Community Spotlight: Henry Sollitt on driving his Hybrid EV in Jackson

Henry Sollitt is a young Jackson native who participates in the “ski bum lifestyle” while also driving a plug-in hybrid vehicle. He drives a 2013 Ford C-Max Energi, which in his experience runs on all-electric for about 24 miles and then switches to hybrid mode. Henry stated that it is incredibly easy to charge his vehicle around town, and free of charge because the Town Of Jackson offers electric vehicle charging as an amenity to residents and visitors. At home, he uses a regular plug (110 volt) and it takes about 6-8 hours to charge fully. In comparison, when he charges around town his car can be fully charged in 3-4 hours utilizing a Level II charging station (240 volt).

Henry drives his car all winter long and explains that he has had very little trouble with the colder temperatures. In fact, his car has turned on easily on -20 degree mornings when other car engines have trouble starting. Henry mentioned, “the colder temperatures do decrease the efficiency of the hybrid vehicle, but regardless he is still getting better gas mileage than most other vehicles on the road in the same weather conditions”. As he said he is “still using electricity, still more efficient, which is pretty cool” given the extreme weather we experience in Jackson. Henry explained that there was one big powder day on the pass where he could not make it up to ski in his car due to lack of four-wheel drive, the hybrid has front-wheel drive, and lack of clearance. However other than that the Ford C-Max Energi has been an ideal vehicle that gets him everywhere he needs to go. When more clearance or 4-wheel drive is needed, he’s been able to ride with friends.

When searching for a new vehicle, Henry was initially looking for a hybrid or a fully electric vehicle. However, he also wanted an SUV type car that would be suitable for the many outdoor activities the region provides. He explains that he started to give up hope of finding an electric vehicle, due to availability locally and cost, and started to focus on fuel efficiency. Henry was lucky to eventually find his hybrid vehicle through a family connection in Southern California. He acknowledges that he got a very good deal on his vehicle and that price is very prohibitive to the younger age group when wanting to purchase a more sustainable vehicle. However, he believes that many younger individuals could most likely afford a similar used electric vehicle if they are able to find one nearby. He compared the price he paid to a 2009 Toyota Tacoma. He explains that “they are getting worse fuel economy and don’t necessarily need a pick-up truck for what they are doing and therefore are burning more gas”.

Overall, Henry greatly recommends buying a hybrid electric vehicle, all-electric vehicle, or more fuel-efficient vehicle when purchasing your next car. Even for the younger individuals in Jackson, who might think an electric vehicle would not be feasible for them to purchase. He explains that his hybrid vehicle has been very easy to maintain and that the fuel cost is low. Therefore the initial investment has been paying off very quickly, especially with relatively cheap charging at home and free charging in the Town of Jackson. Henry claims that his vehicle can be used for “95% of activities in the valley, and the other 5% you can find a ride with a friend”.

Stakeholder Spotlight: Michael Donch with the Custer Gallatin NF

Michael moved back to Bozeman in 2001 and started managing the Custer Gallatin National Forest’s green fleet of vehicles. When he started as Fleet Manager there was only a singular hybrid vehicle in the fleet, a 2005 Ford Hybrid Escape that was driven. In 2008 and in 2010, he added three more Hybrid Escape’s to the fleet. And in 2011, Michael requested grant money to buy a Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric vehicle and to purchase solar panels to provide electricity to power the Volt. This vehicle greatly decreased the amount of coal burned for fuel and the solar panels installed generated 3,830 kWh of energy in 2018, thanks to Michael’s efforts. This amount of solar energy generated is equivalent to 2.7 metric tons of CO2 or 305 gallons of gas saved. At this time the solar panels have been up for 80 months and have generated about 25,600 kWh of electricity. Furthermore, the energy generated is being returned to the grid and then back to the green fleet vehicles through overnight charging. Michael has continued to apply for alternative fuel funding and has been awarded money each year to upgrade the Custer Gallatin National Forest’s green vehicles. Overall, the Custer Gallatin National Forest is one of the greenest fleets in the National Forest system with five hybrid vehicles and soon five plug-in hybrid vehicles as well. Michael Donch has been very successful as a Fleet Manager and has made steps towards creating an environmentally conscious fleet of vehicles for the Custer Gallatin National Forest. It is a common misconception that electric vehicles are not a viable option in our region and a 4-wheel drive truck is always needed, however, we are fortunate to have the Forest Service in our region effectively using electric vehicles. If the agency that serves the rugged national forest can successfully use electric vehicles, this encourages all to reexamine what can work for them.

 

“Technological Tour de Force”

by Amy Snelling

Can the high distinction of “Best Overall Car” from Consumer Reports really belong to a vehicle with no emissions? Why, yes, yes it can. The revolutionary Tesla Model S has received global praise and according to Consumer Reports’ test rating, “it outscores every other car.”

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Tesla Model S Drives Over Teton Pass!

It has recently come to our attention that there is a Tesla in the Jackson area! The owner’s nephew, Ted Kidd, took it for a ride over Teton Pass and documented the entire trip.

This trip is a great example of regenerative breaking and how mountain driving can work in favor of electric vehicles’ range.

First, what is regenerative braking?

regenerative-brake-diagram

If you are coasting down hill in a vehicle, your wheels accumulate a large amount of kinetic energy.  As you get going too fast, and need to brake, all of that kinetic energy is lost as heat to the atmosphere.   In electric vehicles or hybrids, the electric motor runs backwards to brake the car when you press on the brake pedal.  As the motor runs backwards, it acts as an electric generator, and produces electricity that goes straight to the car’s battery.  So every time a hybrid or electric vehicle brakes, it is essentially charging its own battery.

The following pictures are of the dashboard on the Tesla as it drives from Jackson, WY to Victor, ID and back. It is a perfect illustration of how regenerative braking works.

 

1The Tesla starts out in Wilson with 263 miles of electric power.

3Right as the climb begins, the Tesla has 245 miles of range.

 

4

At the top of the pass, the Tesla has 220 miles of range left. Going up the steep incline decreased the efficiency of the motor and it lost 25 miles of range over a 6 mile driving period.

 

5The drive down from the top of the pass to Victor was 10 miles, but did not decrease the range at all.  In fact, driving and braking 10 miles down the pass added 5 miles of range to the Tesla, bringing it back up to 225.

6After driving around Idaho for a while, they headed back up the pass with 179 miles of range.

 

7Following the long, steep climb up the Idaho side of Teton Pass, there was 149 miles of range remaining by the time they reached the top.

 

8And the back down into Wilson added 10 miles back onto the range due to the regenerative braking! Ending range: 157.

 

Driving an electric or hybrid vehicle up steep mountain passes can decrease the efficiency because you are not driving ‘ideally’.  However, this Tesla trip shows that the effects of regenerative braking negate some of the less than ideal effects of driving up a steep grade.  Overall, the Tesla traveled 110 miles and only lost 14 miles off the “ideal” range.

Now, let’s bring more electric cars to mountain towns!

For more information about electric vehicles and charging visit our vehicles and fuels pages.