Sarasota, Florida - If it seems there are more electric vehicles on the road, you are right. Sarasota County is seeing the trend, with the third highest number of EV's based on population in the state.
While EV's save money on fuel and help the environment, county leaders see another benefit: helping put a charge back in the economy.
"The money is a great part. The other part is the nimbleness of the vehicle," says Robert Day. He bought his Nissan Leaf three years ago. "It's a fun vehicle to drive," he says.
When Robert's battery runs low, he stops for a charge at one of 22 public charging stations in the county. His savings here is why he bought the car.
"While I care about the environment, money is the first thing. I spend $350 a month on gas on my pick up, that I still have for long trips versus less than a 10th of that on electricity," says Day.
While electric vehicles help owners save money on every charge, some Sarasota County leaders see EV as a way to help boost the local economy. That's why they're thinking of adding more charging stations as a way to attract visitors.
"Really good for businesses to attract customers. The EV owners, they know where stations are, and they know how much they charge and how to plan their day their weekends around that infrastructure. Businesses should be savvy about that," says Lee Hayes Byron, with Sarasota County Sustainability.
Robert Day uses an app to track charging stations for family outings.
Expect to see more electric vehicles on the road. Last year, the number of electric vehicles in Sarasota County jumped from 99 to 160. There are 3,100 electric vehicles on Florida roads, but the US Department of Energy forecasts that number to jump to 226,000 by the year 2022.
According to the Sierra Club, Sarasota tops the 5 worst counties for ozone in the state, coming in 5th place. Hillsborough tops the list, followed by Santa Rosa, Orange and Escambia County.
During a commission meeting Tuesday, Sarasota County Commissioners ordered staff to take a look at infrastructure opportunities to help expand EV charging stations. Commissioners also asked staff to look at policy changes.
The Suncoast Electric Vehicle Collaborative group recommends putting charging stations in high-need areas, including south county, tourist destinations such as beaches and in the workplace. Byron says the SCEVC will also work on raising public awareness and educating businesses to the benefits of electric vehicles.
Sarasota became the first local government to add hybrid/electric vehicles to its fleet in 2005. Byron says a $20,000 grant helped pay for the installation of the nine county-owned charging stations. The cost to maintain the stations is $1,620 for the networking system and $865 in electricity per year for all nine stations.
Byron says, "We think businesses and developers will do this on their own make sense"
As for Robert Day, he loves his EV. "This is a most fun car I have ever driven. I love the get-up-and-go."