Electric Vehicle Road Rally Aims to Educate West Michigan Community on Going Green

MUSKEGON, MI – Electric cars, motorcycles and even a golf cart poured into the parking lot at Lakes Mall Meijer for the 2021 Drive Electric Earth Day road rally. The Triangular Circuit – taking participants just under 150 miles of Muskegon, Holland, Grand Rapids and back to Muskegon – brought together the electric vehicle (EV) community of western Michigan and sought to educate passers-by on the benefits of electric driving.

Organizer Karl Bloss said he attended various EV events when he first moved to Michigan in 2018 and wanted to continue promoting education on the switch to electricity in a non-commercial environment.

“The idea is that someone could literally come over and kick the tires and say, ‘Hey, tell me about electric driving and what it’s like to live with one every day’, without any sales pressure, ”he said.

The 70 attendees at the event released 11 models of electric vehicles, ranging from a pair of Zero motorcycles to a host of Tesla’s.

Shawn Schwartz brought his 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf, which was introduced in 2014 in 10 states and Washington DC. His ride was an upgrade he got a year ago, surpassing his old Volkswagen Golf 2000, which had a combustion engine.

Schwartz said cars like his e-Golf are especially important in the electric vehicle community because they shatter the idea that a Tesla is the only option for those looking to go electric. Despite the make of the car, he said the community has been incredibly supportive.

“[It’s] just the enthusiasm for EVs and the fun of showing off a more exotic car in these circles because as you can see it’s very Tesla centric, ”said Schwartz.

The exotic end to EV riding also came from Steve Grody and Brad Kallio, riding a 2018 Zero DS and a 2017 DSR, respectively.

The duo pointed out that their electric motorcycles have impressive specs despite being more niche in the market.

Kallio said Giggles, his 2017 DSR, has a top speed of 96 mph, which he hits in 4.5 seconds in sport mode. It abandons features like a clutch or shifting on traditional bikes and can instead be completely submerged underwater with its waterproof body. The 2018 Grody DS even comes equipped with tires for off-road driving.

“We tend to sneak up on people,” Grody said with a laugh, nodding at the quiet electric motor. “People don’t even know we’re here.”

Grody said the efficiency of his bike allowed him to take trips throughout the region, which he wouldn’t have done without his EV.

“I save hundreds of dollars a month by not driving my truck,” he said. “Because of that, I’m much more encouraged to go on adventure travel. I travel everywhere and explore things I wouldn’t do if I had to pay for all gas.

Part of the electric vehicle expansion is attributed to an expanding statewide charging infrastructure chartered by Consumers Energy.

RELATED: Consumers Energy wants to add 200 EV chargers across Michigan over the next 3 years

Bloss also attributed the standardization of electric vehicles in the market to increasing accessibility and wider use. Things like the widening of the used market and lower price options are also drawing people into electric vehicles.

In Kallio’s case, it’s also about taking charge of energy consumption. He charges his bike with solar panels at home or the set mounted on his van, which he uses to transport his bike.

“All the energy I use on this [motorcycle] is in the sun, ”Kallio said. “I don’t have a fossil fuel bill.”

Kallio is an example of one of the main advantages of electric vehicles today, Bloss said: They are fuel independent.

When it comes to the energy landscape, electric vehicles can be powered by renewable energy or fossil fuels. Bloss said this allows energy companies to switch to renewable models, like solar or wind.

Bloss said these EV users are living examples of how the switch to electricity is better for wallets and the Earth. Seeing such attendance at the event – one of the largest he has ever seen – says a lot about the development of the West Michigan EV community, he said.

“Well, it’s just amazing the number of people,” Bloss said. “It kind of calls for the trend towards electric vehicle adoption. So I think we’re on that inflection point where more people get it and more people are interested.

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