Oregon Electric-Car Group Eyes “Living Lab” Storefront

The industry group Drive Oregon has a plan in the works to build a storefront that will highlight the value of both electric cars and the methods used to charge them. The initiative is being funded by a federal grant from the U.S. Energy Department.

Does the process of selling electric cars need to be a bit more hands-on? An electric mobility group certainly thinks so.

Drive Oregon is working to build a permanent storefront in Portland to help draw attention to the benefits of electric cars in real-world use. One thing the group won’t do with its storefront concept is push users to one type of car or charging equipment—it’ll remain brand-neutral as it offers ride-and-drives to curious consumers.

The concept, which will have a pop-up roadshow element, will also try to draw the public’s attention through an array of events.

“This project will allow us to use the region as a ‘living laboratory’ to test how we move from early adopters to an early majority of drivers,” the group’s executive director, Jeff Allen, explained in a news release.

Drive Oregon received nearly $1 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to support the effort, part of the $58 million in funding set aside by the agency to support fuel-efficient vehicle technologies.

Car and Driver notes that the strategy could help win over a skeptical public that has largely ignored the electric vehicle segment.

“Simply put, a lot of car shoppers for whom EVs would work fine as daily drivers don’t understand the benefits of driving electric,” writer Bengt Halvorson argued. “Convincing those shoppers of the vehicles’ merits involves more time and effort on the part of salespeople and dealerships than some stores are willing to contribute.”

That point was underlined by Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, who publicly backed the project when it was first announced.

“The benefits of electric vehicles are numerous—including cleaner air, fuel cost savings, and economic security—but consumers still have questions about how much they cost, where they can charge them, and if they are a right fit for their needs,” Merkley stated in the Drive Oregon news release. “The Showcase project will answer those questions in new ways, and in doing so, set the stage for increased adoption of electric vehicles in the Pacific Northwest.”

A rendering of the inside of the proposed "Living Lab." (Handout photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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