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Fuel of the


Left and Center: The Chevy Volt bridges the gap between the plug-in electric and the hybrid. Photos by James Pratt


I Plug-in Electric Cars


Traditional plug-in electric cars are much like a sophisticated electric golf cart—plug them into the power grid, charge the batteries, then drive them until the charge runs out. It can take several hours to recharge the batteries and you must fi nd a charging station or wall outlet to charge them.


Jennifer Dempsey, member services director at the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives owned a Nissan Leaf for several years and used it to run around Oklahoma City.


“We loved everything about the car but the biggest change to get used to, other than never having to stop at a gas station, was how completely quiet it was,” Dempsey said. “Nissan even added a low-speed sound so that pedestrians are alerted to the fact you are there—otherwise they wouldn’t know a car was coming and might step out in front of it.” The limiting factor for plug-in electric vehicles is the range. Improved battery technology has helped manufactures such as Nissan extend the range of their plug-in electric cars. The Leaf can get up to 100 miles per charge—great for running errands around town or commuting to work in places like Oklahoma City or Tulsa.


The high performance Tesla all-electric sport car was designed to prove


that electric cars don’t have to be slow and stodgy. However, it is still limited in range and charging speed.


12 WWW.OK-LIVING.COOP


Future By James Pratt


Hamid Vahdatipour, CEO of Lake Region Electric Cooperative, Inc., shows off the cooperative’s new energy-effi cient ride. Photo by Hayley Leatherwood


Consumers realize substantial savings with plug-in electric, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid vehicles


magine getting 139 miles per gallon (mpg) on your daily commute to work. Though most would be thrilled with the prospect of just 39 mpg, new technology in electric cars is making the former a reality. In fact, this technology is here to stay and it’s leading the


way to the future of driving cars. So, let’s get your “wheels” turning: here are the pros and cons of three different types of electric cars— plug-in electric cars, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids.


Russell Nelson, member of Ozarks Electric Cooperative, recently pur- chased a Tesla. Nelson is fascinated with the vehicle’s features and is an avid learner of the car’s technologies.


“Owning a Tesla is a learning experience,” Nelson said. “There are online tutorials that teach you about specifi c features of the car and there is a smartphone app that allows the owner or service personnel to check the status of the vehicle.”


Despite all their performance and effi ciency benefi ts, total electric cars and trucks are of more limited use in rural areas of Oklahoma, where charging stations are few and the distance between locations is far.


Hybrids


The most successful “electric” vehicle to date has been the Toyota Prius. This once niche car is now the No. 3-selling car in the world ac- cording to Bloomberg Businessweek magazine.


The Prius does not plug into the electric grid like a golf cart. Instead, it uses a small gasoline engine to effi ciently convert the energy from fossil fuels into electricity, which then is stored in batteries and later used to propel the car.


In addition to using gasoline to generate electricity for powering the car, the Prius use regenerative braking to convert the energy normally lost as heat during braking into electricity that can be stored in the battery and used to later propel the vehicle.


“I get 40 to 42 miles per gallon driving around town in my 2007 Prius,” Cindy Downes of Broken Arrow said. “I regularly drive to Dallas and get 50 miles per gallon on those trips. It now has 100,000 miles on it. I plan to keep it until it wears out, then buy another one.” Other manufacturers such as Honda have jumped on the hybrid band- wagon with their Insight, Civic and CR-Z. Yet these hybrids still use gaso- line to generate most of the electricity needed for forward motion. You


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