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    Sparking an interestACUA hopes to spark interest in electric vehicles at annual showcase event


    October 3, 2022 - CHRIS DOYLE Staff Writer

     

      EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - The potential of electric vehicles was on display this week during the Atlantic County Utilities Authority's annual Electric Vehicle Showcase.

      Electric cars, trucks and motorcycles were set up in a lot at the ACUA Environmental Park on Delilah Road, as people explored the possible ecological and economic benefits of making the switch from gas-powered vehicles.

      Dealers, business owners and private drivers who wanted to display their cars came to the two-hour event Wednesday afternoon. They greeted guests and mingled with one another about the future of the industry.

      The event was geared toward educating prospective buyers about the EV market in a relaxed environment, said ACUA President Rick Dovey. He said the event had grown considerably over the last several years, with the types of vehicles on display having multiplied.

      "The thing that's changed so much in the last six or seven years is that there were just a few vehicles available," Dovey said. "Now the range is just dramatic, and it will only continue to be that way."

      Gary Mirkin and his wife Anne, of Washington Township, Gloucester County, came with their Chevrolet Bolt electric-utility vehicle. Mirkin said the car had a 200-horsepower electric motor and was rated with a driving range of 247 miles per charge, although he said he was typically able to drive it for longer. He called it the "best bang for your buck."

      A retired television-broadcast technician, Mirkin said he also owned a Tesla and had solar power equipped at his house. He is not a salesman or associated with a dealership and said he wanted to come to spread the good news about the new vehicles.

      "It's a fun way to drive and it's much more economical and it's better for the environment," Mirkin said.

      Omar Martin, of Mays Landing, was similarly there just as a private driver, independent of any dealership or car manufacturer. He came with a Tesla Model Y and has been driving electric vehicles for the last eight years. Like Mirkin, Martin was a true believer in electric vehicles, citing how he did not have to buy expensive gas and had a charger outside his home, something he likened to having his own personal gas station.

      "I've been loving it the whole time. I'll never ever go back to gas, no way," Martin said.

      Arthur Schalick came with his 2020 Tesla Model 3, saying he made the switch to electric so he would not have to stop for gas. He too was there not as a salesman, but to discuss with others the possibilities offered by electric cars.

      Peter Avagliano, with a 2022 Tesla Model S, said he hoped to "dispel myths" about the event, including by telling people proper ways to dispose of and recycle electric-car batteries and teaching people about how the vehicles reduce greenhouse gas emissions and benefit the environment and fight global warming.

      Local business owners are also getting use from new electric vehicles.

      Geoffrey Dorsey, of Dorsey Construction in Atlantic City, brought his Rivian R1T truck to the event. He said he got the electric truck in June and that it has a range of around 326 miles per charge and that future versions will have a range of over 400 miles per charge. He said he has talked with other electric-vehicle drivers about where to find chargers and discuss the future of the electric-vehicle market.

      "It's just another thing where people get together and enjoy whatever it is, besides saving money and enjoying something cool," Dorsey said.

      While there were plenty of electric-car enthusiast, dealers capitalized on the event as well.

      Mani Khan, from the Chapman dealership in Egg Harbor Township, was at the showcase with a Ford Lightning F-150. He said he wanted to battle misconceptions about the vehicles and teach about features that might ease people's concerns. With the car he brought on site, Khan cited a system that lets people map out a long-distance trip with charging stations picked out in advance.

      Khan called the growth in interest in electric cars "tremendous," noting that brands are selling out.

      "The interest is amazing," Khan said.

      Chance Parker, the Northeast regional sales manager for Lightning eMotors was at the showcase with the Lightning Electric transit passenger van. According to an information sheet, the van can fit as many as 15 passengers, has a driving range of 140 miles to 170 miles per charge. Lightning eMotors was a go-to provider for Forest River for electric vans and shuttle buses, works with Blue Bird and Collins school buses and is active in several different markets in North America.

      The "total cost of ownership" was lower for an electric van relative to a gas alternative, Parker said, something he said was due to lower maintenance costs and the streamlined technology involved.

      "You go from a couple thousand moving pieces of an ICE engine, internal-combustion engine, to a couple dozen moving pieces in a fully electric vehicle, so there's much lower daily operational cost," Parker said.

      Quality Truck Center, based in Egg Harbor City, was presenting a Hino truck outfitted by Sea Electric with 19,500 pound gross vehicle weight, with a travel range of around 140 miles to 200 miles per charge. General Manager Corinne Dellanoce said its most typical use would be for last-mile delivery box truck services. She spoke to an electric truck's durability.

      "The upfront costs might be a little higher, but after two, three years already it's less wear-and-tear items, less maintenance," Dellanoce said.

      At the back of the park, Mt. Holly Motorsports, based in Vincentown, Burlington County, had set up electric Zero Motorcycles. Brittany Mushinski said there were eight different models, including street bike and off-road, available for the Zero Motorcycle and that its per-charge range was anywhere from 54 miles to 200 miles. It is direct driven with no clutch and goes from zero to 60 in 3.3 seconds.

      "They're like nothing you've ever ridden before, you really have to try it to get the experience," Mushinski said.

      "No oil changes, no tune ups, no air filters, things like that," added Steve Lewis also with Mt. Holly Motorsports. "Just plug it in, charge it up and drive it."

      Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation in 2020 establishing a Charge Up New Jersey program that makes people purchasing electric vehicles eligible for certain incentives. This year, those incentives reached $4,000 for vehicles with a manufacture's suggested retail price below $45,000. There is also a $250 rebate for home charges, alongside other programs that cover installation costs. In fiscal year 2023 the state Legislature budgeted $35 million for the Charge Up program; $5.5 million for residential charges; $10 million for state and local government agencies to purchase electric vehicles; and $4 million for electric charge stations and parking spots to be installed at certain multi-family and mixed-use residential properties.

      The $1 trillion federal infrastructure law that President Joe Biden signed in November provides another $7.5 billion to build a national network of electric-vehicle chargers and $7 billion to subsidize domestic supply of minerals used to make electric-vehicle batteries. Other federal legislation that Biden signed this year creates additional public investments and subsidies related to the electric-vehicle market.

      The largest electric vehicle on display was a Peterbilt Model 579EV presented by Hunter Truck. The Model 579EV is already in use and has a range around 150 miles per charge at 82,000 pound gross vehicle weight, said Truck sales representative Paul Fehn. He said there is a clear niche for electric truck use, saying there were 40% reduced maintenance cost and with major savings on fuel, not to mention government credits that are available.

      "Even today without grant funding you can get total cost-of-ownership parity with diesel probably at about seven or eight years in terms of the life," Fehn said. "While this does not work for everyone right now, it does work for some and if it does, it's probably worth exploring."

      The ACUA has partnered with Peterbilt to unveil an electric trash-and-recycling truck in the near future. Matt DeNafo, the ACUA vice president of Centralized Maintenance & Asset Management, said that they are close to securing grant funding from the state Department of Environmental Protection and that the electric truck will be used in a low in medium-income neighborhood.

      "This is kind of where things are heading right now," DeNafo said.

      Contact Chris Doylecdoyle@pressofac.com

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