Interview with an Electric Vehicle Owner

By Cindy Cotte Griffiths, last updated 3/6/14 01:25pm

Photo credit Montgomery Community Media  

Having bought a hybrid car last year, I've been immensely curious about taking the next step to all electric. When I was recently assigned in my Studio Producer class at Montgomery Community Media to work with Vic Nardo, a fellow trainee with an interest in engineering, the concept of "Going Green On Wheels" immediately inspired both of us and we decided to do an interview with an electric vehicle owner in Rockville. This production at MCM also provided an excellent opportunity for my son, Chad Griffiths, to try being a show host and using a teleprompter. Special thanks to Paul Triolo for giving his time as a very informative guest. Lots of details are packed in this 13-minute show! Here is the video, and below it is a transcript:



Chad
Have you seen those charging stations popping up around Montgomery County? Do you want to leave the gas station behind? Hello, I'm Chad Griffiths and welcome to this MCM training production, Going Green on Wheels. Today we are interviewing Paul Triolo, a new owner of a Nissan LEAF, who has logged more than 2500 miles and is here to share his experience. It's very nice to meet you, Paul.

Paul
Thank you, Chad. Glad to be here.

Chad
Can you tell us a bit about your experiences with the Nissan LEAF?

Paul
Well, I've owned the LEAF for about 3 months now, and it's the third fuel-efficient car that I've owned. I started off with a Geo Metro that got about 50 miles to the gallon, and then I moved on to the Prius, so the LEAF seemed the next logical step. I've had it for 3 months and I've found it to be a well-designed, well-engineered car. I've been commuting about 20 miles a day each way and I've found it to be everything I've hoped for in an electric vehicle.

Chad
So you don't miss anything about having a gas-powered vehicle or a hybrid?

Paul
No. The one issue with the LEAF is the range. The LEAF has a limited range, but most people buy it for commuting and not necessarily for long distance. It has a range of about 120 miles, so I have to be careful not to exceed the range on a daily basis, but that's not hard to do just driving in the area.
Chad
And are there any benefits to buying a LEAF?

Paul
There are some significant benefits. One of them is that in Maryland you can use the HOV lanes, so the LEAF and other plugin vehicles such as the plugin Prius are allowed to use the HOV lanes on 270 and other places in Maryland. This is a huge benefit especially in the morning and afternoon traffic, which gets pretty heavy along some of the roads. When you purchase a LEAF, you do a federal tax rebate of $7,500, and also you get 30% off of the cost of the charging equipment.

Chad
You mentioned charging equipment. How do you charge the LEAF?

Paul
There are three ways to charge the LEAF. You can plug the LEAF into a regular wall outlet; that takes about 18 hours to charge. Most people opt for what's called a Level 2 charger, which is something you install in your house, usually in the garage. That's a piece of equipment that costs about a thousand dollars; again, with a federal rebate, you can cut that down considerably. That takes about 3 hours to charge. The new 2013 LEAF put on a new onboard charging unit that cuts that time. It used to be 7-8 hours; now it's 3-4 hours for a full charge. Then finally there's the Level 3 charge, the Quick Charge, which takes about 20 minutes. Those stations are going in around the country. The infrastructure is fairly new. It's much more developed in California. Maryland as far as I know does not have a Level 3 charging station, but there are plans to put them in. Those will go along interstates and other places where people who are driving long distance and want to do a quick charge of about 20 minutes. So there are multiple options for charging.

Chad
Do you know how many charging stations there are around Montgomery County? Would you say there are enough, or do we need more?

