If you saw some of these cars on the road, you’d never guess they ran on pure electricity. Case in point: Can you tell this Porsche Speedster’s been converted into an electric vehicle?

But even when the car doesn’t give away its eco-features, many electric vehicle owners like to proudly display their love of zero-emissions rides. With license plates that read “RCHRGBL,” and “EV RIDR,” 70+ electric vehicles crowded into the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium parking lot with this morning for the Inaugural (EV) Parade West: Plug In, America!.

The fancy Teslas, quiet Vectrix bikes, and one-of-a-kind conversions got the most attention from gawking crowds, but what the parade showed was the sheer diversity of electric vehicles available — NOW. That’s what Plug In America, the pro-EV organization that put this parade together, is trying to show America.

And the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium parking lot — with its 40 kW solar carport equipped with chargers (above) — was the perfect place for this electric display. EV critics often argue that electric cars powered by coal-burning plants won’t be any better for the environment. But Paul Scott, a Plug In America board member, argued that “by covering our nation’s surface parking lots, and the tops of parking garages, we will allow for simple harvesting of clean electrons from the photons that will forever fall on that piece of Earth. The cars that charge there pay the equivalent of less than a $1/gallon, and all of that money stays in our community.”

In Santa Monica and some other California cities, the early EV adopters get to see a lot of personal benefits too. Because parking lots often have free spots designated for electric cars, EV drivers can zip into a free reserved charging spot and juice up their cars for free. No parking fees, no circling for a spot, no stops at the gas station.

The EV technology’s clearly ready to go — but isn’t accessible to too many people at the moment. That’s why Plug In America’s calling for 1 million plug-ins by 2012 and 15 million by 2016.

In the meantime, you can find out all about electric cars and EV conversions — as well as what you can do to get more electric cars on the road — on Plug In America’s website.

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