Research released Sunday conducted by UC Berkeley economists and the California Electric Transportation Coalition shows that fueling California’s cars and trucks with electricity instead of oil would help grow the state’s economy, creating tens of thousands of new jobs. Simply put, a dollar not spent at the pump is re-directed towards the rest of the economy, creating 16 times more jobs than a dollar spent on gasoline. Saving money at the pump is good for consumers, good for economic growth, and good for California. Good news on “National Plug in Day” for a state that already leads the nation in vehicle electrification.
Governor Jerry Brown recently issued an executive order setting a goal of reducing carbon pollution in the transportation sector to levels necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. If California adopts electric vehicles at a rate sufficient to meet that goal, the cumulative fuel savings would create about 100,000 additional jobs by 2030. It’s not just those who buy electric cars who stand to gain. Those jobs are spread across California’s diverse economy, largely in sectors that cannot be out-sourced. In fact, the economic growth from increased spending on goods and services other than fossil fuels disproportionately benefits lower and middle income households, those most in need of the additional income. Thankfully, California is on track to reap these rewards.
Californians bought nearly 60% of first widely available plug-in vehicles sold in the United States last year, and is home to many of the companies and innovators designing and building electric vehicles and related technologies. It is no accident. California has a singular combination of policies that encourage invention, a legacy of fighting for cleaner air, and a desire to live in the future.
In January, the California Air Resources Board adopted standards that will clean the air, reduce our dependence on oil, and result in one in six vehicles sold in the state being capable of driving emissions free by 2025. Only the month before, the Board adopted amendments the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard that improve the economics of vehicle electrification without the use of any public dollars.
Because California’s electricity is some of the cleanest in the nation, electric cars charged in California are already extremely clean. Driving on electricity in the state emits only a quarter the amount of carbon pollution as does the typical new vehicle. Those benefits will only increase overtime as California is on track to produce a third of its electricity from renewable resources by the end of this decade.
The California Public Utilities Commission has demonstrated that utility policies will also play a central role in creating a national market for clean vehicles. In response to a bill sponsored by state Senator Kehoe, the Commission unanimously adopted two substantive policy decisions to “overcome any barriers to the widespread deployment and use of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles.” Last month, the Commission adopted Pacific Gas & Electric’s new electric vehicle rates that encourage charging during off-peak hours when there’s plenty of spare capacity in the electrical grid at a price that’s roughly equivalent to buck-a-gallon gasoline.
The Commission is implementing many of the recommendations of the California Plug-in Electric Vehicle Collaborative, an organization whose members include automakers, vehicle charging equipment manufacturers, electric utilities, environmental organizations, researchers, and key state and local government officials. In short, many of the folks necessary to ensure California remains on the forefront of clean vehicle deployment.
California has also invested in the research, development, and deployment necessary to maintain the state’s leadership. In 2010, California attracted 80 percent of U.S. venturecapital invesment in EV technology, and the majority of the world’s investments in the field. The state also leads the nation in plug-in vehicle patents, and were California its own country, would only trail Japan and South Korea for number of EV patents. It is no coincidence California is home to countless companies (including 350Green, AeroVironment, Balqon, Boosted Boards, Better Place, ChargePoint, Clean Fuel Connection, ClipperCreek, Coda, Ecotality, Enova Systems, Fisker, Green Charge Networks, Mission Motors, ScootNetworks, Simbol Materials, and Tesla) that are making electric vehicles, batteries, components, charging systems, and related technologies.
California’s leadership is not just the result of the activities described above; real credit goes to Californians, who are purchasing plug-in vehicles at a rate unmatched elsewhere. The progressive policies of the largest electric vehicle market in the country are a reflection of Californians dedication to the future. Though regardless of where you live, once you get behind the wheel of an electric car and enjoy its smooth and rapid acceleration and its quiet cabin, you’ll have a hard time going back to a machine that relies on thousands of small explosions of fossil fuel every minute. Likewise, once you have a chance to lock in the equivalent of buck-a-gallon gas for life, you’ll smile every time you drive right past the pump to enjoy the convenience of re-fueling at home, on a cleaner, domestic fuel. And you can take pride in the knowledge that the money you save on gas will help grow your local economy, instead of padding the pockets of Big Oil.
