Waking after a restful night's sleep, gently opening your eyes to a new day with a smile on your face, is what it's like behind the wheel of an electric car that will start your day's journey with a smooth ride, proponents say.
To find out for yourself what the electric car experience is all about and dispel the mythology of them being a glorified golf cart, attendees can go from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday to Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, during the "Electrify the Island" celebration during National Drive Electric Week.
This is the third year electric car enthusiasts, dealers and engineering experts will gather at Mote to learn about advancements within the electric car industry.
Mote trustee Nigel Mould said the inaugural event featured the only four models available but last year featured eight types of electric cars and this year will be 12.
"As you can see, it seems each year the number of models available have grown and we expect to see more and more each year," Mould said.
Electric cars came onto the scene as carmakers looked to become more environmentally friendly and energy independent, but gas engine lovers have ignored them, not wanting to give up the power or acceleration.
But electric car models developed over the past few years can equal the acceleration of a gas motor "and it's smoother," said Chris Sharek, engineering director at NV5 in Sarasota and author of the "Electric Revolution."
Sharek demonstrated electric car power Monday, pressing the accelerator of his 2011 Chevrolet Volt hybrid, pinning passengers in their seats. The only thing missing was the jerk of gears shifting as the Volt took off smoothly with the capabil
ity of reaching more than 100 mph. Certainly not a speed recommended for the average commute but a testament to advancements in electric power.
"It's exciting to watch where this industry is going and it's definitely the future," said Mould.
Hybrids are also expected to improve. Chevrolet is expected to release the Volt 2.0 in early 2015 and many believe it will double the miles available on electric batteries as technology improves. The Volt can go about 40 miles on a charge now before the gas engine takes over, but Sharek said he still only averages one tank of gas a month.
Tesla, on the other hand, is 100 percent electric and gets close to 200 miles per charge. One concern for drivers taking a long trip is the availability of charging stations. Mould said Tesla has a growing network of free charging stations within driving distance electronically mapped out for drivers to find with ease.
"I took a trip to Seattle and back and it didn't cost me a penny," said Mould. "And the average drive a person does a day is about 16 miles."
Homeowners don't have to make any adjustments as the vehicles come equipped with a 110-volt plug an owner charge their vehicle with in any standard outlet. The charging time is longer than a super-charging station, but Sharek said he plugs in for the night and awakes to a fully charged vehicle. A super-charging station will fully load a drained system in about 30 minutes.
Tesla is opening a storefront at the new Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota and installing 16 super-charging stations for electric-car drivers to use for free. Even when plugged into a socket at home, Mould said the average cost in electricity for a full charge is about $5.
"So that's 200 miles for $5, which is a little more than 1 gallon of gas," said Mould.
Electric car owners will speak about how the experience has benefited their lives. Vendors and dealers from Chevy, Tesla and BMW will be on hand.
Electric cars are still pricey. The Tesla Model S will run in the $60,000 range while the Chevy Volt costs about $35,000.
The federal government offers a $7,500 tax credit for purchasing an electric vehicle and the savings on gas speaks for itself. However, as technology improves, prices for electric cars are forecast to drop in the near future.
Haley Rutger, public relations manager for Mote, said the event is a good fit for the environmental sustainability Mote works toward.