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Electric vehicles grow in popularity

vaca ev 1, 11/1/13

Steve Souza, who lives in rural Vacaville, charges up his Nissan Leaf at the quick charge station in the Davis Street Park and Ride lot in Vacaville. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)

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From page A1 | December 05, 2013 | 7 Comments

VACAVILLE — As technology advances and becomes more affordable, more and more people are turning to electric vehicles to save on gas and try to do something good for the environment.

As electric vehicles proliferate, so do the places to charge them away from home.

Most of the smaller, more affordable electric cars are limited to around 60 to 100 miles in range, making them ideal for commuters and for driving around town.

In Solano County, Vacaville has been at the forefront of the electric vehicle movement, with public charging stations all over town. The city also owns a fleet of more than 20 electric Toyota Rav4 SUVs.

According to www.recargo.com, a website that tracks the proliferation of all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, Vacaville has 13 operational charging stations, more than any other city in Solano County. By comparison, Fairfield and Suisun City have eight charging stations combined and Vallejo has just three.

Vacaville’s Bella Vista Park and Ride station was upgraded in March to include a DC quick charger that can add 50 to 60 miles to a vehicle’s ranges in just 20 minutes.

Of course, vehicles can also be plugged in at home.

“I believe the lease prices are a major factor in the success of recent sales. It’s not just simply competitive prices,” said Guy Hall, president of the Sacramento Electric Vehicle Association. “Leasing makes it easy to compare monthly payments of a new EV with the cost of gas and oil of a current car. My brother, as an example, bought a new Nissan Leaf, moved his commute miles to it for a net cost of $7 a month, and he keeps his old car as a second car when needed.”

Hall said that the increase in models available and an overall drop in prices, not just in leases, has helped in the spread of EV technology.

Statewide, numbers from the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project show monthly rebates steadily increasing each month this year, from just shy of
1,500 in January to almost 3,600 in October. That’s nearly double year over year, with slightly more than 1,800 rebates processed in October 2012.

Rebates processed dropped off slightly to around 3,100 in November 2013.

Most of those sales are plug-in hybrids, but zero-emission (fuel cell or all-electric) vehicles accounted for about half of sales in August 2013, according to data from the rebate project. Sacramento region sales closely match state numbers, with around 26 rebates processed in August.

Some new owners have done their part to add to those numbers.

On a recent afternoon, Sarathy Amanjee of Roseville, who works in Vacaville, rolled into the Bella Vista Park and Ride in his 2013 Nissan Leaf to take advantage of the quick charger.

Amanjee said he made the move from a gas-electric hybrid to the all-electric Leaf for environmental reasons.

“To save gas. Zero emission, all those things. I’m a really big environmentalist,” he said. “It’s working out really good. It’s a smooth drive, when I come here I charge and when I go home I charge over there.”

It takes about an hour after work to get enough juice to get home, Amanjee said.

“I go around 60 miles on average. Nothing more than 60 or 61,” he said, adding that he’s not too keen on pushing the limits of the Leaf’s range. “You can drive it around 70 to
75 (miles), but I don’t go too fast because if you go too fast, it saps a lot of the charge.”

The lone downside to the Leaf is the limited range, Amanjee said.

But there are ways around even that. It just takes some planning.

“Right now anything around 50 to 60 miles you can pretty much do it, otherwise you need to charge in between. So that’s something you need to plan before you go, if you want to go for a long trip. You have to plan every charging station. If I’m going to the Bay Area from my house – my brother lives in the Bay Area – so it’s almost like a 120- to 130-mile drive,” Amanjee said. “It’s just a different way of living, rather than just filling in with gas.”

Fellow Leaf driver Michael Burk of West Sacramento said being all-electric has been good for his daily commute to Travis Air Force Base.

“Going off the maps says it’s a 35-mile commute, maybe. So if I start like 80 percent charged at home, I can make it to the base from West Sac and then the base to here,” Burk said as he waited for his 2012 Leaf to charge at the Bella Vista quick charger.

Burk had mixed feelings about the Leaf’s perceived advantages over other types of so-called clean cars.

“Over gas-electric hybrid – none. I didn’t research much, I kind of just bought it on a whim, which I somewhat regret, just for the range limitation,” he said. “But it’s been pretty awesome. I wanted to get something with better mileage. I had a four-door Jeep Rubicon, so I was getting like 14 miles a gallon. I was spending something like $450 a month in gas and with this it pretty much cut that to zero because I don’t buy any gas. It does add to the electric bill because I plug it in overnight.”

Even the added expense in electricity at home is minimal, he said.