By John Addison (9/24/12)
More than 12,000 customers have made reservations and $5,000 deposits for their new Tesla Model S. The first thousands of these all-electric cars being delivered have a 265-mile range (official EPA rating). In real world driving, the range is 300 miles if you stay below 55 miles per hour. This is not a plug-in hybrid. It is slightly amazing.
Premium car buyers are not deterred by the Model S starting price of $59,400 with a 160 mile-range with 40kWh lithium battery. Most popular has been the 300-mile range with 85kWh model that starts at $79,400, before federal and state tax incentives.
The Tesla Model S is a beautiful sedan that seats five and maybe a couple of more small kids in the trunk area. The 60/40-split back seat can be folded down to make room for luggage, snowboards, mountain bikes and everything you desire for a road trip. The Model S has the designs of a classic sedan like the BMW 7 or Audi A7. The Model S has the cargo flexibility of a hatchback. Tesla positions the Model S as full sized, but one 6-foot, 3-inch gentleman insisted that it was midsized.
You feel a bit like a jet pilot looking at the 17-inch display, which follows your preference of displaying navigation, entertainment, range, and vehicle functionality.
The range is a marvel of technology innovation including an advanced lithium battery pack that lies below driver and passengers. The battery placement lowers the cars center of gravity and is likely to support excellent handling and stability. The induction electric motor does not use rare earth materials, unlike most competitors including Nissan and GM. The beautiful new body is aluminum to reduce weight and thereby extend range.
Tesla Expands to 24 Retail Locations Across USA and other Countries
This fall, Tesla Motors is opening 10 new locations across North America. The first at Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, New York opened on September 21. Tesla’s unique retail concept demonstrates the benefits of driving electric with enticing visuals, interactive displays, and design studios where customers can design their own Tesla Model S on a large touchscreen and then view it on an 85-inch video wall.
“All retail locations have Tesla’s Model S premium sedan on display, and many have dedicated test-drive vehicles where we will offer customers the opportunity to experience the exhilarating performance and superior handling of Model S,” said George Blankenship, vice president of worldwide sales and ownership experience.
The next store opening is in the Boston area at Natick Mall, followed by the opening of a second store in the Chicago area at Westfield Old Orchard. Additional locations are planned in October and November at Westfield Garden State Plaza, Paramus, New Jersey; The Mall at Short Hills, Morristown, New Jersey; Westfield University Town Center, San Diego, California; Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, Florida; Tyson’s Corner, McLean, Virginia and Westfield Topanga, Topanga, California. Tesla will also open its first Canadian store at Yorkdale Shopping Center in Toronto, Ontario in November.
After these openings, Tesla will have 24 locations in North America and 34 worldwide. Tesla will continue to expand its retail network into 2013, supporting the mission to engage and inform people about Tesla and driving electric.
With the most energy-dense battery pack in the industry and best-in-class aerodynamics, Model S has the longest range of any production electric car in the world. Model S comes with three battery pack options to fit the unique needs of different drivers. The 85 kWh Model S has received a U.S. fuel economy rating of 89MPGe and a range of 265 miles from the U.S. EPA.
Five Tesla Models by 2016
Tesla is selling the last of the 2,500 Roadsters that it built. In case the Model S top acceleration of zero to 60 in 4.4 seconds is not fast enough for you, then you can still get zero to 60 in 3.7 seconds with a Roadster.
Tesla is now taking reservations for the new Model X SUV with all-wheel drive from two electric motors, breathtaking styling including winged doors, and the same roomy 5/7 seating capacity as the Model S. Tesla will use flexible manufacturing to make the Model S and Model X on the same platform. Deliveries start in 2014 for the Model X. The fully refundable reservation payment is $40,000.
By 2015, Tesla is planning on a smaller sedan that will compete head-on in price with the Nissan LEAF and new electric car offerings from Ford, Honda, and others. Expect Tesla to continue to deliver sleek sedan styling, with hatchback cargo flexibility, and premium interior. This smaller sedan will be the first to use a third-generation Tesla vehicle architecture that also will be used in 2016 in a smaller crossover and in a sports car replacement of the Roadster.
