Life with a plug-in electric car

Editor's note:Today's column is courtesy of Cheryl Schmitt, transportation coordinator for the city of Santa Cruz Public Works Department. Earlier this year, Schmitt became the proud owner of a Th!ink City electric vehicle. She estimates that she saves about $100 monthly by driving around her new EV instead of the "fuel efficient" gas-powered vehicle she had before. Today, she gives an update of her adventures of gasoline-free driving. Since my Th!nk City moved in with me in July, we have gotten to know each other better and have established a routine in our new life together. I have discovered that life is pretty darn easy with an electric vehicle. And fun. We go on little adventures. We get basic business done. We go shopping and take the dogs to the dog park and pick up my neighbor and get her to church. Everything fits so easily in the back of my sweet little buggy—flats of tomatoes from the farmer’s market, shrubs from the nursery, even my neighbor’s four-wheel walker. I keep my little EV clean and don’t let junk pile up. I bought a little Persian rug and wicker basket to decorate the hatch storage area. I’ve got good tunes on the iPod. Friends see me zipping around town and honk and wave. Life is good, just like those silly T-shirts say. Yes, we’re in the honeymoon phase. Are there any downsides? Any red flags for future problems? Not really. I’ve learned just how far I’m willing to go with the Jet – my pet name for my EV. Basically, we’re a Santa Cruz County couple. That’s 95-percent of my driving and that’s what we’re best at. Since I work downtown I do most of my charging at Ecology Action, which is all solar-based. I love that -- truly clean energy. The City of Santa Cruz is also installing solar over the parking lots at city hall and the police department, so soon I can solar charge right at work. (The chargers in the city hall parking lot will be for city employees and fleet vehicles, Schmitt said.) The public chargers in Santa Cruz are all free. Yes, free. So I have not spent any money on gas or public charging since July. I do a little 110v charging at home occasionally, but that cost is pennies on the dollar. As an extra bonus, I don’t have to pay the parking meters in Santa Cruz -- nice! There will be more chargers installed in downtown Santa Cruz soon so there are plenty of options, which is good because I’m noticing more EVs all the time. Even the skeptics are thinking a little differently about EVs when they see gas prices at $5 a gallon. Venturing over the hill or to Monterey I do a little two hour electron fueling to be on the safe side for the return trip. I can find the charging stations with my iPhone. Just have to keep that in mind and schedule accordingly. Usually if I’m going out of Santa Cruz County, I trade cars with my daughter and she gets to drive the Jet while I’m gone. I also got a ZipCar account for quick access to a gas car if I need it. I have not yet ventured further, but I’d be willing to try a short vacation and plan where and when to charge. It’d be part of the adventure. Or for longer trips, I can just rent a car, which will be a lot of fun trying out different wheels – a classy sports car, a camper van, whatever, just for grins. So yes, living with a plug-in electric car has been a lifestyle change. A good one. I’m happy and I’m in love with Jet, with my little EV. For information, contact Schmitt at cschmitt@cityofsantacruz.com or 420-5187.
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