The EV Ripple Effect
Nearly everyone who works at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital knows that if you’ve got questions about solar panels or electric vehicles, Dr. Timothy Rodgers probably has the answers. During the lunch hour, you can sometimes spot Timothy, a specialist in Internal Medicine, in the hospital’s cafeteria — and a couple times a week, he’s chatting with someone curious about green technologies.
His reputation is well deserved. Nearly three years ago, Timothy bought one of the very first Tesla models, an electric blue sports car style Roadster. The Community Environmental Council ran a blog post detailing his purchase and other energy efficiency measures, including a solar panel array that he and his wife, Pamela, had installed at their house the year before.
Timothy, however, is no longer the only electric vehicle (EV) owner in his extended family. In fact, his wife, son, daughter-in-law, and even his daughter-in-law’s mother all sit behind the wheel of their own EVs. His son, Kit, was with Timothy when he bought his Roadster in 2011, and although Kit loved the car’s eco-friendly concept and sporty look, he squelched the urge to purchase his own because of its limited practicality as a family car. Instead, he put his name on a waitlist for the Model S and received one of the first off the assembly line.
The women all have versions of the electric FIAT 500e. Kit and his wife, Courtney, live near San Francisco and routinely battle with traffic, so Courtney switched to the FIAT 500e not only to reduce her greenhouse gas footprint, but also to use the carpool lane – which allows single-occupancy EVs during peak traffic hours. When Courtney’s mother drove the car, she was so enamored by it that she purchased one too. An added perk of the FIAT 500e was the company’s offer of 12 free car rental days a year for those rare, longer trips when the limited range of the car can be a hindrance.
“One person spreads the technology to another. It’s how EVs have become a growing part of the automobile industry,” Timothy says. “When I bought my Roadster, people were buying electric vehicles to be green. Now, people are buying them because they make more sense economically. You can save a ton on gas savings alone.”
And with ever higher gas prices, those savings are far from paltry.
“Say you have a Prius,” Timothy explains, “and you get 50 miles per gallon. Driving one hundred miles takes two gallons. At $4.30 for premium fuel, that is $8.60. For me, I go 100 miles on 22 kWh. I charge at night and pay $0.09/kWh or about $2 for that same 100 miles. If you drive 10,000 miles a year, gas expenses for the Prius would be $860. Think how that compares to a car getting half what the Prius does. At 25 miles per gallon, that person would be paying $1,720/year for gas. For me, electrical cost is $200. And because I have solar panels, it’s ‘free’! ”
While electric vehicles are still uncommon, they aren’t rare, Timothy says, “and events like Earth Day and the CEC’s Plug-In Day in the fall are really helpful because they allow each EV owner to talk to several people about the technology, and they then talk to others and so on.”
It’s not just in Santa Barbara that Timothy dispenses his advice and enthusiasm about electric vehicles. Last summer, on a trip to Cambria, he parked his Roadster on the street, and a local motel owner and car enthusiast approached him to chat about it. Timothy recounts that the motel owner was considering putting in EV chargers to differentiate himself from his competitors, so Timothy put him in touch with several EV charger installation contractors he knew.
Three years and 18,000 miles later, there’s not much Timothy would do differently in terms of his energy efficiency makeover. There is one thing, however, he does regret. “I wish I’d bought more stock in Tesla,” he says with a bark of a laugh. When Timothy bought his car in 2011, stock price shares for Tesla were $27. Recently, the price hovered around $200.