The Tesla Model S is manufactured in Fremont, California, at the edge of Silicon Valley. Tesla is expanding production from the current 80 cars per week, as it continues hiring and adding advanced robotics to the ultramodern factory.
Lithium-battery cells and packs continue to fall in price each year. This trend, coupled with Tesla ability to build multiple models in volume using common battery packs and platforms will drive prices down in future years. More car drivers will buy what they have been waiting for – an all-electric car with a 300-mile range and no compromises.
This city traffic is heavy and the parking space is tight. Like Luke Skywalker, I listen to “The Force” and I let go of the steering wheel. This 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid then parks itself. With Active Park Assist it backs into the city parking space, spinning the steering wheel as it makes a perfect parallel park and while I sit hands-free. I watch on the 8-inch display as the rear camera captures the action. I do have to remember to work the brakes. If I get mesmerized with the automatic parking and forget to brake, the car will hit the car behind it.
This new 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid is impressive to drive. It delivers 47 miles per gallon (MPG) not only on the highway, but also on city streets. This best-in-class MPG is the result of a new drive system, improved internal software, and a new Ford lithium-ion battery pack. This Fusion Hybrid assists me in a number of ways from parking to safety. When I touch the voice button, the conversation between car and me is natural. For example, I touch the voice button on the steering wheel and say “navigation destination California.” The car replies, I then say “333 Battery Street San Francisco.” I’m understood the first time, with no training. The destination correctly displays on the navigation map and I hear turn-by-turn directions while I drive. I don’t listen to endless menus; I don’t touch the screen. No “I’m sorry, I did not understand you.”
In busy city parking, it did take three tries to find a spot for Park Assist. The first time, as city taxis squeezed by, Ford’s Active Park Assist decided that it did not have enough room to maneuver. As you first drive by a space, it decides if it has 1.2 times the car length, then displays that it’s ready to park. The second time, as I was lining-up my assisted parallel park, a delivery van swooped in and stole the spot. Unlike Luke in Star Wars, I was unarmed to deal with those from the Dark Side.
The new 2013 Ford Fusion family is loaded with telematics and safety features to make life easier for us in tight spots and intense traffic. The following options are available in Ford’s Driver Assist Technology.
- Active Park Assist
- Lane-Keeping Aid
- Lane Departure Warning
- Adaptive Cruise Control
- Blind Spot Indicator
- Rear Camera
- Collision Alert
- Driver Alert
Classic styling, smooth driving, and excellent fuel economy come together in this new five-passenger midsized sedan. This new Fusion Hybrid beats its toughest competitor, the Toyota Camry Hybrid, in three ways: telematics, better MPG, and a drop-down 60/40 back seat for more cargo.
The Fusion Hybrid starts at $27,200 delivering 47 MPG, a $6,000 premium over the least expensive Fusion that delivers 26 MPG. The Hybrid will save many drivers 150 gallons of gasoline annually, which is worth $600 annually where I live. At this meeting, most of the taxis we see are hybrid. Taxis are driven 90,000 miles a year in San Francisco, paying for the Hybrid advantage in one year, or two when battery packs are changed more frequently.
As I drive, the EV display stays blue, showing that I am only using the electric motor while the engine stays off. Under perfect conditions, I could stay in electric mode for a mile going as fast as 62 miles per hour (mph). Conditions aren’t perfect, as a classic San Francisco hill approaches. The Fusion Hybrids electric motors and 2L engine work together to get me up the steep hill with ease using a combined 188 hp.
For the Fusion Hybrid and Energi, Ford has built improved battery packs using Sanyo lithium-ion prismatic cells. This Hybrid has 1.4 kW pack and two electric motors built by Toshiba in Houston, Texas. The 88kW traction motor moves the vehicle. The 60kW motor acts as a generator, capture excess electricity while driving and braking, and storing the energy in the battery pack. Seventy on-board computers and millions of lines of software handle everything. I just drive.
In the Fusion Hybrid, the back seat can be lowered for more cargo like work projects, school supplies, and golf clubs. In most hybrids, such as the Camry and Civic, the back seat cannot be lowered. The Fusion cargo flexibility is imperfect due to a large hump for the lithium batteries. Good enough for skis or lumber, but not for mountain bikes.
