Electric car charger

An electric car charges at the Newark Train Station.

Editor’s note: This is the first edition of a new monthly “Conservation Corner” column, provided by Newark’s Conservation Advisory Commission.

The city of Newark has announced its intention to begin buying electric vehicles (EVs) as some of its city vehicles come up for scheduled replacement. This decision is based on solid economics as well as a desire to contribute to a cleaner, healthier city.

Not only do EVs produce no tailpipe emissions, they are cheaper to fuel than gasoline-powered vehicles. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the local cost of fueling a vehicle with electricity is less than half of the cost of fueling a similar vehicle with gasoline. At current prices, EV drivers in Delaware are paying the equivalent of $1.11 per gallon to fuel their cars.

Maintenance costs for EVs are also significantly lower. EVs have fewer moving parts, no exhaust system, and no need to change oil, fan belts, air filters, gaskets or spark plugs. Tire rotation is the only service needed on most models for the first couple of years.

EVs can be slightly more expensive to purchase at the outset, depending on the availability of state and federal incentive programs, and some investment is also needed to install charging stations. Over the life of the vehicle, however, the city will more than offset those costs with savings on fuel and maintenance.

These savings can make EVs a smart economic choice for the average driver as well.

The most common anxiety about EVs is their range, or the number of miles they can travel before needing to be recharged. A growing number of models now top 250 miles on a single charge, which is more than adequate for most commutes. Most electricians can easily install 240-volt equipment capable of providing a full charge overnight in a residential garage.

The network of public charging stations is growing, too, and drivers can “plug in” to that network using cell phone apps such as PlugShare and OpenCharge that guide EV drivers to the nearest station, some of which are capable of fully recharging a vehicle in under two hours.

For drivers still concerned about range, there are numerous plug-in hybrid models that use both batteries and gasoline engines to extend the range when a charge is unavailable.

Of course, EVs that get their electricity from a grid powered by coal or natural gas are not completely emission free, but power generation will become cleaner and greener in the future. For an extra environmental boost, solar panels can fuel an EV essentially for free and with truly zero emissions.

Beyond the economic and environmental benefits of EVs, though, is the fact that they are downright fun to drive. Their battery-powered motors deliver instant torque, making them among the zippiest cars on the road today. Drivers in the market for a new vehicle owe it to themselves — and to the planet — to give EVs a shot.

The Conservation Advisory Commission was created in 1977 to advise the city of Newark in the development, management and protection of its natural resources, with appropriate consideration of Newark’s human and economic resources. It meets the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in council chambers. The public is invited to attend and provide input. Commission members provide this monthly column to inform area residents on conservation issues.

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