Electric cars plug into charging stations. | Courtesy of EVolve KY

For the last two years, a crew of filmmakers led by Ben Evans has been traversing the state to document the rise in interest of electric vehicles. Recently, there has been a push locally and nationally by many grass-roots organizations to move toward a cleaner form of transportation.

“EVOLVE: Driving a Clean Future in Coal Country” will premiere Saturday, Feb. 24, at Bellarmine University. The free screening will take place at 7 p.m. inside Bellarmine’s Science Theater, at 2001 Newburg Road. A panel discussion will be held afterward, and there will be special giveaways and light refreshments.

The documentary was made in cooperation with EVolve KY, a nonprofit made of members who champion for, drive and own electric cars. EVolve has led the charge for establishing electric car infrastructure throughout Kentucky, and to date, the group has installed 10 EV charging stations.

Check out the trailer below.


Part of the film explores coal country in eastern Kentucky and how little steps are being taken there to move away from our dependence on fossil fuels, one solar panel and electric car at a time.

Insider caught up with Evans before Saturday’s premiere to find out more of what he discovered while making “EVOLVE.”

Insider Louisville: Why is the topic of electric cars important to you?

Ben Evans

Ben Evans: First and foremost, I want my child (and, really, future generations of every species) to have a livable planet. Electrifying transportation and simultaneously cleaning the grid is absolutely mission critical to that end.

EVs also happen to be far cheaper to operate and a heck of a lot more fun to drive than internal combustion engine vehicles. And buying one needn’t break the bank — we bought a nearly new, three-year-old Nissan LEAF with 22,000 miles on it for $9,000.

IL: Do you think electric cars eventually will replace gas-powered vehicles?

BE: Absolutely. They’re simply a far more efficient way to get around and, given the pace of technological innovation happening amidst a nearly perfect storm of peak oil, air pollution and climate change, I think we’re on the verge of a tipping point where gas-powered vehicles will seem like 20th century relics and we’ll wonder why we didn’t make the leap to EVs sooner.

“EVOLVE” will premiere Saturday at Bellarmine University.

Major countries around the world are actually legislating away the internal combustion engine in the next few decades. For instance, India has plans to sell ONLY electric vehicles by 2030. But I’m not even sure it will take that long.

When you can have a renewably powered electric vehicle with a 400-mile range that performs like a supercar, charges in 20 minutes, offers a constantly improving array of autonomous capabilities, can double as a mobile power supply, and is safer than any car on the road all for the same price as a run-of-the-mill gasoline-powered car, why on earth wouldn’t you?

That day is virtually here, and the gasoline engine is about to go the way of the pay phone … fast. Just think, 12 years ago, no one had a smartphone. Keeping up with demand and charging infrastructure will be the issues.

IL: What surprised you the most when filming “EVOLVE”?

BE: I think it’s been surprising to find that even coal companies are reading the writing on the wall now (case in point: one of the big sponsors of the UK Solar Car is actually in charge of coal companies) and that folks in eastern Kentucky are more eager to embrace the transition to a new energy economy like solar and battery technology than they often get credit for.

As the chairman of EnerBlu (an innovative power-battery and “new energy” solutions company moving to Pikeville and Lexington this year) says in the film, “This is a transition that leads to transformation,” and eastern Kentucky’s ready to help lead. That’s exciting … and surprising.

IL: Would you say Kentucky is behind most states when it comes to using alternative fuel sources? 

BE: I think Kentucky has some unique challenges, but it also has incredible opportunities. Because of our history as a coal state, we’ve been slower off the line when making the jump to new energy technologies, but once we fully embrace the inevitable transformation that’s coming, we can be a fiercely committed and incredibly hardworking state.

The trick is making the jump in time to ride the wave, rather than get drowned by it. Once we commit, there’s no reason we can’t lead. Groups like EVolve KY and others are doing incredible work driving the necessary change and pushing government agencies and businesses to step up and “jump” sooner.

EVolve KY member Wrensey Gill shares his passion for electric cars in Midway, Ky. | Courtesy of EVolve KY

What I think we, the general public, need to be absolutely vigilant about now is something that writer and futurist Alex Steffen calls “predatory delay” — “the blocking or slowing of needed change in order to make money off unsustainable, unjust systems in the meantime.” Such strategic foot-dragging was a cynical tactic employed by cigarette companies 50 years ago … at a cost of millions of preventable deaths … and it’s back with a vengeance now on the issue of climate change and the urgent need to make a just and timely transition to a renewably powered, carbon-negative civilization.

That kind of corporate and political malfeasance needs to be called out — it’s not enough that the transformation happens: the pace is crucial. But I think the good news is that technology continues to show what’s possible and force the issue.