MUSKEGON, MI — Electric cars, motorcycles and even a golf cart flocked to the parking lot of the Lakes Mall Meijer for the 2021 Drive Electric Earth Day Road Rally. The triangular circuit – taking participants just under 150 miles from Muskegon, Holland, Grand Rapids and back to Muskegon – united the West Michigan electric vehicle (EV) community and looked to educate bystanders on the benefits of driving electric.
Organizer Karl Bloss said he attended various EV events when he first moved to Michigan in 2018 and wanted to continue to promote education on going electric in a non-sales environment.
“The idea is that somebody can come and literally kick the tires and say, ‘Hey, tell me about driving electric and what’s it like to live with one every day,’ without all the sales pressure,” he said.
The event’s 70 attendees brought out 11 models of EVs, ranging from a pair of Zero motorcycles to a slew of Teslas.
Shawn Schwartz brought his 2019 Volkswagen e-Golf, which was introduced in 2014 to 10 states and Washington DC. His ride was an upgrade he got a year ago, trumping his former 2000 Volkswagen Golf, which had a combustion engine.
Schwartz said cars like his e-Golf are especially important in the EV community because they bust the notion 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 electric vehicles and the fun of kind of showing off more of an exotic car in these circles, because as you can see, it’s very Tesla-centered,” Schwartz said.
The exotic end of attending EVs also came from Steve Grody and Brad Kallio, riding a Zero 2018 DS and a 2017 DSR, respectively.
The duo highlighted that their electric motorcycles are pulling impressive specs despite being more niche in the market.
Kallio said Giggles, his 2017 DSR, has a top speed of 96 mph, which it hits in 4.5 seconds in sport mode. It ditches features like a clutch or shifting on traditional bikes and instead is able to be completely submerged underwater with its watertight body. Grody’s 2018 DS is even outfitted with tires to take it off-roading.
“We tend to sneak up on people,” Grody said with a laugh, nodding to the quiet electric engine. “People don’t even know we’re there.”
Grody said the efficiency of his bike has allowed him to make trips all over the region, which he wouldn’t have done if not for his EV.
“I save hundreds of dollars a month not driving my truck,” he said. “Because of that, I’m much more encouraged to do adventure trips. I travel all over the place and explore things that I wouldn’t do if I had to pay for all the gas.”
Part of the expansion of EVs is credited to an expanding charger infrastructure throughout the state, chartered by Consumers Energy.
Bloss also credited the normalization of EVs in the market to rising accessibility and wider use. Things like a broadening used market and lower price options are also getting people into EVs.
In Kallio’s case, it’s also taking energy consumption into your own hands. He charges his bike with solar panels at home or the set mounted to his van, which he uses to haul his bike.
“All the energy I’m using on this [motorcycle] is on sunlight,” Kallio said. “I have no fossil fuel bill.”
Kallio is an example of one of the primary benefits of EVs right now, Bloss said: they are fuel agnostic.
Looking at the energy landscape, EVs can be powered by renewable energy or fossil fuels. Bloss said this allows energy companies to shift to renewable models, like solar or wind.
Bloss said these EV users are living examples of how switching to electric is better for wallets and the Earth. Seeing such a strong turnout at the event – one of the largest he has ever seen – says great things about the development of West Michigan’s EV community, he said.
“Well, it’s just amazing, the number of people,” Bloss said. “It kind of calls the trend of EV adoption. So I think we’re on that inflection point where more people get it and more people are interested.”