Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Electric car fans: Test drive a Leaf, celebrate EVs

If you ever want to start up a heated debate, bring up the topic of electric cars among a mixed group of environmentalists.


On one side you’ll have the electric vehicle (EV) fans with their converted plug-ins and Teslas, excitedly enthusing that the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are finally becoming a reality. On the other, cyclists and complete streets advocates will grouse about how electric cars still don’t solve a lot of transportation-related problems (suburban sprawl and gigantic parking lots, to name just two) and how so much more could be done to improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructures if those projects got the kind of federal and state money that electric cars attract.

I’m somewhere in the middle — I’m a ped and public transit advocate and reluctant car owner who’s cautiously happy that zero emissions vehicles are coming on the market, as a transitional technology while we build the infrastructure for easier, happier car-free living.

With that preamble, I hope I’ve pleased (or at least not too badly upset) everyone — who I think will all be excited about an event happening this Saturday: Plug In America‘s 5th Anniversary Party and Fundraiser.

Before the bicyclists protest — The featured item in the live auction will be a PiCycle! Fixed gear bike enthusiasts may snub their noses at the snazzy $3,000 electric-hybrid bike, but hey, you can move the bike on pedal power alone, if you prefer.

Plug In America, a nonprofit that advocates for all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, will throw its fundraiser bash at the Culver City home of Chris Paine, best known as the director of the 2006 documentary, “Who Killed the Electric Car?” He’s working on a sequel right now — “Revenge of the Electric Car” — and a full fleet of EV vehicles will be on vengeful display at the fundraiser. Attend, and you’ll get to see the Tesla, E-Tracer, Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus BEV, a very well-travelled RAV4 EV, and of course, the PiCycle. The fun happens Sat., Oct. 23 from 6:30 pm to 10 pm. Tickets start at $120.

Can’t afford the fundraiser — especially not if you can’t test drive the EVs? Then you’ll have to settle for test driving the Nissan Leaf. The electric vehicle’s on a 23-city Drive Electric Tour that comes to Los Angeles this weekend. Sign up now to reserve a test drive time between Fri., Oct. 22 to Sun., Oct. 24, then get to Westfield Century City, 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.

What are your thoughts on electric vehicles? If you could, by tomorrow, either own a Tesla or get the Subway to the Sea, which would you choose?

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Photo: Electric vehicles at the Inaugural (EV) Parade West: Plug In, America! in Santa Monica, Jan. 2009 (Siel Ju)