RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Recap of January Energy Summits

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Recap of January Energy Summits

January was a busy month bopping between energy summits. On January 17th we had our Renewable Energy Summit in Madison and January 24 – 25 the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters held the Powering Local Leadership Summit in Appleton.

Both summits had electric vehicle panels, and both were awesome.

Renewable Energy Summit: Electric Vehicles

This was the first time we had an electric vehicle session at the Renewable Energy Summit. Our space ended up being standing room only so I’d say it was a success. We emphasized the benefits that electric vehicles provide, no matter what business you are in.

Dan Steinhart and Mike Cornell kicked off the presentations, representing Arch Electric EV, the recently incorporated subsidiary company of Arch Electric. Arch Electric EV will house their electric vehicle charging station business. Arch is primarily a solar photovoltaic (PV) installer that has recently been in contact with over 100 businesses to gain a better perspective on the market and demand for electric vehicle (EV) recharging infrastructure. Their motto is that PV + EV = Sustainable Transportation.

Becky Cooper from Bounce Milwaukee shared her family business’s experiences with pizza delivery electric vehicles.  In addition to providing family-fun of all kinds, Bounce Milwaukee owns electric Leafs that they use to deliver pizzas. Their rooftop solar array and electric pizza ovens mean their pizzas are both made and delivered on sunshine. Bounce Milwaukee uses electric cars because they’re affordable, efficient, and provide a better customer experience, in addition to boosting their brand as an early adopter of clean energy technology!

We also heard from Mahanth Joishy about the City of Madison’s commitment to low emission transportation. The city currently owns 3 Chevy Bolts and acquired a grant to purchase 20 more in 2019 and 2020. Additionally, the city has a biodiesel pilot project, 6 hybrid police vehicles, anti-idling technology on ambulances, is working on specs for compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks, and is outfitting vehicles with GPS tracking to even further optimize routes and decrease fuel use.

This session was a really excellent exercise in seeing the various ways that electric transportation can benefit all different kinds of organizations. From companies already invested in the energy transition to local family-centric businesses, and even local governments, there’s a lot to be gained from electric transportation.

Check out the slides and audio to learn more.

Powering Local Leadership Summit: Preparing Your Community for Electric Transportation

The Powering Local Leadership session had a more focused goal: provide local leaders the tools to prepare their communities for the transition to electric transportation. I kicked things off with an overview of the myriad of benefits of electric vehicles (to name a few: cheaper to operate, no tailpipe pollution, quiet, fun to drive, and convenient to refuel).

Ashwat Narayanan from 1000 Friends of Wisconsin reiterated the point that electric vehicles can solve many problems. They are not, however, a magic bullet to solving all of our transportation issues. We have to prioritize people – bikers, bus riders, and car sharers – over actual cars.

Jeff Springer from Dairyland Power Cooperative emphasized that electric vehicles have both an awareness issue and a rural issue. We need to help electricity coops through the process of getting the word out about electric vehicles, transitioning their fleets, and installing charging stations in their area. Rural solutions are also necessary – pickup trucks, SUVs, and farm equipment – all of which is coming to the market soon.

Finally, Peter Skopec from WISPIRG gave hope that with sales at an all-time high, communities really do need to be preparing for thousands of electric vehicles on their streets soon. The charging infrastructure needs to be built out, especially for folks who live in multifamily units and urban areas without access to overnight charging.

The audience had great questions that ran the gamut from gas station interest in electrification (there is some interest), to Volkswagen Settlement Funding (a huge opportunity for building electric vehicle infrastructure), and if mechanics need additional training to work on electric cars (yes, we want mechanics to be comfortable working on these cars).

I learned a ton from moderating these panels! Thanks to the panelists for joining me, and thank you for reading about them here. For those of you who couldn’t make it, I hope you can join us next year!

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: 2019 Preview: More than a Dozen Electric Cars Coming Soon

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: 2019 Preview: More than a Dozen Electric Cars Coming Soon

Back in October I wrote a blog, Momentum is Building, about the hundreds of new electric cars that will hit the market in the next few years. Then, in the last blog I talked about how the market for electric cars in the US is exploding, up 80% from 2017. The result? Lots of electric cars coming to market in 2019.

Now, we have a preview of cars that will arrive in 2019. I read almost a dozen articles that previewed the 2019 electric car market. Here is my summary, thanks in large part to Green Car Reports.

2019 Electric Car Preview

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric
When: Any day
Range: 258 miles
Price: $37,495
What’s cool: Finalist in Green Car Reports’ Best Car to Buy competition for 2019.

2019 Kia Niro EV
When: Expected in February
Range: 239 miles
Price: $38,000
What’s cool: Completes the line-up of ecofriendly Niro models by joining the hybrid and PHEV models.

