By Lily Bohlke - Public News Service

It is National Drive Electric Week, and electric vehicle (EV) advocates and utility companies are working to help get residents and the electrical grid that serves them ready for the rapidly-changing transportation market.

The Big Three auto manufacturers in Detroit; Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, have set a goal for 40% to 50% of their sales to be EVs by 2030.

Jeff Myrom, director of electric vehicle programs for the utility company Consumers Energy, said EVs have major environmental benefits, from reducing greenhouse gases to particulate matter from exhaust, which can affect people with asthma and other respiratory issues.

"Approximately in a year of owning your car, the average person, that electric vehicle has a smaller carbon footprint than a petroleum-fueled vehicle," Myrom explained. "And, of course, every year beyond that of driving just increases that environmental benefit."

The new Bring Your Own Charger program gives credits to Consumers Energy customers who charge their vehicles overnight between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Myrom added EVs take a lot of energy to reach full charge.

"At night, when there's much less electricity being used, the wires and the transformers around your house are, of course, still there," Myrom pointed out. "And they've got a lot more capacity on them than they would in the middle of the day."

He cautioned an increase in energy demand from more people charging vehicles at home could overwhelm the grid and require utilities to make upgrades. So, by charging during off-peak hours, they can keep electricity flowing with fewer upgrades, which saves utility customers' money.

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