After what seemed like endless weeks of clouds, rain, gale-force winds, and fog, the weather finally cooperated for the culminating celebratory events of Climate Action Week on Martha’s Vineyard.
The sun was shining as electric vehicle (EV) owners from around the Island lined up in front of Edgartown School to drive in procession to the Grange Hall in West Tisbury, showing their support for efforts to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Members of the parade, or “convoy” as Kristi Strahler of Edgartown, one of the organizers, called it, are the “pioneers, because they see the light.” Strahler wants to stop fossil fuel use on the Island and everywhere, and hopes that this convoy will help to educate Islanders.
Strahler, who has worked with the education subcommittee of the Martha’s Vineyard Commissions’s Climate Action Task Force, and husband Alan, chair of the Edgartown energy committee, own a 2015 Nissan Leaf, and greeted other EV owners Saturday morning at Edgartown School. They handed out route maps, snacks, and signs to be displayed on the driver- and passenger-side doors.
The Strahlers said they received great cooperation from the police in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, Chilmark, and West Tisbury, assisting with traffic as 31 EVs participated. The Strahlers explained that the EVs were taking the long way around to the Grange, and several drivers joked that they hoped their batteries would last that long.
Though they were joking, average mileage on a battery charge, and availability of charging stations, are concerns for EV owners. For this reason, many opt for hybrid vehicles.
Convoy participant Judy Crawford of West Tisbury, who works with the League of Women Voters on the Climate Action Committee, owns a Honda Clarity, a plug-in hybrid with a seven-gallon gas tank to fall back on. She simply presses a button and the car switches over to driving on gas while the battery recharges: “It uses a little bit of gas, but not much, and gets you to the next place where you are going to plug it in.” Crawford has 15 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren, has a solar-powered house, and says it costs nothing to plug in and recharge the vehicle at night. Crawford is trying to set a good example for her grandchildren, who often say, “Oh Grammy, you guys are so far ahead.”
Steve Lewenberg, member of the Chilmark energy committee, who owns more than one EV, is excited about the nearly $50,000 grant from the commonwealth of Massachusetts for the installation of a charger at the Chilmark School. “It’s the first fast charger on the Island,” Lewenberg said.
Ron Dagostino, an energy committee member in West Tisbury, and his son Ari, also participated in the convoy. Ron owns a 2019 fully electric Chevy Bolt, and says his son has not been to a gas station in over a year. He’s never had a problem getting anywhere; “you just have to plan.”
Tom and Wendy Soldini of Edgartown have owned their Tesla Model 4 since October 2021, and they absolutely love it. They took it on a road trip to New Hampshire and Maine, and had no recharging issues. “It was a pleasure to drive,” and “the hotel recharged it for free.”
Jennifer Blum, who lives in Edgartown and is a member of the Vineyard Conservation Society, also participated in the convoy. Blum’s 2019 Tesla S is her second EV. She registered the first Tesla on the Vineyard in 2012, and remembers honking her horn at people who were waving as she drove past.
Julia Livingston of Edgartown has owned her Tesla X for more than five years. She took her EV on a road trip to California, and recalls that she had to have it transported back, not because of a battery-charging issue, but because COVID hit and there were no hotels open. Livingston says she has performed no maintenance of any kind on her EV, except for new tires and wiper blades.
Sue Jensen of Aquinnah, loves her BMW 318i, with its auto switch to a 2.5-gallon gas tank “just in case.” She heard about the EV convoy from neighbor Meghan Gombos, an independent consultant working with the MVC. Gombos drives a 2017 Chevy Bolt, and was joined by her parents, Paul and Eileen Gombos. Paul Gombos says his fully EV Nissan Leaf also has a 12-volt battery that runs things like the radio and electric locks and windows, so if you can’t find a charging station, you can go into eco mode, turn the radio off, and “limp along” to a charging station.
Alongside some of the Islands’s youngest and most senior participants in the EV convoy were members of its furriest, Monty the dog, the official mascot of the Vineyard Montessori School, and his person, Bob Johnston, president and cofounder of Vineyard Futureworks. Johnston is proud that in the two years he has owned his 2017 Nissan Leaf, it has appreciated 50 percent in value, and he doesn’t have to worry about rising gas prices: “It’s the perfect car for Martha’s Vineyard, you plug it in at night, and it’s ready to go for the next day.”
Standing alongside the rows of EVs parked in their specially designated area at the Grange Hall, the Strahlers reflected on what they considered a “pretty successful” event. As a member of the education subcommittee of the Climate Action Task Force, Kristi Strahler said that what started as a grassroots community effort has gotten “really big.”
Ending fossil fuel usage is an important cause for the Strahlers, and they are hoping that in time, everyone will drive electric.