Paul
Well, again, it depends on the type of charging. There are no Level 3 chargers yet and that's certainly an issue. There are probably two dozen or so Level 2 chargers. For example, the local supermarkets are now putting them in. Whole Foods has a charger for example; you can also find the Level 2 chargers in the parking garage in downtown Rockville. Each of these chargers can be used for topping off. When I go for example to Whole Foods to shop, I plug in and I charge for about half an hour to an hour, and I get about 20 miles, or 20% of battery, just from topping it off. So I think for the average user in Montgomery County, the number of chargers is pretty good and it's only going to get better, as more businesses decide to put in chargers to attract electric vehicle owners to come and spend money and spend time at their business establishments. So it's pretty good; not as good as California though. California has very well-developed infrastructure. They rolled out EVs and the LEAF first in California, so Maryland is a little bit slow to develop that infrastructure.

(break)

Chad
How do you find charging stations? Is there any problem?

Paul
No, there are actually many ways to find charging stations. The car itself comes with an on-board Nissan system; it's plugged into a Nissan network so at the touch of a button on the dashboard I can find charging stations in the vicinity. Also there are a number of iPhone and Android apps you can download that will tell you where the nearest charging stations are. Typically if you're going to go a little bit of a distance, you'll want to plan and know where the charging stations are. So, for example, all the Nissan dealerships offer free charging for LEAF owners, so I'm pretty much aware of where all those are in the area. New stations are coming on all the time, so I check online. DOE has a very good website, for example, that lists all the chargers across the US, and then I tend to use some of the apps for some of the different charging networks to find out where the nearest stations are.

Chad
So have you ever had a close call in terms of running out of charge?

Paul
Funny you should ask. At one point my wife was picking me up at the airport and there was a major traffic jam so we took an unplanned route across Virginia and up across the ferry and back. So by the time we got across, we were down to about 15% of the battery and that was pretty close. I was sweating it on that one and looking for the nearest charging station, which in this case turned out to be the Nissan dealership, but it turned out I didn't have to use it. We made it home with a little bit to spare. So those kind of situations can arise but you try to plan for the distance and so you avoid running into a situation where you're actually going to run out of charge.

Chad
Are there any places you would like to go but you're not able to because of the fact that you need to charge it?

Paul
Yes. I would like to be able to drive the car to Pennsylvania, which is about 200 miles, to my hometown where my father lives. So, I could get there in two sections if there was a charging station in the Harrisburg area. Currently Pennsylvania is in the process of installing some of the Level 3 chargers, probably 17 of them, along the turnpike system in Pennsylvania. Once those are installed, I should be able to get to Harrisburg, recharge with the Level 3 charger, and then drive on to State College, sort of as an experiment. Now again, most people who buy the LEAF don't expect it to have, are using it more locally, but I would like to take it on longer trips than just in the area.

Chad
You seem to really really like the LEAF. Are there any other things you'd like to tell us about why you like it, or why it's just such a great vehicle?

Paul
Well, it's just such a great vehicle. One of the reasons is because I've forgotten what the cost of a gallon of gas is because I never have to fill it up, there's no tailpipe, there's no idling, and so the carbon load is very low. We're also using wind energy from a wind farm in southern Pennsylvania for our electricity, so we're not transferring the carbon load from burning gas to burning coal. So all in all, the LEAF is a nice combination of environmentally friendly, sensitive to climate change, and it gets the job done. It's also fun to drive because it has a lot of pickup. The electric motors actually are quite peppy and accelerate quite nicely in traffic. So all around it's a nice package for the cost and the performance.

Chad
I hear that you also go green on wheels in another way. I hear that you also bike around Rockville. Would you share some of your experiences on that?

Paul
Rockville is a very bike-friendly city, and I also do a lot of riding out in western Montgomery County with a group of riders. I've been riding a bike recreationally for about 10 years and do a lot of rides in the area and also out of the area, over on the eastern shore. Biking is also a very green activity, as you might imagine. So the overall goal is to reduce the carbon load, so between the bike and the LEAF I think I'm able to accomplish that pretty well.

Chad
Thank you for watching our show. If you'd like to hear more about Paul Triolo and his electric car, or learn more about how to live a sustainable lifestyle, visit RockvilleLiving.com. Thank you Paul for sharing your experience of going green on wheels. It was a pleasure having you.

Filed under Tech & Science, Green transportation

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