Co-ops celebrate the EV era by traveling Kentucky
The era of the electric vehicle is here! To celebrate, teams sponsored by Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives drove an electric vehicle—EV for short—more than 700 miles across the state earlier this year in a goodwill tour.
They stopped at many of the state’s attractions, including Cumberland Falls, Buckhorn Lake, the Red River Gorge Geological Area, Ale-8-One and one of Kentucky’s biggest tourist attractions: the Ark Encounter. One team even drove the electric car a few laps at the Kentucky Speedway in northern Kentucky.
Three teams posted photos online during their trips and reached 176,000 people on social media with messages about the low cost to fuel an EV: under 3 cents per mile to charge the battery of the co-ops’ all-electric Chevrolet Bolt. The Kentuckians they met along the way, and the team members themselves, were impressed with the car’s performance and driving range—over 230 miles with a full charge.
“I had heard that EVs were only good for in-town driving,” says Sarah Fellows, communications manager at Nolin RECC, who drove with a friend from Elizabethtown to eastern Kentucky and back with only two stops to charge. “I was pleasantly surprised how far we were able to go.”
Fellows and teammate Leslie Neeley from Kenergy Corp. used the PlugShare app to find charging stations. The trip helped them and other participants realize that traveling long distances in an EV is doable—and fun.
“We had always thought the driving range of EVs was terrible and only suited for city driving,” says Cory Ramsey, a road-trip blogger and creator of Map Dot, Kentucky, a project that highlights the state’s small towns. “That is not the case, and the acceleration was great. That car can get off an exit ramp or pass another car as good as any.”
Ramsey, whose Map Dot team previously had visited all 120 Kentucky counties twice, drove the Bolt with wife Monica and teammate Travis Norton from Bowling Green to Owensboro and back. The team visited Bill Monroe’s Jerusalem Ridge home in Rosine. Ramsey played Blue Moon of Kentucky at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Owensboro after a museum board member showed him three banjo chords.
“I did not realize I could play the banjo,” Ramsey says with a laugh. “That was a cool part of the trip for me.”
To the mountains
On the second EV road trip, the co-op team of Fellows and Neeley drove the Bolt east from Nolin RECC’s E-town headquarters. They stopped at Lincoln’s Boyhood Home near Hodgenville, where the 16th president’s family lived along Knob Creek until he was about 7 years old.
From there, they visited the nearby Kentucky Railway Museum in New Haven and the world-famous Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto. The Maker’s Mark campus is powered by Danville-based Inter-County Energy, which worked closely with the distillery last year to install an EV charging station for visitors, who come from all over the world.
“Inter-County Energy sees EV charging as a way to meet our members’ needs,” says Dan Hitchcock, Inter-County’s vice president of member services. “A tourist can plug in their car, do a tour of the facility, eat lunch and when they return they are charged to reach their next destination. It’s what the future will be like all across the nation.”
After leaving Maker’s Mark, the team visited Taylor County RECC in Campbellsville, where employees popped the hood of the Bolt and were surprised to learn how inexpensive it is to fuel and maintain an EV. They met co-op employees from South Kentucky RECC at the Niagara of the South—Cumberland Falls—and saw the Harland Sanders Cafe in Corbin, where Col. Sanders launched his “finger-lickin’ good” Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Neeley enjoyed monitoring the car’s battery-charge level on the dashboard to maximize driving range and marveled at the beauty of Kentucky’s countryside. All along the team’s route, yellow butterweed and other flowering plants spread across fields far into the horizon.
At the end of the day, Fellows and Neeley plugged into an EV charging station at their hotel in London and recharged overnight. Jackson Energy installed the station earlier this year, one of Kentucky’s first charge-station projects between a co-op and a local hotel.
On the final day, the team covered 174 miles without stopping to charge. Fellows and Neeley visited Jackson Energy in Manchester, stopped in the quiet community of Thousandsticks, and went to Buckhorn Lake, the Red River Gorge Geological Area and the headquarters of Ale-8-One in Winchester.
“I liked how smooth the EV was to drive, especially around those eastern Kentucky mountains,” Neeley says.
A third and final trip went from central to northern Kentucky, with Mike Stafford from Owen Electric Cooperative and Gerry James from the outdoors/environmental Explore Kentucky Initiative on board. The trip started at Shelby Energy in Shelbyville, then went to the nearby Diageo Distillery, the grave of Daniel Boone at Frankfort Cemetery, and finally, north to Owen Electric in Owenton and the Kentucky Speedway, which is served by that co-op.
With no races on the day of their visit, James and Stafford were thrilled to drive the Bolt several laps around the Speedway track.
“It is impressive how quickly the car accelerates,” says Stafford, Owen Electric’s manager of business and government relations. “We got it up to 93 miles an hour on the track before the car indicated it could not go any faster. It handled really well. It’s got great torque and was incredibly fun to drive.”
The trip convinced James that an EV is a great option for many families. “In a large number of garages and driveways in America, there are two family vehicles,” he says. “In my opinion, at least one should be an EV, which can help cut down one’s carbon footprint and help save money.”
The final stop was a visit to the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, where more than 1 million people visit each year to see a replica of Noah’s Ark, an engineering marvel built to the actual size described in the Bible.
Members of the three teams were pleasantly surprised about how inexpensive it was to charge the car. Charging the Bolt’s battery for 700 miles cost less than $20. Although each trip required planning, the teams charged at hotels, grocery stores, car dealerships and tourist destinations.
“We found charging stations easier than we thought,” Map Dot’s Ramsey says. “And more are sprouting up all the time. Hotels have them these days, or we could use PlugShare. You can install one at home to really have no problem.”
One of the most significant surprises was the ongoing savings in fuel by driving an EV.
“The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that in Kentucky, the cost to fuel an EV is the equivalent of about $1 per gallon for a comparable gasoline powered vehicle,” says Tom Castle, senior engineer at East Kentucky Power Cooperative in Winchester.
Electric cooperative members are becoming more interested in EVs. A survey last year showed that 10% of members served by Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives are actively in the market for or open to owning a plug-in electric vehicle.
“Some common misconceptions about electric vehicles are unfair,” Owen Electric’s Stafford says. “For one, their price point does not make them unattainable. Many models are comparable in costs to new, standard gas-powered cars.”
Ramsey says the EV road trips demonstrate that electric co-ops are embracing the future.
“Co-ops have always led on technology in Kentucky as far back as the lightbulb,” he says. “Now with this electric vehicle technology, Chevy Bolts and other electric vehicles coming into the Commonwealth, they are again leading the charge. It’s co-ops leading the way.”
Get the facts
Find even more information at TogetherWeSaveKy.com.
Check out the following fact sheets from Touchstone Energy:
·Overview of Electric Vehicles
·Is an Electric Vehicle Right for You?
·Nuts and Bolts of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles
·Nuts and Bolts of Battery Electric Vehicles
·The Electric Vehicle Revolution
To access the fact sheets, go to https://www.touchstoneenergy.com/our-energy-expertise/energy-choices.
Also see The Consumer Guide to Electric Vehicles from the Electric Power Research Institute at www.epri.com; enter The Consumer Guide to Electric Vehicles in the search box or click here. To find charging stations, go to Google maps or use apps such as ChargePoint and PlugShare.