New Hampshire Electric Cooperative is giving a modern twist to the classic car cruise, swapping out vintage hot rods and muscle cars for electric vehicles that are proudly shown off by their owners in the parking lot of a 1950s-style roadside diner.
Co-op members receive email invitations to attend the annual “EV Cruise Night” to learn more about EVs and the rebates the co-op offers to members who drive them.
If participants are lucky, they may be offered a chance to ride in or drive an electric car or truck owned by one of their fellow co-op members. People seem to enjoy hearing directly from local EV owners, said Alicia Melanson, the EV program coordinator for the Plymouth-based co-op.
“It’s just a more real event for the members; it’s not like the car dealers talking in their faces,” she said. “The EV owners talk candidly about their experiences—the good, the bad and the ugly.”
The co-op came up with the idea in 2017 and has been holding the event each year—except during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Details of this year’s event are still being worked out, but the co-op will hold it at the Route 104 Diner in New Hampton on a Wednesday or Thursday in late September in conjunction with National Drive Electric Week.
The theme seemed perfect for New Hampshire, where cruising vintage cars down the main thoroughfares is a popular pastime, said Gary Lemay, the co-op’s director of facilities and renewable energy engineer.
“There’s at least one cruise a week during the summer somewhere in the area,” Lemay said. “Some of them focus on specific vintage cars, like Corvettes or Mustangs.”
Last year, the co-op’s EV Cruise Night featured about three dozen EVs driven in by co-op members. About 40 people showed up on a weeknight to view them.
“We’ve had great success with people buying EVs after these events,” said Lemay, who brings his own Tesla to cruise night.
NHEC estimates that, based on the number who have received rebates, about 1,000 of its 83,000 members own EVs, although that does not include members who have vacation homes in New Hampshire and register their EVs in their home states. The co-op offers rebates to any member who owns or leases a new or used electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle or electric motorcycle. It also provides reduced rates for EV owners who charge their vehicles during off-peak hours.
The co-op reaches out to members who have received EV rebates to invite them to bring their vehicles to EV Cruise Night. They are rewarded with gift cards to eat at the diner, and everyone who attends is eligible to enter a raffle for prizes such as an Apple iPad or a car cleaning kit.
The diner provides cookies or brownies to participants, and about a half-dozen co-op employees are there to answer questions and hand out bottles of water and educational pamphlets. The co-op also invites representatives from charging companies and car dealers who sell EVs or plug-in hybrids.
“In New Hampshire, our residents are stubborn, and they need proof that something is worthy of their money,” Melanson said. “EV Cruise Night is a fun part of our education campaign to show them the benefits of EVs.”
Erin Kelly is a staff writer for NRECA.