Electric vehicles: from STEM to sustainability

  • Wed Apr 19th, 2017 1:30am
  • News

The following was submitted by the San Juan Islands Conservation District.

The first ever Electric Car Show in the San Juan Islands will be held on Saturday, April 29 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Courthouse Parking Lot next to the Community Theatre in Friday Harbor. If you are an EV owner, bring your car to show off and swap stories with other EV owners. If you are interested in learning more about EVs, come and talk with EV owners and test-drive an EV. The Friday Harbor High School STEM student-made electric vehicle will also be on display. Come learn about this evolving technology and why these cars are the future.

Electric Vehicles are no longer unique in the islands, they are the fastest growing vehicle sector in San Juan County. From June 2015 to June 2016, San Juan County had a 55 percent increase in Electric Vehicle ownership, and a 33 percent increase in plug-in hybrid ownership, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. That’s a faster growth rate than Seattle, Olympia, Spokane, Bellingham or Bellevue. In 2016, the number of EV charging stations overtook gas stations in the San Juan County. According to PlugShare.com there are 15 public chargers available to the residents and guests of the San Juan Islands. This is in part thanks to the Conservation District’s and OPALCO’s Electric Vehicle Charging Station rebate incentive.

“These cars just make sense in the islands. They are simpler, cheaper, and cleaner,” said Linda Lyshall, Executive Director of the San Juan Islands Conservation District. The Conservation District purchased an Electric Vehicle in 2015 and Lyshall said she was so impressed by it, she purchased her own in 2016. There are no gas stations, no oil changes, and no fuel combustion engine, which means fewer parts to maintain and replace and fewer visits to the mechanic. You can plug most EVs in at home in any outlet, or you can install a dedicated charging station for under a $1,000. You can also take advantage of OPALCO’s $500 rebate for installation of a home charging station, bringing the cost down significantly. See the following link for details: http://energysavings.opalco.com/energy-savings/electric-vehicles-evs/

As of 2017, every major Auto Manufacturer has at least one Electric Vehicle in their lineup. The market for EVs increased 37 percent in 2016 in the US and 41percent globally. EVs have multiple benefits – here are a few. Purchase price is less than an average car – the average U.S. transaction price of a new car in 2016 was $34,077. There are several EVs on the market below that cost. For example, the 2017 Nissan Leaf starts at $30,680 and is eligible for rebates and incentives, bringing the cost down to as little as $22,000. Incentives include the Washington state’s sales tax exemption on all new electric vehicles under $42,500, the $7500 federal tax credit and dealer rebates. Used EVs, such as the 2013 Nissan Leaf, are available for under $10,000 with similar savings on fuel cost and maintenance.

• Purchase price is less than an average car. The average U.S. transaction price of a new car in 2016 was $34,077. There are several EVs on the market below that cost. For example, the 2017 Nissan Leaf starts at $30,680 and is eligible for rebates and incentives, bringing the cost down to as little as $22,000. Incentives include the Washington state’s sales tax exemption on all new electric vehicles under $42,500, the $7500 federal tax credit and dealer rebates. Used EVs, such as the 2013 Nissan Leaf, are available for under $10,000 with similar savings on fuel cost and maintenance.

• Operation costs are less than an average car. EVs operate on the same principle as charging a cell phone or laptop. You just plug it in. Charging an EV will add electricity usage to your power bill, but at a fraction of the price for gasoline or diesel. Depending on the size of your battery and the time of day your car is plugged in, charging at home can cost anywhere between $1 and $3 for a full charge. Charging overnight while you are sleeping is the least expensive way to charge your EV. Never having to perform an oil change is a generally over-looked bonus that comes with having an EV. Since there is no internal-combustion engine in an EV, there is no need to lubricate any “metal on metal” spots. Oil Changes can be costly and/or time-consuming and don’t exist for EV owners.

• Electric vehicles are comfortable and quiet. Most electric vehicles are roomier than their gasoline powered equivalents. Since EVs operate without a lot of extra pieces like big engines or exhaust manifolds, EV’s make better use of space inside the car. You can fit all your passengers comfortably. Also, because of the lack of an internal combustion engine, EVs are very quiet.

• They have zero emissions. In the San Juans, we have exceptional air quality, and we want to keep it that way. Over half the carbon footprint in the county comes from emissions from gasoline and diesel vehicles, which impact human and environmental health. According to the State Department of Ecology, automobile emissions are linked to cancer, birth defects and asthma. In addition, they are the most significant contributor to climate change in our state. An electric vehicle has zero emissions and is a much cleaner alternative to gasoline vehicles.

Local students build electric vehicle

The San Juan School District STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program led by Derek Smith, Technical Educator and Director is focused on educating students in all aspects of the ever changing and high demand world of the contemporary modern workforce. This past school year, Derek supervised 25 seventh-grade students who developed an ambitious and dynamic project to build an all-electric vehicle by hand. Not only does the STEM-Kids EV run on electricity, but the charger for the car is hooked up directly to the Solar Array which was installed on the Friday Harbor STEM Center through the Community Solar for Schools program, sponsored by the Conservation District and OPALCO.

Twenty-five 13-year-old students built an all-electric car that is fueled by sunlight. This is the future. Smith’s goal is teaching the next generation to conserve resources and find innovative solutions to modern issues cooperatively with their peers.

He says, “It was all the kids. I had very little to do with the build of the car, I didn’t even turn a single screw.”

Some of the students worked on design and layout, while others worked on the engineering elements. Everyone had a role to perform that led to the project’s success. This is what made the project more than just a job well done, but an extraordinary example of sustainability and cooperation.

If you would like to see the Student STEM Car and ask its engineer some questions, it will be on display at the Electric Vehicle Car Show on April 29 in Friday Harbor. If you have any questions or would like to bring your electric car, please email Ryan@sjicd.org for more info or check out the San Juan Islands Conservation Districts website www.sjislandscd.org.