2019 Nissan Leaf Plus
When: Spring 2019
Range: 226 miles
Price: ~$30,000
What’s cool: Improved acceleration and faster charging means this isn’t your typical Leaf

2019 Audi e-tron quattro
When: Second quarter 2019
Range: 248 miles
Price: $75,795
What’s cool: Another electric SUV!

2020 Porsche Taycan
When: Late 2019
Range: 300 miles
Price: $90,000
What’s cool: Can receive 240 miles of charge in only 10 minutes

Additionally, the 2019 Volkswagen ID will arrive in late 2019, but it’s only slated to appear in Europe.

Ford will also have a 2020 electric SUV, which is rumored to have a 300-mile range. More details could be announced in 2019, though the vehicle is not likely to be available for purchase before 2020.

Other models that may be out by the end of the year include: The 2020 Kia Soul EV, 2020 BMW iX3, 2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC, 2020 Polestar 2 and 2020 Mini Cooper Electric. Details are scant so far, but I’ll keep you updated if I hear more about pricing, range, or if/when they’ll be available in the US.

My Analysis: We’re moving in the right direction 

Folks who have been waiting for an electric SUV or another option for an electric car should be extremely excited by these new options! The Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3 now have real competition from several vehicles with comparable range and prices, like the Kona, Niro, and Leaf Plus.

My concern is the lack of lower priced options. However, if the Leaf Plus does end up coming in near $30,000, then prices are moving in the right direction. Still, that’s a fairly expensive car. Electric vehicles need to be accessible to the average car buyer in order to reach market penetration. We aren’t quite there yet, but I’m hopeful we will be soon.

As first and second-generation electric car drivers swap their ride for one of these new options, it will put more used electric vehicles into the market.  These cars will have a lower upfront price, making them more accessible for the average car buyer. More on this topic in a future blog post.

Until then, head to your local dealer and test drive some electric vehicles. Let me know how it goes!

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Record Breaking 2018

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Record Breaking 2018

2018 was a year of tremendous growth in the electric vehicle market. We saw new electric cars released (and one of our favorites get cancelled), two manufacturers hit the 200,000-vehicle tax credit cap, and across the county we hit record sales numbers. A few highlights include:

It’s safe to say the electric vehicle market is officially on the rise. We ended the year with 361,307 electric cars sold across the country, making up 6% of all passenger car sales!

2 Manufacturers Hit Tax Credit Cap

Tesla and GM have both sold over 200,000 electric vehicles. A great start down the adoption curve for electric cars, but also a signal that customers won’t receive their full tax credit on these cars any more.

After a manufacturer has sold 200,000 electric vehicles, the consumer tax incentive is reduced for that manufacturer’s vehicles. The full tax credit, $7500, remains for the rest of the quarter in which they hit the cap, plus the next quarter. After that, the tax credit is halved for 6 months, then halved again for the next 6 months, before expiring entirely.

Tesla hit the 200,000-vehicle cap in July, 2018 so their tax credit went from the full $7,500 to $3750 on January 1. From July 1 to the end of the year it’s halved again, to $1,875. Tesla buyers won’t see any tax credit in 2020.

GM hit the 200,000 mark in December, 2019 due to their all-electric Chevy Bolt and popular, although discontinued, plug-in hybrid, the Chevy Volt. GM vehicles can receive the full credit until March 31st. From April 1 to September 30 buyers will get the halved credit of $3750, and then $1875 until March 31st 2020.

Tesla made for a record-setting December

In December, 49,900 electric vehicles were sold – 10% of passenger car sales that month! 50% of those sales were thanks to the Tesla Model 3. Tesla pushed hard for customers to order their car before the end of the year because of the tax credit deadline. They went so far as to keep stores open until midnight on New Year’s Eve to get as many customers into inventoried vehicles as possible.

What it means for 2019

2019 is an excellent year to go electric, especially if you have your eye on a Tesla or GM model and want to capitalize on the tax credits. Manufacturers have been pushing to extend the tax credits, though with limited success. Their reason being that it’s unfair to penalize the manufacturers that are first to market by reducing the consumer incentive to purchase their vehicles. And I agree – why punish the innovators?  I’m expecting to see more activity around the subject in 2019.

There are also a number of new electric vehicles coming to market. Hopefully we’ll see more SUV and truck options hit the streets in the next few months. From Kia and Hyundai, to BMW and newcomers like Rivian and Faraday Future, it’s shaping up to be an exciting year for electric car debuts.

In the next blog, I’ll do roundup of new models that will be available in 2019.

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Racine Getting Electric Buses

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Racine Getting Electric Buses

Racine is set to get 6 new electric buses!

