Renew America Roadtrip speaks at Ecotality Public Forum Announcing the EV Project Expansion into Philadelphia
Michael L. Craner – Co-founder Renew America Roadtrip
Date: August 16, 2012, Location: National Constitution Center, Time: 10:00 AM EST,
Good morning. My name is Michael Craner and I drive an electric vehicle.
However, this is not a 12-step program meeting and I am not ashamed to say my electric vehicle gets the performance of a Maserati at over twice the fuel efficiency of a Toyota Prius. The performance of your EV may vary, but the efficiency numbers are pretty consistent for all electric vehicles. Up to 10 times less expensive to operate per mile than a traditional gasoline vehicle, quiet, efficient, zero emission – what have we been doing? Why aren’t we all driving electric?
In the Spring of 2009, our country was reeling from the effects of poor choices in our energy and economic policies. Our new president had challenged us all to take ownership of some of these problems by volunteering our time to make a difference in our local communities through an initiative he called “Renew America Together.”
My wife, a physician in family practice, and myself, an engineer and patent agent, took that challenge by combining our causes for charity work and energy policy reform into a high-profile, mass-media publicity event we called the “Renew America Roadtrip.” After a tremendous number of setbacks and considerable work, the Roadtrip made history in July of 2009 when my wife and I completed America’s first volunteer, green, charity drive from Times Square in New York City to Seal Beach, California in an all-electric sports car – a Tesla Motor’s Roadster – the only production electric vehicle available at the time.
We held press events in each major city along the route, doing what we could to raise money for the charities we worked with, and raise awareness that there are alternatives to our addiction to dinosaur-fueled vehicles AND there are ways we can avoid fighting wars for oil in the name of freedom.
For in reality, energy independence is inseparable from national security, and our freedom depends more on breaking our oil addiction than it does on fooling ourselves that we can satisfy an ever increasing thirst from a dwindling supply – particularly when powerful rivals are competing for the same scarce resource.
In the summer of 2009, driving an electric car across the country was indeed a challenge. Not only were the public facilities for power limited but the lack of a standardized connector for electric vehicles made it difficult to know whether we would be able to adapt to one of the variety of non-EV-legal plugs that were available.
People were also hesitant to help us, concerned that we would “set their garages” on fire by plugging in. We found that what was standard for a power connector in one part of the country was not standard in another. However, by bringing along multiple adapters, convincing facilities such as hotels to install standard power receptacles in advance of our arrival, utilizing the fairly consistent 240V/50A at RV parks, and plugging into a dryer hookup of a homeowner or two, we managed to get by.
People always ask me “where do you plug in?” That really is a rather odd question when you think about it. “Where can’t you plug in” should be the question or perhaps, “Why can’t I plug in?” Electricity is, after all the most ubiquitously distributed power source in the country. It is only our “culture of oil” that blinds us to this reality. We have laid the wires to electrify all of our homes and businesses. Why we burn fuel for trucks to haul dangerous, flammable, and noxious chemicals into our neighborhoods when we already have electricity at every point we need it, should have been posed as a thought question to someone a long time ago. Why we have standards for power connectors that are good enough for RV hookup but which specifically say “not for use with electric vehicles” is at least a little suspicious.
Nissan has a great commercial that you can see on youtube which does a good job of addressing our love affair with oil. It is called “What if everything ran on gasoline?” (for example, our hairdryers and coffeemakers).
But the reality has been that while the electricity is available, forces that be have seen to it that it is not tappable for use by electric vehicles. All that was needed was a standardized outlet accessible in the garage or exterior of the building, but that was not available, even as recently as a year ago.
We even failed to get support from places we most expected it. Certain pro-EV organizations challenged the wisdom of us attempting such a drive cross-country, saying that it would potentially accentuate the limited range of EVs and heighten so-called “range anxiety.”
But the good news is that with the help of other grassroots EV organizations such as the Electric Auto Association we did get across and I like to think we reached at least a few people with our “use less oil” message.
Now it is 2012, I drive my Roadster when the weather is nice and my Leaf is a daily commuter. Both are powered by solar on my house. We have a standardized and legal EV connector called EIA J1772, and a fleet of new electric vehicles from both new and incumbent players is available.
AND as evidenced by this forum today, through progressive programs such as the EV project, public charging facility availability continues to grow.
As my wife says, “Green is the new Black,” and when I drive my Leaf around town I feel like a character from the Jetson’s or Meet the Robinsons – these vehicles - clean, efficient, and quiet, truly are part of a soot-free utopian future.
If I may, I would like to pre-announce an opportunity for all Philadelphians to experience that future by joining us at the Franklin Institute on Sunday, September 23, for a celebration of electric vehicle technology as part of the Sierra Club’s National Plug In Day event.
And remember our Roadtrip mission, “Keep Driving America Green” Thank You.