EV Proponents Try Something New: A Permanent Location for One-Stop Test Drives
Plug ‘n Drive sounds like the world’s less appetizing fast food restaurant but is, in actuality, a not-for-profit organization with a strict focus on encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles. It’s so committed, in fact, that it is opening a “Electric Vehicle Discovery Centre” near Toronto’s York University in order to provide the general populace free opportunities to pilot EVs.
Of course, you don’t just get to test drive electric vehicles — there is an agenda here. Plug ‘n Drive also wants to use the location as a base to educate people on how to get the most out of EV ownership, make a case for the environmental and economic benefits of electric transportation, and explain government programs like Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan. Think of it as an EV church, where the faithful can worship and and non-believers can be converted.
“Try to imagine Science-Centre-meets-car-showroom,” Cara Clairman, Plug’n Drive’s founder and president, to Automotive News in an interview.
Mobility centers have cropped up all over North America, usually as short term galleries specifically designed to show how modern an established automaker has become. They frequently lack substance, placing an emphasis on abstract concepts instead of hardware. Plug ‘n Drive’s Discovery Centre is different in that it is ready to hand over the keys to existing models while persuading you into becoming a true believer in EVs.
According to Clairman, visitors to EVDC can take advantage of their entire fleet free of charge. However, the models included the lineup are yet to be decided. Plug ‘n Drive will be charging automakers a premium to have their vehicles made available for test drives, meaning whoever shells out the most money is likely to have the best chance to sway public opinion in their favor — especially since the EVDC will also provide free referrals to specific dealerships.
At least a few of those referrals should be for Chevrolet dealers. David Paterson, General Motors Canada’s vice-president of corporate and environmental affairs, says the automaker supports the Plug’n Drive initiative. GM will also be providing both the Volt and Bolt for free test drives.
“We love what she is doing [and] we’re excited about the plans to create a home where people can do test drives,” said Paterson.
Obviously, dealerships also provide test drives but the chance to drive multiple vehicles back to back offers specific advantages if you’re in the market and comparing EV. Still, even if you are not looking to buy, just being able to have some hands-on time with various electric cars is an interesting opportunity. Just be prepared for the hard sell — not on a car, but on the notion that electricity is superior to gas.
“It is totally different than going to a dealer,” says Clairman. “We’re not really trying to sell you a particular car. We’re really trying to sell you a concept. Why are these cars good for the environment? How can they save you money? What’s the value proposition of electrified transportation? Why are we moving in that direction … all things that someone would ask before making the switch. Communicating the features and details of the car? That’s what the dealers are really great at.”
For those of you interested in joining the EV cult, or are simply curious about electrified models, Plug n’ Drive’s new facility is located at 1126 Finch Ave W, North York, Ontario, and opens on May 18.
[Image: BMW, Daimler, Ford and VW Group]
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