Electric Cars Draw Attention And Riders At Rally

May 20, 2014

Renewable energy advocates would like to see a lot more electric vehicles on the road. So they held a rally last week for electric car owners and curiosity seekers at the Montshire Museum in Norwich.

Among the exhibitors--one auto dealership that’s  carved a niche business in selling the alternative vehicles.

The host--Bob Walker.  He wishes more parking lots in Vermont looked like the one in front of the Museum on this balmy day. Walker directs the Thetford-based Sustainable Energy Resource Group so he was happy to see about 25 passenger vehicles, a few motorcycles, a racing car, and a truck gathering lots of attention. Walker says plug-in and rechargeable electric cars are getting more popular these days, as gas prices rise.

“It’s about a dollar per gallon equivalency to drive electric and it’s also much cleaner for the environment. Much less polluting. There’s still a lot of development that has to take place in terms of infrastructure for charging stations and the cars are always improving, but they’re getting there, and it’s really exciting to see everybody out here today,” Walker said.

And they lined up to take rides. One eager driver was Kim Quirk. She owns a solar energy center in Enfield, New Hampshire called the Energy Emporium, and this Ford C-Max is her company car. She pulled out slowly to avoid pedestrians who may not hear the nearly silent motor.

“So with this car you get an option to choose whether you are driving all electric—right now it’s in EV mode--see the little EV down there?”

She pointed to a diagram on the dashboard.

“…and if I push the button it can put it into what’s called EV later, so it’s going to save the electric and just use the gas engine,” she explained, turning onto  Route 5.

Quirk says that’s ideal for drivers like her who have long commutes.

The C-Max was popular at this rally. Another owner, Wendy McArdle, said she leased hers when her daughter turned fifteen. She wanted her new driver  to think of electric cars as "normal."

“And the reality is she loves this car. It’s fun to drive, it’s smooth.  I’ve always had Subarus in the past you know, so it was a big deal for me to go to an American car and switch over to a lease--I’ve never leased a car before either—[or]switch over to something that doesn’t have four wheel drive,” McArdle said.

McArdle said with studded snow tires her car did just fine this winter over mountainous terrain. She did admit the battery loses efficiency in bitter cold weather, but more than makes up for it in warmer weather.

A few steps away, Tim Letourneau was singing the praises of the Ford Fusion Energi, claiming  this full-sized sedan gets 21 miles from a single charge. That  costs about 80 cents. The sedan then goes at least 43 miles on a gallon of gas. It’s selling very well where he works, Twin State Ford in St. Johnsbury and Lamoille Valley Ford in Hardwick.  

“We love this technology. We embraced it.  A lot of the dealerships were scared of it. They didn’t want to try it.” Letourneau said.

“So what we did is we set up a program where we were supposed to sell thirty in thirty days. We ended selling 58 in those thirty days; we actually bought out every Ford dealer in New England of their Energi’s. We brought over twelve truckloads of these vehicles because we had the demand for them,” he said.

But that demand varies from county to county in Vermont.  An April 2014 map by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation shows Vermonters own 631 electric passenger vehicles -- more than double the 311 EVs that were registered in VT at the same time last year.

VEIC’s  map of public charging stations shows  47 charging stations either planned or already in operation for 2014.