Sustainable Seasons: Plug In, Ride Green—Fueling The Rise of Electric Vehicles

Posted on May 10 by SEASONS Magazine


Tesla Model S charging on Supercharger Station.

Tesla Model S charging on Supercharger Station.

By Rachel Hommel

Electric vehicles used to be a thing of the future. Now they are a deeply entrenched part of our local community. With more than 300 days of abundant sunshine in Santa Barbara, imagine powering your vehicle on that sunshine. From solar-powered cars to battery plug-ins, electric cars or EVs offer a valuable option to drive clean and ride green.

Since 2011, Community Environmental Council (CEC) has promoted this idea of “driving on sunshine.” With a goal of moving Santa Barbara away from fossil fuels in one generation, pure battery vehicles produce zero tailpipe emissions, with higher fuel economy. This means that no smog-forming pollutants or GHG emissions are generated when the vehicle is used. Driving clean energy forward, EVs offer owners a variety of federal and state tax incentives, while being three times more efficient than gas-burning engines.

“Transportation is the number-one source of emissions in California, more than any sector of the state’s economy,” says Cameron Gray, Energy Program Associate at CEC. “While it can be difficult to decarbonize transportation, EVs play a pivotal role in the long-term success of our climate policy.”

When considering an EV, consumers can be guaranteed lower fuel costs, less maintenance and an enhanced driving experience. With no oil changes, transmission fluid or spark plugs to replace, consumers can also enjoy longer brake life, due to a regenerative braking system. With a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV), electric motors also have much higher torque, creating an incredibly responsive (and responsible) transportation choice.

“EVs have to work for your way of life, for your lifestyle,” says Gray. “We help you reduce the complexity, we figure out which vehicle is right for you, we encourage you to hop behind the wheel and test drive.”

With regard to fueling EVs, consumers now have several options—hydrogen (fuel cell electric vehicles) and electricity (battery-powered electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid). All models offer distinct advantages—from increased driving range to rapid charging and increased fuel economy. On the Central Coast alone, more than 300 public charging stations are available for battery electric vehicles. Plug-in Santa Barbara helps consumers take it a step further, offering solar-based solutions to truly drive emissions-free.

With a growing number of affordable models, a new wave of EV adopters is on the rise, as is the need for reliable charging solutions. Founded with the renter in mind, locally owned EVmatch connects EV drivers with EV hosts offering home-charging stations to match their unique needs and driving patterns. Started by UCSB Bren alumni Heather Hochrein and Shannon Walker, the sharing platform allows EV owners to ride longer and farther, with prices based on actual costs of electricity, reservation capabilities and easy payment processing. For pre-registration, visit

“We hope to make it easier and cheaper to operate an EV, increasing the public charging network by over four times its size now,” says Walker. “The technology is there, the price point is there…we want to empower this new generation of EV owners.”

Interested in cleaning your drive? When purchasing an EV, CEC can assist with education and outreach, figuring out utility rate plans, leveraging incentives, installing EV charging stations at home and connecting current owners with prospective buyers.

“California is leading the market in EV purchases, with Santa Barbara at four times the national average,” says Gray. “We have really great ownership rates. We hope that more people will continue to drive on sunshine.”

Locals Sound Off

Michael Chiacos, EV Model: Chevrolet Volt

“I was interested in getting an EV because I wanted to drive on sunshine instead of oil. I often go for a month without using a drop of gas. I like the hatchback design and can fit  three people and four surfboards inside without racks!“

Jordan BenShea, EV Model: Tesla Model 3

“I believe in the environment, being free of fossil fuels and driving past the gas pump. Tesla is extremely safe, with a great electric range and infrastructure for charging. With the amazing design and 200+ mile range, it’s my clean energy choice.”

Paul Valentich-Scott, EV Model: Fiat 500e

“We already had solar panels on our roof, so it just made sense to power our car from the sun. This car is super fun to drive, great handling, incredible torque and speed. Charging with our solar panels pretty much makes an EV free to drive, with VERY limited maintenance costs (tires).”

It’s electric! This spring, check out CEC’s Annual Green Car Show, April 22–23 at Earth Day Festival, where participants can test drive the newest models, talk to current owners and learn more about greening their commute. For more details on how to go electric, visit

Originally published in the Spring 2017 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.




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