Green Living and Energy Expo Highlight Vehicle and Building Efficiencies

Attendees check out part of the offering from Dominion Electric Vehicles.

Roanoke Valley residents learned about energy conservation, renewable energy, and green building during the annual Green Living and Energy Expo last Friday and Saturday at the Roanoke Civic Center.

Andy Kaplan with Dominion Electric Vehicles stood near three electric vehicles, which were catching the eye of many people, including school children.  The company doesn’t have anything to do with Dominion Virginia Power, but is related to what used to be Dominion Dodge-Jeep-Chrysler in Bedford.

“People that bought trucks from us needed something with a lower carbon footprint in order to meet federal and state contracts.”  The business operates out of a warehouse in Salem. Some of the vehicles Kaplan sells are manufactured in Minnesota and others in Georgia.

“These things can replace a passenger car or a small pickup truck or van very economically because the cost of electricity to operate them is about two cents per mile and they require vertically zero maintenance.” He asks potential clients to compare that to a gasoline-powered vehicle which costs from 25 to 30 cents per mile just for the cost of gasoline.

Imagine no more oil changes, or never again buying spark plugs or air filters.  But Kaplan says drivers must check tire pressure, brake fluid, and batteries.

The electric vehicles even have some safety measures. “They don’t have air bags or side impact beams but that’s why they’re limited to 25 miles an hour – they don’t want you going fast enough to get yourself hurt.”  But they do have seatbelts and a safety glass windshield.

Prices range from $5500 to $18,000 range but Kaplan says some of the higher end models can replace a full-sized truck or van and they have a range of 35 miles, depending on the load you’re hauling, the hills you’re climbing, how cold it is, and how hard you accelerate.

Kaplan says you can plug the vehicle in for an hour or so while you eat lunch or go shopping.  That can charge the electric vehicle up to 70 percent.  To get a 100 percent charge, it takes four or five hours.

Over in another exhibit was Josh Holloway with Community Design Studio, the architecture wing of Community Housing Partners, which got its start in the New River Valley and has since expanded to Hampton Roads.

Community Housing Partners is now building Heron’s Landing which is transitioning the homeless to housing in Chesapeake. Victoria Ridge is low income housing being built in Lynchburg. Holloway says both are 100 percent accessible, and built using universal design.  “So, it’s meant for anybody of any ability, age, ability, disability, age, impairment of any kind that they could equitably use any of the facilities in their apartment and of the community space.”

Many of the projects Community Housing Partners works on are green certified.  He says the start up costs to live environmentally green may cost more, but in some cases, the money is recouped in the long run.

“Materials are more environmentally responsible but they may not actually give you payback on their initial cost.”  For instance, Holloway says if you use fiber cement-board siding product on your home, you won’t see any cost savings on energy consumption.  “Whereas, if you seal your ducts well or you seal up the envelope of your home, or use Energy Star products; things that may cost a little bit more in the beginning. What we found is nearly all of them will provide a return over any given amount of period-two to six to anything about 10 years.”  He says the green movement is becoming standard for building construction.

by Beverley Amsler

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