Electric vehicle enthusiasts promote sustainability in Athens County

Originally published on The Athens Messenger – By Alex Lumley Special to The Messenger


An “EV Round-Up” event was held at the Athens County Public Library last weekend, highlighting numerous electric powered and hybrid vehicles as well as members of the Athens community who are passionate about issues of sustainability.

Mathew Roberts of UpGrade Ohio was present at the round-up, and told The Messenger the event had several purposes.

“The main goal in UpGrade’s perspective is to get people to know about the zero-percent EV loan program,” said Roberts. “So it’s zero-percent interest for people to buy an electric or hybrid vehicle, and the credit union is whom we’re partnering with on that. The other goal was to incorporate this as being a new type of tour that the Sustainable Living Network does.”

Roberts said the event was a collaboration between multiple organizations, including the Appalachian Ohio Sierra Club, the Sustainable Living Network, the EV Cruisers Club, the Ohio University Credit Union (OUCU), and Clean Fuels Ohio out of Columbus.

“Sustainability is important because it’s more than just environmental sustainability,” said Roberts. “If you put things in that framework or that context, you get to talk about social sustainability, and civic sustainability… Sustainability is really preparing for the future without compromising the future’s ability to thrive.”

“We really believe that electric cars can create that,” said Roberts. “They can create community. They can create opportunities for local governments to transition their fleets to electric, and use that as a tool to highlight that a city is moving forward on sustainability. And we see electric cars as a good avenue for that.”

Roberts said the loan partnership with OUCU has been fruitful and led to the creation of a second loan with the goal of financing more wide-ranging sustainability projects.

“They’ve been really great,” said Roberts. “It’s worked so well that they have come back to us and we’ve formed another type of partnership for a whole different loan program. So the EV loan goes until June 8, 2017 unless we can extend it, but we also have worked with them on a sustainability loans program. And that’s to get products that are sustainability focused.”

“So you can get financing for a really efficient wood stove, or a really efficient HVAC system, or the cost to do the labor to install that,” said Roberts. “We’re encouraging people to reach out and say ‘well, what about financing this?’ And that’s another way for folks to develop an understanding of sustainability on their own.”

Michelle Wilson, member of the EV Cruisers Club and a new board member for UpGrade Ohio, rides an electric motorcycle around Athens throughout the summer. She showed off her vehicle at the EV Round-up event.

Wilson runs a business, Athens Impact LLC, that helps clients align their finances with their values. Those values often include sustainability issues.

“I help people invest in the things they care about,” said Wilson. “A lot of times, when we’re talking about electric motorcycles, people are concerned about climate change and the environment. So you can invest in mutual fund companies that are fossil-fuel free, and also engage in shareholder activism to push companies to do more green things. A lot of my clients are interested in things like that.”

Eva Bloom, membership development specialist at the Ohio University Credit Union, said that this partnership exemplifies the purpose of the credit union.

“It’s exactly what credit unions are about,” said Bloom. “We are here to support our community. So it feels really good to be able to do something that’s directly generated by community interest. The community wanted to do this, they came to us as a partner, and we were able to make it happen, which I think is awesome.”