David Try explains how the lithium ion battery engine of his Chevrolet Volt operates and differs from the standard internal combustion engine. To date

Charged up: driving ‘green’ in Terrace is very much in its infancy

Economist Dr. David Try has one less market to worry about and that is the rising cost of fuel at the pump.

Economist Dr. David Try has one less market to worry about and that is the rising cost of fuel at the pump.

Last September, Try purchased a Chevrolet Volt, and is the only person in Terrace to have one so far.

“It’s completely normal, you would not know you are driving an electric car,” he said.

As an economics professor at Northwest Community College, and a father of two, Try’s decision to purchase the Volt came down to money. After watching the rising cost of fuel at the pump, Try decided to take this different approach.

“It’s cheap to operate,” he explained.

To “fill up” his car, it costs just $1.25 to fully charge the lithium-ion battery at his home, while charging at public stations are free.

Try has to visit a gas station so infrequently  that he recalled while driving one of his other cars, a Porsche, he was confused what the light on his dash meant. After looking at it puzzled, he then realized that the car needed gas.

Although he may be saving on fuel, the Chevrolet Volt, like other electric cars, is an expensive initial investment, even with a provincial government rebate of $5,000.

Try estimates he’s saving approximately $2,000 a year on gas, oil changes and even brake pads, meaning his break-even point to account for the $15,000 difference between his Volt and a car with a combustion engine will be in seven years.

The Volt’s lithium-ion battery uses magnets to slow the car as soon as the driver’s foot is removed from the gas pedal. Try said this system means he hardly needs to use the breaks, only when he needs to make a complete stop.

The braking system catches the energy normally lost during braking and adds it back to the battery supply, ideal for city driving, where the stop and go traffic recharges the battery.

The same regenerating technology is used in the hybrids made by other manufacturers.

Driving downhill also regains the power lost while powering uphill. When driving through the topography of northwest B.C., Try is able to switch the car mode to mountain, which tells the car to expect lots of hills, and to anticipate this give and take battery action.

All activity happening with the car’s engine is displayed on one of the two digital displays, with one above the steering wheel, and another on the centre dashboard.

The displays inform the driver how efficient their driving is, with a green ball that hovers between ‘accel’ and ‘brake,’ icon. Also displayed are the charge and range of the battery.

With just the press of a button, the car seamlessly switches from electric to gas or vice versa.

This switch goes unnoticed by passengers, as the car runs quietly and smoothly in either mode.

“It’s cool, I enjoy it a great deal,” Try said.

In the electric car world, Volts are called an extended range vehicle. That’s because its gas engine, when it does start, powers an electric generator which then runs the engine.

Other hybrid models will switch to a conventional gas engine once their batteries are depleted.

The one cautionary note about hybrids is that the battery’s charge can be affected by climate, something that’s a factor in northern areas.

The Nissan Leaf, a pure electric vehicle has a range of 160 km, which could only make it from Terrace to just past Hazelton.

With three public charging stations around Terrace, Try jokes that he is one of the few people  that has reserved parking.

Try also says he rarely drives more than 60km in a day, so his battery is almost never depleted.

The only dislike Try has about his car, is that electric -powered seats were not an option, ironically.

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