(L:R) Virginia Salazar Buda, DriveElectricTN (DET) Coordinator, Jan Compton, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Regional Director of External Affairs (Johnson City Field Office) and TDEC Commissioner David Salyers, P.E. 

One of DET’s engagement goals is reaching a variety of leaders and stakeholders which can further expand the network of participants, events and opportunities. 

Four DriveElectricTN (DET) “Driving EV Leadership” half day educational conferences are scheduled for 2021 in the following cities: Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville and Memphis. 

The four conferences are being supported through DET dues-paying members among the utility sector. 

“We are thankful to Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), EPB, Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB), Memphis Light Gas Water (MLGW) and National Electric Service (NES) for supporting these outreach and educational initiatives where networking and developing relationships with a variety of stakeholders is important,” said Virginia Salazar Buda, DET Coordinator.   

One of DET’s engagement goals is reaching a variety of leaders and stakeholders which can further expand the network of participants, events and opportunities. 

“Creating a successful, fun and informative half-day EV Educational Conference experience in Johnson City would help carve out a path for other cities and communities to follow,” said Salazar Buda. “We look forward to seeing how “Driving EV Leadership” will continue to positively impact our state.” 

The work towards creating four conferences, in part, began through a small pilot program in Johnson City in August 2020 when COVID-19 was creating a challenge for businesses to interact in public-facing events.  

“The goal was to find a pathway to still meet one of DET’s goals which is to engage with a variety of folks from different businesses and experiences to create a viable EV engagement plan at the local level,” said Salazar Buda.  

The initial pilot program in Johnson City began with a handful of select EV leaders chosen to vet a unique one-on-one Ride & Drive Experience targeting leaders in the community. The goal was to avoid larger events following CDC and State of Tennessee guidelines ensuring COVID-19 safety protocols could be managed effectively. 

When Johnson City resident Salazar Buda met with Jan Compton, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Regional Director of External Affairs (Johnson City Field Office), to discuss how this small pilot program could be expanded to reach various leaders in the local and regional community, a plan quickly emerged. During their first meeting, Compton indicated that TDEC Commissioner David Salyers would be visiting the Johnson City region in September. 

Kevin Couturier, Business Development Manager, General Motors at “Driving EV Leadership” Johnson City Pilot Program, Carnegie Hotel

“Jan and I both immediately agreed that this event would be centered around Salyer’s visit,” said Salazar Buda. “We knew that Salyers would be a ‘lightning rod’ where local and regional leaders would be interested in learning more about DET’s statewide and regional EV goals.” 

Compton swiftly began the communication process with TDEC’s other field offices across the state to encourage their involvement with this opportunity. 

On September 24, 2020, DET launched the pilot program called “Driving EV Leadership” in Johnson City. The half-day event at the Carnegie Hotel featured presentations by elected officials, local and regional EV leaders and supporters, along with Commissioner Salyers. A post-conference Ride & Drive / Show & Tell EV Experience was included and where the owners of nine EVs and two electric bikes were present to provide information to conference attendees. 

“I’m very excited about the electric vehicle program and the involvement in our department (TDEC) moving this project forward,” said Salyers. “One of the things that we’re excited about here in Tennessee is the fact that EVs reduce our dependence on foreign energy and keeps our state energy dollars at home. Our TDEC department is very supportive of electric vehicle technologies, and the fact that it can reduce emissions and help to improve our air quality.”  

TDEC Commissioner David Salyers kick-started the Johnson City “Driving EV Leadership” event and was able to test drive two EVs. His experience was captured through a video recorded EV Ride and Drive experience that was shared on several local and statewide communication platforms. 

“Creating a successful, fun and informative half-day EV Educational Conference experience in Johnson City would help carve out a path for other cities and communities to follow,” said DriveElectricTN Coordinator Virginia Salazar Buda.

The conference was well received and attended, featuring leaders and speakers from different industries including local to regional representatives from the utility, municipality, higher education, health, automobile, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), business owners and managers, EV supply equipment representatives and EV pioneers and enthusiasts were present. 

“Driving EV Leadership” Johnson City Pilot Program, Ride & Drive (Show & Tell), Carnegie Hotel

Because of this Johnson City event, DET engaged with 86 local leaders throughout the region, had 38 attendees on-site and 130 virtual webinar attendees. Other event successes included engaging eight TDEC Field offices that shared this information via newsletters, and, in addition, TDEC Field Offices in Cookeville and Chattanooga produced their own unique programming during this timeframe.  

Brad Rains, Tennessee Valley Public Power Association and Jonathan Overly, Executive Director, ETCleanFuels

A handful of months after the first event, the first DET EV Chapter began developing through the work of Jonathan Overly, Executive Director of East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition (ETCleanFuels). Stakeholders from the original event were contacted for their participation to begin this process. 

“One of DET’s goals is creating several chapters around the state where we’re asking the leaders in the community to create EV plans that will directly impact their community,” said Overly. Overly is leading a team where a DET EV Chapter Development Guide is currently being produced which will help and inform this process. 

DriveElectricTN is a program managed by ETCleanFuels, a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization. Become a DET member today and see where we’re driving to next! 

Special thanks to Jan Compton, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Regional Director of External Affairs (Johnson City Field Office); Drew Frye, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and DET’s Executive Committee and Members, who have been instrumental in the leadership and financial health of DriveElectricTN (DET), since the program’s inception in 2018. We are also thankful to ETCleanFuels, Jonathan Overly, Executive Director, and Daniel Siksay, Co-Coordinator, who were critical in the success in Johnson City’s DET pilot program – “Driving EV Leadership.”  

DET’s “Driving EV Leadership” half-day educational conference and TDEC Commissioner David Salyer’s video is a DET members initiative.

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