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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fantastic ActiveE EVent!

22 ActiveEs showed up as well as 13 other electric vehicles!
Wow, what a day for electric vehicles in the Garden State! On Sunday, April 15th I hosted what started out as an ActiveE meet that turned into the largest electric vehicle meet ever in New Jersey.

During the MINI-E program I hosted four MINI-E meets at my restaurant. It was a great way to meet the other MINI-E Pioneers and talk about the program; the good as well as any difficulty we were having.  Even though they were never official BMW events, BMW always sent a representative to listen to what we had to say and to our recommendations. So now that the ActiveE program has begun, I figured it was about time to get all of us driving these cars here in NY & NJ together to meet in person and swap stories.

That was the plan, but along the way we made some changes. I was talking to Micheal Thwaite about the event (Michael has an ActiveE and a Tesla) and he asked why don't we open it up to all electric cars. Since I was really focusing on bringing the ActiveE people together I hadn't really thought about it, but I really didn't have any objection to that, the more the merrier! So Michael and I started putting the word out that there was an electric car meet and all were invited.

We ended up getting a total of 35 EVs, which I believe is the largest gathering of electric vehicles ever in NJ, and at the very least, the most in recent history. There just haven't been enough EVs around to have a large meet like this. The breakdown was as follows: 22 BMW ActiveEs, 2 Tesla Roadsters, 3 Nissan LEAFs, 3 Chevy Volts, 2 Mitsubishi iMiEVs, 1 ZENN NEV, 1 plug in Prius and 1 converted pick up truck.

BMW had a film crew come and record short interviews of all of the ActiveE lessees that would agree to participate. They didn't say what they plan to do with the interviews but I'm sure we'll get to see it once they put it together.

Photo by Chris Monroe
The day went so well that we'll just have to do this again sometime in a few months or so. There were so many great aspects about the day. First, it was really fantastic to see so many people come out to see the cars. There were many curious onlookers that came by to see the cars and ask the EV drivers questions about them. Then there was the fact that we even could have a meet like this. Many of the people couldn't make the round trip on a single charge and needed to plug in to make it home. With the MINI-E meets, they could only use the one EVSE I had at the restaurant, meaning there was a line waiting to charge. Besides the two chargers I had set up for the meet, there are seven public chargers within two miles of my restaurant! We have the highest concentration of public chargers anywhere in the state on NJ, so Montclair is actually the best place to host an EV meet like this. At any given time there were always five or six cars charging. However the thing that brought the biggest smile to my face was talking to the other ActiveE drivers, the people that are new to electric drive. Most of them haven't even had the car for two months yet but they are hooked on driving electric! I heard them saying, "I'll never buy a gas car again!" and "I can't beleive how great this car is!" and "I hate driving my other gas car now." It's funny, with every new bunch of people exposed to electric drive, there is a very high percentage of them that get hooked on it. Once bitten by the EV bug you don't want ever want to go back to gas. It's one of the main reasons I believe this technology will win and be the dominant form of personal transportation. Not just because it's the "green" thing to do, not just because the operating expense is so much less, not just because they allow you to use domestic energy instead of foreign oil, but because people really enjoy and actually prefer the driving experience!
The event made the two biggest newspapers in New Jersey; the Star Ledger and the Record, here are links to the stories:

The Record
The Star Ledger


  1. Tom,
    Great job, great blog entry, great news coverage!

    Of course, while the Ledger piece correctly points out that not all EV drivers/advocates are "left-leaning tree-huggers", some of us, in fact, are ;-)

  2. This gets brought up frequently Christof. There is a perception that ONLY the extreme left is interested in electric cars. This is completely false. When a reporter wants to start focusing on coal emissions from electricity generation, as if the environmental angle is the ONLY reason to want an EV, I'm quick to say "We don't have time to really get into all the upstream pollution issues from gasoline so lets put that aside for a moment" and then go on to talk about domestic energy independence, and the economic problems we have from exporting over a billion dollars a day to buy foreign oil.
    I like to offer reasons that EVERYONE can relate to, because you know there is a portion of the population that doesn't believe in global warming and really has no concern for environmental issues. There are enough reasons to switch to electrics that everyone will want to once the prices come down a bit and more people get the chance to drive them for a while.

    1. Tom,
      Excellent points. But do you think it's necessary/helpful to imply, as Peter5 seems to do below, that all environmentalists are 'smug' and that the strong support by considerable numbers of environmentalists of the EV movement actually hurts the EV movement more than it helps?

      Maybe the focus should be on the misperception that EVs are only for greenies rather than on feeding into negative stereotypes of environmentalists as necessarily being 'smug', 'extreme', 'out-of-touch', etc. (Not implying you are doing this, but that's what Peter5 appears to be doing, though maybe not consciously.)

      I see a lot of this 'all environmentalist are smug' talk online. I find it extremely frustrating and off-putting, it makes it seem as if environmentalist EV advocates like me are more of a burden to the EV movement than an asset.

  3. Peter5 (Switzerland, regular reader)April 18, 2012 at 9:48 AM

    This is an important point, EV owners should not be pegged to one particular mindset. Everyone has their own reasons to love (and sadly, hate) them.

    Remember the Prius south park episode? We have to fight the smug treehugger - EV connection. It doesn't help the further diffusion of EV technology at all.

  4. On the other hand, Peter5, I don't think it's fair to negatively stereotype all environmentalist driven EV advocates, such as me, for instance, as "smug tree huggers." Hopefully, what you mean is that we need to combat the popular image that only "smug tree huggers" are for plug ins. In fact, there are plenty of tree huggers who are NOT smug.

    It's frustrating that environmentalists such as me are pigeon-holed in such a negative way, and that the following leap in logic always seems to occur: If you're an environmentalist, you must be smug. To be smug is bad, therefore all environmentalists are bad.

