'Pretty Incredible': Dealership Offers Peek at Electric Vehicle
Nearly all car makers are preparing to introduce plug-in electric vehicles, but Southern Pines Chevrolet Buick GMC is the only dealership in Moore County that currently offers a sneak peek at the technology.
A demo of the Chevrolet Volt has been on the U.S. 1 lot for two weeks. About 20 people have given it a test drive, and three orders are pending.
"We were one of the first dealers in North Carolina to get a demo, so we're excited about it," General Manager John Beaver said Monday. "Of course, it will be a lot more exciting when we can have a few to sell."
Beaver expects that to happen by the end of October.
"We've been hearing about the Volt for years, so a lot of research and development went into it," he said. "They also put a lot of practical testing into it. And the customer feedback on this car has been phenomenal."
Southern Pines Chevrolet Buick GMC got one of the first demos because two of its sales associates and a service technician were certified to sell and service the car, respectively.
The Volt can run 35 to 45 miles on its electric battery until it requires either a recharge or power from its backup gasoline engine. The backup range is 340 miles. The car retails for $37,000 to $46,000, and there is a $7,500 federal tax credit available through the end of the year.
"I may be wrong, but I think the Volt technology is going to be the model for the industry," Beaver said. "It's not like anything else you've seen. It's radically different from a hybrid, and it beats any electric car I've ever driven by far. It's pretty incredible."
Steve Booker, a sales associate who completed his certification training in July, said most people coming in for a test drive have "range anxiety, perceive a lack of power, or both."
"Those are the two biggest fears. Because it's electric, people have the perception that it's going to drive like a golf cart instead of like a car with a V-6 engine," Booker said. "You don't have a transmission, so you have instant power. Usually, people are all smiles by the time they drive the Volt back on the lot."
Because plug-in electric vehicles do not send emissions out a tailpipe, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that they could lower the nation's greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 30 percent.
The Volt has keyless entry with a smart phone, push-button starting, a pedestrian warning button because it runs quietly, a rotating video ball in the dash that helps optimize energy efficiency, and three driving modes, among a plethora of other features.
"It's very easy to drive," Booker said. "Most of all, it's fun and exciting."
Progress Energy Carolinas announced Monday that it is providing 150 residential customers in North Carolina with plug-in electric vehicle charging equipment as part of a new research project. The Plugged In Program will provide the charging stations at little or no cost to help the company better understand their impact on the electric utility system.
"Plug-in electric vehicles will be rolling off local dealer lots in the near future and our infrastructure will be ready for them," Lloyd Yates, president and CEO of Progress Energy Carolinas, said in a statement.
The Plugged In Program is funded through a smart-grid grant from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The grant will cover up to $1,500 of the equipment and construction costs of installing a "Level 2" charging station at a customer's home. Customers will continue to pay for the electricity used to charge their vehicle.
Level 2 charging utilizes a 240-volt circuit instead of a standard 120-volt home outlet (Level 1). A Level 2 charging station can charge a plug-in electric vehicle three to five times faster than a Level 1 outlet and provides additional safety due to the hardwired installation.
Progress Energy Carolinas will own and maintain the charging equipment for the duration of the research project, which ends April 27, 2013. Ownership and maintenance responsibilities will transfer to the customer at the conclusion of the project.
"This research project gives us insight into the electric system's state of readiness to accommodate vehicle charging equipment, which will help us as we transform into the transportation fuel providers of the future," Yates said.
While most charging will take place at home, public charging stations are starting to pop up in major markets across the country, including Charlotte and Raleigh.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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