I’m not a car geek.
I’m not much of a mechanic of any sort. Yet I am learning about electric vehicles as our Department of Environmental Resilience participates with other communities around the state in a sustainability cohort guided by the IU Environmental Resilience Institute. Electric vehicle (EV) technology has come a long way over the past 20 years, and is poised now to become an increasingly important way to both move around and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Part of what I’m learning is that the term “EV” is not always well understood. This is due in large part to the different kinds of vehicles on the market which use electricity to help them move.
There are three broad categories of vehicles which use electricity to turn the wheels: Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs), Plug-in Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), and Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs).
HEVs use gasoline in an engine to move the vehicle, but have a battery which stores recovered energy (from braking). HEVs do not require charging, but the generated electricity helps to move the vehicle. PHEVs have a gasoline engine and a battery which can power the car if it has received enough charge via the plug-in. BEVs do not have a gasoline engine, and rely solely on an electric battery which must be charged.
Adoption of EVs in the past has been slow largely because of the cost of these vehicles, and because of their limited range. Those two barriers are diminishing. There are now some brands of fully electric cars which cost as low as $30,000 new. That’s still well more than I am ready to spend on a car (new or used), but there are plenty of folks who regularly do.
The driving range has also increased substantially for many of the newer model EVs. 2020 models list ranges from 110 miles to more than 350 miles per charge. Additionally, there are more and more charging stations, or electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), being installed across Michiana, Indiana, and the Midwest.
There are now 16 such charging stations within a 30 mile radius Goshen, and two more public chargers are set to be installed at the Goshen Public Library and in the public parking lot west of Interra bank.
High speed charging stations are being installed in highway corridors, as well. The combination of reduced costs, increased range, and greater charging accessibility make EVs an increasingly viable way to travel.
This is important as we think about how to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions for which we are responsible due to transportation. Our community-wide greenhouse gas emissions inventory from 2017 showed that 13 percent of our total emissions in Goshen came from transportation.
EVs produce fewer emissions than gas and diesel vehicles, even when the electricity is generated from fossil fuel; as our electricity is increasingly generated from solar and wind, EVs will become even cleaner.
EVs aren’t the only electric options for getting around town, either. We recently purchased some electric-assist bicycles for city employee use. These e-bikes require pedaling – like a conventional bike – but have an electric “gear” which increases the speed and the rate according to the pedal-power input.
The result is a machine that handles very much like a bicycle (and not like a throttle moped or motorcycle), and which can move a person through town with minimal exertion. You don’t show up sweaty or out of breath.
An e-bike can replace a car or truck for cross-town meetings, or, in my case, to evaluate a tree or consult about planting. Baskets and paniers can bring computers, tools, briefcases, and other equipment along. And at the end of the day, just plug it in.
This week we are launching an online public survey about EVs, at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WBCY5DF . The survey is designed to help us understand better what we know – and don’t know – about electric vehicles.
We need to know more clearly what the barriers are to operating EVs. Some of them are quite real (purchase price), and some of them may be more perception (range and charging access).
As the overall makeup of our mobile technologies shifts from internal combustion to electric, its important for us to see the opportunities and be ready to take advantage. Anyone who is watching traffic knows that electric cars are an increasing part of the present. Anyone who is watching TV knows that more EVs – including trucks – are in the very near future.
Some local businesses, including Massimo’s Pizza, Woldruff’s Footwear and Apparel, and Soapy Gnome, are offering gift cards to members of the public who take the survey. Take the survey, and look for more details in the coming days.
And start seeing EVs.