09/28/2012 03:10 pm ET Updated Nov 28, 2012

Plug In Day 2012: Tallying Up Millions of Oil-Free Miles with Electric Cars

Last weekend 25,000 people participated in National Plug In Day events to celebrate the benefits of electric cars and meet with those who have already chosen to drive oil-free. In 65 cities electric car owners showed off their cars and gathered with other interested Americans to talk shop and tally up their oil-free miles. Our calculation is astounding: The Sierra Club estimates that in the past two years Americans have driven 200 million oil free miles, avoiding 7.4 million gallons of gasoline, saving $19.4 million in fueling costs, and keeping 96.5 million pounds of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere. And this is just the beginning.

Just a few years ago, these cars were rare, expensive, and a little weird-looking. But drivers demanded better cars, and today all that has changed. Virtually every showroom of every major automaker now sells a car that uses little or no oil at all. At Plug In Day events, drivers were proving that these vehicles are here and ready for primetime.

In Los Angeles 300 people took EV test drives at the Automobile Driving Museum, another 1,300 took test drives in other cities. Mayor Joe Affronti of Temple Terrace, FL, spoke at the Plug In Day event there and unveiled new city public charging stations, "We promote it, but not only promote it, we live it," he said.

Many other public officials attended or issued proclamations in honor of Plug In Day events, including the mayors of Boston, San Antonio, Maui, Ann Arbor, Sarasota, FL, Franklin and Brentwood, TN, and Los Altos, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and Cypress, CA. Dozens of other local and state officials attended events, in addition to California Congresswomen Lois Capps and Janice Hahn. The governor of Vermont issued a Plug In Weekend proclamation and urged residents to go check out EVs for themselves.

For airline pilot and organizer of the Houston Plug In Day event Kevin Douglass, the reason to drive an EV became clear to him after September 11, 2001. "My life changed on that day, as did the lives of many Americans," he says. "My primary motivation for buying and driving an EV is based on my concern for national security and U.S. energy independence. One hundred percent of the energy I put into my EV is made in the U.S. I even pay a little more to ensure my electric provider uses a green generation mix."

A USA Today reporter joked that Plug In Day must be everyone's third favorite holiday after Thanksgiving and 4th of July. For many passionate EV advocates, it's likely their EV beats turkey.

When asked why the Sierra Club joined Plug In America and Electric Auto Association in organizing Plug In Day at the national level, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said,

The only question is how quickly we can move beyond oil, and how we can we do it in a way that maintains our quality of life. In addition to other transportation choices like biking, walking, and transit, we think that electric vehicles are one of the most effective ways to meet those objectives.

With electric cars, there's no smog, and a switch to EVs slashes climate-polluting carbon emissions. Also, electric cars also offer significantly better acceleration, plus there are ten times fewer moving parts to break down than in a conventional car.

At Plug In Day events around the country drivers put signs on their windshields showing off the oil-free miles they have traveled. Each one of these miles was quieter and cheaper. Each mile sent a clear signal that oil companies do not control us. Each mile says to automakers that we want even more innovation and progress. Each mile tells elected officials that we are ready to cut pollution and solve the climate crisis. And in 2012, the growth of the plug-in industry itself is proof that we can move America beyond oil.