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What goes into buying an alternative fuel vehicle in Wisconsin?

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Electric vehicle

As interest in electric vehicles grows, more automakers are rolling out cars, SUVs and even pick-up trucks that are all electric.

MADISON (WKOW) -- On this Earth Day, the push for green modes of transportation continues nationwide.

But, what does buying an electric or hybrid car in Wisconsin look like? 27 News looked into it and has you covered on the pros and cons.

Justin Jackson, general sales manager at Smart Toyota, said there are many pros of alternative fuel vehicles, including reducing your carbon footprint, saving money on gas and reducing wear and tear on your car as a result of features like regenerative braking.

“The braking assists you when you're hitting the brakes, so you're not slamming down on the brakes,” Jackson said. “A lot of your wear and tear comes from stopping and starting, and that's where electric and hybrid vehicles excel.”

Additionally, Jackson said the cost of alternative fuel vehicles has grown closer to the range of regular vehicles over time.

“If you're looking at--let's say our most popular car, which is a RAV4--you're looking at an average of $900 difference in price between the two,” Jackson said.

Right now, Jackson said half of the cars they sell offer a hybrid option. Over the next five years, he anticipates that all cars they sell will offer a hybrid option.

“People are trending towards that option, and I can't blame them,” Jackson said.

One downside right now, according to Jackson, is that because demand is to high, it is taking months for some people to get the alternative fuel vehicles they purchase.

“Most people are fine waiting and understanding that there is an end in sight as far as getting the vehicle they want,” Jackson said.

Dr. David Noyce, Executive Associate Dean for UW Madison's College of Engineering, also weighed in on alternative fuel vehicles' presence in Wisconsin.

He said another downfall of alternative fuel vehicles is their ability to cause what he referred to as 'range anxiety.'

“Range anxiety means that when you have electric vehicle, and you're going to travel, you know, within the charge range, which varies based on the type of vehicle that you have, will you be able to get to the next charging station before your vehicle starts to or need to charge?” Noyce said.

Noyce said range anxiety is heightened by a lack of charging infrastructure across the state and country that is due in part to limiting legislation,

Under Wisconsin law, only public utilities are authorized to sell power directly or indirectly to the public. This has created confusion among third parties working to provide infrastructure needed for charging vehicles in the state.

“That's obviously a very important issue on where the charging stations are in place, you know, who owns them? And then, how is the cost of the electricity that's being provided appropriately distributed?” Noyce said.

Over time, more charging stations have been built within Wisconsin. Additionally, Jackson said alternative fuel vehicle owners also have the opportunity to charge their vehicle from home using either an outlet if they drive shorter distances or a charging station if they drive longer distances.

“I recommend definitely looking into a charging station in your home. It's not overly expensive. For a lot of people, it just depends on what fits your needs the most,” Jackson said.

Right now, Noyce said UW-Madison is also working on developing promising new technology that would charge cars while they drive on roadways.

“There's an inductive way and a conductive way. We would use the conductive way,” Noyce said. “There's something that actually is placed on the bottom of the vehicle that touches the the charging station. And that means current can flow through a lot quicker.”

Noyce said UW Madison hopes to host a demo soon to showcase how that technology would work.

“I think that's really what the future is beyond coming up with charging stations everywhere — How can we find ways for transit buses and emergency vehicles and longer ranger trips to be able to charge dynamically?” Noyce said.