Red Oak man plugs into battery-powered car

Chip Lininger of Red Oak shows off his 2019 Chevrolet Bolt. Those who own battery-powered cars can go to Casey’s on South 16th Street in Clarinda as MidAmerican Energy recently installed a car-charging station.

While it’s common for people to charge their cell phones in the car while they drive, Chip Lininger of Red Oak charges his car so he can drive.

The owner of a 2019 Chevrolet Bolt, Lininger is appreciative of the electric-car charger installed at the Casey’s on South 16th in Clarinda.

“I was watching Youtube videos and saw a Tesla 3,” Lininger said about one of the electric car companies. “I was fascinated and said ‘I’ve got to try one.’”

Last summer he test drove a Tesla in Omaha and Kansas City but couldn’t fit the electric car into his budget. He kept looking for other makes and models and eventually found the Bolt.

And he has since found owning an electric car is not exactly like owning a gas-powered car. His last gasoline-powered car was a Kia Soul.

“The charger is one of the hassles,” he said. “You have to have an account for all the companies.”

Although there is not a car charger station in Red Oak, he has a charger device at his home. He works at NSK in Clarinda and has a 64-mile roundtrip.

“I charge the battery up to 80 percent daily, which they say is good for the battery. There is a science behind it. They say you should charge it to 100 percent if you don’t know where a charger is, but 80 percent preserves the battery life.”

Devices to charge the car at home vary. His car included a 120 volt charger which he said equates to about 4 miles per hour of charge.

“You can get another charger, that splits off your clothes dryer electric line, that gets you 12 miles per hour charged. An even better one is a 55 amp circuit that gets 26 miles per hour,” he said.

But it doesn’t matter how fast the charge is to Lininger. He sees the financial benefits.

“The cost of electricity compared to gas is half,” he said.

Should he take a road trip, Lininger uses various apps on his smartphone to inform him where electric car charging stations are located. One app will even suggest the most efficient route knowing the destination and charging stations along the way.

Some apps show if the charging station is in use as it can take up to 40 minutes to complete a charge at certain locations. Companies offer incentives to create accounts. Customers pay with credit cards.

The Bolt has changed his driving habits.

“I used to be a lead foot,” he chuckled. “”Now, I’m real easy on everything as I want to save all the energy. The car forces you to be competitive with yourself.”

For example, Lininger said if he wants to beat a yellow traffic light, the Bolt has instantaneous response.

“With a gas car, there is a little bit of a lag. But with the electric, there is no lag because there is no transmission. The power is immediate. It does slap you back in the seat,” he said. “It’s a little addictive,” he smiled. “When you get on the interstate, it’s fun to just gun it.”

The car has options for driving styles. One is similar to a gas-powered car when the foot is off the accelerator, the car coasts.

“It kind of acts like an electric golf cart,” he said.

Another mode is called regenerative breaking. The car reverses polarity and turns the car into a generator and returns power to the battery.

“I’m in that mode 99 percent of the time,” he said.

He said the car makes very little noise. There is a slight electronic hum that fades out at higher speeds. At stop signs, there is no car noise.

“It’s so quiet,” he said.

Weather can also be a factor. During the winter, it’s common to lose miles since energy is shifted to meet the car’s needs for optimal running temperature and to provide heat for the interior. Driving into a stiff wind lowers miles too.

“You have to put more thought into it. You start watching yourself. It makes you a better driver. The car tells me how efficient of a driver I am,” he said.

But the opposite happens in the summer.

“Air conditioning doesn’t use much energy. The mileage range will go up. Normally, it’s about 238 miles. In the summer, it can get up to 280.”

The car has all the standard features from climate control, power windows, locks and entertainment.

Since there is no oil or transmission fluid, those maintenance routines are not needed. He does rotate tires.

“The Bolt hasn’t been out long enough to know how long it will really last, but some say expect 300,000 miles. There is battery degradation, like a cell phone. If you charge it over and over it won’t last long. The same thing happens to a car, but it’s a slower process,” he said.

The Bolt was introduced for the 2017 model year.

During his research, he learned of a Bolt that has 120,000 miles but had only lost 5 percent of the battery power.

“That’s not enough to even notice,” he said.

The battery pack replacement can cost up to $15,000. The car has warranties similar to gas-powered cars. Common with other technological advances, as electric cars grow in use, he expects the parts to lower in price and be competitive.

Lininger said the car has higher insurance premiums because of the high-tech electrical components to repair or replace. Registration is higher than his previous gas-powered cars.

“The cost of the car is one reason,” he said about registration fees. “It feels like a punishment since you are not paying the gasoline tax.” Taxes on gasoline fund road repairs.

Lininger encourages those interested in purchasing an electric car to do thorough research as all makes and models are not the same form performance to cost.

“Consider your needs which are your normal range of travel. That’s important. If you have a lot of long distance travel, be careful with what you get,” he said. “I was excited Clarinda got a charging station. It will be great for those who travel.”

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