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Electric vehicles making big inroads

Speaker from Fox Valley group jump-starts audience

Retired pilot Tracey McFadden of Elburn is an electric vehicle enthusiast. He will talk about electric cars in a program at 7 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Batavia Public Library.
Retired pilot Tracey McFadden of Elburn is an electric vehicle enthusiast. He will talk about electric cars in a program at 7 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Batavia Public Library.

BATAVIA – Sales of electric vehicles are accelerating rapidly and with the promise of changing the way people think about their automobiles.

That’s the message from Tracey McFadden of the Fox Valley Electric Auto Association.

McFadden told a crowd attending a recent program organized by the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County that the electric vehicle is nothing short of a worldwide revolution and it is coming fast.

“Automakers are putting a lot of money into electric vehicles,” McFadden said. “This is really happening.”

The audience at the Batavia Public Library quickly became engrossed in McFadden’s stark depiction of the future and his obvious enthusiasm for electric vehicles.

“Electric cars are just fun to drive,” said McFadden, of Elburn. “They are fast, quiet, reliable and safe.”

For residents interested in hearing McFadden’s presentation on electric cars, he will be giving it again, at 7 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Batavia library building, this time with the sponsorship of the Sierra Club of the Fox Valley.

Cars powered by the internal combustion engine are now known by the unflattering acronym of ICE, McFadden said, and are more costly to operate because of their complex drive-trains.

McFadden doesn’t hate internal combustion engines. He’s been taking them apart and putting them back together since he was a boy.

He understands the science of transportation better than most, having learned to fly at the age of 16. He recently retired after a career as a commercial airline pilot at the controls of the Boeing 727 and the McDonnell-Douglas MD80.

McFadden has embraced electric vehicle technology and is encouraging others to do so too.

“You’ll see a change in your fueling pattern,” McFadden said.

Instead of having to stop at a service station to fill up the gasoline tank, motorists will find themselves simply plugging in when they get home at the end of the day.

For long trips, motorists can use charging stations that are becoming more prevalent.

“Finding a charging station is easy,” McFadden said. “There’s an app for that.”

McFadden sought to dispel the idea that electric cars are for tree-hugging environmentalists or science geeks.

“Normal people drive electric cars,” McFadden said.

Cars like the Chevrolet Bolt or the Tesla Model 3 are a pleasure to drive and very economical, both from a fueling and maintenance standpoint, McFadden said.

“The cost of buying an electric car is decreasing because of the sharp and ongoing drop in battery prices,” McFadden said. “And ranges are getting longer.”

With the batteries arrayed along the bottom of the chassis, electric vehicles have a low center of gravity that provides a more stable driving platform, McFadden said.

“There are no oil changes,” McFadden said. “You don’t have to replace fan belts, or spark plugs,” he added, continuing with a long list of parts that wear out on an ICE car.

“There are fewer moving parts,” McFadden said.

A lot fewer, in fact, with about 20 moving parts in an electric vehicle compared to about 2,000 in an ICE vehicle.

McFadden couldn’t think of much in the way of routine maintenance for the electric car other than rotating the tires and adding windshield wiper fluid.

Electric car owners do need to have the vehicle coolant circuits drained and refilled – once every 150,000 miles, McFadden said.

There are all-electric vehicles and there are hybrid vehicles that combine a conventional gasoline engine and a battery-powered electric engine.

“If you have range anxiety, buy a hybrid,” McFadden said, even as he signaled that the all-electric vehicle represents the future.

“Better batteries are definitely on the way,” McFadden said.

There are roughly a million electric vehicles operating in the United States now, McFadden said, and about 5 million globally. Electric vehicles are on a pace to make up about half of vehicle sales by 2030, he said.

Buses are the fastest-growing segment of electric vehicles, McFadden said, as public transportation systems opt for electric-powered fleets.

Many nations are establishing target dates in the not-too-distant future when ICE vehicles are to be phased out of production, McFadden said.

McFadden presented plenty of technical detail on different types of electric vehicles, purchase and maintenance costs, fueling costs and environmental effects.

Those figures raced to a single conclusion: electric vehicles already are cheaper to operate and better for the environment, and the initial investment is competitive with ICE cars.

McFadden was assisted in his presentation by fellow Fox Valley Electric Auto Association member Jeff Miller of Crystal Lake.

Miller showed the crowd the different types of electrical cables and plugs used to charge up electric cars.

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