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South Charleston Public Library to host ‘Drive Electric Week’ event

By Ben Calwell, Metro Reporter
Larry Harris prepares to plug in his 2012 Chevrolet Volt automobile at his Poca home. Harris, a member of the West Virginia Electric Auto Association, will participate along with other EAA members at a Drive Electric Week event Saturday, Sept. 9. at the South Charleston Public Library. All electric cars and electric-hybrid vehicles will be on display.
Larry Harris of Poca with his Chevrolet Volt. The car will go 36 miles on a charge before a gasoline engine kicks in to power a generator. Harris said most of his driving is local, so he gets about 175 miles per gallon.
Harris installed a “Level 2” charging station for his Chevy Volt in his garage. Level 2 supplies 240V, like what an electric dryer or oven uses.

Larry Harris might need a refresher course on how to operate a gas pump.

The Poca resident is the proud owner of a 2012 Chevrolet Volt automobile, which is powered by electricity. It does have a gasoline engine, but its purpose is to power a generator in the car.

“I got one of the first ones to come to West Virginia,” Harris said. “It has two electric drive motors, one of which acts as a generator when the gas engine is running.”

Harris and other electric car enthusiasts, who are members of the West Virginia chapter of the Electric Auto Association, will be at the South Charleston Public Library, 312 Fourth Ave., from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9.

The event is part of National Drive Electric Week, Sept. 9 through 17. The purpose is to raise awareness of today’s plug-in vehicles and to highlight the benefits of all-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles.

For Harris, trips to the gas pump are few and far between.

“I put some (gas) in yesterday, but I hadn’t put any in since April, I think,” Harris said.

Harris’ Volt is rated to go 36 miles on a charge before the gasoline engine kicks in to power the onboard generator.

“Most of my driving is local, so I’m averaging about 175 miles a gallon,” he said.

The South Charleston Public Library gathering on Sept. 9 is a “sanctioned event” for National Drive Electric Week.

“Several of our people will have cars there, particularly Volts and (Tesla) Model S’s. It’s possible there will be a Tesla Model X there -- it’s the SUV version of the Model S.”

Members of the state Electric Automobile Association will be on hand to answer questions.

“We’ll have information, and we can let people ride in them or even drive them if they want to,” he said.

Marty Weirick of South Charleston, president of the West Virginia EAA, drives a 2011 Chevy Volt.

“It was the first to be registered in West Virginia,” Weirick said.

Electric cars appeal to Weirick because “I’ve always been interested in energy efficiency.”

He also enjoys not hearing an internal combustion engine.

“You can hear the radio better,” he said.

The weight of the battery also adds to the vehicle’s stability, resulting in better handling, Weirick said.

Using electricity generated from power plants fed with West Virginia coal also appeals to Weirick, as opposed to using oil “from countries that don’t like us,” he said.

Harris’ son has a Tesla Model S, which is rated for 285 miles on a charge. It gives the driver a read-out of how much power is left before reaching the next charging station. There are also smart phone apps that inform drivers of plug-in vehicles where charging stations are located. Harris has the “Plug Share” app on his phone.

There is a Tesla Super Charging station at the Courtyard by Marriott on the Kanawha Boulevard in Charleston, and Harris said the City of South Charleston will soon have two, “Level 2” charging stations -- at the Mound and at the Holiday Inn & Suites Charleston West, 400 Second Ave., S.W.

Harris said a Tesla Super Charger station can give a Tesla vehicle an “80 percent charge in about 20 minutes.”

Harris has a Level 2 charger set up in his garage, where he plugs in his Volt. Level 2 supplies 240V, like what an electric dryer or oven uses. Harris’ address is on the Plug Share app, so that electric car drivers can find him if they need a charge.

“There’s a lot of different cars that you can get that are electric,” Harris said.

Chevrolet Volts and the new Chevrolet Bolt are available in West Virginia, as is the Nissan Leaf. By a state law enacted in 2015, Tesla electric cars cannot be sold in West Virginia because they are sold directly from the manufacturer and not from dealerships.

“They’re not allowed to sell their cars in West Virginia,” said Harris, who wore a T-shirt with the Tesla logo on it and the words “Legalize It” written below it.

“People see ‘Legalize It’ and they think of something else,” he said with a laugh.

Harris said Tesla is increasing its production of electric cars, including the recently announced Tesla Model 3.

“It’s their first really affordable car. There’s going to be a lot of them on the road and more demand.”

Harris said electric cars require very little maintenance.

“You rotate the tires and put some windshield washer fluid in them.”

With tongue in cheek, Harris said, “You probably shouldn’t buy an electric car unless you want a car that’s fun to drive, costs a lot less for fuel, is good for the environment and reduces our dependence on oil.”

According to the Electric Auto Association’s website (, the nonprofit organization was formed in 1967 by Walter Laski in San Jose, California. It’s an educational organization that promotes the advancement and widespread adoption of electric vehicles.

“Electric vehicles (EVs) are a clean, quiet alternative to conventional automobiles, which are powered by petroleum derivatives that, when burned, emit noxious gases into the environment. Electric vehicles not only keep our Earth cleaner, their use preserves the Earth’s natural resources. EVs are a smart and efficient choice for personal transportation.

“The EAA acts as a public source of information to communicate developments in electric vehicle technology, to encourage experimentation in the building of electric vehicles and to organize public exhibits and events of electric vehicles, and to educate the public on the progress and benefits of electric vehicle technology,” according to the EAA website.


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