Bi-Directional Charging: Engaging with Leaders and the Community to Charge Forward with Smart EV Policy

Dory Larsen and Kate Tracy | August 27, 2021 | Clean Transportation, Electric Vehicles, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina

One opportunity with electric transportation is bi-directional charging. This is very much what it sounds like: energy flows from a building to a vehicle. When prompted, that energy can flow back from the vehicle to the building. 

This was the ethos of three electric vehicle ride and drive events we at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and our Electrify the South program co-hosted in partnership with Environmental Defense Action Fund last week. The events in Orlando, Atlanta, and Raleigh served as a conduit between communities and elected officials to learn the benefits of electrifying transportation, discuss and take action on the federal and state policies at hand, explore opportunities that exist to expand clean energy and electric transportation here in the Southeast, and find reassurance that the community would support climate and clean transportation champions. 

SACE and EDF Action Fund staff before a ride and drive event in Atlanta, Georgia

Getting Plugged In: Educating the Individual

Not that long ago, awareness about EVs – let alone policies advancing widespread manufacturing and adoption of electric vehicles – moved at the pace of, well, the gradual acceleration capabilities of an internal combustion engine. These days, EV advancement seems to be stepping on an accelerator with instant torque.

As the EV market zooms ahead, our Driving on Sunshine electric vehicle (EV) roadshow, continues to get individuals plugged into the EV community and advance folks from EV interested to EV informed, both online and in-person with health and safety at the forefront of each event.

SACE’s Electric Transportation Program Manager, Dory Larsen, before taking two of Florida’s finest on the first test drive of the day

Like other roadshow events we’ve held in the past, participants at these three recent events had first-hand experiences driving an electric vehicle with an experienced EV driver. These experiences served to inform participants of the numerous positive benefits of fully electrifying transportation that we’ve highlighted before such as: 

  • Cost: EVs are 2.3 times cheaper to operate than gas-powered vehicles in large part because they are very low-maintenance.
  • Public Health: EVs have no tailpipe and no tailpipe emissions, which is significant given that 4 out of 10 Americans live in counties already experiencing unhealthy levels of air pollution, much of it caused by auto emissions.
  • Security: America’s regulated electricity sector is a source of homegrown energy not prone to volatility and geopolitical instability like global oil markets.
  • Climate: EVs already reduce auto greenhouse gas emissions by upwards of 70%, and will reduce more each day as the grid gets cleaner.

Of course, drivers discovering the fast acceleration of EVs was a big thrill for many!

EVs Open the Door to Transforming Our Communities: It Takes a Village

Our Driving on Sunshine roadshow events also helped build awareness of the many electric vehicles already providing lower-cost options in our communities as well as the need to advocate for more EVs and EV infrastructure.

Raleigh’s Proterra all-electric buses will keep the community connected and promote clean transportation in the Triangle

At Raleigh’s event, the city showcased one of their five new Proterra all-electric transit buses and educated the community about electric transportation options that are in their communities now. The zero-emission buses are built in North Carolina by American workers and benefit North Carolina with co-benefits of job creation and cleaner air.

In Atlanta, Almeta Cooper, Georgia Field Coordinator with Moms Clean Air Force elevated the need for our children to ride to school on all-electric school buses, citing both public health and cost benefits. Macon, Georgia-based BlueBird is building these all-electric buses with a Georgia labor force.

Always thinking outside the box, SACE Executive Director, Stephen Smith, takes an Achrimoto FUV on a test drive in Orlando.

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s Executive Director, Stephen Smith, explained the interconnection between our electric grid and electric transportation systems stating at our Atlanta event, “every year our electric vehicles are getting cleaner as we convert more of our electric grid to renewable energy.”

Representatives from Archimoto were in Orlando providing rides in their fun utility vehicle (FUV) and challenging us to think outside the box with both form and function of vehicles.

Women in clean technology: Dory Larsen, with SACE, CeCe Grant with Dream Corps, and Almeta Cooper, Georgia Field Coordinator with Moms Clean Air Force before a test drive in Atlanta

And, Senior Campaign Manager CeCe Grant, with Dream Corps, shared in Raleigh why the Federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal is so important to fund necessary infrastructure in the Southeast and how common ground solutions for clean energy and electric transportation are supported by a majority of Americans. 

These speakers highlighted the solutions electric transportation can help address with innovative technology – it’s imperative these technologies are not limited to certain communities but distributed and invested equitably to reap maximum benefits for all.

Putting the Pedal to the Metal on Clean Energy Solutions: Connecting with Elected Officials to Express Support for Clean Energy Solutions

Opportunities to engage with decision-makers allow ideas to be exchanged and accelerate electric transportation adoption. For example, most people realize that EVs have much lower climate impacts compared to internal combustion vehicles but some are just learning EVs economically lower total cost to own value and how that can mean significant savings to taxpayers. Additionally,  our report, “Retained Transportation Fuel Spending in the Southeast: Electric Vs Internal Combustion Vehicles,” illustrates the Southeast could add $47 billion annually to the Southeast economy if all cars, buses, and trucks were electrified.

Environmental Defense Action Fund organizer, Astrid Jenkins, asked participants in Raleigh to call on their elected representatives to express their support for clean energy solutions that improve their family’s health and prosperity, explaining that “elected officials need to know we’ve got their back.” In essence, elected officials need to hear from their constituents that when they vote for clean energy, constituents will continue to vote for them. The latest IPCC Climate report further demands us to take action and in addition to contacting your local elected official, we encourage you to join us and contact your member of Congress and urge climate action and investment in electric transportation powered by clean energy.

It was encouraging to see many elected officials join us at the three events to learn more about the benefits of driving electric and speak with their constituents about policies that can propel EV adoption and EV infrastructure progress. 

Sanford, Florida Mayor Woodruff (bottom right, middle) was present for opening remarks and drove the Tesla Model X . Justin Karlins, from Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy’s office was also present. North Carolina State Senator Mike Woodard (bottom left, middle) spoke at our Raleigh event took a spin in both a Tesla Model X and S and a Volvo CX 40. North Carolina State Senator Natalie Murdock (top left, second from right) also showed up to show support for clean transportation. North Carolina Representative Julie von Haefen (top right, second from right), an EV driver herself, drove the Model 3 with her family, as did Devonte Wilson from Congresswoman Deborah Ross’s office (middle, right). 

Electric Vehicles Support Local Energy, Jobs, and Communities

Another benefit of bi-directional charging is the added resiliency it can bring to the electric grid. In the event of power outages, by utilizing bi-directional charging you can take “load” or strain off of the electric grid and use your electric vehicle as a power source for your home. Keeping that concept in mind, the bi-directional relationships that elected officials and their communities can have with each other to “have each other’s back” are strengthened. To that end, we hope that events like these can continue, adapt, and evolve, to educate communities about the benefits of driving electric.

Electrify the South​ is a Southern Alliance for Clean Energy program that​ leverages research, advocacy, and outreach to promote renewable energy and accelerate ​the ​equitable ​transition to ​electric ​transportation throughout the Southeast. Visit to learn more and connect with us.

Dory Larsen
Dory joined the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in 2017 and was named Senior Electric Transportation Program Manager in 2023. She is working to accelerate the transition to electric transportation…
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