My test drive hybrid included a luxury package interior, SYNCH and navigation system with 8-inch LDC, and the Driver Assist Package discussed in this article. Loaded with extras, this hybrid cost $35,265.
New Fusion Family Shows That Ford Listens to Its Customers
In addition to test-driving several Fusion models, I join Ford’s Chief Technical Officer Paul Mascarenas and key members of Ford’s research, technology, and engineering teams such as Chuck Gray, Chief Engineer, Electrification, and Jim Buczkowski, Henry Ford Technical Fellow. Ford is advancing in several fronts:
- Customer Choice – offering vehicles with drive systems from gasoline engine only to electric.
- Driver Assistance – proving the driver with telematics and safety assistance to improve navigation, suddenly stopped traffic, lane drifting, you name it.
- Intelligent mobility – with help from cloud services, you can start planning your trip and selecting your music on your iPad, have all that move with you into the Fusion, and then take that with you on your Droid when you arrive at the next stop.
- Fuel economy – new generation drive systems that allow drivers to go further on a tank of gas and/or electric-charge instead of petroleum fueling.
The 2013 Ford Fusion is available in five drive systems to meet customer’s mileage, cost, and driving preferences:
- EcoBoost 1.6L Automatic Transmission
- EcoBoost 1.6L Manual Transmission
- All-Wheel Drive EcoBoost 2.0L
- Energi Plug-in Hybrid
The new Ford Fusion gives car owners unprecedented choice in powertrains and fuel economy. The Ford Fusion can be offered with an efficient EcoBoost engine or as a hybrid with better mileage than any midsized sedan or as a plug-in hybrid that allows many trips to use zero gasoline.
Fusion Delivers a Beautiful Midsized Sedan
Fusion brings the broadest selection of fuel-efficient powertrains in the midsize car segment. It offers hybrid and plug-in hybrid alternatives, a pair of EcoBoost™ four-cylinder engines, a normally aspirated four-cylinder engine, an automatic start stop system to shut off the engine at stationary idle, front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive (AWD) applications, and a choice between automatic and manually shifted six-speed transmissions. Choices include:
- 1.6-liter EcoBoost: 25-mpg city, 37-mpg highway, 29 mpg combined
- 2.0-liter EcoBoost: 22-mpg city, 33-mpg highway, 26 mpg combined
- 2.5-liter: 22-mpg city, 34-mpg highway, 26 mpg combined
Mileage can be improved with the $295 optional Auto Start-Stop system, which smoothly shuts off engine power when the car is stopped and seamlessly restarts as the driver releases the brake pedal. This feature typically improves fuel efficiency by 3.5 percent, but could improve mileage by 10 percent in heavy stop-go traffic.
The 1.6-liter EcoBoost outperforms many larger 6-cylinder engines with non-hybrid fuel efficiency of 26 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway, 32 mpg combined. The 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine – paired with a paddle-shifted six-speed SelectShift Automatic™ transmission, available 19-inch wheels and tires, and all-wheel drive with the ability to send additional torque to the rear – is the Fusion performance option.
The Fusion has more cargo flexibility than the Hybrid, which reduces trunk size to make room for the lithium-battery pack. If you often need lots of cargo flexibility, then the Toyota Prius and Ford C-MAX offerings may be the better choice. For occasional cargo expansion, Ford with its smaller lithium batteries gives you the lowered backseat flexibility missing in Toyota and other hybrid sedans. The Camry Hybrid does include a smaller emergency spare tire. Like many hybrid and electric cars, the Fusion Hybrid has no spare. Get a flat and call AAA or other service.
Fusion All-Wheel Drive
For the first time, Ford’s Driver Assist Technology is available in an all-wheel drive (AWD). Depending on road conditions, appropriate power is delivered to each wheel, unlike the front wheel drive of the other 2013 Fusion models. If you live in an area where those 100-year storms now seem to hit every other year, then AWD may improve safety and handling in the rain, ice, and snow. AWD is only available with a 2L engine, and not in the hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. The Fusion AWD delivers 22-mpg city, 31 highway, and 25 combined.
