Fri04182014

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Electric car owners say, ‘Dump the pump’


Photo By: Peg Champion/Special to the Town Crier
Photo Peg Champion/Special To The Town Crier

Waidy Lee’s electric vehicles, including this Nissan Leaf, derive their power from the sun, thanks to the solar panels on Lee’s roof.

Los Altos Hills resident Waidy Lee is ahead of the curve when it comes to driving an all-electric vehicle (EV). The retired engineer purchased her first one back in 2000.

“I’ve been driving on sunshine for more than 10 years,” Lee said.

An ardent environmentalist, she knew an EV would reduce climate-warming carbon-dioxide emissions and save her money. Lee now owns two EVs – a 2011 Nissan Leaf and a 2002 Toyota RAV4 EV. She saved approximately $10,000 per vehicle on the purchase cost, thanks to federal and state tax incentives.

“It costs about $2.64 to completely charge my Leaf’s 24 kWh battery, based on my PG&E rate,” Lee said. “The range of its fully charged battery is about 100 miles, depending on road conditions and speed, so I can go anywhere I need to go without stopping for a charge.”

Maintenance costs are minimal, Lee said, because the motor is more efficient than an internal combustion engine and doesn’t require oil changes, tuneups or other mechanical system maintenance.

Most of the electricity powering Lee’s cars is from solar panels on her roof, so – based on PG&E net metering – her greenhouse gas emissions register zero.

“An EV is better for the environment, and it suits my lifestyle,” Lee said.

Electrification Roadmap, a study from the Electrification Coalition, indicates that an electrified transportation system would reduce dependence on foreign oil, improve national security, propel economic growth and lower carbon-dioxide emissions.

Ending ‘range anxiety’

There’s a malady particular to some EV owners: range anxiety. It’s the fear that your vehicle will run out of “juice” before you reach your destination.

Most EV owners have a dedicated charger at home, but longer drives require a network of charging stations. Range anxiety is one of the major barriers to the wide adoption of EVs, although, according to the nonprofit Electrification Coalition, 90 percent of U.S. vehicle trips are less than 30 miles.

“Most of my trips are short range – and perfect for an EV,” said Leaf owner Maddy McBirney.

McBirney serves on the GreenTown PEV (plug-in electric vehicle) team, which works to promote charger installation in downtown Los Altos. As a result of the team’s efforts in coordination with Kathy Kleinbaum, the city’s economic development manager, EV charging stations are part of Los Altos’ proposed parking management plan.

Los Altos Hills Mayor Rich Larsen is another member of the PEV team. Larsen’s business, New Power Technologies, focuses on EV energy management.

“Los Altos could become an EV ‘oasis’ near I-280,” he said. “Charging stations, combined with shopping and dining affinity programs, will attract EV drivers to the village’s downtown.”

Silicon Valley companies support EV owners. Adobe Systems, Hewlett-Packard and VMware offer free charging and dedicated parking spots to employees who drive EVs. Google offers employees electric and plug-in hybrids.

Go green, save green

A collaborative project to develop EV-ready communities – Ready, Set, Charge, California! – calculated an operating cost comparison of gas and electric-powered vehicles. The analysis showed savings of more than $13,000 in fuel and $19,000 in maintenance for 108,000 miles over a six-year period.

Another bonus: EVs are permitted to use the carpool lane.

Peg Champion is a member of GreenTown Los Altos and principal of Champion Organic Communications. For more information, visit ChampionOrganic.com.

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