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Smart Columbus Ride and Drive event brings electric cars to campus

Dozens of students, faculty and staff experienced test drive of electric cars

The parking lot of The Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research was jammed with Teslas, BMWs and Hondas for a roadshow to help promote the benefits of electric vehicles.

The  Center for Automotive Research hosted a Smart Columbus Ride and Drive Roadshow Thursday to help put people curious about electric vehicles behind the wheel. There were more than 220 test drives during the event – a record for public events since Smart Columbus started the program last year.

Ben Branham, experience architect with Pillar Technology, hopped in a Tesla Model X for a test drive.

“I came out for a little bit of research and a little bit of fun. I heard they were test driving electric vehicles. I have one myself and so I was interested to see what the newer models looked like,” he said.

Pillar Technology was recently awarded a $2 million grant from JobsOhio to build an autonomous vehicle research and development center, so Branham said it made sense to get a closer look at the best-in-class electric vehicles.

His 10-minute drive in Tesla’s top-of-the-line vehicle included a demonstration of the vehicles battery range, handling ability and safety features. He said it’s important for central Ohio to understand the options in this growing field of vehicles.

“You know we’re exponentially growing and the amount of cars that are going to be hitting the road is going to be a bit crazy,” he said. “We don’t have [Los Angeles] traffic but we have Columbus, Ohio, traffic which can be terrible at times. I think coming up with solutions and alternative vehicle methods to lower emissions and to help with traffic problems is going to be the way to the future.”

The roadshow is part of the Smart Columbus effort to deploy more affordable, reliable and sustainable transportation options in central Ohio. Ohio State is aiding that effort by encouraging employees to drive electric and drive less. Ohio State is the primary research partner of Smart Columbus.

“The reality is, we are a city within a city. Here at Ohio State, 110,000 people walk across our campus each day. So as the city of Columbus is looking to change mobility within this city and look towards options like electric vehicles, focusing in on an organization like Ohio State with our large population and our large alumni base makes a lot of sense when it comes to impact,” said Courtney Falato, Ohio State’s Smart Cities relationship director.

Falato said similar events will be held on campus in the future. She said it’s important to continue educating the community about all of their options.

“One of the biggest barriers to people purchasing an electric car is that they don’t know what an electric vehicle is. They don’t know what it looks like, feels like or how it’s different,” she said. “So education is really an important piece of this puzzle.”

That education can also entertain.

“It was really fun. That car can fly,” Branham said. “I could feel the power under the hood. I didn’t punch it. But I wanted to.”