Test drive!

By Benjamin Campbell

National Grid envisions transitioning to a decarbonized energy network as part of our Connect21 strategy. While the region has seen a steady reduction of emissions from oil and coal based power generation, the same cannot be said of the transportation sector, which accounts for more than a third of all greenhouse gas emissions. However, a growing number of clean vehicle types are hitting the road in National Grid’s service territory. These include hybrid plug-in and all-electric vehicles as well as natural gas vehicles.

Bernard Lebby, Melrose St employee, after getting back from a ride in the i8

Bernard Lebby, Melrose St employee, after getting back from a ride in the i8

One way that National Grid hopes to expand the zero-emission vehicle market is by encouraging its own employees to make the change to electric vehicles. To that end, the Company has installed charging stations in more than 10 facilities – available to employees free of charge – as well as owning and managing 150 publicly-accessible charging stations across Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. We have also hosted several electric vehicle “Ride & Drive” events, such as the one that sixty employees attended last week in Providence, Rhode Island.

For that event, National Grid partnered with BMW to give employees the chance to test-drive a variety of BMW’s new hybrid and all-electric vehicles. Their 330e sedan and X5 xDrive40e SUV hybrids were in the vein of practical-but-sporty, while the i8 sports coupe hybrid featured a sleek design that combined power and efficiency.

The i3 charging at one of National Grid’s charging stations

The i3 charging at one of National Grid’s charging stations

The all-electric i3, by contrast, looked quite modest, but held several surprises under the hood. Regenerative breaking—the mechanism that recharges some battery juice while slowing down—on its own resulted in a new driving experience, but that was nothing compared to the sheer power this little car packed. As Mark Siegal, National Grid New Energy Solutions, organizer of the Ride & Drive, said of electric vehicles, “What most people don’t realize is that the pickup is better. You get instant torque—unlike in an internal combustion engine, which has cylinders that cause delay. And these cars are more efficient to drive so our employees and customers can reduce their transportation costs.” That torque was something you could feel on the highway ramp—the i3 moves.

If you are interested in a ride and drive at your facility, then please convince four of your work colleagues to also test drive an EV and email mark.siegal@nationalgrid.com. We have two i3’s on loan from BMW for July and we have partnered with other manufacturers as well, such as Nissan (Sorry, Tesla has not (yet) agreed to co-host an event with us!) Or keep an eye open for National Grid-sponsored events during National Drive Electric Week, September 10-18, 2016.

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