Members of the Wright City Chamber and Foristell residents got a close-up look at an electric car Tuesday.
Mark Nealon, manager of Ameren Missouri Electric Vehicles, said the company is trying to educate its customers on how and where to charge their electric cars.
He showed Warren County residents a Chevy Volt and gave them an opportunity to take a test ride in the vehicle that averages over 70 miles per gallon of fuel. The vehicle can drive over 40 miles without recharging and switching over to gasoline usage.
“We’re not talking about the future,” he said. “The cars are here.”
Nealon said Ameren has developed a website, www.ameren.com/EV, so that customers can take a no-pressure look at how environmentally-friendly these cars operate. He said the website offers customers an opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of the vehicles to see if they are a good fit for their driving lifestyles.
“While the technology isn’t for everybody, it is of interest to everybody,” he said.
In addition to being environmentally friendly, electric cars will save owners on fuel costs, he said. He used his 40-mile daily work commute as an example, noting that gasoline currently costs $4.75 per day. If he had an electric car, the cost would be 95 cents.
The trade-off, he said, is the initial cost of the cars. Most are four-door, four-seaters and cost $32,000 or more. Most cost more than $40,000, he said.
Nealon demonstrated a charging system necessary for the vehicles. Ameren officials estimate that 90 percent of electric car owners will charge their vehicles at home on conventional 110-volt outlets, but 10 charging stations have been placed in the St. Louis area. None are available yet in Warren County.
Current electric car batteries must charge seven hours for 40 miles of travel, but the future will bring a battery that allows 300 miles without stopping to charge, he said.
Many colleges are offering charging stations and some employers are offering them for workers’ personal cars, in addition to environmentally-friendly cars which are being added to corporate fleets.
“Every house is a vehicle-charging system,” he said.
Nealon said Ameren offers free assessments of homes to see if any additional work needs to be done for vehicles to be charged. The form for this request is available online.
“These cars can draw the same amount of power as a house during peak cooling times,” he said.
He estimated that charging a car daily would increase the homeowner’s bill by 10-15 percent, but fuel savings would be five times that, he said, and fuel costs are only going to increase.
“The fuel savings is staggering,” he noted.
Nealon said Ameren officials are not endorsing any specific electric car, but they want to be “energy advisers” to help people make the decision on whether an electric car is right for them or not.