First Goal is 50 New Electric Vehicles in Town
By Jan Kruse. Photos by Emily Woods.
BDE co-chair Marty Bittner (left) and volunteer Ade Baptista check out a Tesla Model X electric car.
Experts predict that electric vehicles (EVs) are the wave of the future, but for Belmont, the future is now. Belmont Drives Electric (BDE) is a new community-driven program to promote the benefits of EVs, and is supported by the Belmont Energy Committee, Belmont Light, Sustainable Belmont, and other Belmont EV enthusiasts.
Why Promote Electric in Belmont Now?
In 2016, the Belmont Energy Committee updated the assessment of the town’s aggregate carbon footprint. That analysis found that transportation is a top source of heat-trapping greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change (see chart below).
According to energy committee member James Booth, “Vehicles currently account for more than one-third of Belmont’s total emissions. Switching to EVs will result in greenhouse gas emissions that are less than half of those produced by driving an average, new, gasoline-powered midsize car.
NOTE: The next Belmont Drives Electric Ride & Drive event is Saturday, Nov. 12, 1:30–4:30 PM at the Belmont High School cafeteria and parking lot.
Belmont Light employees Aidan Leary (left) and Heather Fisk answer questions about the program at a Belmont Drives Electric ride-and-drive community event.
For a limited time, Belmont residents can get haggle-free, pre-negotiated deals when leasing all-electric vehicles or plug-in hybrid EVs through participating local car dealerships. Residents can receive additional money-saving incentives on charging equipment and overnight charging. Belmont Light will give a discount of up to $250 off (about a 50% discount) of fast, level-2 chargers (customers can choose from two models) and rebates when EV owners charge their vehicles between 10 PM and 9 AM. The discount for overnight charging amounts to approximately 15% off of the town’s standard retail rates.
“Electric vehicle programs that encourage customers to be cognizant of when they charge are a natural fit for all electric utilities that prioritize energy efficiency, rate stability, and the interests of their customers,” says Belmont Light general manager Jim Palmer. “Belmont Light is truly excited to partner with a talented, passionate group of residents on this campaign.”
The BDE committee will also help find a certified electrician to install and connect a level 2 charger to a Belmont customer’s electric panel. A program-eligible level 1 charger that can connect into a regular 120-volt outlet is also available for free through Belmont Light.
“Belmont Light is truly excited to partner with a talented, passionate group of residents on this campaign.”
Additionally, Massachusetts residents and business owners are eligible for a state rebate (while funding lasts) to help offset the cost of an EV lease or purchase. The state MOR-EV rebate ranges from $1,000 to $2,500, depending on the EV’s battery size. And there is currently a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 off the price of a car. (If leasing, the federal tax credit goes to the leasing company, but the savings are typically passed on to the customer as lower lease rates.) There’s also a federal EV charging infrastructure tax credit for both residents and businesses.
And, as with the Belmont Goes Solar program, local resident EV enthusiasts are available to answer residents’ and business owners’ questions.
During the six-month pilot program, which ends in March 2017, BDE’s goal is to help 50 Belmont drivers make the switch from gasoline cars to electric. If the program meets its goal, it will result in a reduction of more than 100 tons of CO2 emissions and more than $8,000 of dollar savings in fuel annually.
Lease or Buy?
Because EV technology and batteries are rapidly improving (a battery accounts for a third of the cost of building an electric car; last year the price of an EV battery fell 35%, according to Bloomberg), the BDE program focuses on leasing of vehicles. Currently, some EV models will run up to 100 or more miles per charge, which is plenty for most households’ daily needs.
In fact, recent studies conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Institute for Data found that 87% of current daily vehicle use could be provided by EVs already on the market. What’s more, when operating and maintenance costs are included in a vehicle’s price, autos emitting less carbon are the most cost-effective, on a per-mile basis.
Expert opinions aside, does the EV hype match reality? Belmont residents Claus and Barbara Becker leased their first EV in 2013, and they now have two Chevy Volts. “We initially got an EV because we decided we needed to do our bit to combat climate change and the experience has been fantastic,” says Claus.
Almost 40 people test drove EVs over the two-day event.
The Beckers’ biggest concern was battery degradation, but they say that hasn’t been an issue. The hatchback Volt is roomy enough for their family of four, yet it is not a big car. They have used PlugShare.com to find charging stations but running out of electricity while driving was never a concern. Why? The Volt has a back-up system: a gas engine that generates electricity. (Chevrolet estimates a 420-mile range with a full charge and full tank of gas).
“EVs are winners, and not just because of their environmental benefits,” he says. “They’re inexpensive to maintain, fun to drive, and very quiet. There’s instant torque and the one-pedal driving is addictive.”
Meanwhile, town government is starting to awaken to the benefits of EVs. At press time, the town indicated it might be applying for an EV and a public charging station through the state grant program, according to town administrator David Kale. Belmont Light has also applied for a state grant for an EV and a public charging station that will be located at its headquarters on Prince Street.
Visit BDE’s website to sign up for a no-obligation test-drive of an electric vehicle, find out about upcoming events, and check for updated incentives at: www.belmontdriveselectric.org
Jan Kruse is a member of Sustainable Belmont and the Belmont Drives Electric steering committee. She drives a 2016 Toyota Prius Eco.
See a related article, “Electric Vehicles: What You Need to Know” in the May/June 2016 issue of the Belmont Citizens Forum Newsletter.
Frequently Asked Questions About EVs
Aren’t EV batteries harmful for the environment?
The manufacture of an EV battery increases greenhouse gas emissions by 15% but this is typically offset within the first 6–16 months of driving because of the car’s reduced CO2 emissions.
How much does it cost to charge an EV?
You can expect to pay the equivalent of $1.43 per gallon of gas if charging overnight at home.
How long does it take to charge an EV?
It depends on the battery size and whether you use a smart (level 2) charger or the slower level 1. With a level 2 charger, a medium-sized battery can be fully charged in about 4–8 hours.
What’s the cost to get a charger installed?
Installing a wall-mounted level 2 (240-volt) can cost from $300 to $2,500 (if adding a sub-panel or upgrading the electric service). The typical cost for the most common wall-mounted installation is $450 to $600. The slower level 1 charger can simply be plugged into a standard 120-volt outlet in your home.
Do EVs work in the cold weather?
Yes. All cars lose some fuel efficiency in cold weather but it’s not an issue for most EV drivers. The Union of Concerned Scientists addresses the issue: http://blog.ucsusa.org/dave-reichmuth/electric-cars-cold-weather-temperatures.
To learn more, visit:
Wall Street Journal: http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-electric-cars-will-be-here-sooner-than-you-think-1472402674
MIT study: http://news.mit.edu/2016/study-finds-low-emissions-vehicles-less-expensive-overall-0927