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People Juiced by EV Test Drives

Whether on two wheels or four, the opportunity to test drive an electric vehicle on campus got people excited about the idea of one day owning an EV to help save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Held mid-day on October 12, the event attracted a steady stream of people. Test drives were available on a BMW i3, BMW X5, Chevrolet Volt and Chevrolet Bolt.  Fifield Bikes provided electric assist bicycles for test pedals. In addition, four EVs were on display: a BMW 530e, Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model S and a Toyota Prius, with experts on hand to answer questions.

There were 55 EV test drives taken that day, with 17 passengers going along for those rides, making a total of 72 “EV experiences”. Furthermore, 65 people tried an electric bike.  “We were pleased with the turn out, and people were very enthusiastic,” said Suzanne Wood, sustainability and energy manager at UMass Chan, who organized the event along with Bill Tsaknopoulos, director of auxiliary services.

Among those who participated was Heather Strom Tessier, manager of the Plastic Surgery Research Laboratory at UMass Chan. She drove the Chevy Bolt.  “I really liked the car. It was quiet, smooth and comfortable,” Tessier said. “And it had a lot of get-up-and-go, I had no idea they would be so much faster than the hybrid I’m driving now.”

Tessier said she and her husband are environmentally conscious and try to reduce their energy consumption and limit their impact on the environment. So, one day owning a pure EV is something they will consider. “I really appreciated the opportunity to be able to have a no-pressure test drive experience, right here at work,” Tessier said. “Everyone is so busy these days, I think bringing an event like this to campus encourages people who may not otherwise find the time to do it.”

Tessier’s positive experience was reflected in the data gleaned from a survey done that day. A total of 30 pre-test surveys and 28 post-test surveys were completed. Among the results, the survey found:

  • Before test driving, 60% felt that pure electric vehicles were better than or just as good as traditional gasoline vehicles; while after test driving, 71% said that pure electric vehicles were better than or as good as gasoline vehicles. 
  • Before test driving, 73% reported that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles were better than or as good as gasoline, while after test driving, 75% of respondents reported that plug-in hybrid electric vehicles were better than or as good as gasoline vehicles. 
  • The three main reasons participants would consider owning an EV were, in order of importance:  environmental impact,  maintenance costs and fuel costs.

 “Given the positive feedback and the participation, I think we will do this again,” Wood said.

The event was coordinated by Mass Drive Clean, the first state-sponsored program in the United States to offer free, no obligation test drives as a way to promote EV ownership.  Mass Drive Clean is sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, National Grid, and Plug-In America and administered by REACH Strategies.