Commentary: A few more words on electric vehicles

Staff writer Ian Gronau’s article about Delaware’s electric vehicle battery charging infrastructure was both timely and informative, but some important information was missing or somewhat erroneous. (“Electric vehicle infrastructure on the rise”)

First the error. It’s a partial error really. The state’s rebate program does not cover new hybrid vehicles. I know because I recently purchased one. The vehicle must be a plug-in hybrid vehicle, or PHEV, which cost significantly more than a standard hybrid. An EV is strictly battery powered and would also qualify for an even greater rebate.

The second point I would like to make is that these charging stations and the car’s charging port do not necessarily work together. Tesla has a great network of stations, but don’t bother to pull up to one if you have a Chevy Bolt or Nissan Leaf or another brand of EV. The plugs are not standardized.

Before you buy, you should know where you’ll be able to recharge. Tesla leads in this regard because having a widespread network of charging stations is part of their marketing plan. The Tesla stations at Wawa may be empty now, but it’s a great marketing tool that works for both Wawa and Tesla.

Also, not all stations are empty, as the article suggests. Some locations are in high demand. This causes another problem. Even a fast charge takes 30 minutes, and most public chargers are slower. EV owners will park and connect to a charger and then leave for shopping and a meal, or to go to work. So their EV may reach full charge, but no one else can use that charger until they return and move their vehicle. To make matters worse, some PHEV owners do the same, but their cars can run on gas, so they aren’t stranded if their battery dies. EV owners rely on these stations. The state may have to pass a law banning PHEV use of public charging stations.

Finally, a word on economy. Our hybrid, a Kia Niro, is getting about 50 mpg using it for commuting about 60 miles one way. This is great. But it has a small gas tank, under 12 gallons max. We refill after about 450 miles so we still need to hit the pumps more often than we had hoped. And though we are saving money on gas, it remains to be seen if higher maintenance costs will offset the gas savings, which I have heard is a possibility.

An EV, on the other hand, should have much less required maintenance because it has no internal combustion engine and thus no costs associated with the maintenance of said engine. But with a battery pack that adds about $15,000 to the price of the car, the reason to purchase an EV won’t be purely economic.

James Webster is a resident of Dover.

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