Sarasota County has a history of leadership on Electric Vehicles (EVs). Recognizing the myriad potential benefits of EVs, the county has expressed support through resolutions, installation of charging stations and education programs since 2005. Sarasota County was the first local government in Florida to add EVs to its fleet and now is second in the state for number of EVs per capita.
The ChargeUP! Sarasota County program provides rebates to certain types of businesses, non-profits and local governments within Sarasota County to buy and install EV charging stations. Participants in this limited program may be eligible for one of the following rebates for a new, publicly available station:
- Non-profits or government organizations: 50 percent of cost, up to $4,000 maximum.
- Businesses: 25 percent of cost, up to $2,000 maximum.
The application period is now open until the limited funds have been committed. Learn more and apply with the following documents:
Sarasota County has added its first all-electric vehicle to its fleet: a Chevrolet Bolt, which will serve the UF/IFAS Extension and Sustainability Department. The Bolt is the first of eight that the County ultimately will add to its vehicle fleet, replacing plug-in hybrid Ford C-Max vehicles in use for several years.
Sarasota County was the first local government in Florida to add plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to its fleet, and continues to build on that commitment. County officials are committed to improving the sustainability of fleet vehicles to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, and save money.
Here are some benefits of this shift to all-electric:
- The lack of a complex gasoline engine means no oil changes and less maintenance.
- The only major maintenance recommended by Chevrolet for the Bolt is to drain and fill the vehicle coolant circuits at 150,000 miles.
- The U.S. Department of Energy estimates fuel savings, compared to a 2018 conventional gasoline engine, to be $4,250 over 5 years.
- Relying on more stable pricing of energy from power plants, instead of gasoline, helps reduce the risk of rising gasoline prices.
- In Florida, all-electric vehicles produce 87.4 percent fewer carbon dioxide emissions than gasoline-fueled vehicles.
Some additional interesting facts about the Chevrolet Bolt:
- The battery weighs 134 pounds more than the vehicle itself (which weighs in at 815 pounds).
- The vehicle has a range of 238 miles, with the ability to recharge the battery and extend vehicle range by partially capturing energy while coasting.
- Learn more about the benefits of electric vehicles.
A plug-in car uses electricity for some or all of its energy. That electricity is more affordable than gasoline, and is produced domestically. EV technology reduces fuel cost, vehicle emissions, and maintenance needs (no oil changes or tune-ups).
An all-electric vehicle (EV) stores all its energy in batteries. A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) relies on batteries for some of its energy and has a gas engine to extend driving range. PHEV technology offers the reduced petroleum consumption and emissions of an all-electric vehicle, together with the driving range expected from a gasoline engine vehicle.
Reasons for buying an electric vehicle may vary as widely as the types of electric vehicles. But often-cited reasons include:
- Save money through tax incentives, rebates, and eliminating fuel costs.
- Make a positive environmental impact.
- Vehicle performance.
Electric vehicles are now available in a wide variety of styles, efficiencies and price points. To find the EV that might be right for you, it is important to first understand the categories available. These include:
- Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV): Electric-only range of 10 to 40 miles. After, operates as a hybrid vehicle using a gasoline engine. (Learn more about PHEVs)
- Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV): Electric-only range of roughly 40 miles. After, a gasoline generator powers the electric motor for 300-plus miles.
- Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV): All-electric. Range of 80 to 100-plus miles. No gasoline engine. Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV): All-electric. Range of 25 miles. Limited to roads of 35 mph or less.
For help in choosing your next vehicle, visit these websites:
- Green Vehicle Guide (US EPA)
- Vehicle Cost Calculator (US DOE)
- Pick a Plug-in (Sierra Club)
- Electric Vehicle Explorer (Univ. of California - Davis)
To make it easier to compare cars while shopping on the showroom floor, each car has a fuel economy label that outlines fuel costs and environmental impacts. EPA has devoted a Web page to explaining an electric-vehicle fuel economy label.
Neighborhood Electric Vehicles
Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) are also referred to as Low-speed Vehicles (LSVs). Not to be confused with golf carts, NEVs have a higher top speed and are equipped with safety features like headlights, windshields, turn signals and seat belts to be legal for some public roads. They can be useful to make short trips for shopping, social, and recreational purposes without using a gasoline-powered vehicle.
NEVS are defined in Florida Statutes (FS) 320.01 as "four-wheeled electric vehicles whose top speed is greater than 20 miles per hour but not greater than 25 miles per hour." According to FS 316.2122, NEVs may be operated on public roadways that have a posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less and may cross roadways at intersections that have higher posted speeds.
In addition to driving an EV or PHEV, there are choices available for electric bicycles, motor-scooters and motorcycles. Electric bicycles offer point-to-point transportation for one person and some cargo. For most of us, many of our errands and trips are less than 10 miles and within the range of electric bicycles. People that enjoy the feeling of riding a bicycle but may need some help with the associated physical activity might enjoy the freedom of an electric bicycle.
Electric motor-scooters are available with a range of up to 30 miles. Electric motorcycles with ranges of 60 miles or more have been available for a few years, each year the new models go farther and seem to get faster. Even electric boats are available.
When considering an EV, some people have what is called "range anxiety," or fear of running out of charge before reaching their destination. Those with Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles don't need to worry about range at all, as they have the gasoline engine as a back-up. Range anxiety is decreasing for all EV drivers as battery capacities increase and more publicly available charging stations are installed. Understanding options for charging will help ease those fears further.
Electricity Costs for Charging
Fueling with electricity is much less expensive than fueling with gasoline, but it is not free. Fueling costs for an EV will include a slight increase in your home electric bill, plus any fees you may be charged at publicly available charging stations. Many public stations, including those owned by Sarasota County remain free as an incentive to support electric transportation, but some do charge a fee, usually per hour of active charging. The U.S. Department of Energy's vehicle cost calculator allows you to compare purchase and fuel costs of conventional and electric vehicles.
EV charging equipment can range from the basics of a 120-volt outlet cord provided with the car to a fully networked, rapid-charge system. In some instances, additional circuits might be required to supply the new charging station load. Locating the charging station close to an existing electrical supply might help minimize installation costs.
There are opportunities for combining building energy efficiency and plug-in vehicles. See Sarasota County Energy Upgrade for more information on improving home efficiency to save water, energy and money. Watch the Florida Solar Energy Center's “Drive for Free” video for information on how home energy efficiency can power a plug-in vehicle.
How Long Does Charging Take?
Using an ordinary 120-volt socket, it might take 10-20 hours to charge an EV with an empty battery. A Level 2, 240-volt charge cuts that by more than half. And a Level 3, DC fast-charger can recharge a car to 80 percent of capacity in less than 30 minutes. Some vehicle manufacturers and EV supporters are working to install these fast chargers along transportation corridors around the country, making long distance electric travel a reality.
Where Are the Charging Stations?
While about 80 percent of charging occurs at home, there are more and more charging stations on public and private properties in our region. That allows EV drivers to expand the range of their driving and top off their charge while running errands or while traveling.
Charging stations owned by Sarasota County currently are free to use. To find all charging stations in this community or across the nation, use the U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center station locator or crowd-sourced applications such as PlugShare.com.
Sarasota County offers classes and presentations on electric vehicles. You can register for classes at Eventbrite.com. Request a presentation or ask a question by contacting UF/IFAS Extension and Sustainability at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the county Contact Center at 941-861-5000.