Part of my self-imposed experiment to become an early adopter of the Nissan Leaf was fueled by a cultural curiosity surrounding what it would be like to drive a car that is completely gasoline-free. This also appealed to my nature as an avid observer of the human condition. Early on, I realized my own behavioral shift when I continued to say things like, "This how you gas it up," and, "When I push the gas peddle..."

This shift in consciousness has many times reminded me of a long-past cultural era - the hippie movement of the late 1960's. I'm sometimes caught off guard by the sheer enthusiasm I've received just for owning the car. When a guy at the famer's market gives a big "thumbs up" or a tollbooth operator exclaims, "you're saving the world!" you know that this is more than a car - it's a social movement.

After all, those longhaired freaky folks of the 60s brought some real change to society in environmental law, anthropology and architecture with their protests and lifestyle of peace, love and happiness. And though I admit they had issues, we early adopters of the electric car lifestyle actually have a lot in common with them. Some similarities are hard to ignore.

For instance?

We're starting a revolution, at a personal cost

Hippies were willing to sacrifice material things to get the attention of "the establishment," complaining that the wars and materialism were in vane. In the same way, whatever your reason for owning an electric car in this day and age, the truth is that you are taking on a certain amount of hardship for a greater cause. Whether that cause is environmental or technology-related, your ability to drive within a limited range is a sacrifice.

We're communal

Hippie communes of the late 60's were made of brick and mortar, while our EV community today is merely virtual. A social network of blogs, forums and connected telematics welcome all comers to the electric car community. The ultimate connection is found on the Nissan Leaf owner service, Carwings, called "Regional Rankings," which ranks each Leaf owner against all others for their eco-friendly driving abilities. I'm currently at the bronze level at 4.6 miles/kWh energy economy while the top regional drivers is on the Platinum level at 17.2.

We have ridiculous ideals

Anyone who takes a look at the tiny list of available charging stations as compared to the grand plans for a fast-charging infrastructure must an idealist. Sure, the hippies were convinced that by living a free love lifestyle, love would increase in the universe. Here's hoping charging stations will increase, too, because we are living as though they will soon be available.

People judge us for our outward appearance

Although I've received plenty of positive feedback while tooling around town in Hal, my Nissan Leaf, I've also received a large ration of the negative. When I mention my electric companion among my industry friends, many are almost shocked by my buying behavior. Eye rolling and downright scoffing sometimes ensues. The general non-industry person's skepticism is less overt, but some politely question my sanity. I can almost relate to the hippie culture of the past at that point, however, I absorb it with a smile. You see, I haven't been to the gas station in six months - sweet revenge!

We'll probably sell out when things get more commercial

The 1970s and 80s brought the decline of the hippie movement after the end of the draft and war in Vietnam. Although the spirit of revolution surrounds the electric car movement, if range increases and consumer demand becomes stronger than predicted, the electric car hippies may simply become a fringe group. That would be fine with me, because my hope for the electric car movement is nothing short of mass market. It must be my idealism showing.

So go ahead and scoff, the day will come when our influence as early EV adopters could be looked back on with appreciation. One thing everyone agrees on is that there needs to be a change in our dependence on oil for transportation. But just as the hippies of some 40 years ago discovered, there is no real change without personal sacrifice.

Want to learn more? Follow our long-term test of the Nissan Leaf.

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Joni Gray is a long-standing member of the automotive industry and has worked on both the corporate and publishing sides of the business. Over the past 20 years, she has managed advertising and marketing programs at Mazda, Hyundai and Honda and has been an editor at both Kelley Blue Book and the Los Angeles Times.

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