Odie Weir asked the car salesman to pop open the little gas-cap-type door so he could see the strange-looking plug for charging the 2013 Toyota RAV4 all-electric vehicle.

Weir, of Angwin, was checking out the new vehicle at a special gathering of car dealers and electric vehicle owners Sunday at Santa Rosa's Coddingtown Shopping Center.

"I want to be less dependent on the Middle East," Weir said of his interest in the electric vehicles. He's looked at hybrid autos, "but I cannot get myself convinced to get anything with a gas engine."

Sunday's event in Santa Rosa was one of 60 around the country for National Plug In Day.

Held in the center's parking lot near two new electric charging stations, the gathering gave the public the chance to see new vehicles from three automakers and to talk with 10 owners of various electric models.

"This is the future," said Alex Vito, the Freeman Toyota salesman who showed Weir the RAV4.

Along with the Toyota model, dealers made the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf available for test drives.

Alan Soule, president of the North Bay Chapter of the Electric Auto Association, said one of the best ways to learn about electric vehicles is to talk to someone who owns one. That was one reason why his fellow members showed up Sunday.

"We want to get people exposed to electric vehicles," said Soule, who owns a Tesla Roadster.

He insisted his members won't go back to gas-powered cars.

"They're just more fun to drive and more economical," he said of the electric models.

The Plug In America website says the cost per mile is significantly less for an electric vehicle. It estimated the electricity to travel 100 miles in a 2002 Toyota RAV4-EV costs about $3. Even if gas was $2.50 a gallon, the cost to drive a gas-powered model 100 miles would total $10.

However, a major question with electric vehicles is how far they can travel and how long it takes to charge them.

"A big issue is range anxiety," Soule said.

When Soule drove this summer to Chicago, it took him eight days to travel the 2,100 miles -- much longer, he acknowledged, than for someone in a gas-powered car.

Weir learned that the RAV4-EV has a base price of about $50,000, not counting federal rebates, and a range of about 80 miles. He expressed uncertainty about whether that would meet the needs of a person living in rural Napa County.

In contrast, his friends Rob and Milli Stelling of Angwin can travel 300 miles on a single-charge in their new Tesla S sedan. They've only had it for nine days but already have taken it to Nevada and back to test its range.

The couple had been on a waiting list for more than three years to get the car. Their vehicle was the 64th produced at the Tesla plant in Fremont. The base cost for such a model with extra batteries is $70,000.

Tesla this week is slated to unveil plans for supercharger stations that will greatly speed up the time it takes to recharge its vehicles.

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285or robert.digitale@pressdemocrat.com.