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Get "Butts in Seats" Part 1: Electric Auto Association

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  • Felix Kramer
    You haven t heard from us on CalCars-News in a while. Thanks to you, our 7,000 subscribers. We hope that you, along with other plug-in drivers and advocates,
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 20, 2013
      You haven't heard from us on CalCars-News in a while. Thanks to you,
      our 7,000 subscribers. We hope that you, along with other plug-in
      drivers and advocates, have been giving test-drives of the new
      mass-production PHEVs and EVs. That's the best way to build support
      and demand -- which we've been doing by launching
      DrivingElectric.org. Below you'll find our article from the front
      page of Current EVents, the Electric Auto Association's newsletter.
      If you like or drive plug-in cars, join EAA! (It was formed in 1967
      and now has 82 chapters.) Details below on the EAA's Annual Meeting
      this Saturday, which you can attend remotely. (This is the first of
      two messages -- the second one will be about Plug In America, the
      other national plug-in organization.)

      (Shortly after it goes out on email, this posting will also be
      viewable at http://www.calcars.org/news-archive.html -- there you can
      add CalCars-News to your RSS feed.)

      The Annual Meeting of the EAA is at 1PM Eastern/10AM Pacific Time,
      Call in to hear it and watch the presentation) at http://www.electricauto.org/

      2013: The Year Test Drives Spurred EV Sales
      By Felix Kramer, DrivingElectric.org

      Who'd have predicted, looking back from year-end 2013, the way the
      prospects for EVs surged in a single year?

      Until 2012, most car shoppers didn't even put EVs on the list. They
      heard EV and thought, "underpowered, unproven, unaffordable." Also,
      "unavailable and unseen." (Most people didn't pay attention to the
      plug-in flavors -- BEVs, PHEVs, EREVs -- and just called them EVs.)

      How did all that change? What made the difference?

      In 2011 and 2012, over 70,000 North Americans who'd awaited "real
      EVs" for as long as they could remember finally got the cars of their
      dreams. Until then, only a few thousand lucky drivers had managed to
      hang on to the short-lived EVs that automakers had briefly produced.
      Others had built their own or had converted hybrids to plug-ins --
      trying anything to run on electrons and get the industry to evolve.

      This all changed when the mass-produced Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF
      arrived. Then came a supercharge: upstart Tesla's full-sized,
      long-range Model S was applauded as the 'iPhone on wheels', and it
      nabbed Car of the Year awards. Owners and journalists who risked
      saying, "EVs can be better than gasoline cars!" began to get respect.

      Other automakers like Toyota, Honda, Ford, and Mitsubishi also
      delivered great EVs. But they still weren't all-in. Few on their
      management and PR teams drove EVs daily. Their marketing efforts
      reflected their caution. Their ads didn't show people in their EVs
      having fun, or enjoying the benefits of driving gas-free. It looked
      like many were getting ready to announce sadly that "demand just isn't there."

      Meanwhile, most drivers still barely knew about EVs. People across
      the EV industry were scrambling to create a breakthrough in public awareness.

      Finally great minds began to think alike. Drivers, advocates, and
      salesforces all noticed how much they looked forward to showing off
      their cars. They told stories about buyers stepping out after test
      drives with the "EV grin."

      EV owners began to realize that every sidewalk question, and every
      neighbor's or co-worker's comment, was one more opportunity to drop a
      keyfob in a new pocket. People they'd taken for drives, then
      forgotten about, returned to say, "Thanks! Because of you, I bought an EV."

      The new marketing mantra became "get butts in seats." Dealers went
      from showing parked cars to getting people behind the wheel. Nissan
      retained Chelsea Sexton, an inspiring and fearless EV advocate, to
      improve its messaging and marketing, and expand engagement with its drivers.

      Plug In America built on its Electric Driveway Parties program and
      started to organize Plug In At Work ride-and-drive events, joined by
      electric company reps to answer nitty-gritty charging questions.
      Electric Auto Association chapters began to organize local programs
      to reach out in their communities to both everyday and influential
      people. The Sierra Club, the only chapter-based U.S. environmental
      organization, began to sponsor national and local events. And
      National Plug In Day expanded to many more locations.

      Then the Electric Auto Association, Plug In America, and CalCars
      founded DrivingElectric.org with initial funding from EAA and the
      Electrification Coalition. This new "utility" for the entire EV
      community signed up EV drivers and made it easy for EV-curious people
      anywhere to go for a spin with nearby EV drivers.

      DrivingElectric.org also encouraged drivers to list their EVs with
      carsharing services like Getaround and RelayRides, to expand the ways
      owners could reach interested drivers, while benefitting from
      pre-screening and full insurance protection for rentals.

      EV drivers who had committed to give one test drive each week -- and
      to follow up with at least one EV-curious person all the way to a
      sales contract -- began to trumpet their successes. Legislators cited
      their own test drives and public enthusiasm as they pushed for EV incentives.

      News and photos of hundreds of thousands of test drives percolated
      through social networks. Uninformed and misinformed reports had a
      harder time getting traction as they were quickly squashed by readers
      commenting, "I don't own one yet. But my test-driving experience, and
      what I heard from EV owners, doesn't match your claims."

      By the end of the year, tens of thousands of buyers had decided to
      sign up for the cars of the future that are here now. "No one wants
      to buy EVs" sounded as out of date as "they're just glorified golf
      carts." And EVs started moving out of the early adopter niche to
      become practical products for mainstream markets.

      Who got lots of credit? The EV drivers who'd become ambassadors in
      their communities -- and partners with auto dealers. As Plug In
      America's Board President Chad Schwitters had said, "If we want the
      market to grow -- or if we even just want to make sure the market
      doesn't go away! -- we have to do it."

      So -- will this scenario turn out to be wishful thinking? As a
      current or future EV driver, you can help it come true. If you
      haven't yet done so, we invite you to join the EV organizations. If
      nothing is going on yet near you, why not take the lead? Don't worry
      that some questions might stump you. You'll find answers from these
      organizations -- and from fellow drivers as together you show off the
      driving electric experience. Then, a few years from now, you'll look
      back and say, "I helped our country get off gas."

      Felix Kramer, an environmental entrepreneur, founded
      DrivingElectric.org in 2012 and CalCars.org in 2002.

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      Felix Kramer , Founder
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