Brian Miller never thought he would own an electric vehicle. But, he said, it’s the best vehicle he’s ever owned.
“It’s the most quiet vehicle, with the smoothest and quickest acceleration, plus the best handling — even in snow. I never have to go to a gas station,” Miller, a material flow and logistics manager at John Deere Des Moines Works in Ankeny, Iowa, said. “The only problem was, I couldn’t drive it too far east because there were too few charging stations.”
That’s been partially resolved with the continued expansion of the charging network. More stations are being installed across the state, even at Des Moines Works. The factory became the first John Deere unit in North America to offer an electric-vehicle charging station to employees when it activated its station last November.
Alter your Approach
“With electric vehicles, you have to adjust the way you approach driving,” Miller said. “Traveling long distances requires a different approach.”
That approach includes knowing where the vehicle charging stations are and knowing if you can get there on a single charge. With more stations being added to the network, driving long distances is becoming easier.
Thomas Noble, environmental manager at Des Moines Works, credits factory manager Andrew Hansen for initiating the installation project. “There are a number of us at the factory interested in electric vehicles and their environmental benefits,” Noble said. “We were not sure what management support about this opportunity we would get, but Andy came to us instead.”
• Des Moines Works is the first John Deere unit in North America to install an electric-vehicle charging station
• Station provides a benefit to employees and encourages using vehicles that reduce greenhouse gas emissions
• Project team hopes to see more charging stations in the future
Noble worked with Abraham Markose, senior facility engineer, and a steering committee comprised of electric-vehicle owners to design, install, and manage the charging stations with an eye to the future.
“We wanted to install the charging station as a benefit to our employees, but now we see the station as ‘foundational’ to Deere potentially taking on a pool of electric vehicles for employee travel in the future,” Noble said.
John Deere has 10 locations within Iowa, plus another 10 in neighboring Illinois. Most of these facilities have company cars available for employees to drive to other locations for meetings.
“We can see a day when all of these pool cars are electric,” Noble said. “An electric fleet would help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But to make that happen, each unit would need to install a charging station. So we consider our installation a pilot project.”
“I think it’s very forward-thinking of Deere to install the charging station,” Miller said. “It’s a real opportunity for our company to demonstrate our commitment to the environment, and provide a benefit to employees. It’s definitely making a statement.”
We wanted to install the charging station as a benefit to our employees, but now we see the station as 'foundational' to Deere potentially taking on a pool of electric vehicles for employee travel in the future.”
Interest is on the Rise
Part of the project was opening a dialogue with employees on the environmental benefits of electric vehicles.
“We found a lot of people are thinking about electric vehicles, and are aware of the benefits, but are not necessarily buying them because of charging-station locations,” Miller said. “Simply put, you need charging stations first. If they know they can charge their vehicle at work, then their interest in electric vehicles goes up.”
As employee interest increases, so do the questions. Miller says most electric-vehicle owners are happy to talk about their cars. “We’re all advocates and we like answering questions.”
One of the most common questions is how long you can drive an electric vehicle before needing a recharge. That depends on what kind of technology is used, as there are three types of electric vehicles: plug-in electric/gas hybrid, short-range electric, and long-range electric. A short-range electric vehicle can travel less than 100 miles before requiring a recharge, while long-range vehicles can travel 200 or 300 miles on a single charge.
“Des Moines Works is in a metropolitan area, so most of our employees live within 20 to 30 miles of the factory,” Markose said. “They are driving their vehicles within a short range, so that means they’re just topping off the charge while here at work.”
The average cost to charge a long-range all-electric vehicle is about two cents a mile. “The cost to the factory is negligible,” Noble says. “The benefits to Deere, the environment and to employees far outweigh the cost.”
If you’re considering buying an electric vehicle, Miller suggests talking to current owners about their experiences. “There’s a lot of information out there in the media that’s either positive or negative. Talk to current owners and evaluate the information yourself,” Miller said. “You’ll find most owners are enthusiastic about electric vehicles. Compared to vehicles equipped with gasoline or diesel engines, electric vehicles cost less to operate from both a ‘fuel’ and maintenance standpoint.”