Smart Energy: April 2017

Douglas County Smart Energy has spawned an electric vehicle subgroup, investigating best ways to encourage purchase and use of electric cars in Douglas County. According to Drive Oregon, there are now over 11,000 electric cars in Oregon, and almost 2,000 in Southwestern Oregon.

Electric cars cost less to operate. At average Oregon utility rates, driving on electric energy costs three cents per mile, compared to 15 cents per mile for gasoline fuel. Over the life of an electric car, a consumer could save up to $13,000 in fuel costs. As there are fewer moving parts, less maintenance, such as oil changes, will be required adding to savings.

Electric vehicles have lower global warming emissions than average gasoline powered vehicles. How much lower depends on how cleanly your local electric utility is producing the electricity. An electric vehicle adds to our energy independence and compliments our commitment to renewable energy such as solar and wind power.

Besides all these rational good things about the electrics, they are fun to drive! Acceleration is much faster than a gas powered engine, lending to that sports car feel. The quiet of electric vehicles is also appreciated by many owners.

Why doesn’t everyone drive one now? Something called “range anxiety.” How far can I drive before a battery recharge is needed? Most pure electrics go 60 to 80 miles before needing a recharge, but the Teslas and the new Chevrolet Bolt will go over 200 miles before you need to look for a charger.

The new Chevrolet Bolt and the Model 3 Tesla will sell for under $40,000. There also are plug-in electric vehicles, like the Chevrolet Volt and Prius Prime, that have a small gasoline engine to keep the battery charged, thus extending the range of the vehicle.

While most people will usually charge at home, an option to charge at work, shopping or on longer trips is a game changer for those considering an electric car purchase. City of Roseburg manager Lance Colley is hoping to find locations and funding to install some local charging stations to encourage tourism spending and help local shoppers and downtown workers with car charging.

Also, those in townhouses and apartments may not have an option to charge at home, so a charger by their workplace could be the ticket to their new electric. Funding is forecast to be available this year for fleets and employers to install charging stations.

Charging stations at shopping areas, parks, motels and large workplaces are seen to be key to encouraging the electric car transformation. Dave Reeck, of our Douglas County Smart Energy Group, worked for General Motors for decades. His last work assignment was the introduction of the Chev Volt, and leading the electric car charging infrastructure team in China. He has been working with the Umpqua Basin Economic Alliance to identify funding and good public locations for car chargers. David led the charge to submitting a proposal in January for the Volkswagon “Electrify America” project, which will spend 2 billion in the United States for fast chargers, and electric vehicle education over the next 10 years.

In another effort, Diana Knous, regional business manager for Pacific Power, is now in the planning process to install fast chargers in their electric utility district, hopefully to include Douglas County.

To learn more about these trends, come to the Earth Day Event on April 22 at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

If you would like to help with these efforts, call Al Walker at 541-496-3987, or e-mail at

Al owns a 2013 Chevrolt Volt. He is a retired solar contractor who charges his car with solar electricity.

For tips on other ways to save and produce energy, visit

Douglas County Smart Energy is a project of the Douglas County Global Warming Coalition. For more information about the coalition, call 541-672-9819, or on Facebook at