PRECorp Leases Electric Vehicle As Part Of Moonshot Initiative

Electric car
All-electric Chevy Bolt

Although EVs make up less than 1% of the vehicles on the road, the folks at Powder River Energy Corporation (PRECorp), a Basin Electric Class C member in Sundance, Wyoming, are staying ahead of the trend and taking time to research this technology and what it could mean for its members, their wallets, and the environment. 

Two years ago, the co-op leased an electric Chevy Bolt to help support its “Moonshot” initiative, with the goal of reducing its megawatt hour (MWh) cost to zero for its members by 2050. In order to reach this goal, PRECorp is creating, adopting, and innovating new ideas to diversify its member base and increase its efficiency. The electric vehicle (EV) was leased for a three-year term and given the license plates “AC DC.” The vehicle was then wrapped with images highlighting the use of Wyoming’s abundant energy resources. 

Employees of the co-op participate in what’s called Power Pitch, where ideas are brought to the CEO, executive staff, and in-house subject matter experts for review and consideration in an attempt to increase revenue and decrease electricity usage. From this, came the idea to use an EV to educate members and employees on the pros and cons of EV technology. The big difference between an EV and a standard gas vehicle, besides running on electricity, is having to keep it charged; the driver has to watch the mile gauge versus the gas gauge. With board approval, a public charging station was installed in Sundance, with two more stations later installed in Gillette and Sheridan, Wyoming, for use by co-op employees. 

Providing a charging station in downtown Sundance makes it safe and easy for drivers to plug in and do some shopping or have a bite to eat while they wait. The location is a block away from other services including a park with splash pad, art gallery, museum, library, post office, and bank. The public station is free, and serves as a hub for EVs from across the country. On average, charging can take from two to five hours depending on the miles used, and costs the co-op around four cents an hour per charge. 

Members and employees can test drive PRECorp’s EV similar to what they’d do at a car dealership. They can also reserve the EV for a day, using it as a commuter vehicle between offices. “The EV is the perfect commuter car,” says Tim Velder, PRECorp’s communication manager. “If you only have to travel 30-40 miles each way, it makes sense to use an EV.” 

The Bolt, once charged, can travel close to 180 miles one way depending on the wind. “If the wind is blowing at your back, you might increase your distance by up to 20 miles. If you’re driving into the wind, that same distance may decrease 20-30 miles,” says Velder. He says it’s important to have your destination mapped based on available charging stations. There are several apps available to help drivers find a charging station, including the Plugshare app, which has recently been updated to include the Sundance location. 

Velder says if a member is sensitive to gas prices, they may want to consider an EV especially if they have a fairly short, consistent commute to work each day. However, if you’re looking to travel long distances, an EV is probably not a good choice. “It’s a lifestyle change,” says Velder. “Not only do you have to plan out your trip based on locations of charging stations, but most homes aren’t equipped to charge an EV, which means they need to be retrofitted.” 

Will PRECorp renew the lease on the EV? It’s undetermined. “At this point I’m confident we will continue the program, but what kind of vehicle we use could range from another sedan, to an SUV, or even one of those new pickups that Chevy and Ford are making,” says Velder.

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