ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman got to test-drive an electric Tesla Model X on the streets of St. Petersburg on Monday. He quickly became enamoured.
“The acceleration is incredible. It really gets off,” Kriseman said, stepping on the accelerator. “Isn’t that crazy?”
Kriseman sees Teslas and other more affordable electric cars as an important way for the city to reduce its carbon footprint. Teslas alone that won’t solve the problem, he says: It’s cheaper electric cars that will convert more people.
St. Petersburg hopes to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by the end of 2020 and use only “clean energy” by 2035 as part of its first Integrated Sustainability Action Plan. The city also hopes to add more charging stations to make electric vehicles more feasible and plans on making a "green" fleet of electric city vehicles to cut costs and emissions.
“One of the easiest ways you can have an impact on your carbon footprint is to get out of a gas-guzzling vehicle,” Kriseman said.
Kriseman test-drove the Tesla via city’s partnership with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy to put on a roadshow Monday of electric vehicles to give people a shot to drive electric cars for themselves. Kriseman hopes it will inspire people to buy their own electric vehicles. The program hopes to let 500 people test-drive electric vehicles by the end of 2020, according to Susan Glickman, the organization’s director.
Kriseman was joined at the event by U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, who touted legislation he introduced in April that would extend a tax credit for installing solar by 10 years.
“We need to keep doing those kinds of things because so much of the problem we have with pollution comes from our vehicles,” Crist said.
The city hopes to power its future “green” vehicles through renewable energy like solar. The city has gained momentum in building charging stations, adding nearly 60 in a year to move the total to 80, according to Kriseman’s sustainability and resiliency director, Sharon Wright. Of those 80, 30 are city-owned, according to Wright.
Through Duke Energy’s “Park n Plug” program, the city has applied for about 40 charging stations and has installed more than a dozen this year alone. The city is not guaranteed to all of the stations it has applied for, she said.