For Sherry Boschert, driving an electric vehicle is more than just a means of transportation; it symbolizes a way of life.
Co-founder of the non-profit volunteer organization Plug-In America and a long-time environmentalist, Sherry Boschert currently drives a Toyota Rav4 EV that she says goes about one hundred miles on one charge. But Boschert’s EV is not just any electric vehicle, and it’s not her first. It’s also solar-charged.
How it all started
Boschert and her partner first installed a 4.8 kW solar system on their home outside of San Francisco in 1998. When they did this, the Plug In America co-founder recalls that all her neighbors in their cloudy area of San Francisco thought they were crazy.
“The thing is, solar electric works fine; you don’t need heat, you just need light,” notes Boschert. “ And unless it’s nighttime, there’s light out there, you know? And once you’re making electricity from the sun, you start thinking, well, what else can we plug in?”
Inspired in part by their conversion to solar, Boschert and her partner started to look for an electric vehicle to become their second household car. In 2002, they leased the Ford Th!nkCity, which had become available to consumers thanks to California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle Mandate (the mandate required automotive companies to dedicate a portion of their production and sales to zero-emissions vehicles).
“Driving our Th!nkCity and making electricity with our solar panels was like driving a car that ran on sunshine,” Boschert writes on her web site.
In 2003, car companies sued the California Air Resources Board and repealed the mandate, claiming that they weren’t able to sell enough electric vehicles. Car companies acquired the right to take back all the electric vehicles they had leased. They planned not just to stop selling and producing the cars, but to destroy the ones that were already on the road.
Demonstrating to stop EV destruction
Boschert was among the hundreds of EV drivers outraged at what the car companies were going to do, and she took action.
Even before the major automakers started taking EVs back, Boschert formed the San Francisco Electric Vehicle Association with Marc Geller (another Plug In America co-founder). A fellow Th!nkCity driver, Geller introduced Boschert to Don’tCrush.com, a virtual community of activists and electric vehicle drivers in the San Francisco area and Southern California who wanted to prevent the car companies from destroying EVs.
Over several years, Boschert and Geller organized demonstrations in an attempt to stop auto makers from going through with the destruction.
“It was really just connecting with other drivers and doing the American thing—speaking out and educating,” recalls Boschert.
Boschert and Geller used the forced return of their Th!nkCitys as a means to start building a movement, for example, participating in a demonstration with activist groups Rainforest Action Network and Global Exchange in San Francisco.
“[Lot’s of people think] that all [of the cars] were destroyed,” Boschert says, “but that’s not true. We did save about 1,000 cars, and I’m still driving one of those today.”
Boschert’s Toyota Rav4 EV is one of the electric cars she and Geller rescued. It’s now eight years old and has 79,000 gasoline-free miles on it.
People interested in EVs
Boschert recalls that her favorite “EV moments” were when she was driving the Ford Th!nkCity (which she endearingly refers to as her “Th!nk”). The small, compact electric vehicle was very obviously not an ordinary car, and people would stop to stare when she was driving around San Francisco, remembers Boschert.
“When I was out in public, everyone wanted to know about it, and they would say, ‘It’s electric? There’s no gasoline? I want one!’ ”
The long-time EV activist knows that there really is interest and demand in the United States for cleaner cars as well as for a transition away from gasoline dependence.
In fact, there is something that Boschert and her fellow volunteers at Plug-In America call the “EV Grin.” The EV Grin happens when you put someone in an electric car for the first time, and especially when you let him or her drive, Boschert notes. The new EV drivers incredulously question the quietness of plug-ins and their simplicity.
“The EV grin happens again and again and again,” explains the veteran EV driver. “The most common question we see from tens of thousands of people in the last several years is, ‘where can I get one?’ ”
Figuring out electric cars not ‘rocket science’
Until this year, it was really hard to answer everyone’s questions about where to get an EV, Boschert says. Now, with so many EVs coming out in 2011, like the Nissan LEAF and the Chevy Volt, one of Plug In America’s main purposes is to provide education and information.
Even though the future of EVs is looking good for now, Boschert is adamant that people still need to continue to send a very clear message to car companies: No plug, no deal.
If you compare the number of electric cars that companies produce and the number of cars we need in order to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, Boschert says we really need to force the car companies to speed things up and make electric vehicle production a larger fraction of the hundreds of millions of cars that they produce.
If you’re combining EV with PV, as Boschert is, you can reduce greenhouse gases even further.
“The best use for your solar panels is to feed the electricity back into the grid during the daytime so that the utilities don’t have to produce as much power then,” she notes.
In the end, it’s not as hard to make the transition to electric transportation as people think.
“It’s not rocket-science,” Boschert says. “You get up in the morning and your car is fully charged. You go to work, and when you get home, you plug it in. You don’t even have to think about it. It’s on a timer and charges [while you sleep]. The technology has been around forever. This is not a huge disruption to people’s lifestyles. And it’s really doable, as of this year.”
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