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Efficiency Technology Energy Spring 2018

Electric Loaner Fleet a Hit with Midwest Engine Customers

Most car repair service customers have little reason to get excited about driving a loaner vehicle. But Wayne Hammer, owner of Midwest Engine Service—a Madison-based automotive repair shop—decided to shake that expectation up a bit when he added five Smart electric vehicles (EVs) to his loaner fleet. "I bought one for myself and liked it so much I decided to buy some for the company."

Electric vehicle loaner fleet

Midwest Engine Service owner Wayne Hammer added five electric vehicles to his loaner fleet because they are cost-effective to operate and fun to drive.

Hammer had two reasons for the purchase. "Most customers haven't tried an electric vehicle and they tend to be pretty intrigued by them. They're fun to drive—the pick-up is amazing! I also thought it was a good business decision. We're starting to see more pure electric and hybrid vehicles and I wanted to make sure our staff had the skills they needed to handle repairs. Plus, they should be pretty cost-effective to operate."

EVs can be surprisingly affordable

Although the purchase price of an EV can be higher than that of a gasoline-powered car, operating costs are much lower. "Electric vehicles typically have lower maintenance costs too," added Debbie Branson, MGE's New Market Manager. Just a few of the things that don't need to be replaced on an all-electric vehicle: oil, fan and timing belts, air filters, cylinder heads, spark plugs and head gaskets. Plus gasoline-powered engines typically have dozens of parts, while an electric motor only has one moving part. In addition, most feature regenerative braking, which should result in longer brake life.

Choosing a charger

To ensure customers always have access to a fully charged vehicle—the 100% electric Smart cars can go about 50 miles on a complete charge—Hammer opted to install two charging stations at his shop.

"I wasn't sure if I needed a special permit or what type of charger would be best so I called MGE," Hammer said. "They called me right back and recommended installing ChargePoint chargers."

Chargers come in two basic flavors: Level 1 (relatively inexpensive to install but take longer to charge) and Level 2 (more expensive but faster; some models can allow for multiple users at one time). Hammer opted for Level 2 chargers.

When choosing a charger installation site, it's important to consider power supply, safety and security, ADA compliance, the type of unit being installed, and whether additional electrical equipment will be needed. MGE can help customers address all of these issues.

Charger access becoming less of a concern

Public charging stations are widely available. There are about 50 public charging stations in Madison alone—MGE owns 29 of them—and, according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, there are currently 24,730 public alternative fuel stations in the United States.

"There are also quite a few different apps that you can download to your phone to find a public charging spot," said Branson. " is very popular and most cars have charging maps as well."

Could an EV fleet be right for your business?

"There's no 'one size fits all' when it comes to making the business case for EVs," said Branson. "There are a lot of variables to consider, but MGE is happy to help you evaluate your total cost of ownership. There are still federal tax incentives, plus, of course, lower fuel costs, less maintenance and knowing you're driving more environmentally friendly vehicles."

MGE has developed a comprehensive employer's guide for workplace charging. This helpful tool walks employers through the various issues that are critical to consider when adding EVs or charging stations at the workplace. MGE is also happy to connect interested businesses with others who have already added EVs. Just contact us at 252-7007 or by email.

Please note: EV charging may affect demand charges. Talk to your MGE account manager about your electric rate and options for managing demand charges.