    Peter5, are you saying the EV movement does not need the environmentally driven EV advocates such as me, that we're more trouble than we're worth, or that you'd prefer to cast us aside, or that we abandon our support of EVs because 'everyone' hates us and greenie support of EVs is actually hurting the EV movement?

    If anyone's interested, I write more about my frustration with I consider to be unfair, negative and demeaning stereotypes of environmentalists, and environmentally driven EV advocates here:

  5. Peter5 (Switzerland, regular reader)April 18, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    Christof, yes this is indeed very unfair.

    But I think that marketing for hybrids and EVs should focus more on all the reasons beside the green factor. In the end, if more people buy EVs, everyone wins (except for the very poor saudi prince that has to wait 3 minutes longer to "earn" the next ferrari).

  6. Christof, I think the real point here is a lot of people think the only people that support EV's are the extreme left. Like it or not, that's what we face and 'extreme' anything doesn't sit well with a lot of people. Am I environmentalist? I don't know what that really means. I do want to see us do a much better job at protecting and preserving it, but personally I don't see myself chaining myself to a tree to save it.

    I reread Peters remarks and I really don't think he was saying we don't need 'tree hugers' as EV supporters, just that we need to educate the public that it's not just the 'smug tree huggers' that like EV's. The 'if you are a tree hugger, you must be smug' image is real, even if it's not true. I can't possibly try to educate people so they realize that isn't true, but what I can do is help educate people I meet that EV's are for everyone, from the most radical left wing tree hugger to the radical right wing Fox News loyalist. For some reason a good deal of people that are 'right of center' thinking don't share that belief and it's really puzzling to me why they can't see how EV's are good for America. They use domestic energy, they pollute less and you can power them with renewable energy that you make yourself at home. What is not to like about that?

  7. Christof: One more thing. You know I get interviewed a lot about my EV experience. So often the interviewer will say something like "So have you always been concerned about the environment?" or "I assume you got involved with electric cars for environmental reasons". It is quite often a foregone conclusion that must be the reason I like EV's. I don't think that perception is a healthy one for the EV industry. There are a lot of reasons people should support them. Environmental concerns is definitely one of the top reasons, but there are many others and I fell like the public needs to understand that. I don't want to diminish the importance of the environmental advantages of EV's, but sometimes you need to overcompensate to make sure you get your point across.

  8. Good points again Tom! We're definitely on the same team, and I'm glad we're on the same team, even though the reasons that put us on the same team are different.

    I do think it's important for EV advocates of all stripes to do our best to treat all other EV advocates with as much respect as possible. I think, as challenging as it might be, this ideally means challenging the stereotype of tree huggers as automatically being 'smug', etc. So, when the mainstream journalist asks a question that plugs into stereotypes about EV owners and them automatically being'greenies', the ideal response is one like: 'While it's true that some EV owners are motivated mostly by the environment, and I respect these folks, in fact more are motivated by fueling independence concerns and economic savings. That's what got me turned on to EVs and I think it's what going to turn more and more people on to them very soon.'

    To me, this is different than, say, using the negative stereotype of environmentalists that reporters might embed in their question. Again, not saying you do this, but I do see this happen. Another approach might be to throw the question back at the reporter: 'What makes you think EV owners are all environmentalists? Where do you get this idea, where do you think it comes from?'

    I'm not sure where the idea that all EV advocates are greenies comes from, though I'd suggest it primarily comes from those conservatives who, for whatever reason, want to find a reason to be against EVs as well as from journalists who pick up this idea and then frame their stories around this assumption. It certainly doesn't come from greenies themselves who've never claimed, that I know of, that they own the market on EV advocacy.

  9. I do say things like that. I don't know how many times you've beed interviewed, but you say a lot of things and they pick what they want to print. I've NEVER put down environmentalism or criticized people for being environmentally conscience. Quotes and be misconstrued and taken out of context easily though. I just try to emphasize that there are a lot of different reasons why one should support the proliferation of electric car, yet for some reason much of the general public believes the ONLY people that are pushing them are the ultra-left environmentalists. Sure many that fit into that category support EV's, and I'd never want them to think I don't think their support is important of good for EV's, but I do try to educate the public that there are many other reasons to consider buying an electric car. I really think that's why you have read similar comments by others in articles, I don't think it's anyones intention to offend, but sometimes it does get printed in a way that people could take offense to.

    1. Tom,
      As a former professional print journalist and as a current online journalist/blogger and university journalism professor, believe me, I know quite a lot about quotes, quoting out of context, etc. In fact, I try hard to instill in my journalism students an ethics of accurate, fair and contextualized quoting. I completely understand that journalists come to a story with an angle, write their stories from that angle, and use quotes from sources that they allow them to play that angle. I personally think it's the journalists who need to be challenged to be less stereotypical and more informed in their coverage of EVs and I appreciate what you are doing to achieve this. Keep up the good work!

  10. Peter5 (Switzerland, regular reader)April 19, 2012 at 6:28 PM

    Tom, you wrote "I don't think that perception is a healthy one for the EV industry."

    This is exactly what I am thinking! You truly have the ability to get into the heads of "normal" people that don't have a clue what EV technology is. So, please don't stop doing this exceptional work.

    The next time i visit New York, I will try to come by your restaurant :)

  11. Peter: Thank you very much and please do visit if you get the opportunity, I'm only 12 miles from NYC.

    Christof: I appreciate all of your comments and want to thank you for sharing them on my blogs for the past couple years. I felt bad that you took exception to my quotes in the paper, I would never want to offend you. You are a really great guy and I applaud your work and your EV+PV advocacy. :)

    1. Thanks Tom -- ditto on the praise for EV and EV + PV advocacy on your end!