Plug’n Drive: Electric Vehicle Discovery Centre

Project Lead: Dav Cvitkovic and Cara Clairman

In 2015 Plug’n Drive conducted a secret shopper study that uncovered some of the reasons why electric vehicle (EV) sales at the dealers were less than they ought to be be. The results of that study showed that dealers often didn’t have the car on the lot to pitch them to prospective buyers or offer test drives, and even when they did, salespeople were not knowledgeable enough on the benefits of electric vehicles to help consumers flip the switch.

After further study, conducted  in partnership with the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, aimed at better understanding  consumer behaviour and attitudes towards EVs in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and with the support of OPG, PWU, TD Bank, Toronto Hydro and Bruce Power as well as the Province of Ontario, Plug’n Drive opened the Electric Vehicle Discovery Centre, the “EVDC”.

The first-of-its-kind multi-brand experiential centre,  the EVDC offers a single location where consumers can go and learn all about the environmental and economic benefits of EVs  in a no pressure no sales environment. Visitors can test drive any of the many makes and models of electric vehicles available on the market, so that when they leave the centre, they are more EV ready. The goal of the centre was to help consumers make the switch, and now armed with one year of data, Plug’n Drive has shown that the model really works.

Over ten thousand people visited to the centre in the first year taking part in over 4000 electric vehicle test drives. Survey data shows 94% plan to make the switch after visiting the centre with almost 25% of visitors buying an electric vehicle within three months of their visit. Each of those vehicles takes out approximately five thousand kilograms of GHG annually.

The project wasn’t without its challenges. Many questioned why they should fund a project better left to automakers. Those same automakers were sceptical about sharing floorspace with their competitors, and some dealers feared the centre would divert sales from their businesses.

It took some persuading to get things off the ground, but one year in, the project is showing real results.  There is already interest in expanding it to other cities around the world, a world that is helped when we make EVs easy.