SIERRA VISTA — When it comes to electric cars, it took some convincing for Karl Berryhill.

The fleet foreman in Benson for Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative had ridden in early models and wasn’t impressed with the distance they could go or their features.

But, when he started researching different electric car models about a year ago for SSVEC, his mind began to change.

”I just became intrigued by it and I said ‘well, I’m just going to see how it goes,’ and in the beginning I was totally against it just because there’s a lot of components of this, coming from a mechanical standpoint, that seem very dangerous.” he said. “After researching, it became more and more like, ‘wow thats pretty neat.’”

”As I started contacting other cooperatives that have things of that nature I learned how happy they were to have it.”

SSVEC welcomed the first electric car to its fleet of vehicles used for local trips a couple weeks ago, following in a trend across the country of cooperatives making the switch to more sustainable vehicles.

The local electric co-op sees the car as a show of their commitment to renewable energy and technological advances.

SSVEC Public Relations Manager Eric Petermann said it not only affirms that commitment, it gives staff the chance to get comfortable with this new technology.

”I think it’s consistent with our effort to try and be forward thinking,” Petermann said. “There are quite a few cooperatives around the country that have started utilizing this technology to inform members and to keep pace with it.”

”It also gives our fleet staff excellent experience as there’s a lot to learn with this.”

The car is a 2019 Chevy Bolt and cost about $40,000. It is a popular model among other cooperatives because of its affordability and the distance it can travel.

”I was concerned over room and how it would fit us and what we need as far as a pool car ... we were just trying to get all those factors and the Bolt hit every marker,” Berryhill said.

”It became more and more exciting as I started to see the range capabilities of regeneration and what it could do as a benefit to the co-op rather than a hindrance,” he said.

”The range is 238 miles but that is considered on flat land putting it on a track until it runs out. In our environment you use a little bit of power getting up the hill, but when you come down or are in traffic the motor is turning the generator and recharging the batteries.”

By comparison, the smaller model of Tesla costs at least $20,000 more and only has 30 more miles of range than the Bolt.

There are three different levels of charging, starting at a slower level that plugs into a wall socket and could take up to nearly 50 hours to charge a totally dead battery, to level three charging stations which could charge the car in an hour or so.

As electric cars become more normalized and the technology improves, more charging stations are being installed.

With the range capabilities of the Bolt and charging locations in Willcox, Benson and even Tucson, running out of charge won’t be a problem.

Mechanic Daniel Myers said that worries over enough charge were quelled for him once he started driving it.

“The more and more charging stations they put up, the more and more people will see it and it will become more appealing to them,” he said. “The community knows we have it and they want to know how we liked it.”

”I said it’s nice, better than I thought it was going to be.”

Along with the distance range of the Bolt, it has many safety features and can charge the battery as it is being driven.

Berryhill said that when driving it from Willcox, he actually gained nine miles as he sat in traffic in a construction zone.

The car will also serve as a marketing tool, with a custom SSVEC branded design adorning it and will be taken to educational or outreach events.

SSVEC is excited to have more of their staff try out the car and will wait and see if this is something they will get more of in the future.

”When I brought it over it was like the ice truck came to a bunch of kids because everybody in the business office wanted to go out and drive it,” Berryhill said. “We are an electric cooperative, we are trying to bring in solar power — trying to do all these other things —why not try electric vehicles?”

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