The shift toward electric vehicles is accelerating locally, as more options become available to the everyday consumer.

The City of Goshen purchased three new Ford F-150 Lightning all-electric trucks this past summer as a trial to work towards the city’s goal of being carbon neutral by the year 2035.  One truck arrived on Aug. 30 and is already in use, while the city is waiting for delivery of the other two trucks, which are on back-order.

The current truck is on a weekly rotation through each of the city’s departments, so each one can test the truck and compare it to the gasoline-powered vehicles currently in use.  The truck is in the middle of making its rounds through each department and has made positive first impressions.  

Mayor Jeremy Stutsman was first in the rotation and after spending a week driving the F-150 Lightning, delivered a positive review. “The truck performed really well,” Stutsman said.  “It has a very intuitive design, both on the inside and the outside.”

Goshen’s street department is next in line to try the truck, followed by the environmental resilience office.  “The street department is the department whose opinions we’re most interested in, especially in the coming months,” said Theresa Sailor, a spokeswoman for the city.  “Winter will be the true test for the truck.  We can’t wait to see how it handles our winter requirements.” 

The three trucks will be added to the city’s existing fleet of electric vehicles.  The city purchased four Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles within the past five years, three hybrid Ford Explorers for the police department, and in 2019 added a Tesla Model 3, an all-electric vehicle with a range of 310 miles on a full charge.  The city has plans for purchasing more electric vehicles, having already made a commitment to two more hybrid Ford Explorers for the police department.

Within the past six months, northern Indiana has seen a steady increase in prices of gasoline.  A combination of both an increase in demand, as vaccines against COVID-19 have allowed for people to return to their usual lives away from their homes, and an increase in gas tax to 62 cents per gallon, helped to drive gas prices from below $3 a gallon just a year ago to a range — $3.60 to $4.05 – hovering near $4 a gallon. With these higher gas prices, as well as incentives in the recently signed federal climate bill, many people have purchased or are looking to buy full-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles.  

Duane Stoltzfus, a communication professor who owns a Nissan Leaf, an all-electric with a range of about 70 miles, regularly charges his car at a station by the Physical Plant.  

“Working at a college known for its embrace of sustainable living and commitment to caring for the earth, I’m surprised at how few electric cars I see on campus,” Stoltzfus said. “I keep expecting to have stiff competition for access to the free charging ports. I wonder: Why aren’t students driving electric cars?”   

A Goshen College sophomore, Tyson Miller, who drives a gasoline-powered Subaru Outback, had this to say: “I think when it comes to students, it’s all about the price of the vehicle.  It’s tough on a student’s budget to buy an electric vehicle.  I would love to drive an electric vehicle, but until the cost comes down, I just can’t.  It all comes down to feasibility.”

Yet there are many who believe the long-term savings are worth the initial cost of the electric vehicles.  

“While no official study has been done yet,” Sailor said, “in the first several weeks of using the Lightning, the cost of charging has been less than 25% of fueling one of the diesel trucks.” 

There are three charging locations in Goshen, including the Goshen College physical plant station. 

Goshen currently has plans for three additional charging locations: One outside of Goshen Brewing Company, will be functional by Nov. 1; Another, slated to be completed by early 2023, will be next to the Rieth Interpretive Center; and a third that will be completed by 2026. 

In addition to the three current charging locations in Goshen, there are 13 other charging stations in northern Indiana, including two in Elkhart, two in Warsaw, one in Mishawaka, and eight in South Bend.  On top of what Goshen is planning, other communities in the area have plans for more electric charging stations soon, including South Bend and Mishawaka, increasing the feasibility of owning an all-electric vehicle.