Looking at the choice between current and coming electric cars
We have owned electric cars since 2011. My wife and I loved our 2011 Nissan Leaf and now love our 2016 Chevrolet Volt. We were our dealer’s first delivery of a LEAF and our dealer’s first delivery of the 2016 Volt. Now that there are choices with over 200-mile range, we’re tempted to order either the new Tesla Model 3 or the Chevrolet Bolt.
Option 1: 2018 Tesla Model 3
All (well, some) was revealed–and 300,000+ signed up
In the first 24 hours, 180,000 people made refundable deposits of $1,000 to reserve the new Tesla Model 3. Within a few days there were more than 325,000 reservations and the list continues to grow. Reserve one today and you will likely wait three years for delivery. For many, the wait will be worth it. For others, there are other excellent electric car choices that may better meet needs: driving range, cargo needs, whether you have two cars or one, and whether you can plug-in the car daily.
The Tesla Model 3 has a base price of $35,000 for an electric car with 215 mile-range, yet retains many of the features of an $80,000 Model S. The new Model 3 will be a compact sedan about the size of a BMW 3-Series instead of the 20 percent larger Model S, which is closer to the size of a BMW 7-Series.
I deliberately call the car a 2018 Tesla Model 3, because you won’t get one in 2017. You can reserve the car now, get more details soon, and test drive some day. Although first delivers of the Tesla 3 are targeted for late 2017, there are 300,000 people ahead of you and Tesla has a history of being late with new models. Delivery priorities likely will be existing Tesla owners, more expensive models, and then your queue location.
Today, Tesla has more 3,600 Superchargers and more than 3,600 destination chargers, allowing owners to fully charge in 30 to 60 minutes for free. Many are located near restaurants and Starbucks. By the time you get delivery of the Model 3, Tesla will triple its Supercharger locations. Tesla altered its description of the Model 3’s Supercharger connection from initially describing it as having access to the network to being capable of access to the network, which looks like Model 3 owners may find that coming as an upcharge on the base price. Like other EVs, Tesla 3s can also use the tens of thousands of Level 2 chargers at employers, many parking lots and public spaces. Using apps like Google Maps or Plug Share, they are easy to find.
Starting at $35,000, the Tesla Model 3 will come standard with Supercharging capability and Autopilot self-driving technology, according to Elon Musk. Some consider Tesla to have the safest cars on the road. Musk initially assured that the Model 3 will have 5-star safety ratings in every category, but then changed that promise being “designed to achieve” that rating, a much safer promise for a car still two years from production.
The Tax Break–That May Not Be There
Just as I have received $7,500 off my taxes for buying an electric car, you have the potential to bring your Tesla cost down to $27,500 and lower in the many states that add incentives. Six months after an automaker has a cumulative 200,000 customers claim tax credits, the credits phase out. FYI, Tesla hit 100,000 units of global sales (most in the U.S.) in December 2015 and aims to ramp up Model X production during 2016, though first quarter deliveries were below expectations. By the time you can get delivery of the Model 3, the Tesla credits will likely be gone.
Although Tesla has provided few details about the Model 3, industry speculation is extensive:
- There will be several versions of the Model 3.
- The base model will have a battery about 50 percent bigger than the Nissan Leaf, but perhaps half the 90 kWh of the high-end Model S versions.
- Being smaller and lighter, the 215-mile range will be achievable under many driving conditions. Like all electric cars, range will be reduced by driving speed, hills and cold weather.
Do you have a place at home or work to plug-in your vehicle? My former condo neighbor returned from a two-week trip to find her Tesla’s battery pack permanently dead. She had failed to leave the Tesla plugged in, which is recommended to keep the battery pack’s thousands of cells balanced. In my years of owning a Nissan Leaf and a Chevrolet Volt, I have been able to leave the cars unplugged for three weeks, and then start them with no hassle. Like most modern EVs, they use large-form automotive lithium cells.
In the months ahead, Tesla needs to provide detailed specs for charging the Model 3. If you don’t have regular access to an electric outlet, discuss the issue with Tesla, and get the answer in writing. For you, a Bolt, Volt, Leaf or even a Prius may be better choices.
The uni-dash appears
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a pricey version of the Model 3 with a 300-mile range, besting the 270-mile Model S. More expensive versions of the Model 3 are also likely to include AWD, advanced safety features, valet parking, premium interior and exterior, much like was shown on the demo models shown at the reveal.
The Tesla Model 3 is likely to be an amazing car for $35,000, even if tax incentives are gone. Many buyers are likely to pay $40,000 to $60,000 to get the range and options that they desire.
Even if you don’t order a Tesla, you have to admire their innovation. Continually updating software, including Autopilot, makes their cars safer and better. Many of their owners charge with solar energy, some with grid power, but none with petroleum (assuming they aren’t using diesel generators for their electricity). More than 300,000 deposits for the new Model 3 is a wake-up call to every executive at GM, Toyota, Ford, VW and the rest.
Option 2: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt
With a 200-mile minimum electric range, the new Chevrolet Bolt has almost identical range to the entry level Tesla 3. The Bolt will have a 60 kWh battery pack. The Bolt has a base price of
The Chevy Bolt EV hits the ground first
$37,500. If you order one later this year, you are likely to take delivery of the Bolt two years sooner than the Tesla 3.
