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Powering Up

piet demo areaAn Electric Vehicle Workshop and National Plug-In Day celebrate and educate about electric vehicles

A key point that electric vehicle (EV) advocates are pushing is the idea of return on investment—that the savings people are making by unshackling themselves from the volatile costs of gasoline and oil are more than making up for the upfront expense of a car with rechargeable batteries. 

Considering available tax rebates and other incentives from the state and federal government and increasingly accessible costs, coupled with advancements on vehicle drive range and the appeal of zero reliance on gas stations, EVs are shaping up to be America's most viable future for personal transportation, says Rick Corcoran, a local advocate, EV owner, and member of the Monterey Bay Electric Vehicle Alliance (MBEVA).

Corcoran, along with several other EV owners, will speak at a free EV workshop to be hosted at Ecology Action on Thursday, Sept. 19. The event gives the public some one-on-one time to ask questions about the cars.

“The cost of the electric vehicles are a red herring,” Corcoran says. “Electric vehicles are far less expensive than conventional gasoline vehicles, but the return is over time. That concept is hard for a lot of Americans—they aren't used to having to wait for their money.”

The EV workshop is part of an initiative to educate the community on EVs as well as a kickoff to National Plug-In Day, a countrywide celebration to heighten awareness of plug-in vehicles and their benefits to their owners and the environment.

“It's really an ongoing campaign to educate the community,” says Emily Glanville, a program specialist for Ecology Action. “We want to show that electric vehicles are here to stay. There's huge state support and huge federal support, so we're really trying to get the word out.”

Locally, National Plug-In Day will be held Sunday, Sept. 29 in the Staff of Life parking lot, where attendees can get a closer look at a variety of EVs, including the Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, and Chevrolet Volt, as well as the locally manufactured all-electric Zero Motorcycles.

The Nissan Leaf is approximately $30,000, however buyers can be eligible for a $7,500 tax credit from the federal government and a $2,500 rebate from the state, bringing the costs down to $20,000, Corcoran says.

A retired eye doctor, Corcoran has made it a priority to break down the costs, savings and environmental benefits associated with driving an electric car and utilizing solar energy at home, which he uses to charge his EV.

He calculates that, based on the average number of miles Americans drive annually—12,000—EV drivers save approximately $2,500 a year by not buying gasoline and oil.

Over the course of eight years (the warranty on his vehicle), averaging gasoline expenses at $5 per gallon, savings will ultimately come out to $20,000, he explains.

“Your savings on expenses essentially equal out to you getting a free car,” he says. “You put $30,000 up front, you have to wait for your tax credit, wait for your rebate, [wait] eight years of saving 2,500 a year on gas and oil, and you end up breaking even.”

He adds that the home charging unit—a 340-volt outlet—costs approximately $2,000, but is a one-time fee.

Glanville notes that the City of Santa Cruz has installed seven new charging stations in the past two months, and credits the online application PlugShare as a great way of locating the closest charging stations.

Sharon Sarris, the founder and co-chair of MBEVA, says the initial costs can be a road block for some, but that the industry is working to produce less expensive EVs with improved drive range, which is currently in the ball park of 250 miles per full charge.

“Many people can save a lot of money with the electric choice, and help reduce green house gases immediately,” Sarris says.

“Environmentally,” Corcoran says of EVs, “they're great, but you're also going to save a ton of money.”

The Free Electric Vehicle Workshop takes place from 6 to 7:30 p.m, Thursday, Sept. 19 at Ecology Action, 877 Cedar St, Suite 240, 515-1328. National Plug In Day takes place noon to 4 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 29, at Staff of Life Natural Food Market, 1266 Soquel Ave., pluginday.org.

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