By Tracy Morin
Girmantas Urbonas, a Sarpino’s USA franchisee in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, Illinois, has prioritized sustainability in his local community by completing deliveries with electric vehicles. He believes this choice is a worthwhile investment that creates long-term savings and cost efficiency while helping reduce environmental impact over the long haul. But he’s also found other, less expected benefits—for example, these vehicles attract delivery drivers to his business, a crucial perk in today’s competitive labor market. Here, in his own words, Urbonas shares some of the keys to his electric success.
Having electric vehicles helps with employee recruitment. I don’t have any problem finding delivery drivers—maybe partly because we pay better than some other places, and because we’re busier than the typical place. We also put out ads when the pandemic started. But I think the cars by themselves work as a tool to advertise. So I have the opposite problem, where more people apply than we can employ. I suspended the ads we were running last November, and I still get people asking for applications, asking if they can drive for me! On the plus side, that means I can be more picky in choosing whom to hire.
With electric cars, we almost eliminate maintenance. We used to have hybrid Prius cars, and they needed an oil change once a month. Electric cars don’t need those, and we don’t need to change things like belts. We replace the battery every two years, but that’s it. There’s very little upkeep. Plus, with gas cars, there were always complaints among the employees—who’s going to put gas in the car? With electric, the drivers come in and have a “full tank,” as long as we do the electric charge overnight. That’s enough to last for the whole day, and the only thing we have to do at night is plug it in. In addition to no maintenance or gas fill-ups, they’re amazing to drive, so my guys love them!
“When you think that you’ll put an average of 30,000 to 40,000 miles per year on your car, the gas savings are huge.”
— Girmantas Urbonas, Sarpino’s, Downer’s Grove, IL
We save a lot of money by using electric vehicles. We got our cars right at the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020. At the time, we got a very good deal, paying about the same price as we would for a gas car. Nowadays, companies like GM have federal incentives, so they’re able to offer electric cars at a comparative price to gas models. Plus, when you think that you’ll put an average of 30,000 to 40,000 miles per year on your car, the gas savings are huge—it’s not like we’re doing the typical car mileage. The only problem is, with the now-$7,500 tax credit people can get, no dealers around here can keep the electric models in stock. They are asking $3,000 to $5,000 more than MSRP—and because they still have a wait list on them, they don’t mind charging that.
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We’re reducing pollution—including noise pollution. On our Facebook page, I often post about how many tons of CO2 savings we achieve in one month because of the electric vehicles and how efficient they are. Plus, we’re using a 100% renewable energy provider; here in Illinois, we can choose to buy from a company other than the standard provider, and ours uses hydropower. And, because we deliver a lot in the late-night hours, it’s a bonus that these cars are so quiet—they really make no sound as we drive through neighborhoods, compared with a noisy muffler!
Beware of potential drawbacks. Adding electric vehicles has been very interesting—though most people love it, there are a few who hate it. They have a very strange perception that an electric vehicle is bad. We’ve had a person unplug [cars] from the charger at night, for example, so now we’ve installed cameras in front of the chargers to monitor them after closing. I don’t understand why anyone would get upset at the car—especially as everyone else here is really excited about them and wants to drive them. Also, in the winters here, our electric bill is a little more expensive, so we do take that into consideration. But in terms of setup, it’s easy; we just needed to install a charger in front of the store, which we hired an electrician for.
Overall, I’d recommend electric delivery vehicles to everyone. We have two electric delivery vehicles at the moment, and we’re thinking of getting more. I don’t really see any major issues associated with them—only a bunch of benefits! The cars themselves act as advertising and help attract people to our business. And, from a financial perspective, it’s a no-brainer. With the money and time they save, the cars pay for themselves. Even in my personal life, I now have electric vehicles, and I used to be a total petrol-head. Now, I’ve sold all of my other cars and stick with electric only.
Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor and the editor of PizzaVegan.com.