Electricity has been stirring up the air even more in Princeton of late through automobile technology.
It began with John Hero starting his e-ride Industries business some years ago just north of the city’s border, featuring neighborhood electric vehicles with a top speed of 25 mph.
People have also been seeing hybrid gas-electric powered cars in Princeton for some years now that are driven on major highways. But they have been purchased outside of Princeton.
Now you can buy used plug-in electric cars in Princeton that run without any internal combustion engine. They are at Andrews Inc., along Brickton Road just north of city limits. All three are Nissan Leaf vehicles – one a 2011 model and the other two are 2012s.
Chuck Andrews is owner and operator of the business, whose specialty for many years has been selling and servicing used Saabs, along with used Volvos and Suburus.
You can order a car that runs on electricity from Princeton Auto Center – the Chevrolet Volt. But unlike the Leaf, the Volt is an electric-gas hybrid. The electric motor powers the car the first 38 miles and then the gas engine takes over to extend the range to 380 miles if the gas tank is full.
Princeton Auto Center Manager Craig Davis said the Volts are more popular in the metro area and he doesn’t stock them on his sales lot.
But look at the brochures at Princeton Auto Center for new cars and you can find electric technology there, too, such as the Impala with an electric motor that assists the gas engine at times.
The range of the plug-in electric
A person considering a car powered strictly by electricity with no gas engine assist will want to know its range. The brochure for a 2013 Nissan Leaf states: “On average, Americans drive less than 29 miles a day. Nissan Leaf gets you 2 1/2 times that on a single charge.” That equals 72.5 miles.
Andrews said his brochure for the 2012 Nissan Leaf states that the car has an estimated 100 mile range on one charge, but that the range will vary according to driving habits and power usage. He said that should also hold true for the 2011 model.
Charging of the Leaf’s lithium ion batteries can be done either by running a specialty cord that comes with the car to a standard outlet or by plugging it into a vehicle charging station that has an outlet.
Andrews notes that the phrase “charging station” is a misnomer because the Leaf’s actual charger is in the car. The charging station is like a valve, releasing electricity through the cord to the car’s charger.
Andrews mentioned “range anxiety,” which refers to a driver worrying about the electric car’s range and having fears of being stranded somewhere because the vehicle runs out of electricity.
Andrews said that people can get over that by paying attention to where they can recharge the vehicle. He also said it will help with more charging stations being installed across the country as time goes on. There is an app for a smartphone that shows where they are located, he noted.
Andrews also states that the driver can top off the Leaf at a stop such as their workplace and then continue later to their new destination, such as home.
Andrews said he acquired the three Leaf vehicles about three months ago.
Another purely electric car on the market is made by the California-based Tesla Motors, the first to produce an electric sports car (Tesla Roadster). One drawback with the Roadstar is its high price. Tesla, however, is in research and development of a more affordable model.
Andrews has a couple of charging stations at his business, and his goal is to make the electric car be more attractive by getting more charging stations set up in the Princeton area. He said he would like to see two such charging stations located next to the clock tower in downtown Princeton.
Andrews added that people can use his charging stations for free to charge their electric cars. Some locations in the United States have charging stations that charge a fee for use.
Marketing the trend
Andrews has wasted no time in getting out and promoting the idea of getting the masses interested in electric cars like the Leaf. He has given a presentation on them to economic development boards in Princeton and Milaca, to the East Central Regional Development Commission and to an administrative assistant of U.S. Congressman Rick Nolan.
Andrews has calculated that if gas were selling for $4 per gallon, a person commuting 100 miles round trip in a day could save $4,320 per year if comparing the calculated amount of 2 cents per mile for the electric Nissan Leaf versus an average of 20 cents per mile for a regular gas engine vehicle.
“The amount of money that can be saved is tremendous,” Andrews said. “It’s a real economic benefit to us.”
He said that eight states have pledged to have 3.3 million zero-emission cars, such as the Leaf, operating in their boundaries.
“It’s not just my dream,” Andrews said. “It’s a national movement.”
Andrews wrote in a recent column in the Saab trade-industry magazine, Nines, that Saab is developing its brand of electric car. Andrews said he brought the three Nissan electric vehicles onto his lot because he wants to start preparing for what he sees as a big future in transportation.
Andrews, quoting the brochure on the 2012 Nissan Leaf, said these all-electric cars are not for everyone.
But Andrews is betting that the cars will have an increased following and that the whole industry will only improve what it has to offer.