By Chris Stone
Craig Blasingame showed off his 2014 Tesla outfitted with a sleeping area to raise awareness of how electric cars can fit outdoor lifestyles.For the Coronado resident, it’s all about spreading the word. And Saturday, he thinks he persuaded three people to make the switch from gas to electric.
“If all of the EV owners today could talk one person into it, and one person talks someone else into it, it won’t be too many years before we are all electric and I think that’s a desirable thing to be,” he said at the third annual Electric Vehicle Day at the stadium formerly known as Qualcomm.
San Diego Gas and Electric Co. hosted the event that included test drives of electric vehicles, electric bicycles and scooters, displays of an electric city bus, school bus, trucks, semi trucks and electric charger suppliers.
In addition to SDG&E, the event was sponsored by Cleantech San Diego and the Center for Sustainable Energy during National Drive Electric Week.
In the stadium’s open parking lot, attendees weren’t talking about the Chargers but ways to charge their cars to avoid the gas pump.
One making the switch after talking to Tesla owner Blasingame was Kevin Huang of Rancho Bernardo, who was sold on the car’s cost, driving experience, torque and stability.
But saying goodbye to the gas pump and driving an ecological car were his main incentives.
He came to the stadium with questions about the cost of charging, mileage range of battery power and availability of charging stations. He looked over models from makers including BMW, Ford, Nissan, Honda, Volkswagen, Chevrolet and Kia.
Twenty-plus models were available to inspect.
For Huang and many of the 1,800 attendees, the Tesla model S drew the most attention with the longest waiting line for test drives. (The new Model 3, starting at $35,000, wasn’t available.)But a steady stream of drivers took a variety of makes and models for a spin.
“The idea is to get San Diegans behind the wheel of an electric car because it’s not until you drive it do you feel the torque and the excitement of the car,” said April Bolduc, electric vehicle customer engagement manager for SDG&E.
The biggest concerns among those who inspected the electric cars were battery range and ability to easily recharge the car.
Huang said he worried about having a constant concern about where his next charge would come from, but with the 200-mile range on some of the cars, he thought longer drives was doable.
Randy Schimka of SDG&E told the crowd about the Power Your Drive program in which the utility is installing 3,500 charging stations at 350 multiunit dwellings and workplaces with funding from the California Public Utilities Commission.
Schimka expressed hope that with more chargers on the market, the charging units would become a lot more affordable.
Most electric vehicle owners charge their cars in their own garages, he said.
But while people in apartments and condos may find charging more challenging, SDG&E can install meters on outdoor apartment outlets for individual customers with a landlord’s approval.
SDG&E representatives also discussed federal tax credits and state rebates available to EV owners, in addition to the company’s Power Your Drive program offering reduced rates for charging cars between midnight and 5 a.m.
Ryall Wilson of Allied Gardens had a future purchase in mind as he surveyed the models.
“I like the whole concept of not using gas,” he said.
“I had no idea that there were so many to choose from,” Wilson said. He said he was particularly interested in the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Bolt.“I am really excited,” he said. “I had no idea that there were so many to choose from. It will be a fun decision-making process.”
Electric scooters and bicycles also grabbed people’s attention.
San Diego Electric Bike in Solana Beach brought a selection of pedal and nonpedal bikes and scooters for people to try out.
“I think it’s great,” Duane Wittmeier of Mira Mesa said after a test ride. “You go up a hill and get a little bit of extra [power] so you don’t have to exert yourself.”
People rode Phat Scooters that go up to 20 miles an hour, have a beach, golf and bike mode, range from 30 to 50 miles per charge depending on speed and four hours to charge.
The $1,700 scooters are customizable for surfboard and golf club racks.
The electric bikes allow riders to go faster and farther in mountain bike, beach cruiser and road bikes. The nearly $2,000 Magnum Metro is the most popular, said Brian Ruehl of San Diego Electric Bike.
An all-electric bus from Build Your Dreams in Lancaster also was on display. While not in use in the San Diego area, more than 100 40-foot buses are used in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Antelope Valley, Lancaster and Indianapolis and throughout the world.For a comparable price as gas models, James Holtz, a fleet manager for BYD, said the bus can run 250 miles on a charge for a full bus with air conditioning running.
Last year, the Metropolitan Transit System invested in a fleet of propane fueled buses in San Diego.
While people looked over the electric buses and cars, Tesla owner Blasingame was trying to persuade others of the virtue of electric cars.
Blasingame added 35,000 miles to his Tesla when he took coastal tours on both sides of the country and in a Route 66 journey from Santa Monica to Chicago, staying overnight in campgrounds where he refueled.
A phone app allows him to program either air conditioning or heating overnight while he and his wife sleep in the back.
He said he had no problems fueling up across the nation except in Pennsylvania, where local officials wouldn’t allow the fueling stations at campgrounds because such cars don’t generate gas tax income.
On his first journey, people had a lot of questions about his curiosity generating car.
One fellow camper was dumbfounded when he looked at Blasingame’s EV.
“You know, you ain’t got no motor,” the camper said. Blasingame assured him it was under the car.
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