“At the worst it’s going to be $1.15 from like empty to full charge, so it’s a super-minimal addition to the electric bill and I use public (chargers) as much as I can,” Burk said. “This is free and if I don’t want to go home I’ll just drive to downtown Sacramento and plug it in somewhere by a coffee shop.”

Of course, commuter cars aren’t the only electric vehicles out there.

Tesla Motors is rolling out a network of Superchargers that give its popular-but-expensive (the Model S sedan starts around $71,000) vehicles a full charge in about a half hour.

The nearest supercharger station is in Folsom, but that will soon change. Tesla spokeswoman Alexis Georgeson confirmed that the company is planning a supercharger station in Vacaville to be active by the end of the year.

“The Vacaville station will support our West Coast corridor, which will enable free long-distance travel between Vancouver, B.C. and San Diego by the end of the year,” Georgeson said.

Teresa and Nigel Jones of Seattle stopped in at the Bella Vista station recently to charge their Model S for the final leg of their day’s journey.

“We’re on our way to the Bay Area, and we came down (Interstate) 505 knowing this place was here,” Teresa Jones said
as her husband plugged
the car into the 32-amp charger – a bit slower than the supercharger will be.

“It’s a great place for one . . .,” Teresa Jones said. “It’s really trippy to sit there at watch when they’re charging fast and it’s excruciating when they’re charging slow.”

She said she went electric earlier this year, taking delivery of the car in February.

“I just look at all the electric vehicles as being the hope for our future,” Teresa Jones said. “Get off the Middle Eastern oil and stuff. Stop paying it forward to those guys and pay back into ourselves.”

The gas savings is certainly worth the switch, she said.

“I love not going to the gas station. Love not paying the hundred dollars,” Jones said. “I’m really sorry for my kids who have cars and trucks. A hundred dollars. Every time you go to the gas station it’s a hundred bucks. When I grew up, gas was like 35 cents. You can afford that. No kid can afford a hundred dollars. How they’re funding it, I don’t know.”

Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979 or mcorpos@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.

 

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 7 comments

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  • The MisterDecember 05, 2013 - 7:16 am

    And the power company that makes this electricity is run on coal. Way to go green!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • GaryDecember 05, 2013 - 11:27 am

    Don't worry about the green image. Instead, imagine how much money you could save. Why pay at the pump when you don't have to?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • my2centsDecember 05, 2013 - 7:21 am

    I own a Leaf and the county building in Fairfield alone has like seven EV charging stations, there is one at the civic center, and two at the transportation center. All of the County building slots are full every day. Every time another EV parking spot is added it is immediately used daily. I think the only thing holding up more people getting on board is the lack of charging stations. I am sure the newly renovated Courthouse will have a few, and Fairfield Courthouse maintenance uses an early model EV. I LOVE my EV! Statistics show that most of the trips we take daily are less than 7 miles. 95% of my driving is in my EV. I have my gas powered car for longer trips which I use maybe once a month. Range anxiety can be a factor but you just have to plan. There are charging stations in Davis, Martinez, Walnut Creek, Napa, and Sacramento Airport, so most places I go I can recharge before heading back. I think Chevron should be forced to install free EV charging stations at their gas stations as part of settlements for the Richmond refinery disaster. Given their reputation for turning a blind eye to company employee drug test cheating, it's the lease they can do.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksDecember 05, 2013 - 7:35 am

    my2cents, I agree there should be an appropriate number of charging stations in business parking areas. And certainly at gas stations and mini marts. The only issue that concerns me related to parking is much like the "food pick-up" only and "new mother" spaces in larger parking lots. Unlike handicapped spaces (that non-handicapped people park in anyway), there is no city ordinance attached to specific parking stalls so anybody can park in them without fear of receiving a citation. In order to be successful and available, charging stations will require an assigned city ordinance designation.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • joseDecember 05, 2013 - 1:25 pm

    Right now the charging station are "free". That is the bait to get more people to buy these glorified golf carts. When enough people have purchased/leased them, the so-called "free" charging will be a thing of the past. Nothing is "free", someone pays for it.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich GiddensDecember 05, 2013 - 8:22 am

    So---what happens when you turn on the air conditioning in your little EV on a hot day? Does the limited charge range golf cart go kaput and shutdown? Are local tow operators equipped with chargers too? California sits on top of a sea of shale oil and oil shale yet lifts not a finger to get it. Great---all you Californians go chase after an EV so the price of gas will collapse.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • B. ThiemerDecember 05, 2013 - 1:15 pm

    The hidden cost here is that the taxpayers heavily subsidize these 'public' charging stations. People with electric cars usually are in higher tax brackets, or write off the expense as part of their business. They are the least likely to need public subsidies. Lower income folks who are relegated to gas powered vehicles are subsidizing the wealthier electric vehicle owners.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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