More charging stations around town could boost consumer confidence with electric cars

photo by: Kathy Hanks

Mike Almon sits in the driver's seat of his electric car, a 2012 Nissan Leaf, on Feb. 28, 2019.

Michael Almon doesn’t worry about running out of electricity to run his car as he drives the 2012 Nissan Leaf around Lawrence.

But if he goes to Topeka, he might need to find a charging station before heading home.

“Range anxiety” and issues with locating the nearest charging station may have caused many consumers to think twice about buying an electric vehicle.

When Almon drives away from his house in the car, which he bought a month ago, it’s usually fully charged. He estimates that he can travel 50 miles between charges, which he says is enough to get around town. He specifically purchased the car for in-town use.

Because it’s an older electric vehicle, it now has only two-thirds of the original battery capacity.

“Just like cellphones, batteries lose their capacity and won’t hold a charge as long,” Almon said. He estimates a new battery for his car would cost about $6,000.

As more people consider purchasing electric vehicles, having more public charging stations in Lawrence would increase their consumer confidence, said Almon, a Lawrence businessman who sells tankless water heaters.

According to Consumer Reports, a host of lower-priced electric vehicles in the $35,000 range will become available and will get more than 200 miles on a single charge.

Currently, six charging stations around Lawrence provide free electricity. Along with The Merc, 901 Iowa St., stations are at Hy-Vee, 3504 Clinton Parkway; LMH Health, 325 Maine St.; University of Kansas Center for Design Research, 2544 Westbrooke Circle; Westar Energy’s service center at 746 E. 27th St.; and Briggs Nissan, 2101 W. 29th Terrace.

According to solvingev.com, there are 375 electric vehicle charging stations within a 30-mile radius of Lawrence.

Hoping to reduce range anxiety, Lawrence City Manager Tom Markus is currently finalizing a host site license agreement with Westar Energy Inc. for two charging stations at Sports Pavilion Lawrence, 100 Rock Chalk Lane, according to Jasmin Moore, the city’s sustainability director.

Almon would like to see more charging stations in key places such as at the public library and recreational areas.

“Can you imagine driving a conventional gasoline car if there were only six gas stations in town?” Almon said.

photo by: Kathy Hanks

Mike Maude stands next to his Tesla S on Feb. 27, 2019. He has driven the electric vehicle for the past two years and appreciates its speed and quiet electric motor.

Traveling long distances requires mapping a route that includes charging stations.

Lawrence resident Mike Maude, who has owned a midnight gray Tesla Model S for the past two years, has found he can’t get to Santa Fe, N.M., as quickly in his electric car.

“If I travel any distance, I plot where the next Supercharger station is and I have to go along major interstates,” Maude said. While he has an adapter for charging his car at any charging station, he prefers stopping at Tesla Supercharger locations because they charge faster.

In his conventional vehicle, the trip took 11 hours, but in the Tesla, it takes 17 hours. He must stop six times, and it takes 40 to 50 minutes to charge.

“I don’t mind,” Maude said. “I read or get something to eat.”

Something Maude appreciated about the vehicle was the one-time $7,500 federal electric car tax credit that he received when he purchased the Tesla. How much a person gets back depends on the model of car purchased and the vehicle owner’s individual tax situation.

Plus, there is hardly any maintenance — for example, no oil to change; it only needs servicing to check the electrical system once a year.

“I plan to keep this car for a long time,” he said. “It’s very fast and very quiet.”

Mike Maude’s Tesla S being charged in his garage in Lawrence on Feb. 27, 2019.

Almon also appreciates how quietly his car runs.

“Driving an electric car doesn’t create as much greenhouse emissions as an internal combustion engine,” Almon said. “Electricity is a lot cheaper than gasoline. It’s just nice all around.”

Louis Copt, a Douglas County artist, drives a 2014 Chevy Volt, which is a kind of hybrid that runs so many miles on electricity and then has a small gasoline engine that generates more electricity, which goes to the battery running the car. He doesn’t need the engine except on long trips. When the gas kicks in, he can’t even tell.

Douglas County resident Louis Copt shows how he plugs in his 2014 Chevy Volt on March 1, 2019.

“I have spent on average $12 a month on gas on the car; some months I don’t spend anything,” Copt said.

While he would love to own a Tesla, that brand is out of his price range. He purchased the used Volt for half the cost of a new model. He loves how, when he steps on the accelerator of an electric car, it just takes off.

“The Volt is pretty zippy,” Copt said. “But it wouldn’t outrun a Tesla.”

He estimates it costs 80 cents to $1.20 of electricity to charge the Volt every day.

However, Copt said electric cars don’t like cold weather.

“The colder it gets, the less battery you have because you are using the heater,” Copt said. Depending on the weather, he has averaged 30 miles of straight electricity. He installed a 220-volt charging cord at his home, which allows the car to charge within two hours.

Because it’s a hybrid, there is no charging anxiety.

“When the Volt runs out of juice, you just use the gas that produces the juice,” Copt said.

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