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Striving for a cleaner Pennsylvania through actions at work and at home

​​Heidi with her Chevy Volt, charging up for free in Vermont on a road trip

Striving for a cleaner Pennsylvania through actions at work and at home

Heidi Kunsch cares deeply about reducing her impact on nature – both in her personal life and in her career. Heidi works for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Energy Programs Office. She is also an EV Owner and lives in an all-electric home. She sat down with Gen180’s Nessa Stoltzfus Barge to talk about her work and the sustainable actions she has incorporated into her personal life.

From her early adoption of hybrid technology to her recent EV purchase, Heidi demonstrates the variety of ways that individuals can take action in their homes, with their vehicles, and in their communities to reduce emissions and improve air quality.

Heidi offers her advice to others who are looking to make the switch to an EV, and shares her cost-saving tips for driving and charging. These are opportunities that others living in or traveling through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania can also take advantage of. She’s a big supporter of hotels and local businesses and restaurants that offer free charging. 

Heidi’s work in PA DEP’s Energy Programs Office highlights the need for policy support and incentives that allow individuals at a variety of income levels to transition to electric vehicles. 


Nessa, Generation180: Why did you decide to purchase an EV instead of a gas-powered car?

Heidi, PA DEP: I work for the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Energy Programs Office, so I am always concerned about reducing my impact on nature, whether it be during my personal time or via my career. At the time, I purchased my first PHEV in 2016, I had just gotten done touring a green home exhibit with an alternative fuels garage (compressed natural gas & EV) around the state. I had developed the exhibit at work, and I partnered with Nissan to have a Leaf sitting in front of the garage at all of the home shows we took the exhibit to. Thus, I was super excited to finally walk the talk and own an EV.

Gen180: How long have you been an EV owner? 

Heidi: I have owned a PHEV since January 2016…so exactly 8 years. Prior to that, I was an early adopter of hybrid technology, as I drove a Toyota Prius for 180,000 miles. In 2016, I purchased the Chevy Volt PHEV. In 2021, I purchased a Hyundai Ioniq PHEV. While my Ioniq only gets 29 miles on the all-electric mode, it averages 55 MPG on gas mode, so the MPGe on my current vehicle, 72, is better than my Volt.

Gen180: What’s your favorite part of owning and driving an EV?

Heidi: I love the fact that I am reducing emissions from my tailpipe and thus lessening my impact on the environment and local air quality (i.e. human health benefits in my community!).

Gen180: What were your initial concerns about going electric, and has being an EV owner addressed those concerns?  

Heidi: I honestly didn’t have any concerns. Since I was purchasing a PHEV, I knew I could do the majority of my charging at home, and I wouldn’t need to have any range anxiety on long trips due to the changeover to gas mode. As a Prius owner for 10 years prior, I loved the hybrid technology already.

Gen180: As an EV owner, what does your commute/daily use look like? 

Heidi:I live in a suburban area. My daily commute is around 29 miles, which includes driving to and from work, as well as stopping to do some errands and/or going to the YMCA for a workout. In spring, summer, and fall, I usually can do my daily commute on all-electric. In winter, I sometimes am unable to do so, but I always come close!

Gen180: How and where do you charge? Have you encountered any challenges around charging accessibility?

Heidi: When I purchased my Volt in 2016, I realized it would not charge in full overnight, since its electric range was a whopping 50-60 miles! Thus, I purchased a Level 2 charger (220 volt) for my garage. Now, I live in a townhome that has no garage, but since my electric range on the Ioniq I currently own is only 29 miles, it easily charges overnight via a standard three-prong (110 volt) outlet. So, I just use a 12-14 gauge extension cord to connect my charging cable from my car to the outlet on the exterior of my home.

I have not encountered charging challenges in public, because I have a PHEV and can use the gas/hybrid mode. I only charge at public stations if they are free, and they do still exist!!! The  PlugShare charging app is my go to. I like to support hotels and local businesses that offer free charging, including the Giant grocery store chain. 

Gen180: During your transition to an electric vehicle, did you take advantage of any state or federal rebates or incentives available for EV purchases? If so, how important were these in your decision to purchase an EV?

Heidi: For both of my PHEV purchases, I took advantage of DEP’s Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) rebate for PA homeowners, as well as the federal tax credit. In addition, when I purchased my Volt, I also took advantage of the federal tax credit for charging equipment, so I could install a Level 2 in my garage. The tax credit and PA AFV rebate definitely enticed me to purchase an EV. My office at the DEP still offers a max rebate of $3000 to income-eligible PA homeowners.

Gen180: What advice do you have for Pennsylvanians who are considering making the switch to an EV?

Heidi: Slow acceleration and slow deceleration is key to maximizing the fuel efficiency of your EV! So, do not put a heavy foot on that “gas” pedal. Since there are fewer moving parts in an EV as compared to traditional vehicles, less maintenance is required, so you don’t have to pay for as many lube, oil, and filter jobs! Be sure to take advantage of any state and federal financial incentives for your EV, as well as charging equipment. If you’re already an EV owner, use your vehicle as a teaching tool…take your friends for a cruise in your EV and educate them on its many benefits firsthand!

Gen180: Have you influenced anyone you know to switch to an EV?

Heidi: Yes! My friend bought a Volt, because he was inspired by mine. I was able to inspire my father to buy a hybrid vehicle, as a result of my EV purchase. While his car is not an EV, it is more fuel-efficient than a standard vehicle, so I still count that as a win! I also use social media as a means to educate my friends about why I love my PHEV so much and why they should make the switch too, so perhaps I was able to influence others.

Gen180: In addition to an EV, does your household take other sustainable actions?

Heidi: My home is all-electric, meaning I use no onsite fossil fuels for heating or cooking. I have a heat pump for space heating and cooling. The trend in the building industry right now is to go all-electric. The goal is that, as the grid slowly but surely gets cleaner, and you combine that with building and transportation electrification, the deepest cuts in greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved. 

Gen180: Will your next car be an EV (will you ever go back to a gas car?)

Heidi: I will never go back to a gas car! They aren’t smooth in their acceleration like an EV and are so much noisier.