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ConnectVA Spotlight: Charles Gerena, Drive Electric RVA

ConnectVA Spotlight

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Charles Gerena and I am founder and lead organizer for Drive Electric RVA. My background is in communications, and I have utilized these skills as well as my project management experience to grow our organization from one person (me) to dozens of people throughout central Virginia who own electric vehicles or are interested in the technology. All of this growth has happened in less than two years.

What’s the focus of your work?

The mission of Drive Electric RVA isn’t to sell electric vehicles (EVs). It’s to sell an idea — EVs have become a fun, practical transportation alternative. They aren’t a relic of the past (there used to be more EVs than gas-powered cars) or a cool project of a mechanically inclined environmentalist. They are here, and they can be used as a tool for reducing energy consumption and air pollution. They are also just plain fun to drive, and cost less to maintain and fuel!

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

When sharing my experience as an EV owner helps someone see an electric vehicle differently, that is very fulfilling. It’s even more amazing when that person decides to buy an EV based on what they learned — that has happened at least twice. Creating a more sustainable world is a huge task, but it happens one person at a time.

Tell us about a challenge you have faced.

One challenge is closing the zero emission transportation loop. An electric vehicle doesn’t emit pollution from a tailpipe like a typical car, but the electricity that runs it is often generated by burning carbon-based fuel. About 65% of the power generated in Virginia comes from natural gas, coal, and petrol plants. The answer is to use renewable energy sources like solar and wind to charge an EV, but that option is out of reach for many people for many reasons. That’s why I have been promoting the efforts of organizations like VA SUN and Solarize RVA to help homeowners and businesses generate their own power from the sun affordably.

What’s coming up for your organization that excites you?

We showcase electric vehicles every month at local farmers markets and do other things to connect EV owners and enthusiasts during the year. But our biggest events are coming up in September during National Drive Electric Week (a nationwide celebration supported by Plug In America, the Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association.)

This year, we are trying to get 50 EVs gathered in one place to show Richmonders the variety of choices that are available today. I am very excited because of the partnerships we have formed. For example, the big EV gathering is being supported by Gumenick Properties. We are also offering test drives of EVs and screening a documentary in partnership with the RVA Environmental Film Festival, and doing a presentation on zero emission transportation with the help of Old Dominion Innovations and Richmond Green Drinks.

How has ConnectVA helped you fulfill your mission?

ConnectVA’s Community Calendar has helped me plan and promote our events, while the organization profile page puts Drive Electric RVA in front of thousands of people in the nonprofit world. An elementary school teacher saw our profile and contacted me about bringing an EV to an Earth Day nature fair.

Anything else you’d like to share?

If you know someone with an electric vehicle — hybrids included — tell them about our group. We are here to support you!  Check out our Facebook page to help fill in any information gaps on our group. Also, here is an article that RVAnews did earlier this year.

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