As the allure of electric vehicles grows in the United States, advocates of the battery-powered automobiles gathered in Baton Rouge on Saturday as part of National Drive Electric Week to tout the advantages over the old gas guzzlers.
Lauren Lambert-Tompkins, a Clean Cities co-coordinator with Louisiana Clean Fuels, said Saturday’s gathering in the Whole Foods parking lot was one of several across the country Saturday by groups spreading the gospel of zero-emissions electric vehicles. Louisiana Clean Fuels also promotes natural gas and propane-powered vehicles.
“They’re getting a lot more popular,” Lambert-Tompkins said of electric vehicles, pointing out that they are five times cheaper to fuel than normal automobiles and that people don’t worry about the hassle of upkeep and maintenance like changing the oil or changing fluids.
“Anything that’s new and unfamiliar, people are going to look at you crazy, but the facts are there” to support buying electric vehicles, Lambert-Tompkins said.
There are other financial incentives of going electric: Louisiana offers 50 percent in income tax credits for buying or converting to an electric car and a 10 percent tax credit on the cost of the vehicle, up to $3,000, for registering an electric vehicle in the state, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.
Lambert-Tompkins said there are about 200,000 electric-powered vehicles in the country, though she was unsure how many are on the road in Louisiana
Onlookers wandering through the Whole Foods parking lot checked out the sleek white Tesla Model S that was sandwiched between a 1992 Ford station wagon its owner had converted to battery power and a Chevrolet Volt.
Susan Miller, 54, of Baton Rouge, answered questions from several curious observers about her Tesla.
“It does get a lot of oohs and aahs,” she said of the $70,000 electric sports car she purchased last September.
Miller said most people assume an electric car with zero emissions drives like a golf cart, but her Tesla is “fun to drive.”
The watermelon-sized motor sits between the car’s two rear tires, giving Miller ample storage space in the trunk and under the hood for long trips, like the 2,700-mile roundtrip she recently took to Michigan.
The trip took some planning, she said, because of the lack of widespread charging stations across the country. But said she can charge the car at any outlet that generates at least 110 volts.
“It’s definitely doable now and its only going to get better,” she said.
Next to the Tesla, Alan Dominque, 30, of Baton Rouge, was telling a group checking out his 1992 Ford station wagon how he went about converting it to an electric vehicle.
Dominque has in-depth knowledge of electrical wiring and circuitry, so the conversion to electric was not so much about saving the world but more about turning the car into something he could fix himself if anything broke.
The car’s 48 cells sit in the trunk, but he has ample space under the hood to add extra cells if he ever decides to. No one knows that the white Ford wagon is electric until he pops the hood or plugs it into an outlet, Dominque said.
Dominque said he’s had the car for about a year, since his old electric pickup truck was totaled on Interstate 110 in December.
Follow Ryan Broussard on Twitter, @ryanmbroussard.