When gas prices hit $4 a gallon last year, Fred Liesegang said he knew it was time to do something.
Liesegang, a machinist from Brookhaven, bought a 1987 Mazda B2000 and converted it into an electric vehicle. Now, he uses the Mazda for short-distance driving, like going to work in Calverton. He still uses his gas-powered Ford Freestyle on longer trips, such as visits to family in Vermont.
Liesegang was among electric car enthusiasts and dealers who got together outside the Sun-Vet Mall in Holbrook Sunday to showcase the benefits of electric vehicles on the second National Plug in Day.
Peter J. Gollon, energy chairman of the Long Island Sierra Club, said the event shows Long Islanders how cost-effective, reliable and nonpolluting plug-in vehicles are. Solar-panel installers also attended and told people how to "power their cars from the sun," Gollon said.
"Electrification of vehicles is the coming thing, mostly because of environmental, political and geopolitical reasons," Gollon said. "As other countries industrialize, oil will become more scarce."
Cost is one reason Americans have not bought electric cars, Gollon said. "As consumers, we end up looking at the upfront cost and neglecting the operational," he said.
Electric vehicles are less expensive to operate, costing the equivalent of about $1 a gallon, Gollon said. Most new fully electric vehicles can travel 70-130 miles on one charge, according to the Sierra Club, one of the largest and oldest environmental organizations in the country.
Charging an electric vehicle causes considerably less carbon dioxide pollution compared with the oil used by most internal combustion car engines, the Sierra Club said.
Mike Savino, of Bayport, brought his red 1990 Mazda MX-5, which he converted into an electric car four years ago. He first converted a gas-powered car into an electric vehicle after the 1973 oil crisis.
"After the first oil crisis, my father got fed up and we decided to build an electric car," Savino said.
"Long Island is ideal for electric vehicles because you really don't have long distances to drive here," he said.