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Sebastopol man plugs his plug-in vehicle

  • Alan Soule charges his 2008 Tesla Roadster at home in this 2012 file photo. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Alan Soule is an electric vehicle evangelist.

The 63-year-old retired contractor from Sebastopol has driven both of his Tesla plug-in cars all over the country, including a traverse of the 2,000-mile Route 66 to Chicago, to raise awareness for electric-powered vehicles.

Soule, the president of the North Bay Electric Auto Association, will be displaying his cars in Petaluma on Sunday as part of National Plug In Day.

“We call it a show-and-tell,” Soule said. “Anyone can come take a look and ask questions.”

Last summer, Soule drove his Tesla Roadster to Chicago and back. The trip, which normally takes days in a gas-powered vehicle, took more than a week since Soule could only drive 200 miles before stopping to plug in the sports car overnight.

“It was a bit of a challenge,” he said. “It's definitely a different way to travel.”

In July, Soule took his Tesla Model S sedan on a road trip to Portland, Milwaukee, Texas and back to Sebastopol. On both trips, he said that he spoke to many people about the advantages of electric cars, which include low fuel and maintenance costs and zero emissions.

As EVs become more mainstream — there are now about 140,000 on U.S. roads — Soule said he gets fewer inquisitive looks when he charges his cars.

The increasing popularity stems from a number of factors: the dropping price of electric cars, a growing list of models from which to choose, expanded battery ranges that allow drivers go farther on a charge and new technology has drastically reduced charging times.

Last year's National Plug In Day event at Coddingtown Mall in Santa Rosa drew about 400 people. Soule expects at least that many to show up Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Plaza South Shopping Center on North McDowell Boulevard in Petaluma.

About 20 members of the North Bay EV club will display their cars and answer questions about the technology.

Local dealers will also offer test drives of popular EV models including the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, Ford Focus Electric and Toyota RAV4 EV.

“The point of the event is to show that electric cars have arrived,” said Eddie Scher, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, which is a co-organizer. “They work for everyone. It's no longer a niche product.”

The second annual celebration of electric cars, featuring more than 90 events across the country, Canada and the Netherlands, is also sponsored by Plug In America and the Electric Auto Association.

(You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or matt.brown@pressdemocrat.com.)

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