TDEC Commissioner David Salyers kicks off the "Driving EV Leadership" event

The East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition (ETCleanFuels), in partnership with, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Field Offices (TDEC) and DriveElectricTN (DET), kicked off National Drive Electric Week in Tennessee with local and statewide leaders on Thursday, September 24 at The Carnegie Hotel, in Johnson City, TN for a “Driving EV Leadership” event.

Virginia Salazar Buda, Jan Compton and Commissioner David Salyers.

The “Driving EV Leadership” event was simulcast as a live webinar and 125 organizations and people registered for the event, and you can now watch the webinar on-demand! Just register at this link –

Presenters included TDEC Commissioner David W. Salyers, City of Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock, BrightRidge (the local electric power company) Chief Development & Market Strategy Officer Bonnie Donnolly, and General Motors Business Development Manager Kevin Couturier, as well as several local EV drivers and pioneers. Following the presentations, participants had the opportunity to view several EVs, learn more about how they work, and speak with EV subject matter experts. The EVs on display included a Tesla Model 3, two Nissan Leafs, several Chevy Bolts, a Toyota Prius Prime, a BMW i3, a Chevy Volt and several e-bikes. Local automotive dealership representatives from Champion Chevrolet and Johnson City Nissan were on-hand, as were reps from The Bike Shop Johnson City.

Mayor Brock talks about Bolt
Mayor Jenny Brock speaks with Champion Chevrolet and General Motors folks about the Bolt.

“The purpose for this event was to discuss how to build a local EV ecosystem including the people and partners that are needed to develop a thriving growth plan for EVs in the city. In this case, a key element was asking our leaders and community members to help drive EV adoption through the development of a local DriveElectricTN Chapter,” said Jonathan Overly, Executive Director of ETCleanFuels. “Today was just the start. We look forward to continuing to assist Johnson City in developing their chapter and driving EV adoption and use here.”

TDEC Commissioner David Salyers  kicked off the event with a presentation about electric vehicle accomplishments in Tennessee and test drove a Chevy Bolt and a Tesla Model 3 the afternoon before. Some of his points included:

Learning about EVs
Attendees see and learn about electric vehicles. Using COVID-friendly practices, some were able to test drive an EV.
  • As many of you may know, transportation, infrastructure, and rural communities are three of the Governor’s top priorities. Governor Lee is committed to connecting our state’s rural and urban communities with a robust transportation network and is focused on reducing highway gridlock by embracing technology and promoting cost-effective alternatives. Governor Lee knows that jobs and economic development combine with the quality of our natural resources to create the strong communities and the quality of life we enjoy here in TN.
  • EVs have the ability to support our communities by providing new economic opportunities, as the use of electricity as a transportation fuel reduces fuel imports, keeps energy dollars in our state, and reduces transportation costs for households and businesses. By working locally to advance affordable, domestic transportation fuels, energy efficient mobility systems, and other fuel-saving technologies and practices, we can simultaneously reduce energy costs within the transportation sector, promote economic growth, and improve environmental quality.
  • Furthermore, we have a robust automotive sector in TN that can benefit from the boon in EV or related parts manufacturing. Nissan has manufactured their all-electric Leaf in Tennessee since 2013.
  • Volkswagen has announced that their first EV to be manufactured in the U.S., the ID.4 SUV, will be made in Chattanooga. Just last week, Volkswagen noted that the Chattanooga production site is one of the cornerstones to their strategy in making the crossover the company’s first global EV.  
  • As we continue to see more and more EVs enter the marketplace, TN can leverage its strong automotive sector, supply chain capabilities, and highly trained workforce to take advantage of economic development opportunities tied to EV manufacturing and to become an EV-manufacturing leader within the Southeast.
attendees and DET flag
Kevin Couturier and Marisa Bertoia of GM flank Daniel Siksay of ETCleanFuels next to an NDEW event flag.

Other presenters included City of Bristol Councilwoman Margaret Feierabend, ETCleanFuels Executive Director Jonathan Overly, East Tennessee State University’s WETS FM Radio Station Manager Wayne Winkler, EV Pioneer Dave Hrivnak and DriveElectricTN Statewide Coordinator Virginia Salazar Buda.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better result for this event! Building multiple teams of community leaders across Tennessee who are interested in supporting their economy, domestic sources of energy and their health and environment through the adoption of electric vehicles is the end-game,” said TDEC Regional Director of External Affairs Jan Compton, who assisted Buda in developing and organizing the event. “This event is intended to be a jump-start for our work in Tennessee. This will be followed by team-building work in each community and educational efforts that will cover EV basics to more complicated subject matter,” added Salazar Buda.

Register to watch the “Driving EV Leadership” recording on-demand at

Attendees listen to presentations about electric vehicles and how to create a successful team that can share in promoting and pushing adoption of EVs in a community.

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