The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 26, 2011

No electric avenue in Enid

Alternative-fuel vehicle options do exist locally

By Bridget Nash Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

— Electric cars are the wave of the future and recently have become more available to consumers.

While some want to go completely “green” and only drive an electric car, others may want an electric car in addition to their fuel-powered car. There are, of course, many who want to stick with their fuel-powered vehicles.

Whatever the reason for wanting to own an electric car, Enid residents may have trouble getting their hands on one.

“You have to be a franchised electric car dealer,” said Bruce Jackson of Jackson Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Enid.

Unfortunately for those in small cities, franchised electric car dealers are found only in large metropolitan areas for the time being.

“The manufacturers are not allowing electric car dealers in small communities,” Jackson said. “We would like to be one, but we are not able.”

Still, that doesn’t leave Enid residents without options.

There are several types of hybrid vehicles from which to choose, including ethanol and electric hybrids, such as the ever-popular Toyota Prius.

“The Prius is the number one hybrid in the country,” said Scott Northcutt of Northcutt Toyota. “Since the inception of hybrid vehicles, the Prius has outsold all other hybrids combined.”

The Prius is called a hybrid because it runs with two engines — fuel-powered and electric. There is no need to manually switch between fuel and electric, the Prius automatically switches when it is appropriate.

Unlike electric cars, the Prius does not plug in to an electrical source. The gasoline motor charges its electric counterpart, and the application of the brakes also charges the electric motor.

“They are coming out with a plug-in Prius,” said Northcutt, adding it is expected in 2012.

Because gas prices lately have been rising, more drivers may want to look into purchasing a hybrid. Northcutt said Prius sales always increase as fuel prices do. However, because of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Priuses may not be easy to find.

Many of Toyota’s vehicles are made in the United States, but Prius comes from Japan.

“The production has not been harmed,” said Northcutt, “but the shipping has been harmed.”

Still, Prius, averaging 50 miles-per-gallon, is a popular choice for many drivers and is expected to remain so.

“People really enjoy them,” said Northcutt.

Another hybrid vehicle that has electric and fuel capabilities is the Chevrolet Volt. The Volt uses more electric power than the Prius but is not available in Oklahoma now.

“In late 2011, Oklahoma should start seeing those vehicles hit the ground,” said Rich Fuller, general sales manager for Northcutt Chevrolet Buick. “It is a semi-hybrid, using the gasoline motor as a supplement when the batteries run down.”

The Volt is a plug-in auto.

Ethanol-burning hybrids also are available to consumers in Enid.

“Nearly every one of our lines has the availability for the ethanol equipment,” said Gregg Durkee, Internet sales manager for Jackson Chrysler Dodge Jeep. “You can buy ... our cars with the ability to burn 85 percent ethanol.”

Vehicles with the capability to run on high-ethanol fuel have modified fuel lines for six-cylinder engines, he said.

“Here you can buy (fuel with) up to 15 percent ethanol,” he said. “It actually burns a little cleaner and has comparable gas mileage.”

Putting fuel with 15 percent ethanol in a car not modified for it will not hurt the vehicle, but fuel with higher percentages of ethanol is available in other places, and a higher percentage of ethanol can harm a vehicle not modified for it.

“Ethanol is caustic, and it can deteriorate the rubber and plastics,” said Durkee. “In products not designed for (a high ethanol percentage) it can destroy the gas line. Fifteen percent is not going to hurt it. Eighty-five percent will.”

The different types of hybrid vehicles are available at almost any car dealership.

“We have several different hybrids with different prices ranges and different fuel economy,” said Robert Hoy of Curttright Honda.

Clint Crismas of Janzen GMC said there are even some hybrid options in the larger vehicles, such as the GMC Yukon.