Friday, June 14, 2013

Sierra Club Brings Together Powerful Group of Stakeholders for First Electric Vehicle Collaborative

Electric vehicles present a critical opportunity to curb harmful air pollution that wreaks havoc on public health and our climate. Electrifying our transportation also reduces our dependence on dirty oil and lessens the need to drill for more extreme sources of fossil fuels, whether it is oil from the Gulf, tar sands in Canada, or  natural gas from the Everglades.

Electric vehicles are the cleanest cars around, even after taking into account the electricity needed to charge them. Even better yet, as we retire more coal plants and bring cleaner sources of power online, the emissions produced from charging an electric vehicle will drop even further. But as long as our highways and communities are dominated by gas stations rather than electric vehicle charging stations, we will never see the benefits of zero emission vehicles.  The need to prepare our cities and regional corridors for growing electric vehicle use is becoming more and more imperative.

Working together we can make that happen and collaboration is our key to success.

To drive this change, Sierra Club's Florida Healthy Air campaign is organizing a series of Electric Vehicle Collaborative stakeholder workshops.  The first workshop was held in Sarasota, FL on June 11, 2013.  Seventy-four members of the community attended the first workshop which was designed to identify local barriers to electric vehicle adoption. Participants ranged from local business owners, to EV drivers, to industry experts, to local government officials, to those that would just like to see an oil-free community with cleaner air to breathe.

The evening began with a networking happy hour which provided attendees a chance to meet and mingle.  After happy hour, the collaborative workshop convened with a presentation by Florida Healthy Air campaign organizer Britten Cleveland, who outlined the vision and objectives of the Electric Vehicle Collaborative process. During the presentation, several U.S. cities that are considered ahead of the curve in terms of EV community readiness were spotlighted to set the stage for the work ahead.

The real fun began when the 74 participants broke into 8 discussion groups, each focusing on one question that solicited input with regards to the barriers to electric vehicle adoption. Questions like: "what are the cost concerns that inhibit EV adoption?" and "what are your perceptions associated with charging a plug in electric vehicle in a public place that may be inhibiting greater EV adoption?" were asked at each of the tables. Three rounds of discussion were held so each participant visited three different discussion groups and brainstormed for 20 minutes at each table.  The results were outstanding.  Thanks to the enthusiasm and engagement from our stakeholders, we now have a solid framework to work with in solving local challenges to EV adoption.

The most thrilling moment came at the end of the 3-hour workshop when we asked participants in the still-packed room how many would come back in July for the next session to brainstorm local solutions to the problems they identified.  Every single person rapidly and enthusiastically raised their hands to say they would be back.

The next workshop in Sarasota will be held in July and will focus on brainstorming local opportunities to overcome the barriers to EV adoption that were identified in the first meeting.  The end result will be a list of tangible community action steps that members of newly formed action teams will bring forth to the community and to decision-makers to fulfill our goal of making the Sarasota region a leader in EV adoption and integration.  The Sierra Club’s Electric Vehicle Collaborative model will be duplicated in other parts of Florida later this year.  Next up: Tampa-Saint Petersburg and then Orlando.

To learn more about the Sierra Club’s Florida Healthy Air Campaign and the Electric Vehicle Collaborative, visit our Facebook page.