Electric Vehicles Charge Claremont

In light of some of the most sweeping advances in zero-emission automobile legislation, Pitzer College showcased a fleet of this year’s most popular electric vehicles at the first-ever Claremont Colleges Electric Vehicle Day on Oct. 24. Vendors from across the region—including Claremont Toyota, Fiat of Puente Hills and Metro Honda—attended, providing students the opportunity to test-drive this new breed of car. 

Shannon Leap PZ ’18, who has been interning at Environment California Research & Policy Center for the last four months, was in charge of coordinating the event.

“It’s important to organize these events at places where they aren’t normally organized because in a matter of years, we are going to be able to buy or rent a car,” she said. “It’s really important that we take everything that we learn while we’re in school and all of our values and commitments to environmental sustainability out into the world.”

Claremont mayor Joseph Lyons attended the event, along with a modest crowd of students, professors and Claremont residents. In his speech at the event, Lyons praised Pitzer for its efforts to combat the nation’s environmental threats. 

“It’s refreshing to be on a campus that has, again, committed itself to including [environmental sustainability] in the curriculum, in all of the disciplines and across the disciplinary spectrum because I think it is going to require that kind of integrated approach,” Lyons said in a speech. “There’s an urgency that has been reluctantly developing in people of my generation but that will be carried forward by yours.”

The event follows new statewide legislation, signed by Governor Jerry Brown in September, that requires California to put one million electric vehicles on the road over the course of the next 10 years. Authored by California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin De Leon PZ ’03, the legislation will allow for tax subsidies and rebates for electric car-buyers and aims to enable low-income communities to access the vehicles through car-sharing services. 

Students who attended the event were enthusiastic about the possibility of more electric cars on the road.

“I do not own a car, and I am not currently in a financial position to own a car," Rachel Levinson PZ '15 said. "But I’m confident my first car purchase as an adult will be electric. It’s more financially feasible and compelling, especially with California traffic.” 

The event was sponsored by the Charge Ahead California initiative, which promotes public awareness of and access to electric vehicles. Environment California, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit leading the Charge Ahead initiative, has worked extensively on increasing electric vehicle sales, banning fracking in the state and preserving California’s open spaces. The group also helped push legislation banning all plastic bags at California retailers that was signed by the governor in September and will go into effect next year. 

Michelle Kinman, Clean Energy Advocate for California and manager of Environment California’s clean energy and global warming initiative, said that education is key to her work.

“We really think in order to achieve environmental change, we need to educate and mobilize the public to push decision-makers to do the right thing on the environment,” she said. 

Although electric cars may be a small step toward sustainability, Leap is optimistic. 

“This experience has reinvigorated my sense of the environmental movement and restored my faith that people actually care about these issues outside of a classroom," she said. "Finally, we’re getting stuff done.”