Some visitors to the Little Rock Zoo have found themselves intrigued by an array of electric cars in the parking lot, as part of a city-sponsored event to promote eco-friendly vehicles in light of Earth Day Friday.
“It’s good to come see what it actually looks like,” said Mike Kochiar of Little Rock, who was visiting the zoo with his wife and children. “You see Tesla all the way, but you can’t see it [other brands] Often.”
The city and Delta Audubon held a “Drive Electric for Earth Day” event, where about 20 electric cars were made available for observation and some for test drives. The event was also sponsored by Entergy Arkansas, Adopt Charger, Evolve Auto, Little Rock Zoo and Arkansas Energy Office.
Mayor Frank Scott Jr. has dedicated four new 240-volt electric chargers at the front of the zoo’s parking lot by connecting one of them to an electric car owned by Anne Owen, a resident of Little Rock.
“We are excited about this opportunity to be clean and green [and] Scott said during a press conference.
He recently announced a goal to run city operations entirely on renewable resources by 2030, and on Saturday said adding electric cars to police and fire departments would help achieve that goal, as well as installing more electric car chargers across the city.
Firefighter Dan Oberste has owned a Tesla Model 3 for three years and demonstrated its self-driving ability to many curious onlookers in the zoo’s parking lot. He told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper that battalion chiefs and arsonists can use electric vehicles.
“Now we are responding in [Chevrolet] Silverado pickup trucks, so something like [Tesla] A Model Y would be good for a battalion commander, Oberst said.
He said high prices for electric cars can be disruptive but are worth it due to the long-term savings in fuel and maintenance.
“The cost of ownership over five years is equal to or even less than what a new gas-powered car would cost,” Oberst said.
Climate change, caused largely by fuel emissions, is a leading cause of death among North American birds, Audubon Delta policy director Glenn Hawkes said during the press conference, giving Audubon an interest in promoting the use of electric vehicles and infrastructure.
“Science says we absolutely have to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we put into the atmosphere,” Hawkes said. “Electric cars are a big part of how we’re going to solve the climate crisis, because they don’t pollute.”
Sherwood’s Nick Creed told Democrat-Gazette that his occasional commute to Little Rock for work frustrates him due to unnecessary fuel emissions.
“I sit there in traffic, stop and go, and the idea that all this pollution, all this gas is burning for no reason,” Creed said, exacerbates the situation. “I think I’d feel calmer and relaxed about commuting if I didn’t burn all that gas.”
He and his wife, Rose, said they were happy to see so many people stopping to look and ask questions about the electric cars on offer. They also said they appreciate that electric cars can reduce noise pollution.
The company’s communications specialist Brandi Henkel said Entergy Arkansas has supported 20 charging stations across Arkansas in the past two years. The stations are strategically placed along travel-intensive highways, Entergy pays premiums for chargers while private companies pay electricity bills and drivers can charge their cars for free, she said.
Little Rock Technology Park has one of 20 charging stations.
The state’s only electric car dealership, Evolve Auto, is located on West Broadway in North Little Rock. Colin Regen, partner at the dealership, said several people at Saturday’s event had questions for him about electric cars.
Reagan said that interest in electric cars has increased dramatically within Arkansas over the past several months.
“We have stayed away from selling most of this stuff [cars] Out of state to sell locally,” he said, “Our sales and phone calls may have gone up 200% in the past six weeks just because of fuel prices. “
Richard Mallot of Little Rock said he’s on a waiting list for a Model Y so he can stop driving his gas-powered cruiser.
“I think it is not wise to buy a gas-powered car now,” he said. “They go away, in my opinion.”
Kwame Abdul Bey tested a Tesla around the zoo parking lot with his 6-year-old son, who asked him when they could get one of their own.
Abdul Bey had driven hybrids before, but Tesla is “a completely different creature that I love,” he said.
He said he’s homeschooled his son and brought him to the event on an Earth Day field trip to learn more about how electric cars can help the environment.
Abdel-Bey wants an electric car for several reasons, among them the fact that electric car batteries can be replenished while gas-powered car batteries cannot be repaired when they fail, he said. It also appreciates the ability of cars to brake on their own and the presence of cameras outside to show their surroundings on a screen on the dashboard.
Additionally, reducing fuel emissions will help achieve environmental justice for black Americans, said Abdul Albay, chair of the Legislative and Policy Action Committee for the Jacksonville chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
“You look at the things that are happening in cities across Louisiana and Texas and Alabama where these black communities are being very negatively affected by these oil companies,” Abdulpay said. “We need to stop giving them a license to exist, and we can do that by converting our transportation to all electric vehicles.”
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