National Drive Electric Week: Hope and Change or Fear and Loathing?

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National Drive Electric Week  is expected to enjoy record participation in 2015 with 176 events planned around the country between September 12 and 20. While some of the scheduled meetups and drives should inspire green car fans and environmental activists alike, the occasion is a good time to acknowledge the negatives as well as the many positives of electric vehicle culture in the U.S.

The event, which actually lasts longer than one week, is presented by Plug In America, The Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association. It began as National Plug In Day in 2011 before expanding to the week-plus of activities. Clearly, much has changed about the auto industry over these years.

Anyone who wants to be pleasantly surprised about the prospects of electric vehicle adoption should start with John Gallagher, an Oklahoma oil-field worker who drives an 18-wheeler between a well site and a pipeline in the South. Gallagher decided to stage his own event that week in Oklahoma City. According to Plug In America — and we have every reason to believe this claim — he is the first oil field employee to ever put on an event for National Drive Electric Week.

As Gallagher tells it in a YouTube video, he’s never seen an EV in western Oklahoma and believes that going electric is “the future.” At last count, he has 22 EVs scheduled to show up at the throw-down. He makes a plea to Elon Musk to send down the Tesla Model X and asks General Motors CEO Mary Barra to consider dispatching the redesigned Chevy Volt for the occasion. (We can attest to how difficult the Volt request would be to fill.)

In any event, Gallagher was looking at the entire region and noticing the lack of events. Nothing is happening in the entire states of Arkansas and Mississippi, not to mention Nashville, Tennessee. It’s tough not to appreciate the earnest appeals of Gallagher deep in oil country, but EV advocates might be unpleasantly surprised to learn there is no event scheduled for New York City during the nine days.

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We have experienced firsthand how tough it is to drive an electric vehicle in New York, but we were taken aback by the lack of a National Drive Electric Week event in Manhattan, let alone Brooklyn or Queens. At press time, events in Newark, New Jersey, and Long Island were on the list, but a planned event in Brooklyn apparently had trouble getting off the ground. Just two electric cars and 15 attendees registered.

Out West and in many other corners of America, you can see well-attended events in place. Los Angeles, which may be the premier city for EV culture, has the race car driver and environmental activist Leilani Munter showing up at an event with Mayor Eric Garcetti.

So what are New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the countless high-profile activists in the Big Apple doing those nine days? Nothing, as far as anyone can tell, and that brings us to the most disappointing note we can gather. When you look to the biggest city in the country and cultural capital of America for leadership, you find an event that is on the verge of being cancelled. We might not go so far as to call it fear and loathing in New York, but the apathy is equally distressing.

Nonetheless, National Electric Drive Week looks ready to set records for attendance and media coverage, and for that we have hope the change in culture is coming. It might not happen in 2015 or 2020, but when you have an oil field worker from Oklahoma on board, we can’t be that far away.

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