Plug-in NC Ambassador Spotlight – Chris Maxwell
To wrap up this year, we’ll be highlighting our ambassador Chris Maxwell!
Chris has been a Plug-in NC ambassador for a few years now. Throughout the time we have known him, he has helped with events, attended our annual summits, given presentations around North Carolina and even hosted his own National Drive Electric Week event this past fall. Since moving from Memphis, Tennessee, Chris has lived in Raleigh for about 15 years. He works at N.C. State University as the system administrator for a data analytics application.
When he isn’t working or helping out with Plug-in NC, Chris likes to volunteer with Meals on Wheels of Wake County and the American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program. He also loves creating with his 3D printers and has received commissions to make pieces such as tea light lithophanes. Most notably, Chris cares for two African Grey parrots. Since these parrots are an endangered species, he gives annual presentations to a local middle school about the species and the importance of studying its intelligence (fun fact – the parrots are as smart as a 6-year-old human!).
In addition, Chris and his husband tied the knot this past June, a few days after celebrating their seventh anniversary – congrats!
When did you make the switch to driving electric?
On April 1, 2016, I turned in my diesel convertible Volkswagen. Three days later, my little gray electric Smart convertible arrived via trailer at the Home Depot in Durham. I bought the car sight unseen from New Hampshire; however, I was lucky enough to have driven a similar model locally before I committed to the purchase.
What made you decide to go for the electric Smart convertible?
When Volkswagen agreed to repurchase my lemon vehicle (which ultimately was not bought back due to the emissions scandal), I began looking for a used Nissan LEAF after hearing great reviews from a friend. My husband, however, does not like the LEAF, so I knew that idea wouldn’t work. He had heard about and become very interested in the electric Smart Cabrio but didn’t think it would come to the U.S. Fortunately, he found two on Autotrader shortly after. We had owned a convertible for as long as the two of us knew each other, so the Cabrio electric Smart convertible felt like a natural fit.
What other vehicles do you own?
Two days after picking up our first electric vehicle (EV), my husband and I drove it to buy our first electric motorcycle, a Zero, which we later upgraded to an Energica.
A few months later, my parents asked to trade their 2001 Volkswagen Passat for my Mazda 5 Microvan since my grandfather wasn’t able to get in and out of their cars anymore. On the way home from Mississippi, the air conditioning in the Passat died. I had already considered buying a BMW i3 and conveniently knew there was one in Atlanta, so I headed to the dealer and traded in the Passat for the i3. With this purchase, I learned how to use the range extender (a 650 cc gasoline generator) to drive the car about 410 miles home.
Did the trip home in your new i3 inspire you to take more road trips in your EVs?
Definitely, and many more! I keep a blog about many of my BEV (battery electric vehicle) trips. I recently drove the i3 REx to Canada and back for a concert – 2,100 miles in four days. The car didn’t even flinch, and we only spent $153 on gasoline for the whole trip (and half of this was spent in Canada at $5+ per gallon). In the past year, I’ve taken up motorcycle riding, which has led to fun road trips. I took the Zero to Myrtle Beach, and I’m planning to take the Energica up to Washington, D.C., once the Electrify America DC Fast Chargers open this spring in Henderson, North Carolina, and Emporia, Virginia.
With all that driving, you must be an expert at public charging. Do you have any public charging tips? How else do you charge?
In public, I now look for the pay-per-hour ChargePoint stations because they tend to have more availability throughout the day. I also use PlugShare to locate stations if I’m going out of town. I occasionally charge at work, but that has become rarer these days – 80 percent of the time I charge at home since we now have four charging stations: a Level 1 unit that sits curbside for my Airbnb guests, two Level 2 ChargePoint Home units (16 amp and 32 amp) that are the primary chargers and a Level 2 16-amp ClipperCreek that came with the Energica.
Did charging influence your decision to buy an EV?
Yes! My work had EV chargers, so I knew I could charge there if needed. Since it took two months to get our first Level 2 station up and running, having a charger at work is what allowed me to be able to make the switch.
What’s your favorite thing about driving electric?
The push-you-into-the-seat torque. That’s what I loved about my diesel.
How much do you estimate you’re saving on gas?
Somewhere around $3,000 annually. We average about 45,000 miles per year across four vehicles and two drivers (and my husband barely accounts for 8,000 of that mileage). I’m on the go a lot, and I’m doing it all with first-generation technology.
Have you converted others to driving electric?
I’ve lost count, to be honest. The answer is yes. I have had friends and family members buy a Ford C-MAX Energi, a LEAF and a Cabrio Smart (after driving mine), and I delivered a Fiat 500e to a friend in South Carolina. At least four other people are actively looking for a used EV based on my experience.
Other than converting many of your friends and family members into EV drivers, what do you do around North Carolina to advocate for driving electric?
This year, I put on a Raleigh National Drive Electric Week event, and I’ve given presentations about EV technology to Rotary clubs with Plug-in NC.
What stands out about driving electric for you?
The cost savings are huge! Also, you’ll never have to get into a cold car again since all EVs offer a departure timer/cabin conditioning function. Had I known that, I would have bought one much sooner.
What has surprised you about driving electric?
How fast the range anxiety went away. After a month, I never even thought about my remaining range anymore. To date, I’ve never run the car out of power unintentionally (knock on wood). I’ve rolled up on 0 percent many times, but I’ve never been stranded.
Since you aren’t phased by range anxiety, are there any other challenges you face with your EV?
I’ve realized that cold weather eats into range, so even in a long-range car like the Chevy Bolt, that can impact your plans. However, staying aware and allowing yourself to be flexible with plans will easily help.
Do you have your eye on your next EV yet?
No, I don’t … yet! We’ve decided we’ll look to retire the i3 in 2021 (as it’s currently at almost 55,000 miles). When that time comes, we’re thinking about a 2019 BMW i3, especially if the rumor of another battery increase comes true. Aside from that, I am curious about Mazda’s rotary range-extended electric. If I decide to go full BEV, I would likely go for a Chevy Bolt or Hyundai Kona.