The State of the Plug-In Campaign & The Future of DrivingElectric
- A month ago, Felix Kramer, Founder of CalCars.org and DrivingElectric, gave a 15 -minute update to the annual meeting of the Electric Auto Association, held February 23, 2013 in Palo Alto, with an in-person audience and participants online and by phone links. Reading the transcript is the best way for plug-in car drivers and advocates to find out about importance of getting "Butts In Seats," about how far DrivingElectric has come so far, and where it hopes to go with more support -- which we hope is forthcoming in the near future.
(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.)
Here's a copy-edited version of the talk, with some of the emphasis in all-caps, augmented by some web links. You can download a 9MB PDF of the entire meeting's slides, including informative graphics about the EAA's membership, at http://www.electricauto.org/news/117552/Annual-Members-Meeting-Presentation-slides.htm . Felix's slides are #49-52 of 67.
FELIX KRAMER: Thanks everybody. Driving Electric is a chapter of the Electric Auto Association. It's also co-sponsored by Plug In America, the Electric Auto Association and CalCars. And basically, it's a place where EV-curious people can meet plug-in drivers to get information, get a ride -- anything they want. I want to talk a little about that today, and I want to talk a little more broadly as well.
The first thing I want to say is, We have this huge opportunity NOW. We have the cars and the organizational structure to change the game. And my concern is not why did we go down from 1,800 to 1,500 members -- my concern is where are the 80,000 drivers? Why don't we have tens of thousands of drivers who are members of EAA and Plug In America? That's the opportunity.
Now, Driving Electric is a GIFT for this whole community, for every carmaker, for every advocacy organization, because it's a TOOL. It's a way for people to find you -- see that little map on the top there [http://drivingelectric.org home page] -- for people to find you, the EV driver, and say "Hey, help me out here. Give me a ride, answer my question, whatever it is".
So I see 500 EVs registered on the EAA website. There ought to be at least 800 if the numbers are right. There's three or four hundred at least EAA members who haven't bothered to put their car down on the EAA website. And many of them haven't joined Driving Electric, and I hope they will.
And when I go to an industry event, every time someone asks (luckily), "How many people in this audience drive an plug-in car every day?" Twenty, thirty percent say they do. In this room, how many of you drive a plug-in car every day? Ok, that's about 70 percent, and nationally, if half of EAA members have cars, it's more than 50 percent... that's our opportunity!
So how many of you have given one person a test drive? Everybody! How many of you have given ten people a test drive? Only about half of you, that's a little bit of an issue...
How many of you people have gotten one person to buy a car? That's great! We've got about 30 or 40 cars that are directly the result of people in this room. Some people have done more than that.
Let's think about what happened with Tesla the last three or four weeks. We've been sitting, watching, you know -- laughing, commenting -- maybe we weren't happy about what Elon Musk did in the beginning, in inviting them to do this winter drive; maybe we weren't happy about his accusations on Twitter. But it turns out it was a lot of great free publicity. And it was the opportunity for CNBC, CNN, Consumer Reports and a whole bunch of independent drivers to go and do the same drive, and show that it was easy and possible.
So, something happened there -- and it happened because there are A LOT OF PRODUCTION CARS ON THE ROAD, and people are taking advantage of them. And that's our opportunity! And if you want to get a laugh, look at http://www.solidstategroup.com/page/6277/a-review-of-the-new-fangled-petrol-powered-car which has a very funny description of the problems of a Porsche doing a drive -- you know, finding enough room for the luggage, you know, the noise... all sorts of funny things about that.
But we have these amazing vehicles now, and we're not taking advantage of them enough. That box of Plug In America's Annual Guides -- that ought to be empty when Marc Geller leaves the place today. Every single one of you should have a couple of them in your car! It's five bucks -- you can give it away to somebody you think is a good prospect, or give it to your neighbors. Have one in your car and replace it with another one. [PDF version of Charged Up! The Definitive Guide to Plug-In Vehicles is FREE to Plug In America members (join for as little as $25) or get print copies@$5 (less for bulk orders) from: https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2711/shop/item.jsp?storefront_KEY=553&t=&store_item_KEY=4566 ]
Ok, so that's my rant. Last night, I thought "I'm giving a normal speech about Driving Electric" -- I'm going to talk about it, But really, the issue is, Let's take advantage of this GIANT OPPORTUNITY.
