SALT LAKE CITY — Every time someone starts up a gasoline-powered car on the Wasatch Front, tailpipe emissions are pumped into the air we breathe.
That's why the University of Utah offered a first of its kind electric vehicle program to encourage members of the U community to drive electric.
"I love it," said Amy Wildermuth, who bought a Nissan Leaf through the U Drive Electric program a few weeks ago. "It's fun. It's responsive. It's much faster than you think it will be."
Wildermuth is the chief sustainability officer for the University of Utah and decided it was time to go electric along with dozens of others in the university community. The U Drive Electric program offers discounts of 5 percent to 20 percent on multiple makes and models at three participating car dealers: BMW of Murray, Larry H. Miller Ford Lincoln – Sandy and Tim Dahle Nissan of Murray.
"When we thought about what we could do to make a difference in our local community, this was a natural answer," Wildermuth said.
Nearly 50% of Utah's urban air pollution comes from tailpipes. By driving electric, Wildermuth eliminates an average of 5.4 pounds of CO2 emissions each day.
"It actually makes a big difference. Particulate matter is one of the things that contributes to all of the haze that you see around us today," she said. "I'm not going to pump out any particular matter."
"You can really reduce the amount of pollutants that you're putting into the air," said Kate Bowman with Utah Clean Energy. "So, it's an obvious choice for someone who wants to make a difference to clear our error."
Utah Clean Energy administers the program with UCAIR.
"Right now, we've sold almost 50 cars across the three dealers that are participating in the program so we've seen a great response," Bowman said.
People who buy the electric vehicles can also get up to $9000 in state and federal tax credits. The program is open to anyone in the university community: staff, faculty, students, alums, but also anyone who visits the University for events or programs.
"For someone who hasn't owned an electric vehicle before and doesn't know what to expect, there's information that can help you make that decision," Bowman said.
Wildermuth admits she wasn't really expecting a fun car. So, she's thrilled with her new ride.
"It is actually so much fun to drive," she said. "My daughter, who is four, prefers to ride in this car over our other one, and says the other one is too noisy and too smelly."
The two-week program was so popular in December, the university extended it through January 31st.
Go to UDriveElectric.org for more information, and a list of the three participating dealers.