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Palo Alto's Electric-Car Evangelist: Sven Thesen

 
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2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

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Electric car enthusiasts are a passionate bunch.

We've seen as much from reading the comments on Green Car Reports articles, and suspect more than a few of our readers have helped change the opinions of friends, family and co-workers on electric cars. Maybe they've even tested or bought one as a result.

"EV evangelist" Sven Thesen has done just that, and more besides--showing that spreading the word on electric cars starts with the individual.

In a podcast interview with IEEE Spectrum, Thesen revealed how he's spread the news of electric cars through his neighborhood, to companies he's worked for, and even helped others to go through their own discovery process with electric cars.

It all started when Thesen worked at Pacific Gas and Electric Company in the early 2000s.

When researching replacements for a diesel irrigation pump in the central valley, he discovered just how much cleaner an electric pump was over every metric--no local emissions, tiny CO2 footprint, much greater efficiency and an increasingly clean grid to power it. From that point, he realized that electric power could do the same for the transport sector.

Initially, he got PG&E to take on a plug-in hybrid as part of its mainly natural gas-powered fleet. They said yes, and became one of the first utilities to use such a vehicle.

He later joined Better Place, which unfortunately proved to be a dead end thanks to its troubles, but continued his electric vehicle activism in day to day life, too.

One of the first moves was to install an electric car charging point on the curb outside his house. This can be used by anyone who wants to use it, and free of charge--though plenty of happy EV owners have send thank-you notes and even delivered small presents as a mark of gratitude.

While the permit took a while to acquire--the charger is on city land, of course--Thesen says it's been hugely successful so far, with regular usage and a positive reception from neighbors.

He's used the experience of his own charger to help others install curbside chargers, and perhaps streamline the application and planning processes.

And one of the biggest successes under Thesen's belt was getting Palo Alto to pass a city ordinance to install wiring for a charger in every new home. It means every new house in Palo Alto--around a hundred are built each year--will already have the required wiring for a charger, reducing the cost of installation should the new owner want to buy an electric car.

The same could happen for new parking lots, and the ideas in Palo Alto could spread elsewhere too.

And remember: This is all the work of one man.

With passion for a topic, some good ideas and a heap of determination, it's amazing what can be achieved.

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