The Marin County Fair was an Electrifying Experience

We spent some time recently rolling out new electrification technologies for households at the Marin County Fair. We enjoy every opportunity to be in the field, so we were happy to be there. But we learned during the event that even in an area thought to be a leader in electric vehicles and sustainability, much remains to be done to ensure that the promise of an electrified economy can be shared by everybody.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that a booth featuring an F-150 Lightning would be a popular attraction at a county fair. Upon arrival, the buzz about Marin County’s Electrification Experience Center was already spreading among fairground staff and vendors. With months of planning behind us, we were ready to roll our sleeves up and bring this experience to life. 

REACH was honored to partner with the County of Marin to deliver their vision of an electrification experience that not only educated fairgoers, it also delivered an unexpected first-hand encounter. We eagerly manned the electrification booth, fielding questions about EV charging, grid resiliency, battery recycling, and more. Amid pig races and art showcases, fairgoers welcomed the opportunity to engage with a technology that holds a significant place in our changing world.

Accelerating EV Adoption

Marin County, located just north of San Francisco, boasts one of the highest EV adoption rates in the nation. With EVs accounting for a staggering 30% of new vehicle registrations in Q1 2023, the county is on an electrifying journey for some. While these numbers are cause for celebration, it’s important to delve beyond the statistics and recognize the ongoing efforts needed to achieve Marin County’s ambitious EV adoption targets. By 2030, the county aims to have zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) make up 45% of passenger vehicles on the road. Many county residents still face barriers to embracing this transition fully. 

This year’s fair brought the county’s sustainability goals into sharp focus. Collaborating with partners such as the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) and MCE Clean Energy, the County’s sustainability team seized the opportunity to engage those who have yet to explore the world of EVs. Aptly themed “Electrifying,” the fair provided a terrific  platform for the county’s Electrification Experience Center to shine.

A Hands-On Electrification Experience

Displaying an array of e-mobility options and examples of household tools and technologies available in an electrified future, the Electrification Experience Center showcased cutting-edge concepts like bidirectional charging and lithium-ion battery recycling. Visitors had the opportunity to view the newly released F-150 Lightning, Subarus’s Solterra, a Harley Davidson Livewire, electric scooters and electric bikes from Pedego. This interactive space aimed to move beyond simply a technology showcase and captivate fairgoers’ imaginations while providing them a tangible demonstration of the potential of electric transportation. Topics of discussion included battery charge time, vehicle range, technological features, and price. 

What We Learned

The fair drew a diverse crowd that extended well beyond what most would view as e-mobility early adopters, from families seeking entertainment to art enthusiasts indulging in exhibits. While a portion of booth visitors were EV owners or electric transportation users, we learned that many – far too many, in fact – had yet to feel invited into the world of e-mobility. Conversations surfaced two common concerns among non-EV drivers: public charging accessibility and vehicle range. This echo from discussions we have at EV events nationally underscores the continued role public agencies have for helping EV newcomers navigate their new options. The vehicles themselves have clearly crossed the quality barrier and now stand proudly among any other option on the road. Attendees were impressed with their stylish look and advanced features, yet more concerned with their ability to charge on the go. 

Beyond the Charge: Reshaping Energy Paradigms

The highlight of the Electrification Experience Center was undoubtedly the bidirectional charging display. For Californians who are all too familiar with power outages and concerns about straining the electrical grid, this concept resonated deeply. By illustrating that e-mobility isn’t an isolated endeavor but rather a crucial puzzle piece in a more resilient energy landscape, this display shattered misconceptions. 

During record high temperatures and heat, fairgoers appreciated our ability to power large fans using energy from the F-150 Lightning. The vehicle itself drew in crowds, but the cooling convenience of the fans alone was a huge conversation starter. This display sparked many conversations about bidirectional charging, grid resiliency, and overall energy efficiency. The broader picture emerged: EVs and other smart energy solutions can collectively address diverse energy challenges. These topics were especially important in an area that can see regular power outages related to public safety.

Empowering Inclusivity in Electrification

The impact of the Electrification Experience Center extended beyond its physical presence. The county’s sustainability team received terrific community feedback  on providing a more holistic view for residents on emerging e-mobility options. As we navigate the intricacies of dramatic shifts in energy and transportation choices, a setting as simple as a county fair can provide another stepping stone towards an inclusive electrified future.

The electrification movement, underscored by the impressive EV adoption rates, is more than just numbers; it’s a multifaceted transition that requires collaboration, education, and empathy. As the Electrification Experience Center demonstrated, the road to sustainable transportation is filled with innovation and possibility, ready to reshape the energy landscape for the better. The conversations ignited at the fair solidified the commitment of not only the County of Marin, but also the REACH team to guiding everyone, regardless of their starting point, towards an electrified future.