So you see up there, that's what our home page looks like right now. It's got a map, and a photo of 'kvietor' with his EV grin and his Tesla Model S http://www.drivingelectric.org/users/kvietor . We have about 1,000 drivers and EV-curious people signed up. We have 397 who have entered their vehicle and their location, so they can be found on that map, and a few internationally. We have 888 drivers in all. That means some people aren't on the map because they haven't put their location or they haven't put their vehicle type.
Everyone says what they're willing to do -- give a test drive, lend a car, or whatever it is. And we have 111 EV-curious people. We haven't been pushing too hard to get the EV-curious people on, until we have a lot of drivers.
Ok, so we're co-sponsored by these two organizations, and they're not only co-sponsoring it, they're promoting it! So that slide is the current issue of [EAA's monthly] Current EVents -- the lead article is about us, and this is the postcard and we've got hundreds of that postcard in the back. You know, pick some of them up, take them, put 'em on your windshield, so when somebody walks by your car they can pick this up and they can contact you. Soon we hope to have QR codes for each driver so somebody can scan it with their phone and find you. There are a lot of opportunities here.
And thanks. On Current EVents, especially for [EAA Chair & Editor] Ron Freund; Ron is the unheralded heroic person who makes this Current EVents happen every month -- it's amazing, how much work he does. And thanks to [EAA Membership Secretary] Will Beckett , who just crunches those numbers and delivers all this stuff. It's a huge amount of work. And [EAA Treasurer] Howard Clearfield -- when we talk about virtual banking, how easy it is... it means it's easy because all of the information comes to Howard, who is not virtual, and has to do all the work and get those checks out and everything. But thanks to all the people who are giving huge amounts of time. If everybody in this room were doing that much, we would have so much more going on.
And on the right of that slide, that's my story in the Plug In America Guide. And if you want to look at either of those two things and send them around or find out how to get the publications, go to the CalCars News Archive http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/1157.html and http://www.calcars.org/calcars-news/1158.html
So, our story up till now. We built the site between June and September, spending about half of the money we raised on technology. The money came, $11,200 from EAA, $3,800 from CalCars and, thanks to the Electrification Coalition, $25,000, plus some private donations. So that's what we used to make this happen, with volunteers and one almost-full-time staff person and another staff person
We ran out of money in December, and our project director and our marketing manager had to leave. We've gotten a commitment for additional fund from the Electrification Coalition -- a substantial amount of Electrification Coalition funds -- and we're hoping for a renewal from the Electric Auto Association.
And in my view, we shouldn't be saving our funds at this point for a rainy day -- this is our day; this is our time to figure out strategically how to use all our cars and all our resources. And if we want to figure out a way to get EAA to build EAA, we're in Silicon Valley -- everybody knows 'business-speak', it's the VALUE PROPOSITION! We need to deliver the value proposition to our members and the people they talk to.
And the value proposition has to be: join EAA because it's a way for you to be an active advocate for plug-in vehicles. EAA makes it easier to happen; EAA and Plug In America and Driving Electric all are the TOOLS that we use. And you know, that's where I think we should be putting our resources at this point.
So we now have a plan for what we're going to do. For a while, we're going to be essentially all-volunteer, except for technology. In the future we think -- when we succeed, when we have thousands of cars up there and constant interactions -- we will be showing the carmakers that we're actually helping them sell cars. And then we hope we'll be able to get the price of one car per year from each automaker. At that point we'll be able to do a lot of marketing.
But for right now, here's what we're doing. That's the Tesla Motors Club [slide]. The Tesla Model S has been out for one year. It's made an incredible change because we finally have a no-compromise vehicle, a vehicle that's competitive in price with the kinds of cars that people buying would consider. And that everyone who gets in says "this is the best car ever". That's amazing, and the Car-of-the-Year awards and all those kinds of things -- that is our signature car at this point. That's the lead, and there are some other great cars.
But we decided to make a little push on the Model S. We've come up with the idea for a Tesla Model S AMBASSADORS program. And this is the idea of rounding up a lot of Model S drivers, who have time (many of them), who are entrepreneurial (many of them), and who can afford to volunteer some time. And get them to organize, in their communities, to become EV Ambassadors, and say to their local city council and local elected representatives and state legislators, and community leaders, "I want to give all of you a drive in the Model S".
