Utah Website Supports Electric Vehicles

The buyers guide lists vehicles available in the state, incentives for buying, and provides a calculator for comparing vehicles.

by Becky Wright, Standard-Examiner / December 9, 2014

(TNS) -- Thinking about buying an electric vehicle, but not sure it’s worth it? Maybe you’re sure you want to buy one, but don’t know which one is right for you, or you have an electric car but don’t know where to recharge.

The Governor’s Office of Energy Development may have the answers you need. The OED recently launched a website dedicated to electric vehicles, at www.utahdriveselectric.org.

“There are a lot of different websites that have information on charging stations available,” said Jeffrey Barrett, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Development, “but they’re not designed for Utahns.”

The Utah Drives Electric website not only presents information about the benefits and value of electric vehicles, but it does so in a Utah-specific way.

“A lot of dealerships have electric vehicles available, but they make different vehicles available in different markets at different,” said Barrett.

The buyers guide lists vehicles available in Utah, incentives for buying, and provides a calculator for comparing vehicles.

“A Nissan Leaf costs about $27,000. A Tesla is about $70,000 and there’s everything in between,” said Barrett. “We’ll do our best to keep updated, and stay plugged in with dealers.”

The savings calculator on the website compares the cost to drive an electric vehicle to that of driving a standard 2014 gasoline fueled vehicle.

“We have a relatively low electricity cost in state,” Barrett said. “If you charge only from home, and look at the hit to your electric bill, you’ll see you’re reducing your fueling costs — as opposed to traditional gas or diesel — by 80 to 90 percent. If you pay $500 a month for gas, you could see it drop down to $50 to $60 a month, which is a significant reduction.”

Barrett stresses that the OED isn’t focused on electric vehicles to the exclusion of other forms of transportation — such as vehicles that run on compressed natural gas, or mass transit, pedestrian and bike options. However, the department is particularly excited about electric vehicles.

“They’re a technology that sits at the nexus between electric utility systems and transportation systems, and we think they have values to offer to both,” he said.

The new website includes information about the potential of electric vehicles to improve Utah’s air quality.

“Electricity produces emissions,” Barrett said, “but there are fewer emissions, and not in places where we have the biggest air quality problems.”

One of the factors that worries potential buyers of electric vehicles is the ability to recharge the vehicle away from home.

“If I go to Google Maps, and search ‘gas stations,’ I’m going to get a report on all gas stations that are in the area of the map I’m looking at. If I search electric vehicle charging station I’m probably not going to get any,” said Barrett. “That’s because it’s a pharmacy, it’s a library, or it’s a municipal building ... they’re not fueling stations in the old way of thinking about it.”

The website pinpoints places to charge, and the type of service available.

“Some give electricity away free, some charge,” he said. “Some can charge the vehicle in 30 minutes, some take 12 hours.”

More and more charging stations are being added to the data base because of changes to laws.

“If you installed an electric vehicle charging station in the summer of 2013, the only option was to give away electricity — you paid $10,000 to have the station installed then continued to pay,” said Barrett. “We changed the law last year, to say you’re allowed to sell electricity at an EV charging station and not be regulated like a utility company.”

The change signaled to businesses that they could recoup costs, and maybe even make a profit as the market allows.

Even if businesses do make EV owners pay to recharge, they may find the price is cheaper than at home because large companies pay a discounted price for each kilowatt hour, he said.

Barrett said the new website is designed to help Utahns embrace electric vehicles, and the many advances in the technology.

“We want to get the word out to Utahns that electric vehicles are now affordable,” he said. “We’re just hoping the website helps to get people to cross that threshold, and look into adopting a new type of technology they’ve never had exposure to before.”

©2014 the Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah)