Why drive an electric car?

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LEWISTON — Bill Hensley is charged up about his new car: It doesn’t run on gasoline, doesn’t need oil changes, it doesn’t have spark plugs or a muffler.

He doesn’t stop at gas stations to fill up. He charges his all-electric car in his garage.

After doing some research, he decided on a Nissan Leaf last July. “It was the cool factor, and the savings, and saving the planet,” he said.

Hensley, 38, works as a technology support specialist — an IT guy for teachers — in the Lewiston School Department.

An electric car is a simple vehicle, he said. There’s no combustion, which means fewer maintenance costs.

According to a mileage sticker on the 2017 car, it should go about 107 miles on one charge, he said.

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“But with my driving, I can get well above the (Environmental Protection Agency) range,” he said.

Mileage also depends on the temperature outside. In warm weather, he can get 120 miles on one charge, and in the winter only about 70 miles. Winter driving takes more power because the battery and heater use more electricity in the cold.

On work days Hensley doesn’t have to drive far, 20-plus miles a day going from one school to another. “I could charge it up Sunday night and go until Friday night, then charge it up for the weekend,” he said.

A question he’s often asked is: How much does it cost to charge his car?

Analyzing his electric bill, he’s figured out from completely empty to full costs a bit less than $4. Two charges a week for 250 miles costs less than $8.

In comparison, to fill his wife’s SUV with gasoline costs $35 to go 275 miles; the same distance costs $12 with his Leaf. “That’s a $23 savings.” He posted a three-month review analyzing the electric costs at https://tinyurl.com/ycxjdnvy.

Hensley said he “scored an excellent deal” at the dealership.

The sticker price was $33,000. But the 2018 models were coming in. The dealership was motivated to move the 2017 at thousands less. Also, “I got a federal tax credit rolled into the lease. The payment reflects the savings.”

His monthly payment is $250, including wear-and-tear insurance. His monthly payment for his previous car, a Kia Optima, was $300. He’s saving $50 a month, not counting the gas savings.

When his 36-month lease is done, “my buyout is $9,000. I’ve done the math.” Counting what he’ll spend on monthly payments, his Leaf will cost him $18,000 to own.

As far as performance, “it’s fun.” When he steps on the accelerator, the car “wants to go,” he said. “It has no problem going zero to 40.”

Married with one child, Hensley said his Leaf is a four-door with a hatchback and has plenty of room.

He and his wife, Rebecca, have been so happy with the Leaf that they added a second all-electric car to the family this winter, a Chevy Bolt. To best take advantage of tax credits, they bought it instead of leasing.

His wife’s Bolt can get 238 miles on a charge. “I could push it to 300 miles,” he said. The Bolt cost more than the Leaf; the sticker price was $39,000. They got a dealership incentive of $8,000 since next year’s models were coming in, and they will qualify for a federal tax credit of $7,500.

To charge their cars, they installed a 240-volt outlet in the garage, since the family was having a heat pump installed and upgrading their electrical system. The car comes with a plug that works with any three-pronged outside outlet, Hensley said. But a 110-volt outlet charges the car slowly, only four miles for each hour charged. A 240-volt outlet provides a faster charge.

Since he started driving electric last summer, Hensley’s become an enthusiast.

He’s made YouTube videos sharing his experience. He’s taught an electric car workshop at Lewiston Adult Education. He even keeps an eye out for good, used electric cars, recently test driving one and posting it on YouTube. Consumers can find good, used electric cars for $12,000, he said.

More drivers ought to consider electric, Hensley said, considering lower fuel costs, lower maintenance costs and a fun ride to drive.

“I am simply amazed,” he said. “They’re fun, clean, efficient.”

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

Sarah Lakeman, Sustainable Maine project director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (Courtesy Natural Resources Council of Maine)

NRCM: Electric cars ‘exceptionally important’ trend

Driving electric cars is a huge step in reducing air pollution, according to the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

“Pollution from cars and trucks is Maine’s largest contributing source to carbon emissions,” said Sarah Lakeman, Sustainable Maine project director for NRCM.

“The transition to a cleaner transportation sector is an exceptionally important part of addressing climate change here in Maine,” she said. “Electric cars have zero tailpipe emissions. As our electricity mix continues to get cleaner, these cars do, too.”

The cost of electric cars, and plug-in electric hybrids, are decreasing and are even comparable to the prices of conventional gas-powered cars, Lakeman said.

“New and used electric cars are available in dealerships around Maine, and charging stations are being installed around the state,” Lakeman said.

Saving the Earth

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