Jun. 27—KENNESAW — Advocates, dealers and aficionados gathered in the parking lot of Town Center at Cobb mall Saturday to show off the latest electric vehicle models and, hopefully, win some converts.
The showcase was part of a Department of Energy-funded initiative dubbed "Drive Electric Georgia," organized by Clean Cities-Georgia and EV Club of the South. It featured more than 20 models, including Ford's Mustang Mach-E, several from Tesla and more.
Part of the purpose of the showcase was to "get the myths and facts out in the open," said Frank Morris, executive director of Clean Cities-Georgia.
Among those "myths," as Morris sees it, are that charging electric cars is an inconvenience and that the cars won't take you very far before they need to plug in again.
Range and charging options still lag those of traditional cars, acknowledged Anne Blair, president of EV Club of the South. But both have dramatically improved among electric models in recent years. Models coming on the market now can drive more than 200 miles on a single charge. The most expensive can go more than 400.
And while public charging stations remain few and far between, their numbers are growing. According to Drive Electric-Georgia, the state now has 1,379 charging stations and 3,420 charging ports. And utilities like Cobb EMC offer incentives for homeowners to install and use charging stations at home, according to Blair.
And, of course, there are the environmental benefits.
The Environmental Protection Agency notes that transportation accounts for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions among economic sectors in the U.S. Most of those transportation-related emissions come from passenger cars and trucks.
But electric vehicles offer another benefit over their gas-powered counterparts, according to the crowd at Town Center — they're more fun.
"It's like driving an electric go-kart ... the car takes off from a dead stop and it throws you back in your seat — to the point where my wife's like, 'stop,' Oscar Baumert, an engineer from the Augusta area, said, chuckling. He brought his Audi e-tron to Saturday's event. "It will go from 0 (miles per hour) to 60 in five-and-a-half seconds. ... For a big SUV that's meant just for pleasure cruising, it'll make you understand the kind of power it has available."
Safia Khan, her husband, Nuri, and their two children strolled past several of the models on display Saturday afternoon. They already own a Tesla, but had come to Town Center for lunch, happened upon the showcase and wanted to see electric vehicles from other manufacturers.
The pair gushed about their Tesla, saying it saved them hundreds of dollars a month on gas, gave them regular access to highway HOV lanes and gave them a sense they were "mak(ing) an impact on this world."
Chris Campbell, one of those who had come to show off his car — also an Audi e-tron — took a moment to admire the Mustang Mach-E, a new, electric SUV from Ford that took its design cues from the original Mustang line of sports cars.
"It's nice to see the big car makers finally get serious about it," he said. "A lot of these car makers like Ford, Audi, they dipped their toes in the water years ago, but they were never serious about it."
Serious they are. As governments like California and the United Kingdom vow to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars within the next 10 to 15 years, automakers have begun rolling out electric models en masse, and some, such as General Motors, Audi and Jaguar, have pledged to phase out production of gas-powered cars entirely.
In addition to fears about limited range and scarcity of public charging stations, the biggest obstacle to mass adoption of electric vehicles is their price. The massive batteries that power them are expensive, and most sell for $35,000 or more. (Though federal tax incentives can bring the price down by more than $7,000, depending on the manufacturer.) The most recent e-tron model starts at $67,000. The Mustang Mach-E starts at $44,000.
Cobb resident Kim Gollahon was given a look at a Tesla Model Y, the company's cheapest SUV, Saturday. The most recent model can drive almost 330 miles on a single charge, but starts at $53,000. Gollahon wasn't impressed.
"It's a car, you know. It gets you from point A to point B," she said. "But I'm not going to pay $60,000 for any car."