrids were celebrated and demonstrated in 65 cities Sunday, Sept. 25, as National Plug In Day saw its biggest success ever. From Times Square in New York to the Automobile Driving Museum close to the Pacific Ocean in El Segundo, Calif., thousands of people turned out to see, feel and drive electric cars, many for the first time.

“I think we finally got the ball rolling,” said Bob Seibert, chairman of the Sierra Club’s Global Warming Committee, speaking of the current availability of EVs.

Seibert has built his own EVs, leased a GM EV1 and now drives a Chevy Volt. He spoke at the Orange County Plug In Day, held at Mitsubishi Motors’ US headquarters, where 87 EVs and PHEVs showed up. Many of those cars took a free jolt of juice from Mitsubishi’s new solar-powered charger. There was even an Eaton Level III charger available, blasting electrons into car batteries at 400 volts.

As was typical of many of the gatherings, a wide variety of cars showed up for the OC, Calif., event, from home-built three-wheeled contraptions to a couple of Fisker Karmas, two BMW ActiveEs, a fleet of Nissan Leafs and what had to be the largest gathering of Mitsubishi i-MiEVs ever.

EV owners and manufacturers gave 300 test drives in four hours at the El Segundo event, where organizers touted the fact that half the EVs and PHEVs that showed up had been charged by solar panels.

Leafs, Volts, i’s and Karmas were on hand for ride and drives in Huntsville, Alabama. Forty seven EVs lead a “silent parade” through Sarasota, Fla., where the city recently added five charging stations to the four it already had. Vermont governor Peter Shumlin declared Sept. 22-23 Vermont Plug-In Weekend. A Nissan Leaf electric limo lead a parade of 60 EV and PHEVs from company headquarters in Franklin, Tenn. to a new public charging station at Vanderbilt University. Over 20 different makes of EVs showed up in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Estimates from organizers of the number of people who saw the cars, learned about them or took a test drive or ride are officially in the “tens of thousands,” according to pluginamerica.org. The Times Square gathering saw between 5,000 and 6,000 of the curious, who got to see a Coca Cola eStar electric and Duane Reade Smith Newton electric delivery trucks, among many more well-known plug ins like the Prius and Leaf.

“We had a terrific turnout from both domestic and international crowds,” said Julie Migliacci, director of development & communications, New York City & Lower Hudson Valley Clean Communities, who organized NYC’s event. “Many of them had never seen an EV before.”

And that was the point. Electric and plug-in hybrid cars are still small sellers. Nissan sold just under 10,000 Leafs last year, while Chevy sold just under 8000 Volts. Mitsubishi has sold only a little more than 500 i-MiEVs in the U.S.

Electric cars are still a big unkown to the vast majority of car buyers, with many basing their fears about them on anectodal evidence and few having any real experience driving them. The idea with National Plug In Day was to make more people familiar with electricity as a vehicle power.

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