Plugged in to the Sun (and Happy)

Electric vehicle pump

by Perry Goldschein, SHV board member

I’ve known since law school days that  electric vehicles (EVs) are a critical technology in helping to keep the air clean and mitigate climate change, as well as create economic opportunity and reduce US dependence on fossil fuels.  I was paying attention when President Bill Clinton signed into law the Energy Policy Act of 1992. This policy heavily promoted EV and infrastructure development, commercialization and use, and inspired me to write an article for my school’s law review.   I soon went on to start a short-lived consulting firm with a friend, that specialized in EV and alternative fuel economic development, policy and law.  After all, California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) and Energy Commission were leading the way for these technologies in the U.S. which, with efforts like GM’s early prototype, the EV 1.  The day of EV mass production was just around the corner!

Well, fast-forward almost a decade and we were still waiting for mass-produced EVs.  But at least the era of mass-produced hybrids had begun.  I went out and purchased a new 2000 Honda Insight, which looked like a combination of a tear drop and space ship.  Its looks, quite unique at the time, drew attention everywhere I went and prompted questions, which I relished because it allowed me to evangelize and educate on the technology.  That early Insight averaged 60-something miles to the gallon and handled uncannily well in the snow, especially for a small two-seater.  I was bummed I had to sell it a few years later, when we needed a four-seater for the baby. But I eased the pain by buying  a Prius.  That was 2006, and plug-in hybrids were yet to come.

EV history is surprisingly twisty and complex, starting in the late 19th century along with combustion engines.  But modern, mass-produced EVs didn’t really come into being until Nissan produced the Leaf in 2009.  This was 17 years after “the corner” I was expecting to turn!   While advances in the technology allowed adequate speed and a range that was doable for most households, especially those with two or more cars, infrastructure lagged for another several years after and EV sales didn’t amount to much.

In 2016, after joining SHV’s board, I got a big update on the existing state of EV technology, models available, and near-term plans.  SHV had begun working with NYSERDA on a pilot program, Drive Electric Hudson Valley, to help bring EVs to market in greater number in our region of the state.   I was excited at how far the industry had come, and vowed to make my next vehicle purchase at least a plug-in hybrid, that could run on electricity only, if not an out-right electric car.  This year, when the time had finally come, I went out-right electric with the 2018 Nissan Leaf. It’s a much better-looking car, in my opinion, than those produced in earlier years.  And it has a much better range, exceeding 150 miles to a charge.   For under $45,000, the Chevy Bolt is the only other vehicle with that range or more (it’s actually over 200).  I hadn’t put my name on the list for Tesla’s Model 3 and didn’t want to wait!

I’ve been loving driving my new Leaf.  It’s a quiet, smooth ride, with great pick-up from the higher torque EV’s get, and the ability to capture the otherwise lost energy in coasting and breaking in multiple, different modes.  I take it almost everywhere and get charged on various networks without a fee, compliments of Nissan’s EZ-Charge Card program, as well as my employer (BASF), and the Village and Town of New Paltz.  I can also look forward to my $7,500 IRS tax credit next year, in addition to the $2,000 NY State rebate I already had taken off the cost at purchase.

Now, with my upcoming switch to community solar (I won’t take my oak trees down!), I’ll soon be driving on sunshine – feels great!