A few weeks ago I posted a Volkswagen Settlement blog, in which I reviewed the Volkswagen Settlement and how Wisconsin allocated two-thirds of our settlement funding. A large portion of the funding, $32 million, is going to the Transit Capital Assistance Program for cities and counties to replace aging diesel buses.

Transit Capital Assistance Grant Recipients

The grant recipients have been announced! $32 million of settlement funding is set to replace a total of 58 polluting diesel buses in 9 cities and 1 county.

At least 6 of those buses will be electric, all in Racine. Appleton, Eau Caire, Green Bay, Janesville, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee County, Sheboygan, and Wausau are also award recipients.

Per the award announcement, Racine is set to receive $6.2 million for the 6 buses and overnight charging stations. Racine also wanted to install a fast charger toward the end of the route out to the “Wisconn Valley.” The awards aren’t yet final, giving parties time to negotiate grant terms.

Racine’s Electric Buses

Racine’s application states, “the new buses will attract commuters by providing a quiet, high tech experience commensurate with the new economic opportunities and technologies in the service area.” Of course, by “new economic opportunities and technologies,” they are referring to Foxconn. Which makes sense – a key aspect of the competitive grant program was to connect employees to employers. Foxconn voiced their support by signing on to Racine’s application.

It will likely be more than a year before the new buses are operating. Once they are in operation, the new electric buses will replace the oldest, most polluting, diesel buses in Racine’s fleet.

Benefits of Electric Buses

No matter where they operate, electric buses are a win for all stakeholders.

  • There’s no diesel smell and no loud engine. Electric buses are more comfortable to ride in!
  • Electric buses are cheaper to operate. Lower fuel costs and less maintenance means extremely reduced costs to operate.
  • Fewer emissions mean a cleaner community for everyone. Whether you are a bus rider or not, everyone will benefit from the reduced emissions from switching to electric buses.
  • Clean, electric buses can be powered by renewable energy. We can create the energy to run our transit right here in Wisconsin instead of sending billions of dollars out of state for fossil fuels.

I’m excited to see more electric buses being added to transit fleets in Wisconsin. They truly are a win for all transportation stakeholders – the riders, owners, and community at large.


Our Vision for a “Powered Up” Dane County

Our Vision for a “Powered Up” Dane County

Over the past three months, RENEW Wisconsin has been participating in an exciting and audacious challenge to develop ways to bolster the middle class of Dane County.  UW-Madison was selected as one of four universities nationally to participate in a competition sponsored and funded by the Schmidt Futures Foundation, led by Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt. UW’s program is called “Dream Up Wisconsin.”

The challenge is to increase the net income of 10,000 Dane County Families by 10%.

Our Plan:  to “Power Up” Dane County families and communities with clean energy!  We were one of 46 original applicants, and we were fortunate to be one of 11 applicants to receive $10,000 to more fully flesh out our proposal.

Our vision for Power Up Dane County is to create buzz about clean energy and provide community members the tools to adopt clean energy to reduce their monthly bills, create new jobs, and build a healthier community. We want everyone to have access to clean energy, from efficient homes to solar panels on their roof, and electric vehicles in their garage.

However, many middle class families don’t know that these technologies are available to them. Power Up is our idea to change that.

The program would start by empowering households to take control of their electricity bills using “Neighborhood Champions.”  These champions will be excited members of the community who will help households install efficiency kits and the home energy sensor, Sense. Sense measures electricity consumption in real-time, and gives users a visual indication of their energy use through an app. By learning which devices in their home use the most electricity, residents can unplug energy hogs and save money.

After they have more efficient homes and a better understanding of their energy use, we want to connect participants with solar installers, home weatherization technicians, car dealerships that specialize in electric vehicles, and additional rebates for their clean energy investments.

Power Up will make it desirable, easy, and financially feasible for participants to adopt clean energy, like solar panels and electric cars.  These clean energy technologies will reduce air pollution and save families thousands of dollars per year on their energy bills.

Power Up is competing against 11 other proposals for the top 3 spots. Should we be selected for the next round of competition, we will pitch our proposal to Schmidt Futures in Arizona in late January.

We believe in a future that is “Powered Up” with clean energy technology. That future includes millions of dollars of in energy bill and healthcare savings, new clean energy jobs, and a healthy and prosperous middle class. The momentum around clean energy is building by the day. With Wisconsin utilities, counties, and municipalities committing to 100% renewable energy, we know the future of Wisconsin will be one with extensive clean energy adoption. Power Up is one vision for how to get there.


RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: 1000 Miles in an Electric Car

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: 1000 Miles in an Electric Car

Last weekend, I drove Bergstrom Chevrolet’s all-electric Bolt from Madison to Detroit, and back. Over 1000 miles, through 4 states, in sun and snow, the Bolt and I spent a lot of time together. Hopefully you saw some of the updates on Twitter!

