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Posted on Sun, Sep 23, 2012 : 5:55 a.m.

Plug-in Day celebrating electric vehicles makes its Ann Arbor debut Sunday

By Amy Biolchini


Vicki Ringold of Ann Arbor, left, and her daughter Allison, 11, right, will participate in National Plug-In Day, an electric vehicle celebration, Sunday in Saline and Ann Arbor. The Ringolds have had their Chevy Volt since March and love the car.

Joseph Tobianski |

Ann Arbor resident and University of Michigan professor Vicki Ringold wouldn’t call herself a car person. But when it comes to her 2012 Chevy Volt, it's a different story.

“I love to drive it,” she said. “It’s a very smart car … It’s super quiet; I’m constantly honking at squirrels because they don’t hear it.”

Ringold invested in the electric vehicle lifestyle in March and hasn’t looked back since. Sunday, she’ll join electric vehicle owners in the Ann Arbor area and across the country in celebrating the power of the plug.

Plug-in Day, an event intended to promote awareness of a growing community of people who own and love their electric vehicles, is coming to Ann Arbor and Saline for the first time from 2 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

The event begins at 2 p.m. in Saline, where visitors can check out and test drive electric vehicles parked at South Ann Arbor Street and Michigan Avenue. At 3 p.m., the electric vehicles will parade along Michigan Avenue to State Street to the DTE Parking lot at the corner of South Main Street and East William Street in Ann Arbor.

The event is sponsored locally by the Michigan Electric Auto Association, The Ecology Center, DTE Energy, Saline Main Street and the Main Street Area Association.

“It shows that we’re a city that is interested in new technologies and that we’re environmentally aware,” said Charles Griffith, climate and energy program director for the Ecology Center. “People have many different reasons for why they might drive an electric car: The coolness, reducing emissions … as well as energy security reasons.”

After a soft launch of the event last year in several locations across the country, organizers are expanding the effort.

Electric vehicle charging program professionals will be available at the event Sunday. Models of the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi MiEV, Ford Focus, Tesla Model S, Ford Ranger, Th!nk City and electric scooters will be available for test drives.

“We’re giving people a chance to come out and take a look and take a spin around the block and talk to actual EV drivers about their experience with it,” Griffith said.

Ringold said there’s a communal support that comes with owning an electric vehicle. In the garage where she parks her Volt for work, Ringold said three electric vehicle owners vie for two charging stations.

They often voluntarily leave notes on each others' cars with their numbers and instructions to call or text them when the charging station is free. Ringold said she’s started updating others if she’s the first to arrive if spots at the stations are open.

“The EV community has been amazingly great in sharing,” Ringold said. “We’re all in this for various reasons. People tell each other tips; tax deductions … . Everyone who’s doing it is very much an advocate for electric cars.”

On a single charge, Ringold said she’s gone as far as 50 miles and has only exhausted the battery while driving on the interstate. The Volt has a small gasoline tank that kicks in should the battery run out of juice.

“People have misconceptions about whether they’re truly cleaner; especially if the electricity is coming from coal-fired power plants,” Griffith said. “Because electricity is such an efficient way of running a vehicle, even if the electricity is coming from coal-fired power plants, it’s an improvement from using just a gasoline-powered vehicle.”

A typical travel distance for Ringold on a day during the school year is a total of 20 miles, as she carpools her children and their friends to school before going to work at the University of Michigan.

“Ann Arbor is great; all the parking lots have chargers, but all you really need is an outlet,” Ringold said.

A network of charging stations allows electric vehicle owners to travel easily along the Interstate 94 corridor in Michigan. Grand Rapids is one of the farthest destination points north in the state with charging stations.

Ringold said she was drawn to the Volt after listening to stories from her brother, who test-drove the car extensively.

“It’s my BMW,” Ringold said.

In August, Ringold said she paid out a total of $20 to charge the Volt. It’s taken her $300 per month fuel costs down to $80.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

Ann Arbor needs to go for broader recognition of EV charging station achievements - See below where Sonoma County award. From the album: Timeline Photos By Chevrolet Volt Sonoma County in California was voted "Most Electric Vehicle Ready Community for 2011," and now, their mayor is leading by example. She calls her Chevrolet Volt "high tech" and "liberating."


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 4:56 p.m.

I think that it is probably misguided to play-up the micro-economics of Electric Vehicle ownership. The real economics is in the long term and on the macroscopic scale. Learning as a species to cultivate elegant and rational technologies. This, in counter balance to those that the unconscious appetites of the market place thrusts upon us. It is time to weed the garden.

