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Life with a plug-in electric car
Editor's note: Today's column comes from Cheryl Schmitt, transportation coordinator for Santa Cruz city's public works department. She recently bought a "Th!nk City" all electric car as part of her next phase in promoting alternative transportation, an effort she's been working on for more than 25 years now. Now and then, expect to see more articles from Schmitt chronicling her adventures in gasoline free transportation. Here's her first offering: I’ve been in the field of alternative transportation for over 25 years, growing our bicycle transportation network, improving sidewalks for pedestrians, and promoting carpooling, car sharing, transit, vanpools -- anything to reduce air pollutants. The next chapter is electric vehicles. I joined the steering committee -- no pun intended -- of the Monterey Bay Electric Vehicle Alliance, a local ad hoc advocacy group promoting electric vehicles. Through the alliance, I became connected with the greater electric vehicle, or EV, community, a dedicated group of folks sharing all things EV. Plug In America and the Electric Auto Association are two other great EV organizations that I’ve become friends with in my quest for clean transportation. I recently received notification of a unique opportunity to purchase a plug-in electric car, Th!nk City, for a hugely discounted price – so I jumped on it and bought one. The manufacturers suggested retail price is about $36,000. After various incentives were calculated, my net cost was under $15,000. This offer is still available! Contact Tom Diebold of Mission Valley Ford San Jose at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 408-933-2370. No gas, no oil changes, no tune-ups – it’s like driving a toaster, only more fun! My Th!nk City goes 100 miles on a charge, and it’s a perky little car that has no problem driving over the hill. And the cute factor is huge! Driving a plug-in electric car is a lifestyle change. I wanted to own one so I really understand what this new lifestyle is before I go around promoting something I don’t have day-to-day knowledge of. I was a bike commuter for many years and that experience helped me work on creating a pretty good bicycle transportation system in Santa Cruz. Now it’s time to do the same thing with electric cars. The alliance and other organizations are working with funding agencies to install EV charging stations throughout the greater Bay Area to create a support network for electric cars. A 240-volt charger will re-charge a car from 0-to-100 percent in about six hours, although most EV owners are “opportunity charging” for shorter periods of time. There are a number of websites for locating public charging stations, including http://www.recargo.com/, http://www.plugshare.com/ among others. Most public chargers are free to use and in downtown Santa Cruz the parking is free too – definitely economical transportation. Electricity in California is very clean with a big share of hydroelectric and renewables feeding the grid. I’ve heard that even an EV running on 100 percent coal-generated electricity would still be comparable to driving a hybrid, which is pretty darn clean. At home I’m using the portable 120-volt charger that came with my car and plugging into an outlet on the side of my house for a cost of about $2. Maybe some day I’ll have a solar carport and fuel my car with sunshine. So, here I go, driving off into an electric future! Join me!