EnergyLines July 2020
Just under a century ago, electric cooperative employees went door to door, explaining the benefits of electricity to prospective members and answering their questions. Since then, co-ops have played a key role in educating members about new electrical technologies, from grain dryers to heat pumps.
While electric vehicles (EVs) have been produced for some time, they’ve begun to gain traction with consumers who want to reduce their impact on the environment. As manufacturers respond to the demand, consumers are faced with a variety of models and a confusing new set of statistics. Where can they turn for helpful, objective advice? ChooseEV.
This online information is where consumer-members can find the information they need, directly from their co-op. Hoosier Energy is working with members to roll out this easy-to-understand and comprehensive source of information about electric vehicles.
“People who are visiting co-op websites that include the ChooseEV tools are interested in three primary things,” explains Ben Yenter, President and CEO of The Yenter Group, developers of the platform.
“One, they want to know what kind of fuel savings they can expect. Two, they want to see what kind of vehicles are available. And third, they want to understand what sort of rebates and incentives are available for those vehicles. We’re helping co-op members take a big step towards an informed purchase.”
After Hoosier Energy’s Chad Jenkins, Renewable Energy Project Developer, saw ChooseEV during an educational workshop, he was eager to bring the platform to member systems. “It was a well-developed platform and they worked with co-ops and utilities nationwide,” said Jenkins. “They have a lot of experience in working with co-ops to educate members.” ChooseEV works with more than 500 electric providers in 34 states, including approximately 200 co-ops.
“We do the heavy lifting so the co-ops don’t have to,” says Yenter. “We create and manage these robust marketing and technology tools and deliver them to utilities and co-ops. That allows us to share the costs and keep it affordable for everyone. We had a vision to help utilities of all sizes, and we’ve been able to grow from a half-dozen in 2017 to more than 500 today.” The Seattle-area company monitors the ever-changing landscape of models, rebates and incentives to ensure members have current information. The content is also mobile-ready, so members can access it on any device.
“They show specs of all EVs and the current tax incentives associated with each model,” says Jenkins. “The savings calculator also lets you compare the fuel costs of EVs to those of most vehicles with gas or diesel engines since the 2000 model year.”
Harrison REMC Energy Advisor Nick Geswein sees ChooseEV as a key part of his co-op’s efforts to be an energy partner to members. “We believe interest in EVs will increase rapidly in the next couple of years and we want to get out in front of that demand. It’s an opportunity to help members save on fuel while growing the co-op’s load.”
Yenter adds, “Every fossil fuel vehicle that sells in your service territory is 10 years of kWh you won’t sell. That represents between $3,000 and $4,000 in lifetime value per vehicle.”
Harrison REMC will be purchasing an EV of its own. “We plan to use it at the office, park it out front so members can see it and bring it to events,” Geswein explains. The co-op is also planning to allow members to take test drives. “They can schedule an appointment, and the staff will ride along with them.”
Yenter praised the Hoosier Energy and member system teams for their willingness to integrate the platform into their communications efforts. “They’ve come onboard very quickly … faster than any of the other G&Ts we’ve worked with,” he notes.
Geswein believes it’s critically important for co-ops like his to share the EV story. “If nobody’s out there advocating for the technology and talking about the pros and cons, it probably won’t take off,” he suggests. “And that would be a missed opportunity for our members and for us as a utility. As new technology evolves, we need to continue to be the resource for our members.”