Monday, June 9, 2014

Raymond officials think green with new electric car - By Michelle Libby

This past week the Town of Raymond had use of a Nissan Leaf, a completely electric car. The car was loaned to the town by Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) to see if there might be a way to use an electric car in the town to save money on gas costs. According to the Nissan Leaf website, one of these cars can save over $13,000 over the life of the car in gas charges alone. 

“I had it all weekend,” said Raymond selectman Mike Reynolds, who is also on the board of GPCOG as the representative from Raymond. “I was pleasantly surprised. I drive electric golf carts so my thoughts were not as favorable.” He was however impressed with the space, the highway speeds and the lack of noise at stop lights. “You can’t fill it up with gas and keep going,” he said. 

“You have to plan your trips,” said Town Manager Don Willard, who drove the car to Oxford on Monday. Other departments and employees in the town tried the car out, including public safety, the assessor, Nancy Yates and more. Willard said that Yates told him, she loved the car and didn’t see that there was a power issue, which she had expected. 

“What a great possibility for a municipality to save money,” said Reynolds. “The cost of electricity to charge it is equal to three-tenths of a gallon of gas for the same amount of miles.”

The most talked about part of the car, besides how many miles are left on the charge, is how quiet the car runs. When a driver presses the button to turn the car on and when they shift, it’s silent. The car has a battery that collects solar energy from a solar panel in the rear of the roof top that provides some extra energy to run the heat and air conditioning. It also creates energy when the brakes are applied if in the proper drive mode for that. 

The Leaf charges at a 110 volt outlet (a regular outlet) from empty in 24 hours. If using a 220 outlet, the car will charge from empty in eight hours. 

In the future there will have to be public charging stations if cars like this are going to catch on, said Willard. Having people pay a $1 or $5 to charge their car could be worth it.

“The cost savings is huge. The cost to charge it versus gas is just phenomenal,” said Keith Palmer, a sales professional at Nissan in Topsham. He added that there are no moving parts in the engine and service costs are incredibly low. He has sold Nissan Leafs to Revision Energy, Portland House of Pizza and Wicked Joe’s to name a few. He also sold the car Raymond used to GPCOG for them to loan to municipalities to see if there is an opportunity to save money. 

The car costs between $28,000 up to $36,000 to purchase depending on features, but can be leased for between $250 and $300 a month with free roadside assistance. The cost varies depending on credit. People who lease the Leaf are given a $7,500 rebate from Nissan. Owners who buy the car outright also receive a $7,500 federal tax credit for purchasing an electric car on their taxes. 

Standish has ordered a hybrid- plug-in car, similar to the Leaf, said Reynolds. He said that this test drive is only step one for Raymond. Willard will do an official evaluation and then perhaps the town will get the lease into the next budget year, said Reynolds. 

“It’s extremely friendly and safe to the environment,” added Palmer.

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