Back in February, the folks at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington hosted a TEDx conference. One of the event's speakers was Ron Johnston-Rodriguez.

Johnstron-Rodriguez founded Plug In North Central Washington. That sounds as if it might be a regional chapter of Plug In America, but its goals are slightly different: it aims "to develop and promote vehicle electrification and electric vehicle tourism in a 3-county region of north-central Washington state". Accordingly, his presentation centered around the debut of the Stevens Pass Scenic Byway, an electric vehicle tourism corridor running between Seattle and Wenatchee, Washington, along US2.  

The Stevens Pass Scenic Byway is billed as the first such corridor in the world, but Johnstron-Rodriguez points out that other organizations and governments are exploring EV-tourism, from Japan to Wales and many points in-between.

Johnstron-Rodriguez's TEDx talk was different from most others we've seen. Sure, it had its high-minded moments, but huge stretches were pure marketing pitch -- which, in fairness, is probably what electric car fans need to grow their numbers. The gist of it was fairly simple:

  • Roughly 50% of Washington state's greenhouse gas emissions are caused by vehicles burning fossil fuels.
  • Roughly 70% of Washington state's electricity is generated from clean resources.
  • Tourism is big business in Washington state.
  • Creating a tourism corridor specifically for electric car fans and the EV-curious can address weakness #1 by using strengths #2 and #3. 

Johnstron-Rodriguez's goals for the corridor are equally straightforward:

  • To strengthen Washington's electric car community by giving EV owners a place to rally.
  • To grow that community by giving the EV-curious a place to rent electric cars.
  • To boost tourism in the state.
  • To increase spending on the Stevens Pass EV corridor by offering over 12 charging stations along the route (many of which are free), and lists of things for visitors to do while cars are charging.
  • To enhance the reputation of Washington state as an eco-hub, where public transit, commerce, and leisure activities are all powered by renewable energy.

Is his presentation effective? Maybe (though he does seem to get easily flustered when PowePoint misbehaves). It probably would've been better if he'd angled away from some of the tourism-economy-speak and relied more heavily on the long-term environmental impact of his efforts. At least, that's the feeling we get from watching the audience.

And Johnstron-Rodriguez does make a couple of eyebrow-raising statements -- for example, around the 9:00 mark, when he says that electric cars have just hit puberty. To us, that's a pretty optimistic assessment. 

That said, on YouTube the talk had the advantage of appealing to a wide range of listeners, including the eco-friendly, tourism workers, and elected officials. Does it sway you? Can EV tourism be a driver of economic growth? Sound off in the comments below.

[hat tip: Brian Henderson]


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