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Jeff Brandes, Drive Electric Florida show off Tesla’s new wares at the Capitol

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A day after state Sen. Jeff Brandes chaired a committee that spent half its time receiving a presentation on the laurels of electric cars, the St. Petersburg Republican took six groups of reporters and legislators for a demonstration spin around the Capitol in a brand new Tesla on Thursday.

The Transportation Committee chairman led an exposition sponsored by Drive Electric Florida, a consortium of environmental, energy and automotive interests looking to expand the role of electric vehicles in the state’s transportation.

“It’s exciting to have this conversation and for members to experience this, because I think the future of vehicles in Florida absolutely includes electric vehicles,” said Brandes, addressing reporters before doing his best impression of an Uber driver. “We’re encouraged to see this industry continue to grow and thrive here in Florida.”

The growing and thriving in question was at issue yesterday in Senate Transportation, when representatives from Drive Electric Florida made their push for an extensive statewide effort to grow the role of electric vehicles or “EVs.”

Lobbyists for the group estimated that with an investment of about $13,000 each for 50 “super chargers” — which are able to fully recharge an electric car’s battery within 25 minutes — the entire state could be properly equipped for statewide travel via electric car.

That would run to some $650,000, though a representative said that was a “back of the envelope” estimate based on placing a super charger every 25 miles across the state.

“Florida’s legislators can accelerate jobs and lower the cost of living and doing business in Florida with smart policies for plug-in electric vehicles,” said Drive Electric Florida’s Britta Gross, director of Advanced Vehicle Commercialization Policy at General Motors. “Encouraging plug-in electric vehicle use will improve air quality, increase energy security, create 9,500 new jobs and lead to $1.6 billion in net economic gains in Florida.”

Drive Electric Florida will take its show on the road throughout the rest of the month, giving a demonstration in Jacksonville Thursday evening before heading to Satellite Beach, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale and Pinecrest over the weekend.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at

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