Driving without the pump | SteamboatToday.com

Driving without the pump

— Steamboat Springs resident Jeff Troeger and his family have put almost 15,000 miles on their four-door hatchback in the past two years but have never filled up at a gas station.

Local Luanne Feldmann has driven her sport utility vehicle to her job as a school teacher for the past three months but has only filled up once, just after she first drove into Steamboat from Denver.

Troeger and Feldmann will be among other drivers happy to show off their high-tech or innovative answers to saving gasoline during the Alternative Fuels and Gas-Saving Technologies Auto Expo from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 5 at the Depot Art Center.

The wide variety of vehicles at the expo will range from all-electric models to plug-in hybrids and from electric bikes to a propane-powered school bus. Vehicles fueled by biodiesel, propane and compressed natural gas will be on hand.

Troeger will show his all-electric 2013 Nissan Leaf and offer rides. Feldmann will display her 2015 Porsche Cayenne SUV plug-in hybrid that gets the equivalent of 47 miles to the gallon. The Porsche has an all-electric range of at least 20 miles per charge before switching to hybrid mode.

“I am concerned about the environment and am very careful about doing every thing I can do,” Feldmann said. “Driving it (the plug-in hybrid), I really feel like I’m making a difference.”

After the outdoor expo, Bud Werner Memorial Library will host a free screening of the documentary “Pump” at 6:30 p.m. that tells the history and options that drivers have to fuel vehicles.

For two decades, Troeger, a 35-year Steamboat resident and now part-time Colorado Mountain College sustainability studies instructor, has commuted to work and done errands as much as possible by bicycle, walking and local transit buses. Ten years ago, he bought a 2003 Honda Civic hybrid vehicle with an average 44 miles per gallon.

“It was a higher mpg and lower emissions improvement over traditional cars, but it still depended on gasoline with all of those unintended consequences and negative externalities. Less bad doesn’t necessarily mean good,” Troeger said. “But with three people at home, all with different schedules and destinations, we still found the need for cars. If we needed to drive, how could we minimize things beyond car pooling? That led me to electric vehicles.”

Troeger calculates the all-electric Leaf costs 38 cents per day to operate with the family’s usual driving of 20 miles a day, or about one-sixth the equivalent costs for a traditional vehicle. That translates to 1.9 cents per mile with the Leaf versus 11.44 cents per mile in an average 27 MPG gasoline engine, said Troeger, who retired from his full professor position in business and economics.

With local electricity rates, Troeger determined his family spends $11.58 per month in electricity to charge the Leaf on a regular household outlet in the garage. The family recently bought 14 solar panels in the solar array in Craig to cover the electricity needs for their home and car.

The cost, options and manufacturers for all-electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles have increased greatly in recent years.

“We are paying less for our monthly Leaf lease than for our three smart phones each month,” Troeger said.

To battle a misperception about electric vehicles in the mountains, Troeger loves to tell people about his Leaf, “Did I mention it drives great in the snow?”

“We’ve had zero battery problems even at 23 degrees below zero, and we had immediate heat in the cabin,” said Troeger. He said the positive difference in driving an electric vehicle versus a traditional vehicle is “even greater because there is minimal maintenance on an EV with no transmission, no internal combustion engine and no oil changes needed.”

Vehicle owners like Troeger will be on hand Tuesday to answer questions, and educational handouts will be available. Contact info@yvsc.org for more information.

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