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Drive SunShine to expand nationally

Drive SunShineThe Drive SunShine Institute, which recently got its start in Colorado, is planning to expand into multiple states, open offices and offer corporate test drive events to promote electric cars and home solar installations.

“Over the last two months, we’ve really been ramping up our corporate test drives,” said Ken Beitel, advisory board chair of the Drive SunShine Institute.

He said the nonprofit organization has taken Chevrolet Volts and Nissan Leafs to seven different businesses in the Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins area and let 250 employees take the electric cars for lunchtime test drives. The organization also offers solar education programming and referrals for solar leasing and solar installations.

“Our focus is on speeding the adoption of electric vehicles and increase the awareness of solar,” Beitel said.

The institute emerged from The Renewable Energy Initiative, which aims to increase national investment in clean technology companies by working with corporate retirement plans to allow investment in diversified renewable energy funds that contain a mix of sustainable blue chip shares and renewable energy and electric transportation companies like Tesla Motors.

While TREI has been growing, Beitel said there seems to be tremendous energy behind the Drive SunShine Institute.

“We just opened a national headquarters office across from the University of Colorado in Boulder,” he said.

The next step for the organization will be to open a TREI office in San Francisco. Beitel said he expects that to happen within the next six months. And then the Institute will have a base from which it can coordinate corporate test drive events in that area, which Beitel said he expects will be really receptive to the concept.

"Colorado has been an ideal place to launch this," Beitel said.

Over the next two years, Beitel said the institute aims to open offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Boston and New York. From there, he expects to climb quickly to 10 offices spread throughout the country.

“Most people have never had a chance to drive an electric vehicle,” Beitel said. “Once they feel how quickly it accelerates and experience it, they love it.”

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