In 2019, the Kansas Legislature passed a bill that established fees for registering a hybrid or an electric vehicle. Since January 1 of this year, owners have to pay an additional $100 to register an all-electric car and $50 for a hybrid.

The fee is intended to make up for the loss in fuel taxes, which funds highway and road maintenance. As of this month, Kansas’ gasoline tax was 24 cents per gallon, the 13th lowest in the nation according to the Tax Foundation.

Currently, more than 10,000 electric and hybrid cars are registered in Kansas, a 26{d93457022679712214ff8a8035fa266341f9634f2c93d5e609b1bbb089e8c446} increase in the past five years, according to Wichita Eagle’s analysis of data from the Kansas Department of Revenue. One in every 100 passenger cars in Kansas is either electric or hybrid.

Pete Vieyva has been a car salesman for 23 years and currently works at Orr Nissan of Wichita, where he has sold five electric cars — the Nissan Leaf — since March. Rex Tuttle, a sales consultant at Davis-Moore Chevrolet in Wichita, said they sell between 10 and 24 Bolts — their electric car — a year.

In both of their experience, the number one reason people buy hybrid or electric vehicles is because of the environment.

Nearly every car dealer in Wichita offers an electric car or hybrid, such as Subaru which offers a plug-in hybrid, and twelve companies offer at least one fully electric model. A hybrid is a vehicle that uses more than one type of power, for example, gasoline and electricity, giving it a longer range than a purely electric vehicle.

Consumers “are not looking so much to break even or get their money back for what they spent, they’re looking to put their imprint on the future of the world,” Vieyva said. “They want to go green.”

The three counties with the highest number of electric and hybrid vehicles remained unchanged from 2015 to 2020, with Johnson County leading with 1.72 electric or hybrid cars out of every 100 cars registered. This year, Johnson County accounted for 43{d93457022679712214ff8a8035fa266341f9634f2c93d5e609b1bbb089e8c446} of the state’s electric and hybrid vehicles, at 4,360.

Sedgwick County accounts for 16{d93457022679712214ff8a8035fa266341f9634f2c93d5e609b1bbb089e8c446} of the state’s electric and hybrid cars, making it the second-highest county. According to the Kansas Department of Revenue data, the figure rose by 20{d93457022679712214ff8a8035fa266341f9634f2c93d5e609b1bbb089e8c446} from 2015. Currently, 1,553 — or .88{d93457022679712214ff8a8035fa266341f9634f2c93d5e609b1bbb089e8c446} — of all cars are electric and hybrid vehicles.

Bill Wentz, a distinguished professor emeritus of aerospace engineering at Wichita State who has driven an electric car for nine years, said the best thing about driving his 2019 Nissan Leaf is the lack of maintenance. He grew up in the 1930s and 40s and used to fix old cars.

“I’m an engineer and so I think about maintenance a lot,” Wentz said. “We had to change the battery, the brakes, the generator, the water pump once a year or so. You don’t have those things on an electric car.”

Nearly 2 out of every 100 passenger vehicles in Douglas County are electric or hybrid, and the county accounts for just under 9{d93457022679712214ff8a8035fa266341f9634f2c93d5e609b1bbb089e8c446} of the state’s electric and hybrid vehicles, at 706.

In the past five years, Johnson County bought nearly 1,200 electric and hybrid vehicles and 264 electric and hybrid cars were bought in Sedgwick County.

In some parts of the state, electric vehicles are declining in popularity. In southeast Kansas, Montgomery County had the most substantial reduction in hybrid and electric vehicles at a loss of 30 in the past five years. Lyon County was second at 13. Three counties — Sheridan, Lane and Wallace — currently have no electric or hybrid vehicles.

Electric vehicles have limited ranges, which doesn’t make for a great rural car, but there are more than enough hybrid options. It depends on your needs, Vieyva said.

“I could plug one in and drive it every day for three weeks and never charge it again because I don’t drive a ton,” Vieyva said. “I drive seven miles a day and then whatever I do on a Sunday. I could easily plug one in and for three weeks never have to plug it in again.”

Chevrolet, like most manufacturers, offer an 8-year or 100,000-mile warranty on the battery and electric components, according to Tuttle.

“Typically, the way electric cars work, they have a battery pack that takes the charge and gives the car its power, and that’s what the warranty covers,” Tuttle said.

“The batteries, they’re pretty much bulletproof,” Vieyva said. “Hybrid stuff has been out for almost well over 20 years worldwide, and the first electric type vehicle came out about 100-120 years ago. This technology is not new. You have almost zero maintenance on these things.”

The Nissan and Chevrolet dealerships both have several mechanics who work on electric cars. While the mechanics need special training to handle the electric element of the vehicles, there’s less maintenance on the electric cars, according to Tuttle. It’s mainly tire rotations and maintenance checks on the electric motor and batteries.

Electric vehicles require less maintenance than gasoline vehicles because there are fewer parts and fluids, such as oil, to take care of, according to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

It’s rare to see a used electric vehicle, but when Vieyva gets them in, he says it’s usually because the owner had a significant life change, not because they disliked the car.

“One lady got rid of it was because one of her kids was moving and her new grandkid was going to be all the way in New Mexico. It was too far to have to stop and charge,” Vieyva said. “Being a new grandparent, I know I’d want to see my grandkid as often as possible so she got out of it.”

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