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.
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.
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
It’s an exciting time to be studying electric vehicles. From companies pledging to transition their fleets to auto manufacturers promising new models, momentum around the transition to electric cars is building.
A number of announcements came out about electric vehicles in the past few weeks:
In addition, over the past year every major auto manufacturer made public commitments to support electric vehicles. Take a look at the hundreds of new electric cars that will be hitting the market in the next few years:
For the graphic we chose to include models from recognizable brands that are widely available in the United States. I did take a look at all car manufacturers across the globe and counted 222 electric car models that will be available in 2025.
That’s a lot of cars to test drive! With over 200 new electric cars by 2025, from compact cars to pick-ups and SUVs. Soon there will be an electric car for everyone. Now that we know there are plenty of new models available soon, next time I’m going to dive into the Volkswagen emissions settlement and outline key actions we can take to support the infrastructure EV’s require.
September was a busy month for me and RENEW Wisconsin. I attended more than 30 meetings, seminars and site visits all over the state. Many of them involved learning about Wisconsin’s exciting and fast growing renewable energy industry and building relationships with the talented people who help make it go. There were also numerous meetings with state and local policy makers as well as the leadership of many influential trade associations, unions and advocacy groups. Working together, we are starting to develop ideas for the 2019-20 legislative session that will help advance the use of clean, renewable energy that will create jobs, economic growth and save money for everyone!
Customers First! Power Lunch – Go Electric!
September got off with a “high voltage” start at the Customers First! Coalition Power Lunch, with the theme of “Go Electric”. Over 120 attendees learned about the latest developments and benefits of electric vehicles and “efficient electrification” – replacing direct fossil fuel use with electricity in a way that reduces overall emissions and energy costs. Efficient Electrification holds significant potential benefits for Wisconsin customers, utilities, and environmental advocates alike. PSC Chairman Lon Roberts gave the opening keynote speech and several panels with utility executives and state legislators Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit) and Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin) dove deeper into the technical and policy issues that will need to be addressed to keep up with these fast-growing trends. The program was interesting enough that WisconsinEye, the not-for-profit State Capitol broadcast network, recorded the event.
Emmi Roth Solar Panels
On September 11th I joined State Representative Travis Tranel at the Emmi Roth Cheese plant in Platteville to cut the ribbon on their new 1,600 panel solar system. The system will provide 15% of their electric use. “There are many companies trying to live up to sustainability goals,” said Jim Pullen, General Manager at Eagle Point Solar, who installed the system. “Emmi Roth is part of a group that actually makes these goals a reality and invests in the environment.” The company also recently invested in a new anaerobic digester at the same location in Platteville, Wisconsin, in an effort to lower operational costs and remain environmentally responsible for the waste being produced during their cheesemaking operations. According to Tim Omer, president and managing director at Emmi Roth, “We have a very strong commitment to sustainability. We want to have the lowest possible carbon footprint we could have in the industry.”
Butler Ridge Wind Farm
On September 17th, Pauline Meyer and Nic Cravillion, policy staff from Congressman Mike Gallagher’s office, and Dodge County Board member Russ Kattke joined me at a tour of the Butler Ridge Wind Energy Center in Dodge County. This was a behind the scenes tour of one of Wisconsin’s premier wind farms and was hosted by NextEra Energy Resources. Butler Ridge’s 36 turbines generate 54-megawatts of clean, renewable energy to power more than 13,500 homes. Wisconsin based Faith Technologies, who installed the ground grid and in-tower wiring, and The Boldt Construction Company were two of the prime contractors on the project.
Conservative Energy Forum Summit on “Advancing Wisconsin’s Clean Energy Economy” and Clean Energy Week Proclamation by Governor Walker
On Thursday, September 27th the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum hosted a summit onclean energy developments in Wisconsin. PSC Commissioner Lon Roberts opened the meeting discussing the bright future of renewable energy. Several guest panels discussed Utility Scale Clean Energy – A Turning Point for Wisconsin Utilities, and Decentralizing Energy & Encouraging Private Sector Investment. Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch also spoke about the great things happening for clean energy in Wisconsin and how renewable energy fits so well into a conservative political viewpoint. At the end of her talk, Kleefisch presented a proclamation from Governor Scott Walker designating September 24th to September 28th as Clean Energy Week in Wisconsin. This echoed the clean energy week activities around the country.