Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sierra Club, Partners Celebrate 200 Million Oil-Free Miles

Sunday September 23rd was National Plug In Day, a public education event on the many benefits that now come with widespread availability of new electric vehicles and public charging stations. Sierra Club's Florida Healthy Air Campaign's volunteer teams organized two of the nation's most successful events, both on Florida's gulf coast.

In Sarasota the day began with a press conference and awards ceremony attended by more than 75 people.  National Plug In Day City Captain, Ken Stokes, opened with his welcoming remarks.  He then introduced Frank Jackalone, Florida Organizing Manager, who spoke on the many benefits of driving an electric vehicle (he knows what he is talking about, he drives a Chevy Volt himself!). Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson spoke about what the County has done to prepare for EVs on the road in regards to charging infrastructure and planning.  A big moment was when the Mayor of the City of Sarasota delivered the City's National Plug In Day Proclamation, naming Sierra Club as a stakeholder and partner in the planning process. Sierra Club presented Certificate of Recognition to both the City and County, thanking them for their valuable contributions to Electric Vehicle Community Readiness.

The fun really started when 60 electric cars participated in a "silent EV parade," led by a police escort, from downtown Sarasota over a scenic bridge to one of our beautiful barrier islands, all donning special "National Plug In Day" flags attached to their vehicles. It was a sight to see (but not hear)!

After the parade, the vehicles assumed their position inside our expo venue and displayed their vehicles, answered questions, and let the general public get up close and personal with the next generation of oil-free automobiles.  Also on display inside the expo were dozens of green exhibitors, from producers of solar powered charging units, to electric bicycles, and non-profits advocating for the oil-free cause. Additionally, the public was encouraged to participate in the free EV Ride-and-Drive, provided by licensed auto dealers.  Six different EV models were available for the Ride-and-Drive, including the Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, Mitsubishi Mi-EV, Fisker Karma, Wheego, Tesla Model S (only one in Florida), and the Pedego E-Bike. About 50 people were able to get in the drivers seat and experience the joy of EV driving for themselves! 

In Tampa Bay, Sierra Club celebrated National Plug In Day with the City of Temple Terrace, a city of 24,000 near Tampa and the University of South Florida (USF). Hundreds of area residents got to learn more about EVs and green transportation firsthand through test drives, a press conference, exhibits, and live radio broadcast.  
This was the first public event held at the city’s new urban redevelopment site. The first stage of what city leaders envision will be a walkable residential and retail area, the site is carved out of a typical suburban asphalt parking lot. Temple Terrace Mayor Joe Affronti  proclaimed the day National Plug In Day and expressed his excitement that Sierra Club’s Florida Healthy Air Campaign team chose this site, as it demonstrated how his city’s urban oasis, with a pavilion and trellis-covered courtyard, is a better way to build than typical sprawl housing and retail development.
Co-sponsors providing green transportation information included the USF Patel School for Global Sustainability, USF Student Environmental Association (USF SEA), national EV charging station company NovaCharge, Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission’s (HCEPC) Air Quality Division, and the Sierra Club's Florida Healthy Air Campaign. Volunteers collected signatures on Sierra Club’s petition asking Florida’s governor to support policies to help jumpstart the new EV alternative.
EVs from TECO (Tampa Electric Co.), HCEPC and privately owned cars like the Tesla roadster lined Temple Terrace’s new town square, while local dealers Daniels Chevrolet and Ferman Nissan were busy all afternoon providing test drives around the property. Hundreds told Sierra Club’s team they were amazed at how well the Volt and Leaf handled, how quietly they operate and how affordable they really are when one considers fuel only costs the equivalent of $.75/gallon.
As local community-sponsored radio station WMNF provided sound for the press conference and broadcast its “Shakedown Sunday” show for 2 hours during the event, a tai chi demonstration added to the fun of what National Plug In Day City Captain Tom Krumreich called "a great day for the City of Temple Terrace and for the future of air quality in Tampa Bay".
All in all, both events were enormous successes, serving as launching points for the Florida Healthy Air Campaign's EV Initiatives and also helping build important bridges between our local City and County leaders and elected officials. We can't wait for next year's National Plug In Day! 

Sarasota Herald Tribune "A Day to Celebrate Electric Cars"

Video: SNN Local News/Herald Tribune