195 cities celebrate Drive Electric Week

Earlier this month the nation celebrated National Drive Electric Week, with events in 195 cities.

From Liberty Lake, Washington, to Montclair, New Jersey  from Prairie Village, Kansas, to Denver, Colorado, drivers of electric vehicles and — those thinking about it — assembled to encourage each other and view the EVs and plug-in hybrids that will be available for sale in the near future.

In Boise, Idaho, 111 attendees assembled at the MK Nature Center to view a display of electric vehicles, including the Tesla Model S, as well as comfortable family cars and electric bikes. Attendees included 9 Nissan Leaf owners, 6 Tesla Model S owners and 5 Chevy Volt owners. The crowd heard lectures on how EVs offer low-cost local transportation and how vehicles can be charged at home with solar panels.

In Boston, attendees met at the Massachusetts State House with state representatives Jonathan Hecht, Frank Smizik and Bradford Hill, and state senator Jamie Eldridge as hosts. Vehicles on display included a Smart Car, a Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, a BMW i3, a Ford Fusion, and a Tesla Model S. The 10 EV owners in attendance reported having driven a total of 113,000 miles in their electric vehicles.

In Pittsburgh, city captain Michael Kirven arranged to have a small fleet of electrics available in the parking lot at the Mall at Robinson so that attendees could have the opportunity to take a spin in an EV. The lot also had four charging stations available for EV owners. Forty-nine attendees registered, and the 21 EV owners reported a total of 250,000 miles in their vehicles.

Probably no city celebrated Drive Electric Week more intensely than Los Angeles, which is vying to become the electric car capital of the country. According to the survey released recently by the International Council on Clean Transportation, San Francisco currently leads the country in the conversion to electric transportation. But Los Angeles is giving every indication of giving its California rival a run for the money.

Indeed, L.A. used Drive Electric Week to announce that it will lease 160 electric cars and 128 plug-in hybrids for various city departments next year. Featured at the Drive Electric event was a BMW i3 and a Tesla Model S, both decked out as Los Angeles police cars. The LAPD will get substantial share of the 288 electric vehicles to be distributed among the departments, although the actual numbers have not yet been determined.

“Today we take another step toward becoming the most sustainable city in America,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in announcing the city’s big move toward electric vehicles. “This year Los Angeles will become home to the largest city-owned fleet of pure battery electric vehicles anywhere in the country, and we will save taxpayer dollars along the way.”

The police cars will be driven by detectives, investigators and administrative officials but will not yet be assigned as squad cars. Department officials said they will test the performance of the electric vehicles before that move is made. Meanwhile, the other EVs will be shared by the fire department, the General Services Department and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

“The LADWP is pleased to support the Mayor’s goal of having EVs become the majority of our fleet,” said General Manager Marcie Edwards. “We already have 67 EVs in our motor pool and will purchase even more to replace our older gasoline vehicles. LADWP’s motor pool also includes plug-in hybrid trucks, which are not only better for air quality but quieter and therefore ‘friendlier’ to the neighborhoods we serve.”

Questions have been raised as to whether electric vehicles would be able to maintain high-speed chases — such as the pursuit of O.J. Simpson’s Ford Bronco more than two decades ago. But L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck said there would be a testing period, and the Department still has plenty of gasoline-powered vehicles (as well as military-style vehicles and helicopters) capable of pursuit.

The leasing effort is part of the Sustainable City pLAn announced by Mayor Garcetti earlier this year. The plan sets a target for 50 percent of the city’s light-duty vehicle purchases to be powered by electricity by 2017 and 80 percent of all city vehicles to be fully electric by 2025. “We’re just delivering on the plan a year early,” Garcetti said.

At a cost of 21 cents per mile, EVs compare favorably with the 37 cents per mile for gasoline-powered vehicles. Under these conditions, the city plans to cut its transportation fuel budget by 41 percent. The savings could amount to tens of millions of dollars over the course of a year.

“We’re excited to see the City of Los Angeles leading us toward a more sustainable future and cleaner air in Southern California,” Garcetti said. “We are confident that other cities will follow suit.”

From the turnout for Drive Electric Week, it appears they are.