Electric cars hard to find locally

Although electric cars are not popular at this time because of the low cost of gasoline, hybrid cars using both electricity and gas are still selling.

Leigh Black Irvin
A Hyundai Sonata is pictured on Nov. 16 at Horace Nissan Hyundai in Farmington.

FARMINGTON – Despite efforts nationwide to switch to “clean” energy, when it comes to personal transportation choices, it’s not easy to find a fully electric car for sale in Farmington.

Horace Nissan General Sales Manager Glenn Gent says there are several possible reasons for this.

“With solely electric cars, there’s something called ‘range anxiety,’” he said. “They can only go 80 to 100 miles on a charge, so if that’s your sole transportation, you’re not going to go to Albuquerque in it, you’re not going to go to Durango in it.”

For around town use an electric car can be a feasible option, but the demand for electric cars is directly tied to the cost of gasoline, Gent said.

“When you see gasoline prices in the mid-$2 (range), people are going in the direction of gas,” he said. “When a mid-size (gas-operated) sedan can get 40 miles per gallon, it doesn’t make sense to go electric, unless you’re trying to be green."

That isn’t the case with hybrid cars that use both gasoline and electricity, which are good sellers, said Gent. Unlike purely electric cars that plug in to an electric socket to charge, hybrid vehicles are charged solely off the car’s engine.

One such hybrid model that uses both gasoline and electricity offered by Horace Nissan is the Hyundai Sonata.

A Hyundai Sonata is pictured on Nov. 16 at Horace Nissan Hyundai in Farmington.

“The (electric) battery used to take up a lot of trunk space, but now it’s stored underneath the trunk,” said salesman Dustin Dehtan.

Dehtan explained that a hybrid utilizes both electricity and gasoline, charging the batteries when the driver applies the brakes. The car alternates between electricity and gas on its own, and the driver does not control it. When it’s operating on electricity, the vehicle is completely silent.

Dehtan said that this particular model, which is listed at slightly under $27,000, gets 40 miles per gallon in town, and 44 miles per gallon on the highway, compared to similar gas-powered Sonatas that start at $24,000 and get 25 mph in town and 35 mph on the highway.

He said Nissan does make a fully-electric car called the Leaf, but his dealership does not offer this car.

“You have to plug it in after 100 miles and It takes seven hours to charge, so it’s just not real popular in this area,” he said.

One dealership that, at one time, carried an electric car up until three years ago is Webb Chevrolet. The Chevrolet Volt runs on an electric battery, and once the battery charge drops, an internal combustion engine kicks in.

“The government was even offering a tax write-off if you bought a Volt, but they sat on the lot for over a year so we don’t carry them anymore,” said Webb Chevrolet sales consultant Keith Crawford. “Electric cars are just not as prevalent here as in big cities.”

Crawford said another problem several years ago with electric cars was that in the event of a car crash, the high-charged battery caused an extreme hazard to the driver and also to emergency medical technicians responding to the accident.

“They’ve improved the technology so much since then,” said Crawford. “But I just think it’s so ironic how everyone’s screaming about going green, yet the energy (that powers electric cars) comes from coal (powered) plants.”

Even the best known electric car, Tesla, does not have a dealer in New Mexico, though it has 735 supercharger stations throughout the U.S., including one located behind the Marriott Townplace Suites in Farmington.

One local hybrid driver says he’s satisfied with his choice of vehicle. Scott Michlin purchased a 2010 Mercury Milan several years ago, when gas prices were high and the electric option was a selling point. At the time, the hybrid cost the same as a gas-operated car.

“I thought gas prices were going to keep getting higher, which shows you what I know,” said Michlin.

Michlin has nonetheless been happy with the car, and said it is good on the highway during his frequent trips to Phoenix. He also appreciates the technology involved in a hybrid vehicle, and likes not having to fill up with gasoline as often.

“I’ve learned to accelerate slowly, which allows the car to operate longer on electric mode. Only when I speed up does it switch to gasoline,” he said.

Michlin said the only pitfall to the car occurs when he’s driving slowly in a parking lot in electric mode. Since the car is making no sound, it tends to startle pedestrians walking to their cars.

“I can creep up behind people because they can’t hear me, then they feel bad when they turn around and realize they had been walking down the middle of the parking aisle with a car following behind,” he said.

Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621. 

A Hyundai Sonata is pictured on Nov. 16 at Horace Nissan Hyundai in Farmington.