He used to cuss as he drove past gas stations, watching the latest price jump at the pumps. Now Rick Wourms simply laughs.
A brand-new Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid electrical vehicle, is the pride and joy of the Wourms family. They are among the first, if not the first, in the city to purchase a Volt.
"I love driving it," said Jeanine Wourms. "It's an amazing little vehicle. It's not what you expect."
Their romance with the electric car begins as the province makes plans to expand its Clean Energy Vehicle program. The government is investing $2.74 million to establish 570 public charging stations throughout the province.
For the time being, though, Rick Wourms, Jeanine's husband, isn't worried about running out of charge between fill-ups at home.
"It will run on gas, so we probably wouldn't be plugging in (at the stations)," Rick said. "We would plug in if we were to take a long trip."
The Volt offers him the advantage of running entirely on its battery as he makes the 40-kilometre round-trip commute to work each day. In fact, it could go twice that far without burning a drop of gasoline.
"That's why we bought this type, because we don't want to get stuck somewhere." Ninety per cent of the time, it makes it back and forth. We usually get 70 to 80 clicks and we use absolutely no gas."
Those are magic words to motorists confronted by the spring price spike over the past few days, a trend expected to continue.
The only fully electric mass-produced vehicle on the market is the Nissan Leaf. Sean Turner, owner/manager of River City Nissan, is naturally pleased to see the expansion of charging stations.
While the electric market is urban-centred, that will change when the infrastructure is in place, adding to the versatility of the vehicles. As it is, 80 per cent of motorists drive less than 40 to 60 km a day, well within the 160-km range of the Leaf.
The electrical cost annually? About $180-$200 a year, or about $15 to $30 a month, Turner said.
"It's something that's going to be good for everybody," he said. "People are going to get used to vehicles like this."
The Leaf is retailing for just over $38,000, minus the provincial incentive program that can knock another $5,000 of the sticker price.
The Wourms have so far put 1,600 kilometres on their Volt - mostly commuting 40 kilometres to and from work - and the tank remains full. They don't yet know what the electrical cost will add to their Hydro bill, but Wourms isn't concerned. He figures it will be about $1.50 a day.
Driving up to Aberdeen Mall, for example, will draw on the battery, but the motor recharges it on the way back down.
"They drive just like a normal car," Rick said. "I find you probably get more power."
The batteries have a projected life of eight years.
The family took advantage of the rebate for battery electric, fuel-cell electric, plug-in hybrid electric and compressed natural gas vehicles. That knocked the cost down to roughly $38,000.
"I think if people are (thinking of) buying a hybrid car, they're crazy not to buy an electric car," Rick said.
Environment Minister Terry Lake announced the infrastructure plan Tuesday. The charging stations could be operational by next year. They will be run by the Fraser Basin Council, which will work with regional districts, municipalities and First Nations to determine where the stations will be located.
© Kamloops Daily News