Think back to your first vehicle. What made it attractive? Was it the color? Make or model? Size? Convenience? Price? Many first vehicles were loud, oil-burning gas-guzzlers passed down through the family or purchased for a good price from a friend. Mine was a 1978 Mustang, which I paid just over $3,000 for with my own money. I loved that cool, loud car and the status it brought me with all my friends and then girlfriend Lorrie, who has now been my wife for more than 35 years. Having my own wheels gave me independence while not having to borrow, clean and polish the family Plymouth. I think all of us remember our first cars. Imagine, though, if your first car was a plug-in electric vehicle. What if you only ever knew what it was like to drive a vehicle that is virtually silent, never dealt with exhaust fumes, oil changes or fuel price fluctuations? What would your expectations be for future vehicle purchases? That may very well be the reality for some first-time car owners, with electric vehicle sales continuing to reach year-over-year all-time highs in 2016 and 2017. Last year was the best year ever for electric vehicle sales in the U.S., with nearly 200,000 electric vehicles sold, up 25 percent over 2016. Globally, the number of electric vehicles on the road more than doubled in 2017, with more than 1 million electric vehicles sold, raising the total number of hybrid or electric cars on the road to more than 3 million worldwide. Increased range, affordability, choice, long-term savings on fuel and maintenance costs, increased access to charging infrastructure and environmental benefits are all among the reasons electric vehicle sales are on the rise. South Shore Clean Cities is a fuel- and technology-neutral organization, meaning we do not advocate for one type of fuel or technology over another. Throughout the course of the year, we host a variety of events and participate in a number of programs that allow our members and partners to experience vehicle and fuel-types first hand. For us, the ride and drive events are key, because the statistics mean nothing if the vehicle does’t deliver on performance. We have found consistently that first-time EV drivers are impressed with the instant acceleration and quiet, smooth driving experience. We are gearing up again for ride and drive events for National Drive Electric Week, which runs from September 8-16. The nationwide celebration is aimed at increasing awareness of the widespread availability of plug-in vehicles and highlighting the benefits of all-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles. The week began in 2011 as National Plug In Day, with simultaneous events across the U.S. Events are now spread out over the course of a week, with each event being led by local plug-in drivers or advocacy organizations. Plug In America, Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association serve as the national team leading the cause. Join us and our partners at the Michiana Area Council of Governments for a National Drive Electric Week Midwest EVOLVE Ride & Drive from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. EDT on September 8, near the Farmers Market and Goshen Brewing Company, 315 W. Washington St. in Goshen, Indiana. We are also hosting a National Drive Electric Week Ride and Drive from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. CDT Sept. 11 at the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC), 6100 Southport Road in Portage. Attendance at both events is free. For more information about both events, please contact Catherine Yoder at (219) 644-3690 or [email protected]. What will the next generation’s first vehicle memories be? Let’s make sure they’re cleaner and greener than ours. Remember, it’s never too late to begin your environmental legacy. This column first appeared in The Times of Northwest Indiana. Carl Lisek is executive director of South Shore Clean Cities and vice president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writer’s.