Dayton area, Ohio charged up about electric vehicles

Tim Benford, Chapter President of Drive Electric Dayton, charges his electric car at his home in Oakwood. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
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Tim Benford, Chapter President of Drive Electric Dayton, charges his electric car at his home in Oakwood. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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The popularity of electric vehicles is surging both across the state and the Dayton region.

“People are catching onto the fact that they (electric vehicles) are enormously fun to drive because they’re enormous amount of torque, which is instantly available,” said Tim Benford of Oakwood, and president of Drive Electric Dayton, a chapter of the Electric Auto Association. “When you put your foot on the accelerator, you take off immediately and at high speed.”

There were 84 electric vehicles registered in the Dayton region between Nov. 1, 2018 ― when the state started tracking them ― and the end of that year, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Ohio Alternative Fuel Vehicle Registration Dashboard.

In all of 2019, that total jumped to 495 electric vehicles. There were nearly six times as many in the area as the previous year because that Spring electric carmaker Tesla started delivering its most affordable EV to date, the Tesla Model 3, said Marie McConnell, outreach and organizing manager for Clean Fuels Ohio. Clean Fuel Ohio is a non-profit organization aimed at advancing the adoption of alternative fuel vehicles across the state, including electric cars.

The Tesla Model 3 was priced around $36,000, instead of the $70,000 range like previous releases, McConnell said. The number of vehicles registered in the Dayton area stayed healthy in 2020 even in the midst of a pandemic, statistics show.

EV sales in Ohio jumped from 6,086 in 2019 to 6,278 in 2020. McConnell attributes that to Tesla’s more affordable offering being followed by a slew of other under-$40,000, long-range EV options from a host of other auto makers, including Chevrolet and Nissan, McConnell said.

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EVs are economical because they require the bare minimum when it comes to upkeep, Benford said. In the three years he has owned his Tesla Model 3, he has clocked only $250 in maintenance fees, he said.

“That was two tire rotations and one cabin air filter,” Benford said. “There’s no oil changes, there’s no anything other than you just drive them.”

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LMC Automotive, a consulting firm, predicts more than 1 million electric vehicles will be sold in the U.S. in 2023, rising to more than 4 million by 2030 — still less than one-quarter of normal annual new vehicle sales of around 17 million. Electric vehicles now comprise less than 2% of U.S. new-vehicle sales.

From November 2018 through February 2021, total alternative fuel vehicles registered in Ohio numbered 22,899, while all passenger vehicles registered totaled 7,758,410, according to ODOT.

The president and auto industry maintain the nation is on the cusp of a gigantic shift to electric vehicles and away from liquid-fueled cars, but biofuels producers and some of their supporters in Congress aren’t buying it. They argue that now is the time to increase sales of ethanol and biodiesel, not abandon them.

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To help address climate change, President Joe Biden has proposed an infrastructure plan that includes billions of dollars to pay for 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, electrify public vehicles and enhance the nation’s power grid. These moves follow initiatives in California and other states to mandate electric vehicle sales and a goal by General Motors to shift production fully to electric vehicles by 2035.

The Ohio EPA last month awarded $3.25 million in grants to support the installation of more than 500 publicly accessible Level 2 electric vehicle charging ports at more than 170 locations in 22 counties, according to Clean Fuels Ohio. The grants will help improve Ohioans’ access to electric vehicle charging infrastructure, the group said.

Jim Kelly of Washington Twp. said he purchased a Tesla Model S in 2016, a Tesla Model X in 2017 and a Tesla Model 3 in 2018.

“Along with my wife, we have driven over 131,000 trouble free miles on these vehicles,” Kelly said. “What’s exciting is once you drive an electric vehicle, you do not want to go back, back to driving that old gas or diesel vehicle.”

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EVs not only have staying power, but the ability to continue on a trajectory of growth, especially with electric pickups, commercial vans and semi trucks on the way, Kelly said.

“It’s clear now that personal and commercial transportation is changing, and it’s electric,” he said. “From Tesla’s Cybertruck and Semi Tractor and Amazon’s Electric Delivery Vans, transportation as we know it will change and change very soon. Almost all automobile manufacturers have some kind of electric vehicle program.”

Benford said part of the appeal of EVs are how inexpensive they are to fuel up, especially if one has a solar-paneled roof.

“I have 20 panels on the roof and so I haven’t paid an electricity bill since last July, so basically I’m driving for free,” Benford said.

Even without a solar roof, and just using AES Ohio electricity at 12 cents a kilowatt hour, it costs just $2.53 in electricity to drive 100 miles, he said.

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Benford founded Drive Electric Dayton in 2017 after placing his reservation in 2016 for his Tesla Model 3, which he has nicknamed “Sparky.”

Excited to contact other EV enthusiasts, he created a Facebook page with the name Drive Electric Dayton “and it snowballed from there,” he said.

The group has since amassed 363 members, of which 174 are EV owners in the Miami Valley. Membership is free. “All folks need is to be EV-curious or an owner,” Benford said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Drive Electric Dayton Auto Show

WHERE: West parking lot over the Austin Landing parking garage. Enter off Innovation Drive next to Interstate 75, Miami Twp.

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 24

COST: Free

DETAILS: Event allows members and the public to meet and talk with local electric car owners and members of Drive Electric Dayton about their experiences with battery-electric vehicles. DED will be displaying their cars; some will be available for free test-drives or demonstrations guided by the owners. A variety of privately owned electric cars are anticipated to be displayed, including models from Audi, BMW, Chevy, Ford, Tesla and Volkswagen. Area auto dealers also are expected to participate and bring their latest electric car models for inspection and arrange for test rides. A Ford Mustang Mach-E will attend.

ONLINE: www.facebook.com/DriveElectricDayton and www.driveelectricdayton.com/