The first EV showcase opens in Oregon

Forth, the electric vehicle proponent formerly known as Drive Oregon, has opened the nation’s first electric vehicle showcase in downtown Portland, Oregon. Anyone who wants to test drive one of the handful of EVs at the city’s World Trade Center can make a reservation.

There are only three cars on hand so far: the Chevy Bolt, Ford C-MAX Energi, and the Nissan Leaf. Staff will be on hand to help you test e-bikes and learn about charging options and tax breaks that are available for EVs. You can also rent the cars through Turo to get a feel for real-life living with an EV.

The three cars available for testing are from big manufacturers, so you’re probably wondering why they need a special showcase. Why not just sell them off the lot next to other Fords, Chevys, and Nissans? That, my friend, is an excellent question, one that the Sierra Club tackled last year. It turned out that manufacturers were not advertising their plug-in vehicles at nearly the same frequency as their gasoline-powered vehicles.

Despite that lack of EV love from the manufacturers, the US Department of Energy notes that the US plug-in electric vehicle market grew 40% from 2015 to 2016, with 54% of plug-in sales in 2016 being fully electric battery-powered vehicles. China is the champ in the EV market, both in growth (54%), percentage of those plug-in sales that were pure EVs (77%), and sheer numbers — nearly 317,000 plug-in vehicles were sold in China in 2016. The incentives that made that growth possible, though, are set to drop off in the coming years, so they may not be champs for long.

So if the manufacturers aren’t going to get the word out about electric vehicles in the United States, Forth is going to do the work for them — with a $1 million grant from the Department of Energy and matching support from regional partners. Forth also hopes its showcase, which will be in place for three years, will inspire other organizations in other locations to pick up the manufacturers’ and dealerships’ slack when it comes to plug-in vehicles and consumer education. Forth is also taking its showcase on the road with pop-up EV events in the Pacific Northwest.