Charlottesville nonprofit, car dealership working to get people driving electric vehicles

New legislation in Virginia will make it easier for people to buy Electric Vehicles (EVs). The next step, is getting them behind the wheel.
Updated: Apr. 17, 2021 at 7:30 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Virginia is the first state in the South working to put more Electric Vehicles (EVs) on the road, with new legislation making it easier for dealerships to sell more EVs at lower prices. Now, nonprofits like Generation180 in Charlottesville are working to get people interested in buying them.

“Over 90% of people have heard about electric vehicles, but only about 30% are familiar with them in any way,” said Stuart Gardner, the director of Generation180′s Electrify Your Ride campaign.

Sparking interest in EVs starts with getting people behind the wheel. Just riding in an EV, Gardner said, makes someone three times more likely to consider buying one.

“They really sell themselves. I’ve never seen anyone get in an electric vehicle and come out unimpressed,” he said.

That’s where dealerships like Carter Meyers Automotive come into play.

“When someone brings in their Nissan Altima or Nissan Pathfinder for service, we have the ability to offer them a Nissan Leaf to drive for the day,” said Carter Meyers Automotive CEO Liza Borches. “Just let them see how it drives, what it feels like, where they would find a charging station so that people don’t feel the pressure of needing to come into a showroom in a dealership ready to purchase an EV. Let’s just let them experience it and see what it looks like.”

Borches said more charging stations, paired with more options to choose from at a dealership, will give people more reasons to ride.

“The products that are coming are all focused on electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids, so we want to make sure that our customers are comfortable going in that direction and it’s our job to connect them with this world,” she said.

GEVs aren’t only an eco-friendly option, Gardner said. With manufacturers making more styles of EVs, they’re also good for business.

“You’re going to see more and more people, and dealers will see more and more people, coming to their dealership and saying, ‘Hey I want to check out that SUV, I’ve been driving SUVs for a long time, they fit my lifestyle, and now here’s one that I feel good about driving,’” he said.

A new rebate program will also help people of different incomes buy an electric vehicle that meets their needs and fits their budget. Both Borches and Gardner said they’ll be pushing for the program to get proper funding between now and 2022.

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