DENC Volunteer Discusses Driving Electric and Volunteering - Drive Electric Northern Colorado

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DENC Volunteer Discusses Driving Electric and Volunteering

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The following is a blog written by one of DENC’s volunteers, Calvin Holic.

Hey all! Calvin here. I’ve been involved with DENC since the summer of 2014 when I moved out to Colorado, and wanted to tell you about my experience as a volunteer! Here’s a little background first:

In my junior year in college (back in New York at the University at Buffalo), I joined an organization called Engineers for a Sustainable World, or ESW for short. I was working toward my Computer Engineering degree and always felt like it was our collective responsibility to help take care of the planet, which motivated me to join ESW. My involvement with ESW over the past 6 years really helped to shape some of my core interests and passions with respect to sustainability.

One of those passions, as you may have guessed, is in electric vehicles. I remember thinking to myself one night in grad school at Purdue, “I’ve always dreamed of having a really fun car, but I don’t think I could live with having a sports car that just guzzles gas.” It was on this fateful night that I discovered Tesla. This was in 2012 – the Roadster had been on the road for a couple years, and the Model S was just rolling out. “Wow,” I thought, “that’s something I can get behind!”

After I graduated from Purdue, I moved out to Fort Collins to work as a computer engineer for AMD (Advanced Micro Devices). I joined the DENC MeetUp group to meet new people and to explore my new home, and came across DENC’s EV Enthusiast group. The first time I went to a meeting, I talked to Mark – a member who had converted an old VW Beetle to electric. These were my kind of people! I’ve stuck around ever since.

As some more background, I have a slight moped problem. In 2013, I lived with some guys who each had their own moped, and soon enough I was hooked. Now, I have 2 working mopeds, 1 very broken moped, and 2 others that are a little more interesting. Given my interest in EVs and mopeds, I decided to embark upon creating my own electric version. I bought an old Sachs model and a buggy Chinese electric scooter, and set upon converting the Sachs to electric, using the Chinese scooter for parts and for reference. I’m not quite done yet, but you can track my progress on electrosachs.tumblr.com!

Though it is common to see older EV enthusiasts, I am one of the young professionals that is a frequent member. I don’t own a home where I can install a level 2 charger, which is a common concern about EV ownership. I also don’t have a second car, so I have to rely on one car for everything. As a young professional, new EVs are expensive, and the used market for EVs is very new and still small. Unfortunately, all of these things can make getting an EV more challenging for someone in my shoes.

However, the perfect opportunity came when DENC put together its group buy program.* I’ve always been a fan of the i3. It’s got a funky design, but I love it. Plus it’s a blast to drive. What really put me over the edge selecting the i3 was BMW’s commitment to sustainable design. Production facilities are powered by renewable energy, the dashboard is made from sustainably-sourced eucalyptus wood, and the body is made of carbon fiber to keep the weight down. These are all things that make an engineer who is passionate about sustainability geek out. Not only does BMW engineering focus on these things, but the staff at Co’s are well-educated about every aspect of the i3, and EV ownership in Northern Colorado. They share in the excitement of it all, and many of their staff frequently also attend EV enthusiast meetings as volunteers and supporters of the DENC program.

All in all, EV advocacy comes down to putting your money where your mouth is, so I pulled the trigger! I purchased a 2015 BMW i3 with a range extender. The range extender is an on-board, 650cc BMW motorcycle engine that runs when the battery is almost depleted, and is used to charge the batteries so the electric motor can still run the car.

I’m two months in with the i3 so far, and it’s been awesome. And now that I’ve got some experience under my belt, I would like to also address some of my previously-mentioned concerns about owning an EV:

  • Charging: I have been using a standard 110V plug to charge. Fortunately, I rent a house, so access to a standard 110V outlet isn’t an issue for me. A full charge certainly takes longer than it would with a Level II charger, about 18 hours, but since I usually only use 25-50 percent of the battery in any given day, it hasn’t been an issue.**
  • Range: The range extender turned on for the first time two months after I purchased the i3, and only for its automatic maintenance cycle, because the engine hadn’t been used in so long. That in itself helps deconstruct the myth that we need indefinite range, all the time. As I was driving today, the engine turned on for the second time, for the last mile of over 60 from Fort Collins to the Denver International Airport. I then parked at Canopy Airport Parking, where they offer free charging for electric vehicles. The takeaway from my experience so far is that for my daily routine, the i3’s range is more than enough. To top it off, Co’s has a BMW X3 dedicated to i3 owners to use for free as a loaner gas vehicle for up to 14 days a year. Looks like that road trip to the Grand Canyon/Yosemite/you-name-it isn’t going to be a problem.
  • Cost: With the DENC group buy discount, federal and state tax credits, and a financing agreement in which I sell back the i3 to BMW after 30 months, the cost became much more reasonable. I figure the additional cost to me to drive the i3 instead of my Mazda over 30 months will be just $2500-$3000. Not too shabby on a car with an MSRP just shy of $50,000.

Two months in, the i3 has been awesome, even for someone who doesn’t have the perfect circumstances for EV ownership. While getting access to even a 110V plug might be a challenge to some renters, those who can should think twice before discounting an EV as an option for them!

To learn more about how you can become a volunteer with Drive Electric Northern Colorado, visit our website or contact Tim Prior at tprior@electrificationcoalition.org. To join our EV Enthusiasts group that meets once a week, visit our Facebook.

** There are numerous Level II charging stations around Fort Collins, Loveland, and Denver, so I can also top off the car if I visit the movie theater or grab a cup of coffee. Click here for map.