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Chris Sharek's Chevrolet Volt charges for free at the Palm Avenue parking garage.
Sarasota Thursday, Sep. 26, 2013 4 years ago

Sarasota to get a jolt from electric-car event

by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Chris Sharek remembers sitting in an electric car at an auto exhibition in 1998. To him, the car represented the future.

Literally, it turns out: A trip to Iceland, where Sharek paid $11 for a gallon of gas, motivated him to purchase an electric car 13 years later. He said the car appealed to his desire to solve problems, not complain about them.

“This is a solution,” Sharek said. “This is a very clear solution.”

Sharek, a Sarasota resident, is one of the organizers of a National Plug-In Day event that will be held Sunday, at Mote Marine Laboratory. The event is billed as an “electric vehicle and sustainable energy expo.”

A budding community of Sarasota electric-vehicle enthusiasts will have their cars on display at the event, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and dealerships will have cars available for ride-and-drive sessions. Sharek knows there’s a stigma surrounding electric vehicles, but he thinks those perceptions will disappear as people learn more about the cars.

Sharek says he was the second person in the area — after part-time Casey Key resident Stephen King, who endorsed a book Sharek wrote about electric cars — to buy a Chevrolet Volt. Sharek was an early adopter in summer 2011, but Sarasota has experienced an electric-vehicle population boom since then.

Sarasota County Sustainability Manager Lee Hayes Byron said Sarasota is Florida’s No. 4 county in electric vehicles per capita. A conservative estimate from charging company NovaCharge says Sarasota had 116 electric cars as of June 30, Byron said.

A partnership with Florida Power & Light made Sarasota County the first local government with plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in its fleet, and more will be added this year, Byron said. There are 20 charging stations in downtown Sarasota alone, all of which are free, Sharek said.

Nigel Mould, Sharek’s co-chairman for the event, thinks Sarasota’s relationship with electric vehicles could be improved. One of the main improvements Mould suggested was using even more electric cars as fleet vehicles.

Mould, too, knows there are widespread preconceptions about electric vehicles. He thinks there’s a simple solution to overcome them.

“Get in one and drive one,” Mould said. “It’s amazing how many car folk I’ve known, they get into a modern electric car and drive it and go, ‘Wow, that’s not what I was expecting.’”


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