And if we don't have enough Model S's, we give them the other hot new cars, the BMW and the Ford, and the "old" Volt and LEAF and the other cars that people know of for two or three years. And do this in collaboration with the local EAA chapters in every community. Let's figure out strategically, who are the 50 or 100 people in each community who need to get a drive in this car so it changes the way they think about EVs?
So I posted something at Tesla Motors Club website http://www.teslamotorsclub.com/showthread.php/13513-Invitation-Become-Model-S-quot-Ambassadors-quot-in-Your-Community
in the Model S area, which, in less than a year has twice as many messages as in three or four or five years for the Roadster. It turns out Tesla Model S people love to talk about their cars. And they're very gregarious -- they love to lend their cars out, and so forth.
We invited people to become Model S Ambassadors. And at the same time, we finally implemented SEARCH on our website. So for instance you can now search within 200 miles of Sarasota Florida, see how many Model S's, and look! Seven of them have signed up at Driving Electric. And we have more than 50 who signed up as a result of this solicitation, nationally, and said they want to be part of this project. And by the way, that's a screen shot on a tablet. So this site works on a phone OK, on a tablet pretty well, as well as on a computer.
So we've got 58 Tesla Model S drivers signed up now, out of about 2,650 that were delivered in 2013. That's our first project, to get that off the ground with EAA volunteers and with Tesla Model S owners.
The next project we're going to do is reporting on interactions, contacts made within the site: someone finds someone -- I'm EV-curious and I connect with you, and you let me get a drive or whatever, a week later each of them gets an email asking, "How did it go? What happened?", and we'll be able to start documenting the contacts and hopefully the sales, and so forth.
One more thing is CAR-SHARING. Car-sharing is a great extension of Driving Electric, because it's a way for people who don't have an EV to try an EV. Right now, you can sign up your EV and we encourage you to sign up with Getaround and RelayRides. RelayRides is national, and Getaround is in parts of California, Portland, Austin and Chicago, but they're going to be expanding.
What GetAround has that RelayRides doesn't have is that you can put your more expensive car on there -- your Model S or your BMW -- and so you can lend your car to someone knowing that it's protected by GetAround's insurance policy, not your policy. And we invited all of our drivers about a month ago to sign up with a special log-in so that when they sign up it's recognized that they're part of Driving Electric, and Driving Electric will get a small commission their signing up or from any rentals that happen. For Getaround, start at http://mbsy.co/getaround/41848 and for RelayRides, begin at http://bit.ly/RlYK9o
And we're going to announce that further. We're in contact with both of these organizations. As a result of our bugging Getaround, finally we have something coming next week, which we've been waiting for. When you do a search, and you ask for a filter, there'll be an EV filter in there, so you can, say, I'm on Getaround.com or their app, and I'll be able to search and find an EV.
And it's because they need us, they need our cars -- don't forget, they're in competition with ZipCar [acquired by Avis], so they need us. And EVs can provide the distinguishing characteristic giving an advantage for the car-sharing organizations. So, we want to work on that.
The last thing we're doing is we hope to be in cooperation with some of the official industry efforts. For example, Electric Drive Transportation Association has http://www.GoElectricDrive.com , a website focused on drivers, and Edison Electric put together http://www.TheElectricGeneration.org a couple of weeks ago.
These don't yet have the grass-roots energy of our organizations. So let's figure out a way to connect them, and to cooperate. And you know, in my best hopes, they would be SPONSORING these efforts! You know, with grassroots efforts, not with official ad-agencies.
And there's a lot of funds coming out from public agencies for EV education. Let's get those funds, nationally. And if we energize this organization, we can deliver that value that will give us five or ten or fifteen thousand new members. And at that point we'll be a real organization, that is calibrated to where we are with tens of thousands of production vehicles out there.
The last thing is, we're now looking for volunteers. We're looking for a part-time Project Director -- we'll be able to pay that person something -- and we're looking for volunteers to make all this happen.
So I want to thank everybody in this room who's believed in this concept, who has supported it over time, and hope that we can really make it happen in the future. Thank you. [Applause]
[One follow-up audience question for Felix was about associating Driving Electric with the annual National Plug In Day.]
Felix: Absolutely. We want to connect it with National Plug In Day -- we launched at the 2012 National Plugin Day, and we want to organize this so that those drivers all show up at those events.
[And thanks to the ever-enthusiastic Michael Bender, CalCars and DrivingElectric system administrator, for the transcription!]
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Felix Kramer , Founder
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