Taking a road trip in an electric vehicle is a different experience than taking one in a vehicle powered by internal combustion. Most electric vehicles can only travel 300 to 350 miles on a charge.
For instance, it’s 385 miles from Page to Tucson. Making that trip in an electric vehicle takes some planning. But owners of electric vehicles view long distance travel as a challenge or a game, said David Gebert, president of Tucson Electric Vehicle Association (TEVA).
Gebert and his traveling companion, Jerry Asher, TEVA’s community outreach man, made the journey from Tucson to Page in their Tesla Model X last week. They made it to Flagstaff just fine but they weren’t going to make it to Page before running out of juice.
Prior to embarking on their journey they had checked plugshare.com, an app that shows owners of electric vehicles where they can charge their car. They found one at a café in Tuba City. Gebert and Asher made it to the café in Tuba City and ate lunch inside the café while their car recharged.
Gebert and Asher traveled to Page last week, in conjunction with the Chamber Page/Lake Powell, to display two electric vehicles – which they did in front of Stix – and to answer questions regarding all things electric vehicle.
“Their goal was to educate the public about electric cars,” said Judy Franz, Director of Chamber Page/Lake Powell.
Their second goal in visiting Page was to encourage more businesses to add charging stations for electric vehicles. The Courtyard Marriot is the only place in Page with the charging station.
Electric vehicles have some drawbacks compared to internal combustion vehicles. One: Most electric vehicles cost about $90,000. But the cost is expected to drop significantly with the next generation of electric vehicles, said Gebert.
Two: You have to have a place to charge it, and charging stations are often few and far between.
Three: Because electric vehicles typically travel less than 350 miles before they need to be recharged, taking a long distance trip in an electric vehicle can be tricky, or frustrating. It’s like planning a trip around your car’s nap schedule. Asher refers to it as “plugging along.”
You can’t just jump in your electric vehicle and drive to San Diego from Page non-stop. You have to plan recharging stops into your trip itinerary. But this is being addressed, said Gebert.
Some clever businesses, such as the café in Tuba City, have installed charging stations as a way to attract customers to their businesses.
Traveling in electric vehicles is expected to get more convenient as more charging stations are added and car batteries get more efficient, allowing cars to travel farther on a charge, said Gebert.
Electric vehicles and their supporting infrastructure is at the same place today where cell phones were in the late 1990s, said Gebert. “Back then one of the reasons people were hesitant to buy a cell phone is that as soon as they left town they couldn’t call anyone,” he said. “There weren’t enough cell towers yet.”
Another big argument Gebert regularly hears from people about why they don’t want to switch to an electric vehicle is that they still cause pollution. They still plug in their cars, which draws electricity from a power plant; most likely a coal-fired plant. So, what’s the difference?
There’s actually a big difference, said Gebert.
“All these little (vehicle) engines is far more pollutive than a power plant,” he said. “This is part of why we do these trips; to educate people about the difference.”
He also added that vehicle exhaust is one of the primary causes of ground level ozone, which gets worse throughout the summer as the temperature rises.
“Ozone pollution is a big problem in Phoenix and other metro areas” Gebert said.
Electric vehicles weigh about the same as an internal combustion vehicle. They look the same on the outside and the interiors look the same, with one exception. Rather than a gas gauge, electric vehicles display how much charge is left in the battery. In an electric vehicle there’s also no noise, and no shifting.The other big difference is the cruise control, said Gebert. “In an electric vehicle when you set the cruise control it stays there. Hills don’t matter.”