National Drive Electric Week and AltCar Expo showed off plug-ins and shared ideas on the future of mobility

ndew-and-altcar-expo-2016Clean transportation was well represented last week during National Drive Electric Week and the AltCar Expo conference. U.S. cities saw increased participation and interest during the electric vehicle display, ride and drives, and education week; while Canada and New Zealand added more cities this year. Those attending the annual AltCar Expo event in Santa Monica, Calif., heard about some of the vital issues that need to be addressed for these vehicles to move forward.

A lot of the plug-in vehicles shown around the country at National Drive Electric Week were on display at AltCar Expo at the 11th annual expo and conference. AltCar Expo also featured the West Coast debut of the 2017 Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid and a big display from American Honda showcasing the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell. Attendees were able to get behind the wheel and drive one before they end up at Honda dealerships later this year. (Editor’s note: the Chevy Bolt looks great, but wasn’t available for a ride and drive; that’s likely to happen at the LA Auto Show, according to display booth staff.)

Plug In America said it was the largest National Drive Electric Week in the event’s six-year history, with more than 220 events in nearly every state and Canadian province. It’s been organized by Plug In America in partnership with Sierra Club and Electric Auto Association to raise awareness and hands-on experience to those considering switching over to owning EVs. More than 4,000 EVs were shown at these events, Plug In America said.

In my hometown of Long Beach, Calif., the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S were the top EVs on display, followed by the Tesla Model X, and Chevy Volt; with the Leaf and Model S ahead of the pack. Registered attendees in Long Beach reported 1,010,845 electric miles driven. Overall, there are more than 500,000 electric vehicles on U.S. roads and more than a million worldwide, according to Plug In America.

For AltCar Expo, Terry O’Day, EVgo vice president and City of Santa Monica councilmember, kicked off the speaker conference on Friday morning. That was followed by a panel on the Future of Mobility; it was moderated by Hilary Norton, CEO of FAST and included Michael Brylawski, CEO of Evercar; Delilah Lanoix, Co-Founder of ButterFli; Francie Stefan, City of Santa Monica’s Mobility Planning Manager; Kat Urquhart, LEV Policy Consultant; and myself, as Editor & Publisher of Green Auto Market. Some of the hot topics discussed were how soon we expect to see autonomous vehicles on our streets; how the City of Santa Monica has connected its mobility options by bus, bike, and car for shared rides aimed at decreasing traffic and pollution; ButterFli’s role in bringing more mobility options to senior and disabled citizens; and experience gained by Evercar in getting on-demand service drivers (such as Uber drivers) trained in using hybrids and electric vehicles.

Dan Neil, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, led a lively discussion on the role Tesla and other electrified transportation has been playing in the U.S., along with the next wave in fuel cell cars, and advanced fuels including renewable diesel and renewable natural gas. Others participating in the Friday morning discussion included Rhetta deMesa of California Energy Commission; Steve Ellis of Honda; Taylor Jones, California Governor’s Advisor; Evan Speer of California Dept. of General Services; and Geri Yoza of Toyota.

Dan Neil was also awarded with the 1st Annual AltCar Disrupter Award on Saturday during AltCar Expo. Neil, who at the time wrote for the LA Times, played a prominent role in Who Killed the Electric Car? That film had a 10 year anniversary commemoration prior to a screening of its sequel, Revenge of the Electric Car, on Saturday during the conference.

On Friday afternoon, a presentation covered the work being done by the Advanced Transportation Centers in California towards a zero emissions target. Michael Boehm, Executive Director of Advanced Transportation Center of Southern California; and Sedale Turbovsky, Chief Futurist and Center for Alternative Fuels, Director for carbonBLU, spoke to these issues and were led by Tamara Gishri Perry, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Industry Cluster Development at LAEDC.

Some of the highlights from the outdoor expo were: The Volkswagen e-Golf, Electrobikes, Kia Soul EV (which may be gaining interest from fleets, I was told), URB-E Scooter, and the previously mentioned Honda and Chevy offerings.

WaiveCar, the world’s first ad-supported carsharing program, displayed its offerings and announced its launch in Santa Monica and Venice Beach; the firm had a car named Oscar on display. Carsharing firm Zipcar had a display booth at the event. Low-speed electric vehicle maker GEM had two vehicles on display.

As part of National Drive Electric Week, EVgo offered drivers free charging through its national network from Sept. 10 to Sept. 18. Drivers with a valid EVgo charging card were able to charge for free at any of EVgo’s 1,000 charging locations in over 50 metro markets.

“National Drive Electric Week is a celebration of the electric lifestyle. One advantage of driving electric is never having to stop at a gas station again. This week, EVgo will make it even sweeter by making your public charging free nationwide,” said EVgo’s Terry O’Day.  “Our network is growing rapidly, and together with our drivers, is making the EV movement unstoppable.”

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