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All charged up with places to go

by Susan Gillin | Dec 27, 2018

Chelan PUD employees love their EVs

They are fast and peppy, handle well in snow, require practically no maintenance and are cheap to drive. What’s not to like about an EV?

Next to nothing, according to Chelan PUD employees who drive electric vehicles to work, around town, and up and over the mountains.

By unofficial count, at least a dozen employees drive hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric vehicles. We sat down with four of them to find out why they decided to go EV.

Todd Walsh, senior systems analyst, 2015 Nissan Leaf:

“The greatest thing about it is it’s completely worry-free,” Walsh says of his all-electric Leaf. Without the major features – and potential failures – of a combustion engine, there’s little to go wrong. Even the brakes are barely used; when a driver lifts his or her foot off the throttle, EVs slow as the motor becomes a generator to recharge the battery. And when you consider the cost of electricity against the cost of gas and minimal maintenance, “it’s one of the best financial investments you can make.”

Electric car battery packs inevitably lose some of their capacity over time. Friends ask him about the expense of replacing the battery, which can be several thousand dollars. But Walsh notes that the battery is covered by warranty for 8 years and battery prices are declining.

Electric car plugged into charger at PUD HeadquartersDarren Wurl, engineering assistant, 2015 Nissan Leaf:

“I’ve never had a better snow vehicle,” says Wurl. He uses the car for local driving, including frequent trips to Mission Ridge Ski and Board Resort. The Leaf’s 100-mile range is not an issue, he said. He rents a car when he needs to get to Seattle because his second car is a gas-guzzling pickup that won’t comfortably hold a family. Speaking of family, Wurl says his Leaf is so sporty that he insists his teen-agers keep the car on the “Eco” setting when they’re driving. This makes the accelerator pedal less responsive and harder to push. That helps keep kids from doing what kids will do – driving too fast and burning rubber.

Wurl has an electric Zero motorcycle, too.

Willard Fields, senior analyst, 2017 Chevrolet Volt:

Fields said he purposely bought his Volt because it has gas back-up. With tax benefits and other incentives offered at the time, “the cost was as reasonable as any gas-powered vehicle,” he said.

Using only the battery, “it costs me 20 cents to go 25 miles,” Fields said. The Volt’s range is only 50 miles, but when on longer trips, when Fields uses the gas backup, the car gets 42 miles per gallon. “That’s still a lot better than most gas-powered vehicles.”

Fields said the Volt is very comfortable and filled with safety and convenience features. That includes a heated steering wheel and apps to start the car and turn the heat or AC on remotely.

T. J. Farrell, senior business analyst, 2018 Tesla Model 3:

Until September, Farrell drove a 1987 Honda Accord for 31 years and over 243,000 miles. With her Tesla, “I feel like I stepped into a time machine and went into the future,” she said. Buying a Tesla is a major investment but “I plan on getting 30 years out of this car, too.” Farrell chose her Tesla because she wanted a car that was all-electric. “It’s all about the carbon footprint for me,” she said. She also wanted all-wheel drive and a range that would take her to Seattle.

She got that and much more with the Tesla. The car is operated almost entirely through its flat screen or phone app. It’s hands off any of the moving parts: “If I do anything besides add windshield fluid or charge the car it voids the warranty.”

Walsh, Wurl, Fields and Farrell agree that charging is easy. It can be done overnight on a 110-volt outlet, and a 15-amp circuit is more than enough, they said. The Tesla comes with a variety of adapters to make charging especially simple.

Free charging for the public

As part of its Public Power Benefit program, Chelan PUD installed five EV charging stations at four locations for the use of customers, employees and other motorists. Charging at these EV stations is free, compliments of Cascade Autocenter of Wenatchee.

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