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Electric vehicle market poised to grow in 2013

Benefit for High Desert drivers slower to show

Staff Writer

BARSTOW • More models at lower prices could be the trend for the niche electric vehicle market in 2013, according to a recent Los Angeles Times report.

Drivers in the High Desert, though, might not be as bullish on the fuel-alternative car just yet, as EV’s work to increase travel range per charge and provide more charging stations for longer commuters.

In September, the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District installed a free charging station at its Victorville headquarters to encourage more local residents to use electric vehicles.

However, two dealerships in Victorville said customers who have bought electric cars at their locations often come from more dense areas, where less mileage can accommodate day-to-day activities.

Jeremy Gray at Rancho Motor Co. said their electric car, the Chevy Volt, has sold well to many customers who come from down the hill. David Miramontes at Valley-Hi Nissan noticed the out-of-towner trend for their Nissan Leaf, as well.

“We do get a lot, but most of them are not locally, they are from the city,” he said, when asked about the Leaf’s buyer demographic.

In Barstow, one salesman at Soutar’s said the car dealership didn’t currently sell EV’s, though noted customers occasionally make inquiries.

Even as more charging stations become available — there are currently two within 40 miles of Barstow, according to the U.S. Department of Energy website — the EV market will still need to address higher-than-average vehicle prices which have led to their perceived appeal being relegated to only 3 percent of the car market, according to a recent MarketWatch report.

Widening appeal, in general, would likely prove beneficial for EV makers like Tesla, which unveiled a Supercharger station in Lenwood only a few months ago.

The station, located behind the Chili’s restaurant on Lenwood Road, allows Tesla owners-only to fully charge their 85kWh battery in approximately one hour (300 miles worth), or provide half a charge in about half an hour (150 miles worth). Special cables connect directly to the battery, bypassing onboard charging equipment.

As a whole, the Supercharger network is performing better than expected, Tesla communications manager Shanna Hendriks stated in an email, though the company does not currently track usage by station.

The Supercharger in Lenwood is only one of six strategically placed of its kind for Tesla, according to the company’s website. The other five are also in California, with locations in Los Angeles, Tejon Ranch, Harris Ranch, Gilroy and Folsom. The company plans to expand to more than 100 stations by 2015.

It appears, still, 2013 could indeed be a big year for the EV market if current trends continue. Market research firm Mintel projected U.S. sales of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric cars should be up 73 percent over 2011 numbers — an indicator buyers are warming up to the newer transportation, even if those buyers aren’t necessarily in non-urban areas like Barstow, yet.

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