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Alabama electric vehicle drivers take to the track at Barber Motorsports Park

Shane Campbell is a true believer. The civil engineer from Hoover is on his third electric vehicle (EV) – all of them high-performance models.

Right now he’s driving a Jaguar I-PACE. Before that, it was a BMW and an Audi e-tron.

But on Oct. 15, he did something he’d never done before with any of his EVs: take it on a real racecourse.

Alabama EVs take a spin around track at Barber Motorsports Park from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

It was an opportunity offered to all Alabama EV drivers by Barber Motorsports Park and the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition during the “Drive Electric Alabama, Electric Vehicle EVent.” For the modest sum of $15, EV drivers could take their car onto the track and test their driving mettle on the 17-turn, 2.38-mile course that hosts the annual Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama and multiple other motorsports races and events.

“It was a lot of fun – really exhilarating,” said Campbell. He especially enjoyed the push and tug of the curvy track without the engine noise that’s typical of traditional combustion-engine vehicles.

“It was uniquely quiet,” Campbell said, echoing the experience of other EV drivers at Barber. Indeed, that quite ride is a familiar feeling for anyone who drives an EV. And the number of people who know what it’s like is growing since Campbell purchased his first EV in 2014.

More than 1.3 million EVs are now on the road in the U.S., and more than 3,000 in Alabama. Campbell said the growth in models and the expansion of charging facilities is nudging more people into the EV club.

“As an EV user, it’s now possible in Alabama to have an EV be a part of your everyday life,” Campbell said. “It wasn’t always like that.”

Mark Bentley, executive director of the Clean Fuels Coalition, said more than 80 EV drivers brought their plug-in cars to the track Saturday morning. Those drivers alone have logged more than 2.2 million miles in their EVs. Almost every company producing EVs was represented among the drivers, including Chevrolet and Ford, Kia and Rivian, Volkswagen and Genesis. By far the most popular brand among Saturday’s gathering was Tesla, whose cars outnumbered all other nameplates.

The types of EVs driven onto the track varied from high-end luxury models to more basic ones to pickups.

Michael Staley, president of the Clean Fuels Coalition, said he was excited about the turnout for the event, which included admission to the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum and a post-laps social hour during which EV drivers could trade stories about their experiences.

Michael Staley with an all-electric Ford pickup. (Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition).

“It was really cool to be able to give back to all these EV owners – to give them that thrill of tight cornering and fast acceleration, with no noise,” Staley said. He took around the track an all-electric Ford F-150 “Lightning” pickup, loaned to him by Town & Country Ford in nearby Bessemer. It has the capability to go from zero to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, which is better than many internal combustion sports cars.

Campbell said the growing number of EV charging stations in Alabama and beyond, plus the ability to charge at home, has increased the convenience of keeping an EV fueled wherever you are.

“I tell people: You can charge a bunch of different ways,” noting that the fuel source – electricity – is a common component of daily life. “There’s always electricity, wherever you are.”

Bentley said the Federal Highway Administration recently approved Alabama’s EV infrastructure plan, clearing the way for more than $79 million in federal dollars to build more chargers. Dozens of stakeholders were involved in developing the plan, including EV owners, Alabama Power and rural electric cooperatives, government agencies and county and municipal officials. View the state plan here.

(Michael Sznajderman / Alabama NewsCenter)

Alabama is a growing force in EV manufacturing, including battery production and mining for key elements used in batteries. Mercedes-Benz is building EVs at its plant in Tuscaloosa County and batteries at a new facility in Bibb CountyHyundai has announced plans to build electric vehicles at its plant in Montgomery County.

Campbell said his personal experience shows that more Alabamians are getting excited about EVs.

“I can’t tell you how many people come up to me and ask me about it,” Campbell said. “I think the interest is very high.”

To learn more about electric vehicles, their growth and other EV-related events in the state, visit Drive Electric Alabama, an initiative of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs to advocate for and build awareness about EVs.

To learn more about Alabama Power’s involvement in supporting EV awareness and growth in the state, including details about a special rate available to Alabama Power customers who drive an EV, click here.

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