Switching gears

National Plug In Day

The Tesla Roadster will be on display at the event, and chances to drive it will be raffled off.

The Tesla Roadster will be on display at the event, and chances to drive it will be raffled off.


National Plug In Day will be held from 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at Idlewild Park. The event is free.

Rumbling motorcycles won’t be the only vehicles shaking up the roads of Reno this coming weekend, but some of the autos will be significantly quieter. That’s because they’ll be running mostly on batteries as part of Reno’s celebration of National Plug In Day.

“Instead of Street Vibrations, what about street quiescence?” says Bob Tregilus, member of the Electric Auto Association of Northern Nevada and co-host of the This Week in Energy podcast.

The event, held at Idlewild Park on Sept. 23, is a collaboration between the Electric Auto Association, Plug In America and the Sierra Club, and is intended to spread the word about the benefits of electric and hybrid vehicles.

“The purpose of the event is to reach out to our neighbors and community and to show them what emerging technologies of electric vehicles are all about,” says Tregilus.

Other local environmental groups will be in attendance, such as the Clean Energy Center, Envirolution, Young Professionals in Energy, among others. Attendees will have a chance to drive an all-electric Nissan LEAF or a hybrid Chevy Volt, and can enter in a raffle to drive a Tesla Motors Roadster. Tregilus wants participants to feel no sales pressure at the event, but to be open-minded about the potential for EVs in Northern Nevada. While EVs are still rare in the area, the Nissan LEAF (which stands for “leading, environmentally friendly, affordable, family car”) and the Chevy Volt are available at local dealerships.

Tregilus says that one of the most common concerns about EVs is the “long tailpipe,” argument, which suggests that EVs are more damaging to the environment because they use electricity from dirty power plants. However, as the power grid becomes cleaner, “so will cars,” he says. “But only if they’re electric.”

The other concern is about range anxiety—the worry that the car will run out of fuel before reaching a destination. Tregilus mentions actress and EV activist Alexandra Paul, who has talked about the flipside of range anxiety—“gas anxiety,” or the concerns over the global politics and environmental damage related to cars that require oil.

Transportation researchers anticipate that people will move away from gas-powered cars as new infrastructure is built to support better public transportation, cycling and walking, and EV power stations. But EVs have had a mixed public response lately after sales for the Nissan Leaf reported to be much lower than expected, and Fisker Automotives had to recall some of its vehicles in August after reports of the cars catching on fire. However, buzz around the Tesla Model S and new concepts to be showcased at the Paris Auto Show next week are encouraging to EV supporters and consumers who want more plug-ins and hybrids on the market. Even the Pope is in on the action, recently reported to be using a Renault EV to tour the Italian countryside.

Tregilus said that once people make the switch, it’s hard to imagine going back to a gas-powered vehicle, especially with the prices of gas continuing to rise.

“People from two car families, one gas and one electric, find that they are pushing the envelope of the electric car just to avoid having to go to the gas station,” he said. “It really shifts when you’re on the other side of the wheel.”