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For many drivers, high gas prices continue to cause pain at the pump. But this is no longer the case for a group of Coca-Cola employees who are making the switch and plugging in instead of fueling up.

About 70 employees at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta now cruise to work in Electric Vehicles (EVs) thanks, in part, to the company's decision to install 24 plug-in stations on campus.

“We had some motivated employees, and the company decided to support them,” explains Coca-Cola Transportation Planner Eric Ganther.

Saving Cents, 'Just Makes Sense'

Tim Goudie, social media director of sustainability at Coke, appreciates the company's support. 

Goudie says he strives to live sustainably, but admits he was never in the market for an EV. That all changed one day while browsing Facebook, when he stumbled upon an advertisement for a Nissan Leaf. After clicking the ad, leasing one just made sense.

“You’re motivated by curiosity. You’re motivated by sustainability," he says. "But then there’s also the massive financial incentive to help switch that behavior from gasoline to electric."

After crunching the numbers, Goudie calculated that he would save about $500 a month -- up to $6,000 a year. Thousands of dollars in state and federal tax incentives also had Goudie seeing dollar signs. And besides paying his lease, his only additional expense is the cost to “plug-in” at home-- increasing his electric bill by just $20 to $30 a month.

All things considered, he says “the car pays for itself.”

Paving the Way

Saving money wasn’t the only driving force in Goudie’s decision to make the switch. The transition was made even easier when he discovered a Coca-Cola EV community. The group of green commuters is part of a growing movement. According to the Electric Drive Transportation Association, more than 131,000 EVs have been sold nationwide since 2011. Almost half sold in 2013 alone.

As the number of EVs on campus began to increase, Coca-Cola recognized the importance of encouraging sustainable practices among its associates. In 2012, the company implemented a plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) pilot program at its Atlanta headquarters. Shortly thereafter, an EV community formed.

Goudie says the like-minded group of colleagues encouraged him “make the leap in faith,” just months ago.

During a recent focus group, Coke EV drivers were asked if they felt Coke was supportive of their EV endeavors. The bunch unanimously agreed, “YES!” The question sent the room buzzing. Employee after employee shared their praises. The consensus say it’s a huge bonus to have a plug-in option at work, especially for those with long commutes.

Depending on the model, EVs can travel anywhere from 80 to 300 miles on a single charge. Coca-Cola associate Bill Thomas drives 50 miles to work one way. For him, plugging in is not only a luxury, but a necessity.

To accommodate long commuters like Thomas, the EV community vowed to work together. Drivers discussed taking turns at the plug and letting those who need it most have first dibs.

Ripple Effect

Living in a suburban land, where mini-vans rule the road, Goudie says he wants to spark a new conversation that doesn’t involve the typical carpool and lawn care banter. He wants to talk energy efficiency. 

“You can’t change the world alone,” he explains, “but you can have an impact on people that surround you.”

Using what his neighbors refer to as a “toy car,” Goudie is already causing a ripple effect. As his neighborhood’s first EV adopter, Goudie says, “People were fascinated.” After seeing him cruise around the block a few times, his neighbors began to ask questions like: “Why did you get this?” and “What, are you some kind of tree-hugger now?”

His answer: “Let me take you for a ride.”

As they buckled up and sat back in the seats made from recycled PET plastic, “They’re minds were blown,” he chuckles. Once they get in and see that it’s a normal car, the nature of the conversation changes.

Goudie’s objective to teach others about sustainable living is already taking hold. He is no longer the only EV driver on the block.

A Road to Discovery

Whether it’s to save money or save the environment, a number of factors drive people to make the EV switch. And Coca-Cola is right behind them. The Coca-Cola Company champions sustainable practices among associates and is working to expand its EV pilot program. Working in partnership with the PEV Collaborative, Coke will expand the Atlanta pilot by adding charging stations at up to three California sites by year-end.

As for future EV drivers, Goudie offers some insight.

“It’s a journey. It’s not a sudden ‘ah-ha’ experience with the lightning bolts, and noise and thunder. It’s a gradual road of discovery.”

To find out more about electric vehicles click here.