Highlights from Duquesne Light’s National Drive Electric Week
by Dan Gigler
October 13, 2022
In a career that began as a deejay on rock radio in Pittsburgh, Mike Kirven had plenty of occasions to tap a microphone and rhetorically ask, “Is this thing on?”
But that was his exact reaction the first time he test drove an electric car in 2013 – a Chevy Volt that he was checking out because he was spending $150 a week (that’d be $190 today) on gas for his commute.
“I asked the representative, how do you start this thing? ‘Push that button.’ I pushed the button. I didn't hear anything, and said ‘Is this thing on? It was. So I went for a ride and I bought one,” with a 335-mile range, he said.
He’s never looked back and has seen an explosion in popularity for electric vehicles.
“The growth has been exponential,” he said.
An owner of and advocate for electric vehicles ever since, he’s now in business development for National Car Charging, and is the Pittsburgh Director of the Tesla Owners Club of Pennsylvania. He was on hand for Drive Electric Pittsburgh held on Oct. 1 at the automotive education center at the CCAC West Hills campus where students learn how to service the electric vehicles. Sponsored by Duquesne Light, it was part of National Drive Electric Week.
Forced inside by the furiously rainy remnants of Hurricane Ian, the free event still drew hundreds of electric enthusiasts and those interested in learning about the vehicles from owners, seeing makes ranging from BMWs to Teslas and Toyotas in models spanning from sports cars, to sedans and SUVs. Duquesne Light also showed off some of their newly acquired fleet vehicles: a dozen Ford Lightning pickup trucks.
Matt McDonald, Duquesne Light’s Senior Associate of Corporate Strategy for Transportation Electrification, explained: “Duquesne Light is aiming to electrify 30% of its fleet by 2030 – we recently received 12 of these, these are all electric, Ford F-150s. They really represent our commitment to electrifying our own fleet. [We] know we have to lead by example. So that means transitioning to electric vehicles right alongside our customers. There's the fuel savings, the ownership savings, as well as being better for the environment by reducing those greenhouse gas emissions as well.”
And then there’s driving them.
“We have employees that are begging to be the ones that are driving the electric Ford Lightnings because they're just a better experience.”
“I think one thing that isn't highlighted enough about electric vehicles is the performance of it being a fast, instant torque vehicle – that really helps especially when you're merging onto the highway and things like that, being able to really get that instant torque and get out onto the highway faster. So they're fun to drive.”
“This vehicle has a 230 mile range – so you can drive that far without recharging – and 426 horsepower,” he said, noting that it can zoom from zero to 60 miles per hour at a breakneck four seconds.
“That's pretty quick,” he deadpanned. “Probably the biggest benefit is the 70 miles per gallon equivalent. So when you're looking at your your comparable gas vehicle truck, you might be looking at like, maybe 15 miles per gallon. So this is a huge jump in the efficiency of the vehicle, saving you a lot of money on fuel.”
Thus not putting an everyday person at the mercy of gas price fluctuations affected by global economic trends, a Russian madman starting a brutal war of choice, or the greedy whim of domestic oil companies and foreign oil cartels.
Nor is it a pollutant on par with a conventional vehicle – transportation represents almost a fifth of the greenhouse gas emissions in the Pittsburgh region, according to Mr. McDonald.
“Fossil fuels are not a renewable resource like electricity is,” Kirven said. “Even if your car is powered by electricity, and that source is coal, it's still going to be a lot cleaner than your average gas combustion vehicle.”
“And it doesn't [have to] cost a lot,” he added. “Because that's one of the main barriers for buying electric cars – the cost. A lot of people think you have to be a Rockefeller to have one.”
McDonald added: “Because of the money you're saving on fuel, the money you're saving on maintenance with no oil changes and things like that, you really will see savings in the long run. So, it's important to kind of map out the entire picture.”
“Duquesne Light’s vision is a clean energy future for all,” he said. “We really see it as our role to empower our customers to make that transition – not only with their personal passenger vehicles, but also with transit vehicles, fleet vehicles, and everything in between.”