Bessemer business sees savings from an electric fleet

By Katie Kilcoyne

Freedom Heating and Cooling is a family-owned company founded in 2003 that serves the Birmingham area and has clients across central Alabama. Owner Don Johnson said maintenance costs have dropped significantly as he has added electric vehicles.

Freedom Heating and Cooling from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Over the past few years, Johnson has been an advocate of electric vehicles as his company has bought Chevrolet Volts, Nissan Leafs and Ford Fusions. Fifty percent of Freedom’s vehicles now on the road are electric. Johnson says the only maintenance electric vehicles require is oftentimes as simple as repairing a flat tire.

“The electric vehicles have reduced our maintenance cost significantly,” Johnson said. “They have been very reliable.”

Johnson touts cost savings as a crucial benefit to owning an electric fleet.

“The first eight months of 2014 we spent $78,000 on gas,” Johnson said. “In comparison, we only spent $42,000 the first eight months of 2015. So as you can see (it’s) a tremendous savings.”

Every business that requires a fleet to drive a lot will see these types of savings in their budgets, said Johnson.

“Any fleet that drives 2,000 to 2,500 miles a month, an electric vehicle will save you as much in fuel costs as that – it is like paying for the car in the fuel costs you save,” Johnson said. “We drove a little over 90,000 miles on electricity last year out of our roughly 320,000 miles.”

Since the addition of the EVs, Johnson has reduced service call expenses from $45 to $10 by strategically using every type of service vehicle in his fleet. He is constantly fielding questions from customers regarding claims that EVs have performance problems.

“My employees that drive electric vehicles are constantly telling me that they are the same as any other vehicle,” Johnson said. “We drive them on the interstate to service calls and they perform just as good if not better than any other car.”

Johnson does not see the gas savings of driving PEVs just in his business – but also at home, too.

“This year I have purchased the Cadillac ELR for my wife, a Ford Fusion for my son and a Tesla for me,” Johnson said. “We added it up and last month we only made one trip to the gas station for $15.”

Johnson said he is often asked how charging the vehicles impact his power bill.

“With the rate reduction Alabama Power provides, we pay less to charge at night, which is also the most ideal time for us to charge,” Johnson said. “With our three electric cars, our power bill has only been affected by $100. Even though my power bill is more, I am driving three vehicles all month long – that is still really cheap.”

Alabama Power offers a $750 rebate to customers who purchase a qualified plug-in electric vehicle and a $500 rebate for commercial 2 (208/240V) charging station installations. PEV-owning customers can also sign up for rate rider PEV that will allow them to charge vehicles at a discounted rate during off-peak hours of 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

For more information, talk to a Marketing representative or call the Alabama Power Energy Line at 1-800-990-APCO (2726).

This story is in recognition of National Drive Electric Week Sept. 12-20. National Drive Electric Week is presented by Plug In America, The Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association. The week is a nationwide celebration to heighten awareness of the widespread availability of plug-in vehicles and highlight the benefits. Started in 2011 as National Plug In Day, the initiative has evolved into a week and is expected to include events in almost 175 cities across the country in 2015.

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