Electric vehicles: Keep Oregon weird

Jeff Allen is the executive director of Drive Oregon and an avid bicyclist.

Jeff Allen is the executive director of Drive Oregon and an avid bicyclist.

Drive Oregon’s mission is to grow the electric vehicle industry. Too often, people assume “vehicles” means “cars.” The truth is a lot more complex.

Certainly Oregon is a leader in electric vehicle sales and infrastructure deployment, with more public chargers per capita than any other city. There are great opportunities for Oregon companies to provide charging stations, electronics, components, software and other products to major car makers.

When it comes to complete vehicles, however, Oregon’s specialty is the “non-car” market — a market that is estimated to be worth $128 billion by 2025.

Drive Oregon has provided funding for Brammo motorcycles and the Ryno one-wheeler and is now funding an exciting project with Conscious Commuter to produce and test-market a fleet of electric-assist bicycles. While many cycling advocates have been supportive of this project, other comments have indicated disdain or outright hostility — suggesting that people who want electric assistance while biking are just “too lazy to pedal.”

In other words, the argument goes, “I don’t want an e-bike, therefore they won’t work for everyone, therefore they are a failure.” Ironically, of course, this is the same argument many people use to express their disdain cycling and bike commuting. It’s also basically the same argument you might have heard against electric cars.

That argument overlooks some important facts — most notably, that sales of the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt are far exceeding sales of the original Toyota Prius Hybrid. In fact, the Volt is selling better than half the car models in America — including the Chevy Corvette — and now ranks 133rd out of 262 models. Even the Nissan Leaf, ranked at 200th, is still well ahead of such “unwanted” cars as the Volvo C70 and the Porsche Boxter.

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