On a sunny day in Salem last fall, ODOT EV Program Coordinator, Amy Regimbal, climbed into one of the agency’s newest fleet vehicles: an electric Ford F-150 Lightning.
Regimbal checked the electric truck’s estimated range – 307 miles – then punched her destination in to the truck’s built-in navigation: La Grande, just over 300 miles away. She was headed there for a meeting and decided this would be the perfect long-range test of ODOT’s newest fleet vehicle.
It’s important to know before you go
Regimbal planned her trip a few days in advance on an app called PlugShare, which maps public charging stations throughout the country. She noted chargers along her route and picked several stops to cover the round trip: The Dalles, Hermiston, Hood River and La Grande.
Regimbal said the Lightning’s built-in navigation offered her a similar itinerary.
“The truck’s navigation gave me suggested stops based on my route, which was nice,” she said. “It knows where the chargers are and leaves a healthy buffer so you don’t run out of battery charge.”
The trip from Salem to La Grande was uneventful and pleasant, and Regimbal said that, surprisingly, she felt less fatigued after 300 miles of driving a vehicle she was unfamiliar with than she thought. Her theory is the lack of engine noise and vibration: electric motors produce neither.
“The Lightning drives like any other truck, but with instant power,” Regimbal said. “That’s really fun.”
Easy charging experience
Regimbal’s main concern before she left was recharging the Lightning at public EV charging stations. Yes, she mapped it all out, but there are always “unknowns” when traveling.
Turns out, Regimbal needn’t have worried: each of her five charging stops on the roundtrip went well. Each station had at least one working charger and accepted her state-issued credit card without complaint. At each stop, she was able to either hang out in the truck and catch up on emails, or grab a bite to eat nearby.
Regimbal’s trip wasn’t just a pleasant cruise out to La Grande for a meeting; as ODOT’s EV program coordinator she also used the experience to help inform her work, as state agencies like ODOT prepare for a transition to new electric fleet vehicles.
Growing pains, but not too bad
“My biggest lesson was how we at state agencies pay for charging,” said Regimbal. “Public stations are still privately owned, and each company structures their payment for the electricity a little differently. My SPOTS card worked fine, but for data gathering purposes, it’s not ideal – not to mention the stations don’t give you receipts, which adds more paperwork on the driver’s end.”
Regimbal said the EV charger manufacturers and service providers are working to allow their stations to accept the standard state fleet gas cards that come with every vehicle. That’s an improvement to come.
The big question remains: Would she take the trip with the Lightning again?
“Absolutely,” she said. “I’m already excited for my next trip!”