Ventura County is revving up — rather, charging up — for its first annual National Plug In Day event at Oxnard’s Collection this Saturday. Dealers, speakers and hobbyists from around the county will join in celebrating all things electric and hybrid as part of the national celebration with an electric vehicle showcase.
Electric vehicles (EV) have entered somewhat of a renaissance phase with the car-buying public, growing year over year in sales, with more than 100,000 EVs or hybrid vehicles sold last year alone. Chevrolet’s Volt and the Honda Prius, the top sellers in the EV category, can be seen traveling silently across the county, while PayPal founder Elon Musk’s range of Tesla EVs has sparked interest in the future of full electric transportation.
The National Plug In Day celebration is hosted by several local clean-air organizations, including the Ventura Couty Air Pollution Control District (VCAPCD). Stan Cowan, air quality engineer with the VCAPCD, is one of the lead organizers.
“Clean vehicle technology is critical for reducing air pollution,” said Cowan, “especially in light of the most serious air pollution problem we’re currently experiencing being climate change.”
Over the last few decades, air pollution caused by the release of carbon monoxide, the primary pollutant from motor vehicles, has declined, due in part to stricter environmental regulations and innovations that have reduced emissions. But according to the American Lung Association’s “State of the Air” study released in April, 40 percent of Americans live in areas associated with unhealthy levels of pollution.
According to a study released by researchers at MIT, air pollution — consisting of sources ranging from smokestacks to vehicle tailpipes — cause close to 200,000 premature deaths every year, with emissions from vehicles being the most significant contributor.
The top five cities listed as having the most exposure to pollution all exist in California, but Ventura County is leading the way in its support for EVs on the road.
Oxnard Councilwoman Carmen Ramirez is proud of Oxnard’s track record in support of EVs and the city’s installation of electric vehicle charging stations. Of the 80 EV charging stations in Ventura County — installed using funds collected via federal stimulus and grants — Oxnard has several at locations including the Downtown parking structure and across from City Hall.
“I’m personally interested in having better planning for our city, so we have walkable, cycleable streets,” said Ramirez. “We have to keep our air clean; we want people to buy electric vehicles and to buy cleaner cars when they can.”
Oxnard’s EV charging stations, however, are currently the most expensive in the county at $2.25 an hour, and with last week’s approval of a Tesla “Supercharger” station at The Collection, the cost of owning an EV may be out of reach for the average city-dweller — a myth that Ramirez hopes to dispel.
“You might not be able to go out and afford a Tesla,” said Ramirez in reference to the EV’s price, which can reach upwards to $100,000, “but a friend of mine just leased an electric Fiat for $199 a month. Sometimes you have to do what’s best for everybody even if the cost goes up a little bit more.”
While the Tesla may be the most expensive EV on the market, the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf both begin at close to $25,000 before rebates. The state of California offers tax credits for those purchasing EVs to the tune of $2,500, making the vehicles much more attractive to the cost-weary buyer.
“You’re looking at a third of the energy use and the fossil-fuel use to use an electric,” said Roy Prince of the Ventura Electric Vehicle Association. “To overcome those fears are the early adopters who change perceptions, and over time I think people will see the value of how quiet they are, how low-maintenance they are and how inexpensive they are to run, and make the move.”
The event at The Collection will highlight the various ways in which a consumer can purchase an EV and demonstrate the benefits of ownership, from a reduction in traveling and maintenance costs to the peace of mind of not relying on fossil fuel. The organizers hope to convince drivers that electric is the way to go.
“Once they’ve made the move, it’s like there’s no going back,” said Prince. “It’s like, why did it take so long? Why did it take so long as a society to make these kinds of vehicles available to us?”
The National Plug In Day celebration will take place at The Collection at Riverpark mall in Oxnard on Saturday, Sept. 28, from noon to 4 p.m.