The Bolt has a range of 230 miles in perfect conditions. That means if it’s not cold and you’re driving carefully in the city you can get over 200 miles on one full battery charge. Unfortunately, it was in the 30s and I was mostly driving interstate highways, so 200 miles on one charge was not an option. I planned my stops assuming I could get about 150 miles per charge.

Madison to Detroit

I set off at 7:30 on Thursday morning, charged up to 80% from a pit stop at an EVgo fast charger in Monona. After about 2 hours and 120 miles, I stopped at the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, just outside Chicago to charge at another EVgo fast charger.

After 45 minutes of checking emails and walking around the mall, I got a text from EVgo saying my charge was complete. I set off to my next stop: the Lincoln Oasis in South Holland, Illinois, which was about 50 miles away. The Bolt’s battery wasn’t drained yet but there aren’t many fast chargers on the west side of Michigan, so I wanted to have as much charge as possible before leaving Illinois. This turned out to be a good choice. Inside the Oasis, I ate lunch and worked, and packed up 45 minutes later when I got the text that my car was charged up.

My next stop was in Kalamazoo, Michigan (where I was born!) to charge at a fast charger at a car dealership. Unfortunately, this fast charger was out of order, and it was the only one within 50 miles. Turns out the charger is brand new – it was just installed at the dealership for the launch of the Jaguar I-Pace all-electric car. There was a part recall that meant it was not working yet. Bummer. But, the dealership was very gracious, they let me use their level 2 charger for free and even invited me inside for a cup coffee and to use their lobby’s Wi-Fi. I hung out there for about 2 hours which added 40 miles to the battery.

At this point, I had 200 miles under my belt and had charged at 3 fast chargers and 1 level 2 charger. At 4:30pm, I left the dealership with 70 miles on the battery and a better understanding of the realities of taking an all-electric car on long road trips.

Next stop, Grand Rapids, which is about 50 miles north of Kalamazoo. My plan was to pick up my sister, who lives in the area, and quickly plug into a fast charger before heading out to Detroit. The only fast charger in Grand Rapids is also at a dealership, and also affected by the part recall. So, with 20 miles left on the battery, my sister and I resolved to get dinner and spend the night at her apartment with the Bolt plugged into a level 2 charger overnight. No harm, no foul! I was disappointed I couldn’t do the drive in one day, but knew it would be an easy 150 miles from Grand Rapids to Detroit in the morning.

On Friday morning, we woke up to the first snowfall of the year! Together, my sister and I drove from Grand Rapids to Detroit, and stopped to charge up in front of a beautiful, snow-laden fall tree.

And Back

I made almost the exact same stops on the way back. Creature of habit, no? It was an easy drive and actually much quicker because I didn’t stop to charge at the level 2 in Kalamazoo. I took a shorter way from Grand Rapids to Chicago, which avoided Kalamazoo entirely. Live and learn.

Conclusions after 1000 miles in a Chevy Bolt

So, 1000 miles later, my conclusions?

  1. It’s totally doable to take an electric car on a road trip. This was a far cry from the fastest I’ve driven from Madison to Detroit and back but it was enjoyable. The Bolt is fun to drive and I had an excuse to stop along the way which meant I could walk around a get a real meal instead of being confined to a car for 7 hours straight.
  2. With that said, for now, I suggest renting a car or using a plug-in hybrid if you’re short on time. Get an electric car to use around town and rent a car for longer trips. You’ll still save money in the long run, too.
  3. EVgo chargers rock. They all have human names, like “Paul” and “Stewart,” which I stopped at, which is fun. More importantly, they are easy to use and charged the Bolt within 45 minutes. Also, EVgo provided us a $60 credit so all of my charging was free! I didn’t use that to inform my charging decisions though, EVgo just had the most convenient locations. Thanks, EVgo.
  4. As always, there’s more work to be done! The network of DC fast chargers in the Midwest is growing, but it’s not where it needs to be for convenient long road trips. We need to work with other Midwest states to create a better network of charging stations in convenient locations so we don’t have to think twice about using an electric car for a road trip. Luckily, Volkswagen funding is available to do just that.
  5. I really dislike driving my gasoline car now. After driving the Bolt for almost a week, my car screams “inefficient.” It bugs me that when I slow down the energy is lost instead of regenerating the battery, and the delay between pressing the gas and actually moving forward seems more obvious now.

What are you driving to your Thanksgiving celebrations? If it’s electric, take my virtual high-five, and a challenge to get at least one family member to drive your car around the block to see how great it is. For the rest of us driving gasoline cars, here’s to future years where we’ll be the ones showing off our electric ride. Happy Thanksgiving!

A special “Thank You” to Bergstrom Chevrolet for letting us use their Bolt.