Regulars and Shorts

Talking Cars

By Staff

Why drive an electric or hybrid vehicle?
–by Alan Boyer

As the owner of a hybrid and electric vehicle maintenance and repair shop I get asked this question often. I almost always start with a longwinded statement about how

I love them.

I come from a long line of automotive people. My dad worked for Volkswagen for many years. He used to drag broken air-cooled Beetles home to receive a new life.

That’s where it all started, behind the Hanover house in St. Louis sometime around 1976. The Beetles were different. Everything seemed to be in the wrong place or used the wrong voltage. My dad, not unlike myself, was attracted to these obscurities. The new technology is what keeps me interested in my profession. I was a VW, Audi, BMW specialist in dealerships for most of my career. These companies are constantly producing great new technologically advanced products. However, they all still received direct power from their internal combustion engines.

When my wife Michelle and I opened our shop in 2010, we committed ourselves to being as green as possible. In our business, this means really a lighter shade of grey. Some choices were easier than others: We installed solar panels, recycled, and chose the most environmentally safe products and practices that we could.

Servicing hybrids and electric vehicles came next. I had had some contact and read a lot about them. Off to California for training I went.

We took apart a Prius, Volt, Leaf and an Insight. Wow! This stuff was way cooler than I’d ever imagined. The technology in the Chevy Volt and Prius is really impressive. The software, control and drive devices are intriguing.

Then came the why. Craig Van Batenburg, one of my instructors, gave the best talk on the subject I’ve ever heard. Standing in front of the “red” and “blue,” the unaffiliated, and the undecided, he talked with conviction about global warming, dead soldiers, consumption and the air we breathe. Craig’s childhood was spent in Ogden, Utah. He knew about me and where I was from. We talked in depth about the air quality in LA and Salt Lake, and the role of hybrids, electric vehicles and extended-range hybrid electric vehicles in making some difference.

I learned firsthand that these vehicles really are environmentally less damaging than their fossil fuel counterparts. They produce little to zero tailpipe emissions. They use substantially less fossil fuel. They also create less noise pollution.

Clean air and your tail pipe

High tailpipe emissions is one of the largest contributors of air pollution on the Wasatch Front. The troublesome PM 2.5 particle pollution begins as gas emissions, 38% of which comes from cars and trucks. Electric vehicles—E-Golf, Leaf, I3, Tesla—produce zero tailpipe emissions. Hybrid electric vehicles, considered “pzev” (partial zero-emissions vehicles), produce very little tailpipe emissions. My 2010 Prius averages 49 miles per gallon around town with fewer emissions. The more vehicles we replace with this technology, the better.

The other factor associated with these vehicles is longevity. These vehicles use less energy to go down the road. They charge themselves while braking through regenerative braking. Most of them do not engage the traditional brakes until under 10 miles per hour. The gas engines are under less load. This all contributes to less heat and wear.

I’ve read that many of these vehicles with over 500,000 miles on them are still on the road. I see well-maintained ones in my shop that have traveled over 200,000 miles and they look brand new. This should lead us to purchasing fewer vehicles in the future, which equates to lower impact. Own a good vehicle longer and breathe easier. u

Alan Boyer is the owner of Clark’s Auto and Tire in Sugar House.

This article was originally published on March 28, 2015.