Although Ford once led our Best AWD List with the Ford Escape Hybrid, now discontinued, it falls behind Subaru and Audi in AWD mileage. Ford has been focused on achieving major advancements in other areas such as big mileage gains with EcoBoost engines and electric drive systems, telematics, and flexible manufacturing efficiency. Although Ford does not make AWD available on any hybrid or electric car, hybrids and plug-in hybrids are coming from Audi, BMW, Tesla, and Mitsubishi.
Arriving this fall, Fusion Energi is anticipated to deliver more than 100 MPGe, a mile per gallon equivalency metric for electrified vehicles. This is 8 MPGe more than the Chevrolet Volt and 13 MPGe more than the projected efficiency of the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid model. Many Volt owners tell me that in real world driving their first 40 miles are electric mode before the gasoline engine engages.
The Fusion Energi is expected to deliver 20 miles in electric mode using a 7.5kW Ford battery back with 76 Sanyo cells. The average American drives 4 trips daily with 40-miles per total. City streets and stop-go freeway are much of that driving. The Energi will support Level One and Level Two charging. Go fast, or use most of the lithium battery storage and the Energi drives like a hybrid the same two electric motors and 2L, 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine working together. An electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (eCVT) helps fuel economy.
We will learn more about electric range, motor and battery specs as Ford starts Energi sales in early 2013. Ford is starting with sales of the Ford Focus Electric and then the Ford C-Max Energi.
Driver Assist Technology – Ford’s Telematics
The 2013 Fusion offers an unprecedented portfolio of driver assistance and convenience technologies based on sensors, cameras and radar that enable the car to see and respond. Fusion can help drivers maintain proper lane position, adjust vehicle speed to changing traffic conditions, identify suitable parking spaces and help park, even aiding drivers backing out of parking space where visibility is obstructed. Specific technologies include:
Lane Keeping System: 3 elements to help a driver maintain proper lane position. Using a small, forward-facing camera behind the inside rearview mirror, the system “looks” down the road, monitoring lane lines to determine that the car is on course. The system will alert a driver if drowsiness or erratic lane keeping is detected. The second element warns a driver with a steering wheel vibration if the Fusion drifts too close to lane markings. Finally, lane-keeping aid will actually apply pressure on the steering to help bring the car back into proper lane position.
Adaptive cruise control: Using forward-looking radar, this system “looks” down the road when activated, slowing the Fusion when slower traffic is detected ahead. Adaptive cruise control enables collision warning with brake support to help slow the car if the potential of a crash is detected.
Active park assist: Employing sensors, this technology can identify a suitable parallel parking space, calculate the trajectory and steer the car to properly position it within the spot. All a driver need do is operate accelerator and brake pedals.
Blind Spot Information System (BLIS®) with cross-traffic alert: Sensors in both Fusion rear quarter-panels are able to detect traffic in a driver’s blind spot, providing both audible and visual warnings if traffic – unseen by the driver – is detected. BLIS technology enables cross-traffic alert, warning the driver of oncoming traffic when backing out of a parking space with obstructed views.
Fusion is designed with customer safety in mind. Engineers increased its body strength by 10 percent, using more high-strength steels such as boron, and added dual first-row knee airbags and adaptive front airbags that vent and tether to conform to a specific occupant’s size, position and seatbelt usage.
The new Fusion offers the latest iteration of Ford’s SYNC® communications and entertainment system, which enables voice-activated communication through a driver’s mobile phone and interaction with the car’s audio system. Nuance is the company behind Ford’s voice technology, as well as the Apple iPhone Siri natural language interface, and Dragon Speech Recognition that I used on my Mac to dictate part of this article.
More Lithium Batteries, Less Rare Earths
There is concern that as hybrid and electric cars make us less dependent on oil from unstable and hostile countries, we become more dependent on rare earth elements from China. Among the rare earth metals used in nickel-metal-hydride batteries are neodymium, cerium, lanthanum and praseodymium, none of which are used in the new lithium-ion batteries which are standard on all new Ford hybrid and electric cars.
Additionally, Ford has reduced its use of dysprosium by approximately 50 percent in magnets employed in the Ford electric motors. Dysprosium is the most expensive rare earth metal used in Ford vehicles. This reduction is the result of a new diffusion process that is used in the magnet manufacturing process.
