The Promise of Electric Vehicles – Save Gas, Save the Planet Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Save Gas, Save the Planet: John Addison’s book about hybrid and electric cars, pathways to low carbon driving, and the future of sustainable transportation. © 2009 John Addison. All rights reserved.




Growing up in northern California has had a big influence on my love and respect for the outdoors. Unfortunately, I have witnessed in my lifetime a great loss of wilderness areas. I hope that the world gains an appreciation for what’s here and does everything it can to protect it. I want for my children and all of their children to enjoy the same wonders I experienced as a boy.
Tom Hanks
Academy Award Winning Actor, Director, Producer,
Electric Vehicle Driver

Tom Hanks has supported improving the environment for years both with words and actions such as driving electric vehicles. “I still have a Toyota RAV4 EV and never spent a penny on gasoline for it,” he said. Happy with his Toyota EV, he added a second electric car.

Tom Hanks purchased a Scion and had a specialty company, AC Propulsion, convert it into an electric vehicle, replacing the engine and drivetrain with an electric motor and electric drive system. The converted Scion accelerates from zero to 60 in 7 seconds and has a top speed of 95 mph. The range is 140 to 180 miles, meeting the needs of a couple with more than one car. An on-board charger makes it perfect for garage and other AC outlet charging. In only 30 minutes it can be charged for at least 20 more miles. A fast recharge takes 2 hours; a normal recharge takes 5 hours. In all, Hanks probably spent $75,000 for the Scion and the conversion.

“What AC Propulsion is doing is fantastic. I drove their tzero electric sports car a few years ago, so when they put the same technology in a four-door I wanted one for myself. It has double the range, goes fast, uses Li Ion batteries, and is incredibly roomy and comfortable.”

Many other people are experimenting with conversions to electric. The most notable are hybrid owners. But because of the do-it-yourself cost and warranty concerns, most are waiting for EVs from a major automaker. Several exciting freeway speed choices should be available by the end of 2010 including the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt.

Kacey Childers enjoys driving her electric vehicle around Davis, a university town in California. The Chrysler GEM electric vehicle’s 25-mph speed limit is a perfect match with driving speeds in town. Many of these low-speed electric vehicles are in the $10,000 to $15,000 price range. Most states limit these low-speed electric vehicles (EV) to streets with speed limits no greater than 35 mph. Although their owners love these neighborhood electric vehicles, their speed and range restrictions discourage many.

The Childers’ vehicle is also a good match with the environmental consciousness found in many university towns. EVs are also a good fit for the stretched pocketbooks of university students. Because of Davis’ progressive culture, electric vehicles are cool. Kacey’s daughters, Katelyn and Callie, like arriving at school in an electric vehicle.

Their EV’s 20-mile range is fine for getting around town. With a four-hour recharge, they are ready to go another 20 miles. The car can be charged from an ordinary electric outlet in their garage and at over 60 public charging stations in the nearby area,# making 40-mile round-trips possible.

The electric vehicle is the family’s primary car. For long distance, they own a gas-powered vehicle, which usually sits unused in the garage. The Childers’ EV has four seats and a locked trunk that can store about 100 pounds of groceries and goods.

Finding a downtown parking space in Davis can be a problem as students, locals, and Sacramento commuters vie for spots on the streets. There is also a two-hour parking limit, unless you are lucky enough to be driving an electric vehicle. In that case, charging stations are available with four-hour time limits, and some without any limit. With policies like these, cities around the world are encouraging zero-emission vehicles and discouraging gas guzzlers. These cities are a major reason that automakers have reconsidered offering an EV.

Not only does Kacey find driving the EV fun and convenient, she likes the money it saves. She spends less than six dollars a month for electricity to charge it. How does six dollars a month compare to what you spend on gasoline?

Hundreds own electric vehicles in this university town. The city’s parks and recreation department saves money using EVs that displace expensive gasoline cars and trucks. The university is a major user of electric vehicles.

The Childers’ are a two EV family. Kacey’s husband, Craig, often drives to work in Sacramento in a three-wheel light electric vehicle, which is legally classified in California as a motorcycle. At work, he recharges in a preferred parking space for EVs. Craig, an engineer for the State of California, is also a member of the employee pool that drives hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. These are electric vehicles with the fuel cell generating electricity for added range. At times, Craig zips down the freeway in the types of fuel cell vehicles detailed in the hydrogen chapter.

Although his primary vehicle is the light electric vehicle, Craig enjoys driving fast electric vehicles. He formerly drove the GM EV1, which was famously recalled by GM and crushed. At the time, automakers stated that batteries were not ready and that being regulated would hurt their profitability. Years later, GM CEO Richard Wagoner stated that his worst decision at GM was in “axing the EV1 electric-car program and not putting the right resources into hybrids.”

Living nearby in Davis is Jamie Knapp who drives a freeway speed Toyota RAV4 EV. The Toyota is charged with the 3.2 kW of solar power that graces Jamie’s house, providing for zero emission transportation. This beautiful electric vehicle is the primary car for Jamie and her husband. Jamie works at home writing about environmental and energy issues. She chairs a nonprofit group, which has greatly contributed to reducing emissions – The Coalition for Clean Air. About twice monthly, Jamie needs to travel beyond the 80-mile range of her EV. Only in those situations does she use their second vehicle that is powered with gasoline.

In addition to being an environmental leader and a writer, Jamie is a musician. She has proven that an electric vehicle can have adequate storage. She has removed one of the back seats from her RAV to make room to carry everything she and her husband regularly need for gigs, including a complete PA system, multiple acoustic instruments, and an upright string bass.

Battery electric vehicles, like those used by Kacey Childers and Jamie Knapp, never need a drop of gasoline.

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About Author: John Addison

Founder of the Clean Fleet Report, author of Save Gas, Save the Planet. John writes about electric cars, renewable energy, and sustainability.

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