Plug In America Invites Senators To Drive Electric on Capitol Hill

Last week Plug In America staged an electric car ride and drive event to gain more support from federal legislators.

With the backing of a few automakers, the advocacy group hosted a day-long ride and drive event in Washington, D.C., for U.S. senators and their staff.

As Plug In America has found at National Drive Electric Week and many other ride-and-drive events, people’s attitudes change toward the positive after driving a plug-in electrified vehicle.

Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who can be seen in the photo above driving a Chevy Bolt, hosted the event on Capitol Hill for the Senate Auto Caucus. Other senators attending included Dean Heller (R-Nevada), Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island).

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) sent a few staffers to test drive cars. Plug In America said that others were scheduled to attend, but last minute votes and hearings led to a few missing the scheduled time. The advocacy group planned to work with schedulers to get senators out during the recess break.

Hundreds were in attendance, and they had the chance to take their first drives in cars run by batteries. Along with the Chevy Bolt, the Tesla Model S was a popular car for them to experience.

To set the stage, Plug In America staff had gone to every senate office in person to invite them to the event. The group and its members, along with a few automakers, do see two legislative issues at stake.

One of them is gaining support to extend federal tax incentives for purchasing PEVs. Automakers have been given a 200,000 unit cap before the credit, that ranges from $2,500 to $7,500 per vehicle, starts to run out. Tesla may be the first manufacturer to hit the 200,000 cap=, then see incentives cut in half, cut in half again, then go away. The 50 percent cut would take place two quarters after the 200,000 sales market is passed.

The second tax credit applies to charging PEVs. A 30-percent tax credit on electric vehicle charging equipment expired at the end of 2016. Individuals could tap into a $1,000 tax credit for charging stations and business could go up to $30,000 in tax credits for charger and installation costs.

“Our aim is for an extension of both policies, to ensure the transition of the EV market from early adopter to mass market,” said Plug In America in its blog.

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The PEV advocacy group has found support for the vehicles from both Democrats and Republicans in Washington. Yet, many of them had never driven one. Plug In America has found that driving a PEV surprises driver with how much power the car has, and the quiet driving pleasure it offers.

Currently, three senators drive PEVs: Merkley, Angus King (R-Maine), and Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), according to the advocacy group.

Senator Alexander is known for driving a Nissan Leaf. He’d done his part years ago in convincing Nissan to manufacture vehicles at a plant in Smyrna, Tenn.

The Japanese automaker decided to move production of the Leaf over to Smyrna in 2011.


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