Jason Ben Nathan / Sun Staff Photographer

Electric vehicle owners in Ithaca demonstrate their cars at Saturday's event.

September 17, 2017

Ithaca Hits the Road With Electric Vehicles

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Electric vehicles are no longer the car of the future — they drive among us.

Ithaca joined 264 cities worldwide to bring awareness to sustainable alternatives in the automotive industry on Saturday as part of the National Energy Drive Week.

Twenty-four different electric cars were registered for this weekend’s events, ranging from a Tesla Model S to a Chevrolet Volt. Residents of all ages made their way through Press Bay’s lot, asking volunteers in green about mileage and charging ports. Some even took advantage of offers to go on test runs and see the electric cars take the road.

Generally, many people are put off by the sticker price, as electric cars are usually more expensive than gasoline cars. However, the long-term savings can outweigh these prices, and these prices are starting to decline.

“There’s more and more rebates and programs to make it more affordable to people,” said Sharon K. Anderson, an environmental team leader with Cornell Cooperative Extension, who was collecting information and offering details on energy-efficient charging patterns.

Some are also concerned about the charging sources and the durability of batteries.

“Currently, the main thing that is keeping people from buying an electric vehicle is that they fear that if they run out of charge and there is no charging infrastructure around, then it might probably cause them inconvenience,” said Pooja Shah, who represented Clean Communities of Central New York.

Nonetheless, Shah believes that the market for electric cars is “really promising actually, and with more charging infrastructure, it should improve.”

Charging stations have indeed become more frequent in cities recently. Tompkins County currently has over 20 stations for electric cars, and Ithaca is working to install several more in areas like Collegetown and near Ithaca Mall soon, according to Tompkins County’s EV Infrastructure Plan.

Many Ithaca-based companies such as Renovus Solar and Taitem Engineering — which both offer services relating to energy-efficiency — made an appearance with booths at Saturday’s event, which was the second annual NEDW event in Ithaca.

According to the participating EV owners, Tesla cars can travel as far as 250 miles off a single overnight charge, with other plug-in cars being able to travel just below 200 miles usually.

Electric drivers also enjoy “silent” rides with the absence of engines, smooth acceleration and the benefit of less maintenance checks. For Ithaca drivers, EV owner Nathanael Nerode shared that his EV was “really, really good with hills.”

In 2016, Forbes reported a 37 percent jump in electric sales. Tompkins County — which reports to have 202 electric vehicles, the second highest in the state — does not seem to be an exception to the phenomenon of electric vehicles.

“I think all new cars will be electric in 10 years,” Nerode said.