The future is electric

Support for electric vehicles is growing across Kentucky

By Kristi Brodd

Have you noticed more “electric vehicle parking” signs showing up in parking lots lately?

Each month, Kentucky is seeing growth in electric vehicle sales and the installation of electric vehicle charging stations. There are now over 75 public charging stations across the state with 170 outlets where drivers can plug in their electric vehicles.

“Electric vehicles offer significantly lower fuel costs, lower maintenance costs, environmental benefits and improving driving ranges,” says Joe Settles, manager of Member Services at East Kentucky Power Cooperative, which recently launched a new electric vehicle campaign. “The choices have never been greater. The savings can be significant, and that’s why co-ops are helping members who’ve expressed interest to make informed decisions.”

The Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, served by Salt River Electric, is one of the first organizations to install a public charging station for visitors. Just 1 mile from I-65 and on the thoroughfare between Louisville and Bardstown, the arboretum is a convenient place for drivers to stop and recharge.

Josh Littrell plugs a Chevrolet Bolt into a charging station at East Kentucky Power Cooperative, Winchester. Photo: Tim Webb

“It is important to us to have these charging stations because it is part of our ethic—we want to practice what we preach,” says executive director, Dr. Mark K. Wourms. “Part of our vision is to be environmental stewards, and it is important to us that we model that. We want to push the public toward more sustainable practices.”

The arboretum also leads by example by owning a plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt and an all-electric cart for on-site touring.

Cliffview Resort, which is served by Licking Valley RECC, is also a charging station pioneer, the first to install charging stations in the Red River Gorge area. As electric vehicles become more prevalent, visitors to the rustic lodge and conference center have responded to the amenity with positive feedback. 

“People really like them,” says Blake Bookstaff, owner of Cliffview Resort and himself an electric vehicle owner. “We have had some groups rent our cabins because of it.”

“I test drove a Tesla in Florida and could not believe how fun the car was to drive,” explains Bookstaff. “Before, having an electric vehicle meant that you had to give up features or comfort. Tesla has changed that and has created a car you want to own and drive.”

Bookstaff says his Tesla Model S has made for an easy transition from gas station to electric outlet. “The switch was no big deal,” he says.  “I just plug the car in at night every one to three days and it is ready to go in the morning. What has been great has been not having to go to the gas station.”

Other electric vehicle drivers agree. Mike Proctor, a Blue Grass Energy member, purchased his all-electric Nissan LEAF in 2012. “It was a very easy adjustment,” says Proctor, who installed a charging station at his home to enable the vehicle to fully charge in less than six hours. Since then, he has also purchased a Chevrolet Volt.

Will he ever go back to driving a gasoline vehicle? “Stick with electric, absolutely,” Proctor says. 

Proctor is also a member of EVolve KY, an electric vehicle enthusiast group founded four years ago. EVolve KY works to connect electric vehicle owners, raise awareness and encourage installation of more charging stations. The group has installed 12 charging stations at public locations, including the station at Bernheim Arboretum. 

Stuart Ungar, EVolve KY founder, did his own research before purchasing. “When I was contemplating getting an EV, I set my car trip odometer for a week and recorded how much I drive daily,” says Ungar. 

Now the owner of both a Nissan LEAF and a Chevrolet Volt, Ungar says EVs are the future.

“I don’t know anyone with an electric vehicle that would end up driving anything else,” Ungar says. “It’s far superior to gas and diesel vehicles, and healthier… no tailpipe emissions.” 

The price range is wide. Several popular models are priced from $20,000 to $40,000. Higher priced SUVs run from $50,000 to $65,000, while luxury sedans range from $80,000 to $110,000. In the near future, many more choices are expected. Some new electrics qualify for a federal tax credit up to $7,500, depending on battery size.

It’s been talked about for generations, but it appears that the age of the electric vehicle is now reality.

KRISTI BRODD is communications manager for Advanced Energy ( a nonprofit energy consulting firm.