The new 2013 Ford Fusion Family gives customers a wide choice in fuel economy, electric drive, telematics and safety.
Summary of New Worldwatch Institute Report
An estimated 691 million passenger cars were on the world’s roads in 2011. When both light- and heavy-duty trucks are included, the number rises to 979 million vehicles, which was 30 million more than just a year earlier. By the end of 2012, the global fleet could top 1 billion vehicles—-one for every seven people on the planet.
Production of passenger vehicles (cars and light trucks) rose from 74.4 million in 2010 to 76.8 million in 2011—-and 2012 may bring an all-time high of 80 million or more vehicles, according to new research by the Worldwatch. Global sales of passenger vehicles increased from 75.4 million to 78.6 million over the same period, with a projected 81.8 million in 2012, writes report author and Worldwatch Senior Researcher Michael Renner. The major driver of increased production and sales are the emerging economies, especially China.
Sales by Manufacturer Forecast
- GM 9.2 million
- VW 8.5
- Toyota 8.5
- Renault-Nissan 8
- Hyundai 6.7
- Ford 5.4
(Source PwC Autofacts: Quarterly Forecast Update, 1/12)
Clean Fleet Report: GM’s leadership is a testimony to their turn around since 2008. It also shows the value of U.S. CAFÉ standards that have lead automakers to improve fuel economy to the level that they can compete in China and other global markets. Still the U.S. 2025 standard of 54.5 mpg lags Japan’s 2015 standard.
China is now the largest market for GM and other automakers. The passenger vehicle fleet in China grew at an annual average rate of 25 percent during 2000-11, from fewer than 10 million cars to 73 million cars.
Hybrid vehicles are growing in number, but they remain below 2 percent of total vehicle output. Hybrid-electric vehicles combine an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, along with a generator and battery. In 2011, just over 400,000 Toyota Prii, by far the best-selling hybrid, were purchased (253,000 in Japan; 137,000 in the United States; and 26,000 in Europe). Altogether Toyota has sold 4 million hybrids since 1997, of which the Prius accounts for 2.9 million. Ten Hybrid Cars with Best Miles per Gallon
Clean Fleet Report: Electric vehicle (EV) production is minimal in the Worldwatch report, which does not include China’s 150 million e-bikes, e-scooters, and LEVs.
China wants to put 5 million plug-in hybrid-electric and fully electric vehicles on its roads by 2020—-which could account for more than 40 percent of the global EV fleet that year. An analysis by Deutsche Bank Climate Advisors, however, suggests that production of 1.1 million EVs and a fleet of 3.5 million in China is a more realistic projection for 2020.
“Automobiles are major contributors to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Renner. “Greater fuel efficiency, along with the use of cleaner fuels, can help mitigate these impacts, although increases in the numbers of cars and the distances driven threaten to overwhelm fuel economy advances.”
Discussions about reducing the environmental impacts of vehicles tend to focus on technical improvements, such as engines, aerodynamic design, and fuels—-yet another concern is the distances traveled. Even though the United States has just 25 percent of the total population of the group of wealthy nations known as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in 2008 it alone accounted for just over 40 percent of the 10.3 trillion passenger-kilometers driven in all OECD member countries. Still, U.S. car travel is down slightly from its peak of 4.3 trillion passenger kilometers in 2005, to 4.1 trillion passenger kilometers in 2008.
This summary is based on Worldwatch Institute Vital Signs Online service. Worldwatch is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that works on energy, resource, and environmental issues. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in more than 18 languages. For more information, visit www.worldwatch.org.
By John Addison (9/10/12)
My wife and I are typical of the average U.S. household by owning two cars. We’re different in making one of them an electric car. For the past 18 months, our Nissan LEAF has been our primary car. The person driving the most miles for the day, yet stay under 60 miles, takes the car. The other is typically using transit, working at home, or using our hybrid car. Because we have two cars, electric range is rarely an issue. Only for long distance trips does our hybrid become the primary car.
Some electric car owners only have one car. They are owned by a single person, or in households, often urban, where one car meets the needs of two or more people. In cities and university towns, these EV drivers also have a range of other vehicles in nearby car sharing parking spaces.
