An Electric Vehicle Ride-Along

Benton REA's electric vehicle charging at a public station

Benton REA used social media to let me members follow its electric vehicle on a long trip.

By Troy Berglund, community development and member relations manager at Benton REA.

I love talking to our members about what they are interested in, particularly when it comes to energy. In recent years, there has been growing interest among our members to learn more about electric vehicles.

A few years ago, I made presentations about EVs at two local chamber of commerce luncheons. I was surprised by the high level of interest on the subject. I didn’t expect much interest in our rural communities, where EVs didn’t seem as practical yet. I was also surprised by the wide range of perceptions regarding the actual capabilities of EVs.

Benton REA prides itself on being a trusted information source for our members’ energy needs. We learned during the early days of net metering and rooftop solar—when interest was growing among our members—that it was helpful to show them an actual solar project and discuss our real-life experience. We built solar demonstration projects at each Benton REA office and hosted classes for our members.We didn’t persuade members for or against rooftop solar, but provided them with accurate information so they could make the decision that fit their individual needs and desires.

Benton REA took a similar approach to EVs by buying a fully electric Chevy Bolt for our fleet. Now we can talk about our real-life experiences. Even better, we can use social media to share that experience in real time.

I recently traveled from Prosser to Spokane to be a speaker on a panel discussing electric vehicle programs and policies in Washington state. It was a golden opportunity to bring our members along for the ride—along with anyone who follows our Benton REA Facebook page.

Our Facebook story began at 6 a.m. in Prosser as I began our journey. With an estimated range of 238 miles, there was plenty of battery power to make the 150-mile trip to Spokane. But I wanted members to see how charging went at multiple public fast-charging stations.

I made stops in Connell on the way to Spokane, and Ritzville on the way back. I also charged to 80% while in Spokane. Of course, I documented the trip and each stop with video updates on our Facebook story and timeline.

The trip was very smooth. Two of the three charging station locations worked with no problems. The third station eventually worked, but only after two of the three charging bays failed to provide a charge. The big takeaway: Plan for extra time in your trip to allow your EV to charge. The charging added an extra hour to my roundtrip to Spokane. I planned for that and ate lunch while the Bolt charged.

Last, but not least, Benton REA takes advantage of its EV to educate its members and the public about the value hydroelectricity brings to our region. Benton REA receives more than 85% of its power from hydroelectricity. Our vehicle wrap highlights that our EV, which has zero tailpipe emissions, is mostly powered by clean, carbon-free hydroelectricity.

We look forward to taking our electric vehicle on more longrange business trips, as well as to local meetings and events. It’s been a fun and educational ride.

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