Brian McCowan, Zondits staff, 10/25/2022
Zondits speaks with a rural Mainer about his experiences with EV ownership. Richard Doughty is a recently retired professional engineer who specialized in energy efficiency and clean energy project development and assessment. Richard was previously featured in the annual Zondits April Fools issue when it was reported that he applied for a patent for natural firewood, similar to the patents awarded to pharmaceutical companies for natural medicinal plants.
“You can’t get there from here” is the most often repeated Maine one-liner. Recently it has been applied to the ownership of electric vehicles (EVs) in rural areas. Zondits often hears concerns that the limited range of EVs, and the lack of charging infrastructure, make EV ownership impracticable for rural residents. We decided to seek out a rural region EV owner’s perspective and interviewed Richard Doughty who is 2 ½ years into EV ownership.
Richard, may I call you Rick?
Fair enough. Please tell us where you live, and a bit about the area.
I live in the small town of Weld, Maine. It’s about 90 miles north of Portland, and 80 miles south of the border with Quebec. There are currently about 400 residents. There are some small farms and cottage industries with many people commuting to Augusta, the state capitol, and Farmington where there is a small University of Maine campus.
When did you buy an EV?
Well, my wife and I first bought a Prius hybrid, shortly after they were introduced and had a license plate; PASSGAS. In fact, I still have that plate on my current EV. We liked that car, bought a second one and then a plug-in hybrid. When full EVs became practical we bought a 2019 Kia Niro. Well actually two, one is a hybrid and the other is 100% electric.
What has been your experience with the 100% electric Kia?
Oh, it’s been great. It’s one of the best decisions we’ve made.
And what drove (no pun intended) that decision, I assume you are saving money, but was that the driver?
We are saving money, but we bought it for environmental reasons. As you know, clean energy has been my career, and we try to do what we can in our own lives. Maine has a lot of renewable energy in its electric portfolio, and we have solar PV installed at the home, so it all made sense.
Were there incentives available?
Yes, Efficiency Maine has incentive program for both EVs and chargers, and there was also a federal tax credit, which I think just got extended. Our purchase price was brought down to about the price of a standard gasoline vehicle.
Do you struggle with relying on an EV in rural Maine?
Not at all. I was a bit concerned when buying it, but it has worked out fine. I retired just a couple of months ago, but before that I was commuting 100 miles (50 each way) per day and drove that car to work every day. I have also made several longer trips in the car.
Have you ever been stuck somewhere needing a recharge?
No, for longer trips you need to plan a bit. That’s a small price to pay.
Yes, for example, my son and I drove to Boston for a Celtic’s game. That’s almost 200 miles each way. I have an app on my phone with all the charging stations and I set it up for the route. I did not need to charge on the way down, but I did do a quick top up when we took a break at the rest stop on the Maine Turnpike. Mostly I just wanted to see how their chargers worked. We knew the parking garage at the Boston Garden had charging stations, so we plugged in during the game.
And then drove home with no issue?
Well I learned something on the way home. The Celtics had won, and I was feeling excited and wanted to show my son that the car had good power. I learned that if you drive at Massachusetts speeds, you discharge the battery a lot faster.
So we’re talking 80 miles per hour?
(Sheepishly) Uh, well yeah, maybe a bit more.
We don’t condone that.
No – neither do I, and I learned a lesson. I could have made it home, but we were running a bit low on charge, so I stopped at a car dealer, not even a Kia dealer, and topped up.
Some people claim that charging away from home can be a pain; find the right charger; numbers to enter; etc.
Not at all. I have a Charge Point account and you just wave a key fob at the charging kiosk. Many other charging networks have the same thing. But the reality is, I do almost all my charging at home, as does everybody I know who owns an EV. I’ve heard that EVs are best for the city, but rural people tend to have easier access to home charging. I do not see the issue.
You and your wife have both a hybrid and a full EV. If you had one car, what would it be?
I would choose the EV. The range for the Kia is nearly 300 miles in the summer and a bit less in the winter due to battery performance and using the heater. That is quite a long distance. With a little planning, you can go anywhere.
Any final thoughts? Things we did not cover?
Yes, I think so-called “range-anxiety” is an overblown issue. Maybe when the first EVs were introduced it was a concern, but the range of modern EVs is really impressive. Worries about range should not be stopping people from buying an EV.