Leading the Charge

Jason KeilNovember 18, 2020
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SRP has close to 200 electric vehicles, including light-duty vehicles, bucket trucks, forklifts and utility carts.; Photo courtesy SRP
SRP has close to 200 electric vehicles, including light-duty vehicles, bucket trucks, forklifts and utility carts.; Photo courtesy SRP

Valley businesses are converting to electric vehicles.

Part of Red Mountain Lighting’s business is to find energy-saving solutions for its corporate clients. But owner Charles Kirkland noticed that some of his suppliers weren’t using their own products to reduce their carbon footprint.

“I thought to myself, ‘That’s really weird,’” Kirkland says. “If it’s a good idea for me, it should be one for the guy who’s selling it.”

So Kirkland put his money where his mouth is and converted more than half of the company’s fleet of cars to electric vehicles (EV). It hasn’t just saved Kirkland money at the pump. With no oil changes and belt replacements, he estimates Red Mountain Lighting has saved around $632 per car, per year on maintenance costs.

Still, the initial outlay of converting to EV can be prohibitive for small businesses like Kirkland’s, so he worked with Salt River Project (SRP) to install electric vehicle chargers to take advantage of the $1,500 rebate they offer as part of their program to increase EV usage. “There’s no excuse [not to],” Kirkland says. “It’s economically and environmentally the better thing to do.”

Other Valley businesses, such as Freedom Financial Network and Biltmore Fashion Park, have also taken advantage of the rebates, which expire next July. SRP estimates that around 100 of their business customers have installed a total of 384 charger ports across their offices.

The obvious drawback for companies: EVs have a more limited range than traditional combustion-engine vehicles, potentially complicating remote service calls and business trips. That hasn’t been the case at Red Mountain Lighting, however. Kirkland says the 100-mile, single-charge range of his fleet of Fiat 500e vehicles has been sufficient, and not one of his employees has been stranded in the middle of nowhere. But he does
acknowledge that running out of power is a lingering concern for some drivers.

“Most [of our personnel] don’t drive more than 100 miles a day,” he says. “And you’re never more than a few miles away from a charging station.”

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