Speeding Up the Electric Vehicle Revolution

On Sunday, the owners and makers of electric vehicles will gather for the first National Plug In Day.

On Sunday, owners and makers of electric vehicles will gather in cities from New York to Honolulu for the first National Plug In Day. In Los Angeles, a parade of electric vehicles will criss-cross the city. In Austin, Detroit, and Nashville, the EV-curious can talk to a real live electrical vehicle owners (though only in Austin will they be able to enjoy breakfast samples from the Original Pancake House). Some cities are throwing “tailpipe-free tailgate parties.” Others are offering test drives or showcasing scooters and Segways as well as cars. Davis, California, is having an EV show-and-tell. Denver’s celebration includes a screening of the movie What is the Electric Car?

Most drivers are still asking some version of exactly that question, and the event—coordinated by Plug In America, the Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association—is intended to draw people’s attention to EV technology. While EV owners are still a curiosity, car companies and other innovators are quickly making it easier to buy into the EV revolution. Here's how:

Speeding up charge time. Nissan recently announced that it has developed the technology to charge EV batteries fully in just ten minutes. According to the company and its research partner, Kansai University, the quick charge doesn’t impact the battery’s storage capacity, either. Ten-minute charging stations won’t be available commercially for a while (possibly a decade), but knowing that it’s possible makes the idea of using an EV that much more palatable.

Promising all EVs will use the same chargers. If you own a Mac and your roommate owns a Dell, you can’t share charge cords, and there’s no law that says EVs can’t work in the same way. But imagine if instead of looking for a generic old gas station, you had to look for a dedicated Chevy station or Toyota station. To head off that possibility, a consortium of auto companies have committed to an international standard for charging stations.

Connecting EV drivers with charging stations. Charging stations aren’t yet common enough that an EV driver can cruise around hoping to find a convenient one. Independent companies like PlugShare, Recargo, and EV Charger Finder are creating online and mobile databases to help drivers locate the closest charging station. Car companies are also developing similar, brand-specific locator apps.

Helping more people have the EV experience. National Plug In Day isn’t the only opportunity for EV novices to take their first electric-powered spin. PlugShare is partnering with peer-to-peer car sharing system GetAround to encourage EV owners to expose others to the vehicles. PlugShare users get a $50 incentive if they sign up to loan out their car. And car sharing systems are starting to add electric vehicles to their fleets. In each case, the theory goes that as more people drive EVs, many of them will realize that it’s not such a strange experience. The next car those converts buy could have them tailgating tailpipe-free for years to come.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Toyota Motor Europe

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