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Drive Electric Week event and Basics of Going Solar workshop will be held in tandem on Sept. 19

SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO - A Tesla Model S owned by Portland resident Doug Bullard drew swarms of visitors at the 2014 National Drive Electric Week EV exhibition at Lamb's Thriftway in Wilsonville.This upcoming Saturday will be an exciting day for local environmentalists. Two separate events will take place within several hundred yards of one another that both identify environmental conscientiousness among their goals: an Oregon Drive Electric Week event will take place in the parking lot of Lamb’s Thriftway, and a Basics of Going Solar workshop will take place at the Wilsonville Public Library.

Drive Electric Week event

Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp has issued a proclamation declaring Sept. 12-20, 2015 to be Drive Electric Week, following Oregon Governor Kate Brown's proclamation of National Drive Electric Week to Oregon.

"Electric and hybrid vehicles are creating good American jobs building advanced-technology vehicles and components in at least 20 states, including Oregon," noted Knapp in the proclamation. The proclamation also noted that "EVs help to reduce overall carbon emissions that support the greater metro region and state achieve greenhouse gas-reduction goals," and "EVs are fun to drive with smooth acceleration and quiet operation."

National Drive Electric Week will see a number events intended to promote electric car use take place across the country. Now in its second year, the Wilsonville event was organized by Wilsonville resident and electric car enthusiast Gary Exner.

“I looked for an event last year and didn’t see one,” Exner says. “I wanted to put one together.”

Last year’s event brought over a dozen electric cars to the Lamb’s parking lot, where attendees could speak with vehicle owners and take the cars for test drives. Exner said that it is the experience of actually driving an electric vehicle that leads drivers to consider buying a car themselves.

“People don’t really get it until they get behind the wheel and drive,” says Exner. “That’s really the focus of this event.”

This year’s event will allow curious drivers to get behind the wheel of significantly more vehicles than at the 2014 event. That’s by design: Exner says that with last year’s Drive Electric Week event, he wanted to “get his feet wet and see how things went.”

“It went really well. It was very well received,” Exner says. “Everyone was pleased with the way it came out.”

The event’s success inspired Exner to begin planning well in advance for this year, contacting electric car owners and dealerships across the Willamette valley to bring 38 vehicles in 16 models to Wilsonville this year.

Exner says that the electric car world has changed in significant ways even in the last year. “There’s more choices than ever before and that’s continually expanding,” he says. “We’re looking at, in the near future, greatly increased range.”

The question of range has been worrisome for many would-be electric car owners, Exner says, who worry that they won’t get enough from an electric vehicle. Exner cited an Aug. 29 article on the website Clean Technica which found that around 99 percent of trips are under 50 miles. Most electric vehicles can handle 70 to 90 miles on a single charge, the article said.

“An electric car is perfect for commuting, and probably 90 percent of the people in the Portland Metro have a commute that could be easily handled by an electric car,” Exner says.

He says that the Drive Electric Week event is an ideal way for individuals intrigued by electric vehicles to have their questions answered by those who know electric vehicles best: owners.

“There are a lot of misconceptions out there about what electric vehicles can and can’t do. The best way to learn about those is from people who actually own them,” he says.

Basics of Going Solar workshop

At the Wilsonville library, which is located across the street from the location of the Drive Electric Week event, the nonprofit Solar Oregon will host a Basics of Going Solar workshop during the Drive Electric Week event.

“Wilsonville was on our list of places to hold one,” says Josh Baker, program manager at Solar Oregon. Baker says that one of his colleagues reached out to the City of Wilsonville, and that the City suggested the workshop might be held the same day as the Drive Electric Week event.

“A lot of the people that are interested in going solar have an interest in electric vehicles as well,” says Baker. “There’s synergy.”SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO - A Smart Car EV takes off for a test drive with an excited driver at the wheel at the 2014 National Drive Electric Week event at Lamb's Thriftway in Wilsonville.

Just as vehicle owners will take on misconceptions about electric cars at the Drive Electric Week event, Baker says that the Going Solar workshop will address myths about what it takes to make the switch to powering one’s home with solar energy.

“Probably the biggest (misconception) is cost. The cost has come down quite dramatically in the last five years,” Baker says.

Because of significant tax incentives for switching to solar energy, Baker says, the cost of installing solar panels is far less than most people assume. Without incentives, switching to solar energy would cost a homeowner around $16,000; with the various incentives available to Wilsonville homeowners, the cost drops to $2000-$4000.

Yet one of the most sizable of those incentives — a tax credit issued by the federal government that would cover 30 percent of the cost of conversion — will expire at the end of 2016.

“That’s something we talk about in the workshop,” Baker says. “We expect a lot of the contractors across the state to be very busy in the second half of next year.”

Baker says that Solar Oregon encourages homeowners to make the switch this year or at the beginning of next year, since it may be difficult to accomplish the change once the tax credit’s deadline draws near.

Other topics to be covered at the workshop include leasing and financing alternatives, how to choose a solar contractor, site analysis to determine whether one’s home is right for solar energy, and how photovoltaic and solar hot water technologies fit into one’s overall energy use.

Drive Electric Week event: Saturday, Sept. 19, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Lamb's Thriftway, 8255 SW Wilsonville Rd. Visit for more information. Attendees are encouraged to park in the City Hall lot.

Basics of Going Solar workshop: Saturday, Sept. 19, 12-1:30 p.m. at Wilsonville Public Library, 8200 SW Wilsonville Rd. Visit or call 503-231-5662 for more information.

Contact Jake Bartman at 503-636-1281 ext. 113 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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