Written by Kaat Vander Straeten Sept. 11, 2017
On Sunday, September 10, the Wayland Town Building parking lot hosted seventeen electric vehicles, their proud owners, and a crowd interested in the cars and keen on test driving them.
The event was organized by MassEnergize Wayland for the National Drive Electric Week, which ran from September 9-17 in 277 places across the country. Initiated by Plug In America, Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association, the events aimed to heighten awareness of today's widespread availability and the many benefits of electric vehicles (EV's).
Sabine von Mering of Wayland brought her electric Smart Fortwo. She says she loves that her tiny two-seater makes kids laugh when they see it drive by. She also said, "Once you have driven an electric car you never want to go back to the smelly gas engine. Why would you? An electric car needs no maintenance. It's like driving your smartphone."
Electric car owners don't talk about gas mileage. They talk about batteries: how far can you go on a charge? EV's are available in two basic forms. The purely electric ones have only an electric motor and ranges that vary by model, from 80 to 330 miles on a full charge. The hybrids, which also have a gasoline engine that is used when the battery is depleted, have an infinite range.
Typical EV's can be charged at home from a standard outlet, requiring about 12 hours to fully charge. Most EV drivers however install a 240V level 2 charge station, which charges up to six times faster. At fast chargers, which are becoming more and more common, they charge in less than half an hour.
"Most EV drivers, I discovered, have their own solar panels," said Anne Harris, one of the organizers of the event, who drives a Chevy Bolt. "We have our own clean, safe electricity plant and fueling station. Imagine never having to pay for gas again!" And even without solar panels, the energy cost of an EV is just a fraction of the equivalent gas bill.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, plug-in electric vehicles have a much smaller carbon footprint than conventional cars no matter what the source of your electricity. That said, the more power we produce from solar and wind, the cleaner our EVs get. "Those who charge their EV’s at work in Massachusetts can encourage their employers to switch to 100% renewable electricity," said Wynn Calder, another organizer, who drives the Volkswagen e-Golf. He pointed up at the town's solar canopies that were lending a welcome shade. The Town of Wayland turned those on in December 2016, and in the fall they will be adding a level two charger and two Leafs to the town's fleet.
Not only do EV's produce zero tailpipe emissions, but they also help America reduce its dependence on oil. And there are even more reasons for going electric. For one, EV’s are plain fun to drive, with their instant torque and instant gear switching. The visitors who had never driven one before and got to do a test drive were amazed at how "zippy" these cars really are.
“Easiest and fastest three-point-turn I’ve ever made!” said one test driver.
Then there are the state and federal incentives that make these cars affordable (they vary according to the model). Some also come with discounts arranged by the Mass Energy Consumers Alliance and their Drive Green program, which commits local car dealerships to provide large discounts for purchase or lease of many brands and models of EV’s.
"When we had to replace our old car, the Drive Green deal on the Leaf made our decision very easy," said Kaat Vander Straeten, another organizer. "It made the process easy too. At the dealer we skipped all the sales talk and straightaway showed them the discount, which required no sign-ups or registration, just the screen on our phone that showed we had knowledge of the deal. It was a pretty good new-car-buying experience.”
For example, the Drive Green website indicates that, right now, a new Leaf is originally $33,500. Subtract $2,500 in Massachusetts rebates, $7,500 in federal tax credits, and the additional $9,000 with Drive Green, and the price is unbeatable. The organizers caution that these deals change all the time, and that incentives may run out or be canceled altogether.
Those looking for luxury looked into the Teslas or the BMW i3. Those looking to avoid what is called "range anxiety" waited in line to drive the Chevy Volt. Due to a small gas engine that charges the battery, it gets 53 mi/charge, a whopping 367 miles on a full battery plus one tank of gas, and an infinite range when refueling.
"We wanted to make it possible for interested folks to ask questions of the car owners and to test drive a wide selection of makes and models without any sales pressure," said Vander Straeten. "That is essentially the mission of our new Wayland-grown initiative called MassEnergize: to make it easy for everyone in our community to do at least one thing to reduce our carbon footprint, while, in many cases, saving money at the same time."
Local MassEnergize volunteers research and select the best partners for home energy assessments, discounts on solar PV and solar hot water, 100% renewable electricity, monitoring your homes energy usage, switching to all LED light bulbs, catching rainwater for irrigation, recycling textiles, and much more. They invite you to “join the collective genius" and to make your own Action Plan at www.MassEnergize.org. They will also have a table at the Wayland Touch a Truck on 23 September, 10-3, at the Wayland Middle School.
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