Winchester residents test out electric cars in town’s first ride and drive event

Date: May 13, 2019
Author: Danae Bucci

As our planet nears a potential climate crisis, Winchester is doing its part to avert the looming catastrophe.

With that goal in mind, the town’s Energy Conservation Committee hosted its first electric vehicle ride and drive event. Local dealerships and car owners brought their electric cars for curious residents to test out on Saturday, April 27 at the Town Common.

Residents test out electric cars

Residents could get a feel for everything from the Honda Volt to a Tesla Model X. Although at least 134 electric vehicles are registered to Winchester residents, Winchester Energy Conservation Coordinator Susan McPhee, hopes to see that number rise as more events like this happen in the future.

“It’s just a matter of getting people to experience it and ask the questions and realize this isn’t something exotic,” said McPhee, who is leasing a hybrid car herself, and is hoping to buy a completely electric car soon. “It’s something practical that you can do today and actually you can probably save money while you’re doing it.”

Several towns in the state have been hosting similar electric car drives to get more people thinking about driving electric vehicles. Belmont alone has hosted nearly a dozen.

Winchester’s Sue Dubler sees events like these as a way to show residents what could be the norm going forward. “A lot of people are realizing that this is the future, it’s electric transportation,” she said.

Boston resident Conall McCabe stopped by Winchester’s event to show off his Tesla Model X, one of the two electric vehicles he owns. He feels it’s his responsibility as an electric car owner to show residents the options they have when looking to buy a car.

Other benefits of electric cars

But a positive environmental impact is only one reason to switch to electric cars.

“It’s not just about climate change this is a health problem, too,” said McPhee. Electric cars have non-exhaust emissions, which contribute to improved air quality and lower rates of asthma. They also require lower maintenance and lower fuel costs.

McPhee explained that 40 percent of emissions in Massachusetts come from transportation for average driver, a number that can drastically cut down by driving an electric vehicle. Per mile, gasoline-powered car emits about 381 grams of carbon dioxide, but with a plug-in hybrid -- an electric car that has a short 25-50 electric range and is backed up with a gasoline engine -- you can reduce that number by more than half, said Mal Skowron, an associate with the the Drive Green program. With an electric car, that number can be reduced even more.

“Quite simply, they’re just fun to drive,” said Skowron. “They have better acceleration, they’re zippy, they are reliable, they give us a better experience as consumers.” Drive Green program helps drivers find an electric car that suits them, find the best deal on one and make the switch. For instance, the program helps bring down the price of a Nissan Leaf, an all-electric car from about $30,000 to $17,000 after a special program discounts, and federal and state tax rebates.

Another 30 percent of emissions state-wide come from heat and electricity, McPhee explained -- also a number that could also be cut with new heating and cooling technologies promoted by program HeatSmart. Among them are air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps, solar hot water, and modern wood heating.

These initiatives will help Winchester jump start the town’s goal to reduce carbon emissions, which McPhee hopes would eventually get to zero, or carbon neutral. In the meantime, McPhee and a team of volunteers will continue to educate the community about reducing the carbon footprint.

“If we just keep going the way we are, head in the sand, I’m afraid we’re going to leave our children and their children a planet that we wouldn’t even recognize,” she said. “Because storms are going to get longer and stronger and more frequent, and our planet can’t withstand that.”