The venue is part of a larger effort to transform mobility in the Northwest, says executive director Jeff Allen.
“It takes a village,” Allen said during the showroom’s ribbon cutting Wednesday. “What we’re doing here today, it’s not just about selling a car or selling a different kind of car. It’s really about transforming the whole way we get around.”
The showroom is a partnership between Forth (formerly known as Drive Oregon) and several public and private partners: Portland General Electric, the City of Portland, Oregon Auto Dealers Association, Honda, Pacific Power and Kuni BMW.
The showroom is also supported by a $1 million Department of Energy grant.
“That’s not something any one company or organization can do by themselves,” Allen says.
The showroom will allow interested users to test drive one of three Forth fleet vehicles — a Chevy Bolt, Ford C-Max Energy and Nissan Leaf.
Forth doesn’t actually sell the vehicles, but will refer buyers to a local showroom.
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Allen says Forth doesn't receive a commission from dealers if someone buys an electric vehicle.
“It doesn't work like that,” he says. “Because if it did we would just be the commission-based car salespeople that’s the problem that nobody wants to deal with."
But that doesn’t mean Allen won’t ask car manufacturers to sponsor the showroom. The Department of Energy grants runs out in three years.
Allen, who envisions Forth as a brand-neutral advocate for electric mobility, says the team continues to seek funding opportunities without a direct tie to individual car sales.
The nonprofit has even developed its own software — to debut soon — to help users find an EV based on what they want, i.e. four seats, 100 mile range and a sticker price less than $30,000. Allen says Forth is promoting EV, rather than relying on one brand to do the heavy lifting.
“The concrete goal is we’re aiming to double electric vehicle sales in the next three years in the entire Northwest,” he says.