The top reasons why black and brown communities go to emergency rooms are asthma and respiratory-related illnesses, which are directly correlated to transportation. Dr. Shelley Francis, co-founder of EVHybridNoire (above) and co-found Terry Travis will have electric vehicles ready to test drive at the fifth annual MLK Family Fun Day in Lot 6 from 12:30-4 p.m. at Tropicana Field Monday, Jan. 20.
BY HOLLY KESTENIS, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – Too expensive. Not reliable. Don’t want to be stranded. Electric cars have long bore the stigma of being out of reach and inconvenient. But along with the new year comes a new approach to the future, and two visionaries are working hard to ensure a new way of thinking.
Terry Travis and Dr. Shelley Francis have turned years of electric vehicle (EV) promotion into a nonprofit organization that is taking the nation by storm. EVHybridNoire is a national network of diverse electric vehicle drivers and owners.
With a core group in the Bay area, Travis and Dr. Francis are on a mission to amplify and elevate the conversation and adoption of clean transportation here in St. Petersburg.
With air quality being a concern for those with respiratory issues, reducing vehicle emissions is key to a healthier lifestyle.
“It really affects every organ in your body,” said Dr. Francis. “It impedes brain development; it aggravates and accelerates asthma, and impacts fertility.”
EVHybridNoire wants the conversation to begin, especially in African-American households. Travis feels there’s a racial divide when it comes to those affected by gas dominant car emissions and wants to bring electric vehicles to the table as a viable option.
“This is an important conversation to have in our communities,” said Travis, who acknowledges few folks are aware of the health effects of gas emissions.
“It’s not just about the technology of the vehicles or cool cars; it’s the fact that in black and brown communities the number one reason that we are going to emergency rooms are asthma, respiratory-related illnesses, which are directly correlated to transportation.”
The organization focuses on spreading the word about the positive aspects of owning an electric vehicle, price, and long-term affordability being just another positive aspect of owning a non-gas-guzzler. Fully electric cars can be purchased used for as little as $7,000 and, in the long run, can save owners who are no longer dependent on the whims of those in charge of raising gas prices.
There are also no oil changes, brake pads, or spark plugs to worry about, and with no engine, maintenance is at a low.
With roughly one million cars on the road, electric vehicles are becoming a permanent fixture. Although there is adequate charging infrastructure nationwide, studies have proven there is a discrepancy in available charging stations in rural areas and black communities.
Although EVHybridNoire is having those conversations with local companies such as Duke Energy and city hall, Travis states that current cars can travel an average of 250 miles without needing to recharge.
“You could actually go a week or sometimes two weeks without charging your car depending on your driving habits,” he said, pointing out that oftentimes drivers feel they are covering more ground in their cars than they actually are.
Also, most EV owners, according to the numbers, find it easy to charge at home or while out having dinner or a movie.
According to chargehub.com, a website dedicated to helping EV owners find available charging stations all over the nation, St. Petersburg has roughly 135 stations, with 84 of them offered free to the public.
EVHybridNoire is partnering with Duke Energy and will be downtown on Monday for the 34th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Dream Big Parade. Travis and Dr. Francis will be participating along with their members.
Various electric vehicles will travel the parade route providing the opportunity for those not familiar with EVs to witness firsthand the models available. Drivers will be representative of the African-American community.
“One of the reasons were doing this is so people can see more people who look like them, so they can see it as a viable option,” said Travis.
After the parade, an array of vehicles from the lower to the higher end will be available at Tropicana Field at the fifth annual Family Fun Day to those 25 and older to test drive.
Travis hopes to draw interest with single moms, teens, extended family members and retirees. Education on the benefits of electric transportation from public health to lower cost of ownership and convenience will be offered at the event as well.
Not only will electric vehicle owners be there to offer insights firsthand into the positive aspects of owning an EV, but Duke Energy will also be on hand to discuss their energy-saving programs, such as the best times to charge vehicles.
“We want to do more to really get this ramped up,” explained Travis. He wants African Americans to be frontrunners in the talk when it comes to building supportive infrastructure and purchasing vehicles.
“If no one is talking to our communities, we’re going to be left out of that conversation,” he said.
Travis believes there are economic opportunities to be had and input that could benefit predominately black neighborhoods if those who live there become involved.
“If charging infrastructure is to be built out, why not include those individuals that have had the burden of the worst air quality and have been hit the worst?”
An Eventbrite page is available to sign up for the Ride & Drive at Tropicana Field. It all takes place immediately after the parade in Lot 6 from 12:30-4 p.m. There will be a wide variety of EVs available with price points starting at eight thousand dollars.
Go to drivethefutureseries.com for more information and to get your name on the test-drive list.