Alabama electric vehicle owners praise benefits of going electric

Alabama electric vehicle owners praise benefits of going electric
Electric vehicle owners talk about the advantages of ownership at the Market at Pepper Place during 2019 National Drive Electric Week. (Phil Free / Alabama NewsCenter)

Steve Malcom has gone entire months without buying any gas going to and from work in Fort Payne.

Matt Creasey, a University of Alabama student, passes by pumps on his way to school and plugs in on campus before going into class.

Electric vehicle owners in Alabama had reasons to boast as they showcased their cars at the Market at Pepper Place in downtown Birmingham Saturday. Dozens of curious visitors asked questions of the owners, who provided answers about what it’s like to go electric. The event kicked of 2019 National Drive Electric Week in Alabama.

Malcom has owned multiple electric and hybrid vehicles and said the technology has eliminated most of the reasons people have avoided making the switch.

Alabama electric vehicle owners tout EV’s virtues from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“It’s all coming on,” he said. “I have yet to hear anybody really put down an electric vehicle.”

He has, however, sensed their hesitancy.

Their main concern is about range, to which he explains the cars now travel hundreds of miles before needing another charge. He drives about 40 miles per day and doesn’t even charge his Chevy Bolt every day.

Malcom’s favorite move is to get them inside and crank it up to show how quiet electric vehicles can be.

“I’ll turn the music on,” he said. “There is no road noise. You can hear the music better.”

UA student Creasey is from Virginia and finds the 800-mile ride home is cheaper and smoother since he got his Chevy Volt hybrid. He also loves the convenience the university has provided.

“The university’s been pretty good about it,” he said. “They’ve put in some chargers at pretty much every parking garage. I plug in when I get to class and then I come back out of class and my car is almost fully charged.”

Mark Bentley, director of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition, loves hearing the stories from owners like Malcom and Creasey. He has watched EV ownership swell in the state and he knows those numbers are about to rapidly increase.

“It is really starting to escalate in Alabama as well as the rest of the country,” he said. “We anticipate the growth is going to be at around 30% a year, which is phenomenal. A point of comparison would be what microwave ovens did when they were introduced – a smaller ticket but the growth was phenomenal. To this point, electric vehicles are mirroring that type of growth.”

The Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition is one of the organizations leading efforts to expand public charging infrastructure in the state to keep up with that growing demand.

“Infrastructure is coming,” Bentley said. “We are working diligently across the state to install more infrastructure. Realistically, 80% of all electric cars are charged at home. The rest are either over the road or at a workplace.”

While electric vehicles often cost more than their gasoline counterparts, Bentley said the overall cost of ownership factors out to be less. For instance, he said, electric vehicle owners pay an equivalent of $1.16 “per gallon” compared to the average of $2.35 per gallon of gasoline.

Companies including Alabama Power are making it for cost effective to switch to EVs.

Brandi Hurst, program manager for Electric Vehicle Transportation at Alabama Power, said EV owners can earn a rate rider and save 15% off the standard rate for their whole home between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., peak charging times for EVs.

“One of the major conveniences of owning an electric vehicle is being able to charge it at your home,” she said. “So if you think of it kind of how you charge your cellphone at night – you know, you plug it in while you’re sleeping, you wake up, you’re ready to go – it’s kind of the same thing with your car, just on a much bigger scale.”

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