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Drive electric 

What's not to love about electric cars?

If you want to talk money, check out the federal tax credit of up to $7,500, plus state rebates and incentives. And electricity is way cheaper than gas, especially for off-peak recharging while you sleep. No engine, no transmission, transaxle, catalytic converter, exhaust system, tune-ups, smog checks, or oil changes. And battery recharging via braking means very few brake replacements.

In matters beyond the pocketbook, a national transition to electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will mean major reductions in petroleum use and greenhouse gas emissions. Per the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, "transportation currently accounts for less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity demand but accounts for nearly 30 percent of primary energy consumption." Electrifying road and rail transportation is a huge piece of getting us where we need to go if we are to avoid the worst outcomes from our longtime fossil fuel addiction.

An electric car gives you the ability to complete the full green power loop in your home: fueling your car with the energy from solar panels on your roof. But even without solar in the mix, electric cars are three to four times more energy efficient than their gas-powered counterparts.

And beyond both matters financial and environmental: Wow, are they fun to drive (torque).

National Drive Electric Week began in 2011 as a way to heighten awareness of the growing availability of plug-in vehicles and showcase the benefits of all-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric cars, trucks, and bikes.

By 2017, National Drive Electric Week reached all 50 states with 276 community events ranging from displays of electric vehicles to EV financing education, an EV parade, and the opening of six new fast EV chargers along the Massachusetts turnpike. California's public charging stations now stand at about 14,000, with a target of 250,000 by 2025 via a $1.25 billion investment of cap-and-trade revenues as part of Gov. Jerry Brown's 2018 Zero-Emission Vehicle Executive Order.

As the national team providing support to electric week events throughout the country, Sierra Club, the Electric Auto Association, Plug In America, Clipper Creek Inc., and the Nissan LEAF are pleased to support the SLO Climate Coalition in bringing this year's National Drive Electric Week to San Luis Obispo.

We're kicking it off on Wednesday, Sept. 12, from 5 to 8 p.m., at MindBody's SLO campus, 659 Tank Farm Road. A social hour with food and vendor displays will be followed by a presentation on the myth-busting benefits of driving an EV, meteorologist John Lindsey's personal pilgrimage from climate skeptic to climate activist and EV driver, a keynote address by SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon, recognition of businesses and organizations that have promoted driving electric in our community, and a panel discussion with EV drivers and e-bike owners who will answer questions from the audience. Seats are limited. RSVP required at carbonfreeslo.org.

On Thursday, Sept. 13, from 6 to 9 p.m., check out the Drive Electric Showcase at Broad and Higuera during SLO Farmers Market. Get up close with several models of electric cars and bikes, talk to their owners, and get general information on EVs and their operation.

And on Saturday, Sept. 15, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., you can take them all for a spin at an EV Ride & Drive at the Madonna Inn. Dealer and private vehicles, including Teslas, a Chevy Volt, Kia Soul, and plug-in Prius, will be available for test drives, along with electric bikes. EV drivers will be available to answer questions about their experience with their vehicles, including pros and cons of leasing vs. owning, "range anxiety," and why they drive an EV.

"Transportation is currently the single largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, but with electric vehicle sales rising 37 percent this past year, and more chargers in the ground and EVs on the road than ever before, it's clear there are no detours on the road to clean energy," said Gina Coplon-Newfield, director of the Sierra Club's Clean Transportation for All program.

Trading internal combustion engines for storage batteries is a big part of a clean energy future, and the future is happening now. If you want to help speed the day, send an email to electric.vehicles@sierraclub.org for news updates and blog posts from the Sierra Club's EV campaign, and check out what's up with EVs at content.sierraclub.org/evguide/.

Then next week, come on down. Δ

Andrew Christie is director of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com or get your thoughts published by emailing a letter to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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