As Americans continue to feel the effects of high inflation and high energy prices, major automakers have called on Congress to lift the cap on tax credits for the purchase of a hybrid or fully electric.
Local electric vehicle (EV) enthusiasts say measures such as lifting the cap on the tax credit could pave the way to making EVs more accessible and easier for drivers to understand.
Currently, there is only one electric vehicle charging station located in the Richmond YMCA building.
This is one of more than 55 free Level 2 charging points installed in the Kentuckiana area by Evolve KY, a group of electric vehicle enthusiasts.
“Evolve KY is a group of energetic owners and electric vehicle enthusiasts. Some of us have expensive electric sports cars, while others have more modestly priced cars. Some are hobbyists interested in creating a vehicle from scratch. But one thing we all have in common is a desire to advance our current boring state of driving – and fast,” reads a description of the Evolve KY on their website.
Evolve KY board member Mike Proctor bought his maroon Tesla Model 3 in 2018. Since then it has driven 40,000 miles.
Proctor said he drove his Tesla around town and on trips to Tennessee and Ohio. His mission, along with the other members of Evolve KY, is to promote the use of electric vehicles. For Proctor, that often means meeting people and giving them a chance to bond with his Tesla.
“It’s kind of an uphill battle. There’s no state-level incentives for this stuff. They plan to come in and make a battery factory, but there’s no nothing for EV drivers in terms of incentives. The only incentives are at the federal level,” Proctor said.
Sliding into Proctor’s Tesla feels like something out of a movie. It is completely silent when starting and driving. The seat automatically adapts to the frame of its driver. The weight of the EV is apparent when cornering. It can quickly reach speeds of 60 miles per hour, but begins to slow as soon as the foot is lifted from the accelerator pedal.
Cheaper “refueling” is another boon. Electric vehicles can be charged at home. They come with a level one charger, which charges them the equivalent of 2 to 5 miles per hour. Level 2 chargers can be installed at home (costing around $500) and charge electric vehicles at the equivalent of 10 to 60 miles per hour. Level 3 chargers are the fastest available, but cannot be installed at home.
While the convenience of electric vehicles is particularly evident in an era when gasoline costs $5 a gallon, the burgeoning technology faces several hurdles. Accessibility is still one of the biggest issues, especially in more rural areas like Eastern Kentucky.
According to a study by the US Department of Energy, there are 47,243 public charging stations in the United States. According to PlugShare (a mapping app that shows the locations of public charging stations), there are 25 public electric vehicle charging stations in the Richmond-Berea area. By comparison, there are 145,000 gas stations in the United States. More metropolitan areas like Lexington or Louisville have a much wider choice of charging stations than more rural areas like Jackson or Clay Counties – where they are virtually non-existent.
“It’s something we really need to work on, but it’s kind of a chicken and egg situation. People haven’t really understood this idea of the electric car in those parts of the world. So, they don’t say ‘We need to invest in infrastructure to make it happen,’” Proctor said.
Charging times are another issue, as it can take anywhere from 12 hours to 30 minutes, depending on the level of charge used, to fully charge an electric car. Chargers installed by Evolve KY (like the one at the YMCA) can charge around 200 miles in 20 minutes.
According to Proctor, the range of electric vehicles has increased significantly over the years.
“They started around 100. The next generation was around 150. Then the next generation was around 230 to 300 miles, and now we have some that are 500 miles. We’re on the ninth generation of batteries. Battery prices have dropped about 80% from the original,” Proctor said.
Christian Elrod is another driver who has made the switch to electric vehicles. He just returned to Richmond from a road trip in his Tesla Model Y and said stopping to recharge wasn’t that bad.
“You stop every two hundred kilometers (to recharge),” Elrod said. “I stop every two hundred miles anyway. I get out and stretch my back.”
He noted that charging stations found on his travels ranged from barbecue restaurants to cafes. He said his Tesla makes it easier to find charging stations because the car will plot a route showing all the charging stations along the way.
“I let the Tesla do its thing. You can say, ‘Tesla, take me to Ardmore, Oklahoma or Dallas, Texas’, and it will plot it. It will tell you you have to go here and you have to stop for 12 hours .minutes to charge,” Elrod said.
Although finding a public charger can be difficult in some areas, electric vehicles will save their drivers in the long run. According to a US Department of Energy study, charging an electric vehicle over a vehicle’s 15-year lifespan is about $14,480 cheaper than buying gasoline for a traditional vehicle.
Another advantage of electric vehicles is the cost of maintenance. There is no need for routine fixes like oil changes or spark plug replacements with these vehicles. However, this comes at a cost of its own when EV owners need major repairs.
“There are Tesla repair centers. The closest are Knoxville, Nashville and Cincinnati. Louisville is going to have one before too long. They also have a mobile van that will come and work on the car in your own driveway,” Proctor said. . “They try to cover the basics. They don’t have Ford’s dealership coverage. If something can’t be driven, they’ll send a flatbed truck to pick it up.”
As Tesla falls into the high-end range of electric vehicles, there are more affordable options available to would-be drivers. There are even hybrid electric vehicle options that can be charged or run on traditional fuel.
“We affectionately call these folks ‘gateway drugs.’ Get your feet wet and get used to the idea of plugging the car in and whatnot. From there, we’ll see a lot of people go full battery,” said Proctor. “There’s this psychological thing that we call ‘distance anxiety’. People are like, ‘Dude, I’m going to run out of power and be stuck on the side of the road.’ Plug-in hybrids fix that.”
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