Most early adopters of electric cars are in California, just as they were in first adopting hybrid cars. Data on the driving behavior of some 1,400 Nissan LEAF drivers, and 60 other EV drivers, is now available from the Center of Sustainable Energy of California (CCSE). Here are the results of their extensive survey:
- 89% of owners use their plug-in vehicle (PEV) as their primary car
- They drive an average of 800 electric-fueled miles per month.
- Many LEAF owners pay the equivalent of $0.90 to $1.90 per gallon of gasoline to power their electric vehicles.
- 12,000 electric cars in California save 350,000 gallons of petroleum every month.
- About 67% of vehicle charging takes place in off-peak hours (8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.).
- 39% of the state’s PEV owners have home solar energy systems, another 17 % plan to add solar, helping charge their electric cars.
- 71% of PEV owners report having access to either public or workplace charging or both.
California utilities own large natural gas and nuclear power plants that are most cost effective to run 24/7. There are no coal power plants in California. The nighttime charging of electric cars actually helps utilities balance their load. Utilities have had to add some $8,000 transformers in neighborhoods with electric cars. So far, plug-in vehicles have been helped utilities be more efficient.
These 1,419 drivers represent a significant sampling of California’s current 12,000 electric car drivers and of the nation’s almost 40,000 electric car drivers. The survey targeted those who had owned their EVs for at least six months. I was one who completed the survey. The results are quite useful, but skewed by the sampling. 96 percent of the survey is Nissan LEAF owners, 95 percent owned a second vehicle, and 71 percent are male.
They vast majority charged their car in their owned garage, with 97% living in homes with garages. My wife and I are in the small minority of electric car owners who live in multi-tenant buildings, where utility and city inspector approvals can be challenging, and expensive utility commercial rates can apply. Since most city dwellers live in multi-tenant buildings, this will be a major challenge in electric car adoption.
As advertised by Nissan, our LEAF, in real world driving, has delivered a range of 100 miles when driving below 40 miles per hour, but only 60 miles range on freeways. I have taken it up to 80 miles on freeways by charging at the destination, or charging while spending an hour or two at lunch, dinner, or working at Starbucks.
Range Anxiety is Real but Overrated
Most of these California early adopters were dissatisfied with the public charging infrastructure. As a member of both the ChargePoint and Blink Networks, I have found it easy to find charging stations using Google Maps, the apps from my two networks, and with my LEAF’s navigation system. With one exception, the public ChargePoint stations have worked great in a dozen locations. Generally, the Blink stations were “on the blink” when I arrived.
In the five largest California utilities, PEV owners pay about $0.09 – $0.15 per kWh to charge their PEVs at home during off peak hours (at night) and about $0.17 – $0.34 to charge their PEVs on peak (during the day). In California, 90 percent of public charging has been free. The majority surveyed would pay 2.5 to 3 times their home charging rate for “critical need” public charging.
To accelerate electric car adoption and charging infrastructure adoption, the California State Assembly and Senate have passed three bills currently pending Governor Brown’s signature. AB 2405 allows single-occupant, clean and zero emission vehicles with a Clean Air Vehicle Sticker free access to carpool lanes that are converted to toll roads. AB 2502 allows car dealers to include the cost of accelerated electric vehicle charging stations and installation within electric vehicle purchase financing. AB 2853 requires the state to develop a plan for equipping state owned parking lots and park and ride lots with electric vehicle chargers and alternative fuel infrastructure. On September 13, CALSTART will be hosting an event to promote these bills.
Electric-car range is a big concern for most electric car shoppers. After 18 months, I learned that may range anxiety was considerably overblown. Several factors make range less of an issue:
- Owning a second car.
- Driving a plug-in hybrid.
- Electric car chargers at work.
- Network of public charging (over 2,000 public chargers in California).
- Living near transit or car sharing.
Californians are now buying and leasing over 1,000 electric cars monthly from Nissan, Chevrolet, Toyota, Ford, Tesla, and a number of automakers. Now that electric cars are available nationally, about 3,000 electric cars are added monthly in the United States. The CCSE survey shows the potential of electric cars to lower monthly cost of operating a car, range being a small issue in two-car households, benefits to electric utilities, oil dependency and energy security.