Friday, June 21

Drive Electric Week Shows How Electric Cars Have Carved a Place For Themselves

Electric CarHybrid cars may not seem quintessentially “cool,” but they sell themselves. All it takes is one conversation with a hybrid driver. At least, that’s what it seems like to 34-year-old Orlando resident Thron Crowe.

“Every year it’s the same kinds of questions, which is great because it means more people are learning about it,” Crowe told the¬†Orlando Sentinel¬†about his experience as the driver of a Nissan Leaf. “They recognize the car and it’ll be either a five-minute or one-hour conversation. Next thing you know, they say they are getting one.”

Talking about electric cars is just one of the things Crowe likes doing, and it’s exactly what he did at Valencia College’s celebration of Drive Electric Week, which featured renewable energy experts from around the local area, including city officials and industry advocates.

With so many people talking about electric cars — and buying them — the industry continues carving out a bigger and bigger niche for itself in the automotive industry. In 2000, less than 10,000 imported electric cars were sold to U.S. consumers, and no domestically produced electric car was sold in America. In 2014, over 301,000 imported electric vehicles were sold, and more than 206,000 domestic electric cars were sold to drivers in the U.S.

Experts believe that the reason the electric vehicle industry has taken off is because of the reduced price and minimal maintenance costs, as well as n increased acceptance of the cars. After all, hybrid vehicles not only save their owners money on fuel costs, but also help the environment by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

As more and more see the benefits of driving electric, infrastructures have improved, and more charging stations have appeared. For an example of how infrastructures have changed, consider that drivers of electric cars in South Florida have been able to use HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes for the past decade. They’ve also been exempt from tolls when they use I-95 express lanes. However, the increase in electric and hybrid vehicles means that this free pass is no longer economically feasible, and will lead to congestion on the highways, according to officials. A federal law will rescind these perks, beginning in 2017.

“We have been driving (non-electric vehicles) a long time and they are a significant part of our cultural fabric,” said Ben Prochazka of the hotel, rental car and tourist attraction partnership Drive Electric Orlando. “In almost every instance, when people experience the benefits of electric cars directly, it creates that commitment in people. They realize it’s a better vehicle and they get to drive with their conscience, too.”

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