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Richard Darbyshire Talks About Automation Alley’s Electric Vehicle Charging Station, Future of the Electric Car in Michigan

Article Reprint from Automation Alley Newsletter, 11/15/2011

AA chevy voltAutomation Alley is committed to supporting the growth of the clean tech sector in Southeast Michigan. As a symbol of that support, an electric vehicle charging station was recently installed at Automation Alley Headquarters and is free to use for the first year. Richard Darbyshire, chief financial officer at DASI Solutions, LLC, was visiting Automation Alley for the monthly meeting of Peerspectives, and he took the opportunity to charge his Chevy Volt and to talk about the future of the electric car in Michigan. 

Darbyshire has owned his Volt since May and said his decision to purchase the car has more to do with his interest in the technology than being “green.”

“I just thought what the vehicle had in it was exciting, and I wanted to have a little bit more personal experience with it,” he said.

He’s happy with his purchase so far and said the Volt has been a non-limiting electric vehicle. In six months, he’s driven more than 7,000 miles.

Unfortunately, the infrastructure to support electric cars in Michigan is still quite limited. Darbyshire said he’s come across four charging stations in the last six months, and most weren’t in places he tends to frequent, but he thinks the number of stations will grow as demand increases.

 He regularly drives his Volt to the Detroit Athletic Club, a 30-mile trip from his home, and said, “I’m getting more and more frustrated knowing I can’t recharge my car when I go down there.”

“I can obviously drive on gas. It gives me that option, but … it’s more frustrating knowing that I could be driving on electric and that I would be doing a greener thing. And my car sat there long enough that it could have charged.”

He’s pleased that Automation Alley chose to be an early adopter of the technology. “I think Automation Alley itself has shown that they’re trying to be leaders in innovation, leaders in the technology that’s out there and breed that, rather than waiting for it to be demanded upon them. I think it shows they’re being … proactive,” he said.

The biggest hurdle to the success of the electric car, said Darbyshire, will be changing people’s perceptions, rather than the technology itself.

“Everyone I see says, ‘Oh, you can go further than 40 miles? I thought you couldn’t.’ I think probably the biggest limitation on the electric car in Michigan is people still have the paranoia they’re going to run out and be stuck someplace.”  

He recalled a conversation with an uncle who said he hoped Darbyshire wouldn’t run out of gas or electricity on his trip home. Darbyshire asked how often his uncle ran out of gas in his car, to which the uncle replied, “never.”

“And it’s like, ‘Well, why would you think I wouldn’t fill my tank up?’” said Darbyshire. “Like he almost thought there was like a Coke bottle of gas just to get me to the next charge.”

After six months of driving the Volt, Darbyshire says that the exciting part is figuring out just how many miles he can drive without refueling. “Right now I’m averaging 104 miles per gallon, which is unheard of,” he said.

Overall, Darbyshire is excited about the future of the electric car in Michigan and said the new charging station has given him additional incentive to visit Automation Alley. “I’m pretty excited. [Automation Alley has] a nice facility for us to use for meetings, and this made it even more pleasurable to come here. I think it’s great.”