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Electric Car on ACK

April 17, 2012


Cape Air has added a cutting-edge new vehicle to its fleet.  This one won’t leave the ground, and it will soon have a power source from the sun.

Starting this season, Cape Air will rely on a new pure electric vehicle (EV) to meet a portion of its ground transportation needs on Nantucket. 

“We run a number of ground trips around the island that add up to a significant amount of fuel use over the course of a year,” said Jim Wolf, Director of Cape Air’s Sustainability Initiative.  “We see the EV as a great opportunity to save on fuel in the long term, and to reduce our overall environmental impact immediately.”

Cape Air’s zero-emission EV is a Nissan Leaf, one of a few companies that is currently offering an all-electric, highway-capable car for sale in the U.S.  The car’s lithium-powered battery has a range of 100 miles, or slightly less under weather conditions that require power for heating and air conditioning.  In addition to being emissions free, the car generates no noise, and avoids use of motor oil.

And the best part is yet to come.  Cape Air is moving ahead on a plan to install solar photovoltaic capacity to match the amount of electricity used to charge the car.   “Although the car does not use fuel or generate emissions, the electricity it uses from the utility grid is generated in part by fossil fuels,” Jim Wolf said.  “We feel strongly that the electricity consumed by the car should be offset by renewable sources, and we are in the process of identifying a site that can meet or exceed that amount of renewable generating capacity,” Wolf said.  He estimates it will take approximately ten solar panels to power a match for the EV charging station used by the Nissan Leaf.  An added bonus is that the EV recharges from the grid during the evening off-peak hours, yet the solar panels will put the match for its electric use back into the grid during the daytime peak when electricity is most needed.

The Electric Vehicle and solar-generated electricity are among a growing number of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects undertaken as part of Cape Air’s Sustainability Initiative.  At its corporate headquarters in Hyannis, Cape Air installed a solar photovoltaic system, which is now producing 84% of the building’s electricity needs, while energy efficiency improvements have reduced natural gas consumption by 25% since 2009. Cape Air is looking to expand its award winning energy initiatives to Nantucket and other operations centers.

“A location such as Nantucket that has low driving distances and high gas prices is ideally suited to EV use for ground transportation,” Wolf said, adding that Cape Air is evaluating other locations for EV use.  “The EV fits with our recent efforts to reduce the fuel use and carbon burn of our fleet of Cessna 402’s. At less than 2.5 gallons of fuel per passenger seat, flying Cape Air already is one of the least carbon-burning ways to travel from Boston to Nantucket,” Wolf said.

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