Electric Car Revival Gives a Jolt to Longtime Advocates

VIDEO: Jaguar unveils an electric model while Cadillac downsizes at 2010 L.A. Auto Show.
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Dan Davids never gave up on the electric car. A resident of the state of Washington, Dan has driven his electric Toyota RAV4 over 40,000 miles in the last 4 years. The number 4 is quite possibly his lucky number, but it is a multiple of 2. His vintage electric vehicle only costs him 2 cents a mile to drive. When it comes to maintaining his voltage-driven SUV, he has only had to replace 2 items; a pair of windshield wipers.

Dan cautions that he does have a big bill coming up. He has to purchase a set of new tires.

Less than $5 a year to maintain a car isn't too bad.

As President of "Plug-in America", a non-profit advocacy and educational organization promoting electric vehicles or EVs, Dan Davids is endorsing more than just an idea. He hopes Americans will embrace EVs, and thus benefit the U.S. economy, our national security and our environment.

Owners Drawn to Economics, Idealism of Electric Cars

He's promoting a love story. Electric carowners love their cars. It's not just economics, its idealism, patriotism, and maybe even a little touch of vindication.

Dan isn't the only one smitten, as I too am a lover of the concept of electromotive transportation. Conceptual affection is fine, however it won't get you from point A to point B, and so I have taken the plunge and committed my hard-earned cash to reserve myself a shiny new Nissan LEAF. After years of admiring from afar I am ready to secure my place in the electric car world.

In that world, the big Detroit car makers have gained about as much respect as the grim reaper. Long blade in hand, General Motors earned distinction as parent, and executioner of its happy little EV1. Released in 1996, the revolutionary EV1 was touted as savior of the motive world. Designed from the ground up as an electric car, its slim, sexy body was promoted heavily in print, as well as on radio and television. TV ads featured heavenly scenes and angelic voices that proclaimed, "The electric car is here."

Yet just a few short years later, GM removed (they were leased, never sold) and crushed all the EV1s. In several months the cars disappeared and strangely enough, the electric car was not here.

Is it vindication that GM has spent millions of dollars to develop and produce its new plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt?

Electric Vehicle Devotees Share Pride of Practicality, Economy

Last month at the 5th anniversary celebration of Plug-in America's founding, GM, Ford, and other big automakers displayed their new electric creations. It's hard for the Plug-in America crowd not to be a little smug when General Motors is now a guest at their party. Yet Davids is not looking down at the big Detroit manufacturers, or anyone who wants to join in celebration of the rebirth of an ideal.

Davids and his faithful are clearly advocates and lovers. These EV devotees adore their cars. They simply cannot wait to tell guests and each other about every detail of their object of affection.

Although the electric RAV4 is over 10 years old, it is the ultimate in economy, practicality, and yes, even patriotism. Their owners never have to visit a gas station. Living in Seattle, Dan Davids EV recharges with power that is 88.8% hydro-electrically produced. Only 1% of Seattle power is produced by coal.

Dan can rightfully boast that his fuel is "not coming from the Middle East", and certainly not from "countries that aren't really friendly with us."

Electric Cars to Be Major Player in the Future, Advocates Say

Dan says it's the "logical reasons that make sense to drive electric." The best part is that "it's just a better ride." Electrically powered vehicles produce almost instantaneous torque, which is the motive force that creates acceleration. When the driver of an EV pushes down on the accelerator pedal, the transition from stationary to lightning speed can take your breath away.

New electric vehicles, such as the 2011 Nissan LEAF, will benefit from innovative battery technology. Nissan engineers have quietly developed a high output lithium battery pack that has proprietary advanced features they would rather not disclose to their competition.

The new battery pack will allow Nissan LEAF drivers to enjoy a range of nearly 100 miles per charge. Increased range will attract current fossil fuel drivers, and when Davids talks about the future, he sees EVs as a major player. Asked what percentage of us will be driving an EV in the next 10 years, he says, "10% is probably low, 15% is definitely doable and it could even be higher."

With all the advantages, he wonders why the Detroit auto makers "went on hiatus for a while." Davids believes that electricity increasingly produced from home grown and sustainable sources is "really exciting." When he talks about his EV, you can sense the affection. "It's just a wonderful car."

Test-Driving Electric Cars Means 'Never Turning Back'

Chris Paine is a movie producer who is best known for his documentary "Who killed the Electric Car?" It was at Paine's palatial and chicly sustainable Los Angeles home that Plug-in America celebrated its fifth anniversary.

Paine, who is looking forward to the upcoming release of his new production, "The Revenge of the Electric Car", says "I drive an EV because I'm too lazy to bike." Paine says, "Once I drove one, I understood where this is all going -- they are just better cars in almost every respect." While EVs are fairly simple vehicles, he likes to refer to it as "Car 2.0." He adds, "There's the double bonus - I can charge it at home for less money than doping up on gasoline at the local Chevron station."

Plug-in America member Avi Hershkovitz has driven his electric RAV4 an incredible 200,000 miles. An early member of Plug-in America, he commutes 47 miles between his home in Huntington Beach and Claremont, California. While Hershkovitz has had to replace the car's nickel metal hydride battery pack he is still an enthusiastic supporter of EV technology.

He says the best part is that he's "doing something efficiently, quietly and clean, instead of wastefully, noisily and dirty." A big perk is driving solo in the carpool lane. His advice is to "drive an electric car. Once you do, you'll never turn back."

Electric Car Enthusiast: This Is for America

Paul Scott is vice-president and co-founder of Plug-in America. A major proponent and longtime owner of an EV, Paul is a consultant for solar industry powerhouse, SolarCity. Paul has embraced the new Nissan EV – and made a career change in the process.

While still consulting, he accepted a sales position at his local Santa Monica Nissan dealership. He sees it as a logical transition. Paul says, "The best part of selling EVs is knowing that, for each Nissan LEAF I sell, one more gas burner is removed from the road, less money goes to the Saudis, our economy is stronger, and our nation safer."

So, yes, all this talk of motive force, torque, sustainability, and patriotism is getting me a little antsy. I'm starting to obsess again. Even though my cognitive brain is telling me – relax – deep breaths -- don't obsess, it is my nature.

The excitement is building, and I am anxiously awaiting any sign of my shiny new electric LEAF. I shall calmly watch and wait for any hint of delivery. Surely parent Nissan will understand that just like those intrepid Plug-in America disciples before me, I am not alone, and I am doing this -- for America!

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