Superior Twp voter

Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 7:30 p.m.

Wow, I have such a warm, fuzzy feeling right now after reading this article.


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 3:45 p.m.

Why do I have to support the electric car? Where do I get free fuel for my vehicle? Here are the Democrats again handing out my money to fuel electric cars. What about the road tax? Oh, I guess I will be paying even more since electric car owners don't pay for their fuel and if they do pay for it there is no Federal or State tax on it. The Democrats in this City continue to create a welfare state withing the state. Isn't it time to get rid of the Democrats who continue to give money away but yet cannot keep a fire station in operation as a top priority?


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 5:06 p.m.

Val - How about being patriotic and trying to wean yourself off of foreign oil while supporting American car ingenuity! The technology has arrived for electric vehicles. The first adopters are taking advantage of incentives and taking the risk that it will catch on (it will) and dealing with some of the initial design glitches along the way (amazingly few). When you finally realize and decide EV is worthwhile (and you will), the incentives will be gone but the price will have come down and the technology will be greatly improved. Already fleet truck EVs are being developed (see: Shifting electric load for vehicles to charging at night enhances utilization of our utility power plants (whatever the fuel source) and reduces our use of foreign oil.


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 4:36 p.m.

First, it's not your money, its our money. It's been tithed towards the common good. Second, don't worry, you will see it again. The point about money is that it has to circulate to be of any use at all. Third, your children need our generation to change the behavior that will ruin the world that their children will inherit. The specifics may be imperfect but the spirit is in the right direction. All we can do is try.


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

Wait till these folks have to change the batteries. Won't be cheap. Also most of the wonderful electricity they are using still comes from burning coal. Seems they like to forget that. Electric cars are nice, just not nearly as cost efficient as they would have you believe.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 5:11 p.m.

I have an 8 year 100K guarantee on my battery on my Volt and probably good resale after that for other uses. When my battery eventually dies - if I still am alive and own the car - I can drive it as a pure IC vehicle with an engine that will have very few miles on it. The current mix of electricity is about 40% coal in US but that will be declining as significantly in the next decade. No matter what the fuel source, by charging vehicles at night we keep power plants more base loaded and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The efficiency and cost value proposition will only get better but for now the incentive programs are helping us first adopters help establish the market. Come join us, you wont be sorry!


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 4:27 p.m.

They could be cost effective but the manufactures are pandering to a fairly limited level of understanding. They figure that people won't buy them unless they match the conventional appetite for gadgetry and luxury. A stripped down runabout that gets adequate range and goes 55 mph. Under $7,000-$10,000. Jump start the industry by selling millions of them and then ramp it up for the less hearty crowd. . Make something for the 20 somethings and the old hippies to buy. These are the people who are visualizing paradigm shift in the first place.


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

Ask her why she thinks a Volt makes any sense on any level. Is it more economical then a gas powered compact, changing the plantet's weather (since consumers control that)....what? There is no rational market for electric cars so it would be interesting to know why the few folks who buy them waste so much of their money.


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

Shepard145, see my other posts below. I would enjoy having a rational discussion around it if your mind is open to hearing about what will become our future.


Sat, Oct 6, 2012 : 4:11 p.m.

What is rational about the obvious folly of pumping the atmosphere full of previously sequestered carbon? Now that we have grown up and become adults.


Sun, Sep 23, 2012 : 4:43 p.m.

I've been driving an EV for 2 years commuting 60-100 miles a day. Stopping for gas now seems archaic, a waist of 4-6 hours a year, and too expensive! Dumped that 3-4 gallon a day habit for $1-$2 of 100% American power, hurray!


Mon, Sep 24, 2012 : 8:47 p.m.

Two years ago you paid for about 20 years of tank fulls of gas when you bought the turkey. If you use a little common sense, your "hurray!" will quickly matuer into a big "what was I thinking!?"


Sun, Sep 23, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

Let's see ... a typical travel day is 20 miles, yet her fuel costs used to be $300/mo? What was she driving - a Hummer with a big hole in the gas tank?


Sun, Sep 23, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

Free is almost always good. Why not take advantage of them if she can??


Sun, Sep 23, 2012 : 12:19 p.m.

She's paid $20 to charge because she is using the free charging stations...


Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

But even if you dont use free charging stations (BTW, Walgreens has made a brilliant marketing investment by putting up free charging stations at all their stores!) the incentives in place with DTE right now essentially buy you ($2500 credit) a free 240V charging station for your home where you can then charge in 4 instead of 10 hours at a special off-peak electric price that is half the normal electric rate.....its a great deal!