Steve Hahn has been interested in sustainable transportation and electric vehicles for as long as he can remember. Growing up in Detroit, he was steeped in the car culture, as well as the big city’s trains and subways. Later in life he moved to Santa Barbara and began working for the Metropolitan Transit District (MTD). Residing close to work, Steve drives a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) every day. It seemed like an efficient and sustainable decision, and “bypassing the pump has also been nice.” He has enjoyed it so much so that he even converted his neighbors, creating Santa Barbara’s very own EV Neighborhood.
When fully-functioning electric vehicles began hitting the market a couple of years ago, Steve and his wife Connie decided to purchase a 2011 Chevy Volt. They had been following the progression of the electric vehicle market for years through auto web sites, books, car shows, and magazines. There were a number of reasons for making the switch to electric, but for Steve and Connie, “the Iraq war was a major factor. “We were so mad about how willing we are to invade another country for foreign oil, so a lot of this was just to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” Going electric was the obvious next step. Since purchasing the Volt in 2012, they have driven over 60% of their 26,000 miles in electric mode and avoided the use of 500 gallons of gas. Steve is also very happy to be supporting American technology and California’s economy.
When they’re driving during the week, “the car is in pure electric mode all the time.” They charge it at home and at charging stations in Southern California whenever they’re doing weekend trips to Los Angeles or Orange County. When they do those long trips, they never worry about running out of power because “it’s an extended range electric vehicle,” meaning the gas kicks in when they are about to run out of charge. So far, Steve’s only qualm is that the electric heating system isn’t very efficient. “It takes a lot of energy to run the system and ends up being very expensive. Luckily, he’s figured out a few solutions by heating it while it’s plugged into the wall and utilizing smartphone apps to “precondition the temperature.” Even so, he’s not too affected in the balmy Santa Barbara climate. The Volt also only seats four, but as a family or 3 this hasn’t been a problem.
Working at MTD, he has helped transition the agency to electric and hybrid buses with similar technology to the Chevy Volt. In fact, MTD is one of the leading public transportation programs in this field, with 20 electric buses and 18 hybrids1. He thinks the future will be “a mix of everything: hybrids, electric vehicles, trains, and of course the performance vehicles for those who can afford them.”
For Steve, effective public transportation is imperative. “In New York City, you can get around without a car; you can do the same in Santa Barbara every day.” By removing 20,000 car trips out of the day just to this small area, all of those emissions are also cut. Plus, having strong alternative solutions “eases congestions and lessens the need for more than one car.” He has happily imparted a similar mindset onto his 14-year-old son, Will, who also enjoys public transportation. “He’s ridden trains all over the world, and buses in Ireland, Italy, and England.” Will even followed in his father’s footsteps and rides an electric scooter to school every day.