By Jon LeSage
A seven-state Midwest coalition is preparing to strengthen plug-in vehicle sales beyond the west and east coasts.
Launched during a Chicago Auto Show news conference, a new group called Evolve will bring together supporters of electrified vehicles from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Non-profit entities, including the American Lung Association, are joining together with these states to promote the campaign.
“Electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular, due to their better batteries, decrease in cost, an increase in choice, and the rollout of charging infrastructure,” said Lew Bartfield, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest.
“The Midwest is often overlooked as a market for electric vehicles,” he said.
Evolve is also partnering with eight regional Clean Cities coalitions. These coalitions, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, will be hosting more than 200 events across the Midwest states starting this year through 2020.
Promotional events include 78 ride-and-drives featuring plug-in electrified vehicles. There will also be several conferences and other educational events spreading the word on the benefits of owning and driving a PEV.
The goal is to “get the word out,” Bartfield said. “There’s no better way to learn about the performance and environmental advantages of electric vehicles than personal experience.”
Delivery services and other fleets will be invited to attend these Clean Cities events. These fleets will be very interested in how reliable range will be in urban settings. They’ll also have questions about the impact of severe weather conditions, especially sub-freezing temperatures, will have on lithium battery pack range and longevity.
Automakers have been seeking more hands-on experiences for car buyers to break through their reservations and concerns about driving and owning a PEV. Nissan, General Motors, Ford, and BMW, have been visible sponsors of green-themed events in recent years; ride and drives have been part of it.
Tesla has been a strong believer in the hands-on experience through its scheduled driving events; and Tesla’s store protocol where interested consumers can drive a Model S or Model X with a Tesla employee riding along.
Now these types of experiences need to spread to the Midwest, and the coalition is seeing signs for hope in the region.
“We believe we’re having great success moving (electric vehicle) technology forward,” said Michael Berube, the director of the Office for Vehicle Technologies at the U.S. Department of Energy, during Evolve’s Chicago Auto Show announcement.
Clean Cities may not see much support from the Trump administration on its campaign, but they will reach out.
Berube said that his office “will work with the new team (as it) sets the direction.”
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