The Bolt is a stylish crossover, similar to a sport SUV. With a liftback, you should be able to lower the back seats and put a couple of bicycles inside as I do in my Volt. With Tesla you would likely need a third-party bike rack. But with both front and rear trunks, the Tesla 3 will meet most cargo needs.
GM has sold more than 90,000 plug-in vehicles at this point, so, if you order a Bolt, you would likely have a good chance to receive a $7,500 IRS credit, making the entry Bolt at least $5,000 less expensive than the Tesla 3 after federal and state incentives.
I paid an extra $5,000 for the advanced driver safety (ADAS) features in our Chevrolet Volt, which uses radar and two high-resolution cameras to give us a back-up camera, lane keep assist, forward collision and pedestrian alerts with automatic braking, and side blind spot alerts. The new Bolt will be even better with four cameras to support all those safety features plus 360-degree surround vision. While the new Bolt will lack Tesla’s self-driving abilities, it will be impressively safe.
Charging on the Level
A more conventional interior
Tesla’s network of Superchargers will be greater than the network of DC fast chargers available for Bolts (DC fast charge may be optional; that hasn’t been announced), but tens of thousands of Level 2 chargers at employers, parking lots and public spaces are available for all plug-in vehicles. Both Tesla and Chevrolet are claiming a range increase of 25 miles for each hour of Level 2 charging, much faster than I see with my 2016 Volt.
Tesla also has the advantage with over-the-air software updates; just as the apps on your phone update themselves, a Tesla network updates automatically to keep getting smarter and better. With my Chevrolet, I have been promised Android Auto for a year, yet every time I call the dealer to make an appointment to upgrade, they are still waiting for a DVD from the factory.
When you finally get a chance to test drive both the Chevrolet Bolt and the Tesla Model 3, you may decide that you prefer the Tesla 15-inch touchscreen and drive-by-wire, or you may prefer the Bolt’s 10-inch touchscreen and traditional instrument panel. You are likely to prefer both over your present car and most alternatives on the market.
Although Tesla has a head start of more than 300,000 reservations, Chevrolet dealers should start delivering the Bolt a year sooner than the first Tesla 3 and two years sooner than most since GM has a long track record of mass-producing vehicles, something that still presents Tesla with a steep learning curve.
Option 3: Get a Plug-in Electric Today
The Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt are the two best selling electric cars starting below $35,000 with deliveries today.
With our 2016 Chevrolet Volt, we have driven more than its rated 53-mile electric range. When driving locally, we fill-up less than once a month. We have driven 500 miles to see family without worrying about finding charging spots, because the Volt is a plug-in hybrid that also includes a nine-gallon gas tank to give us 420-mile total range.
Some friends are surprised that we sold our electric Nissan Leaf and replaced it with a Volt plug-in hybrid. We are no longer driving pure electric and feel a bit guilty when adding gasoline. Although we experienced occasional range anxiety, my wife and I drove the Leaf for three and a half years without ever running empty.
We switched to the Volt because we went from two cars to one. In fact, we now have one Volt and two electric bicycles. Living in San Francisco, it all works. We can walk to grocery stores and restaurants. If the walk is too long, we can bike or take nearby transit. If we are in a hurry, Uber and Lyft are omnipresent.
If you need one car to meet all your needs, including a fair amount of long distance, you might prefer a plug-in hybrid like the Chevrolet Volt. If you have no place to charge, the Toyota Prius or one of the other 36 non plug-in hybrids might be even better.
Two bikes or two people in back; a plus for the Volt
The Leaf worked beautifully during the three-and-a-half years that we drove it. We purchased the Leaf for $33,000, took advantage of tax credits, and sold it on Craigslist (in four days) for $12,700. Ownership cost us $225 per month, plus an average of $35 monthly to keep it charged.
The 2016 Nissan Leaf starts at $29,000 for a complete electric car with the same 24-kWh battery that served us well for 3.5 years. For $34,200, you can now get the Leaf SV with a 32-kWh battery for a 107-mile range. On a flat road driving 40 mph, you might go 140 miles; on a freeway with heater and headlights on, you might have a range of 80 miles. For most, especially those with work and public space charging, this is more than enough range.
What we learned is that if you share two cars, one can be electric with far less range than offered from Tesla and the Bolt. If you are in a household with two or more vehicles, you can be driving great electric cars today.
You can now order plug-in cars from almost all automakers. There are some interesting choices from Audi, BMW, Fiat, Ford, Hyundai, Toyota, VW and others. We’ve reviewed most of them on this site. Tesla, Nissan and Chevrolet are the sales leaders. Customers evaluate, test drive, and make good choices in all-electric and plug-in hybrids.
You may want to eagerly await a beautifully designed 200-mile electric range cars like the Tesla Model 3 or Chevrolet Bolt. Speaking as a five-year plug-in car driver, do not forget to consider the practical issues like your driving range, cargo needs, whether you have two cars or one, and whether you have a place to charge the electric car. For many, the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf and their counterparts are ideal, affordable, and you can drive one today.
More than one million electric cars have been sold worldwide in the past five years and a third of them are in the U.S. With one announcement, another 300,000 have lined-up to get outstanding performance, styling and safety. Electric cars have an enormous future. Are you in?
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The Future of Driving Is Arriving
Those gifts that you ordered from Amazon are shuttled through a massive warehouse by a self-driving vehicle. In 2019, 100 Volvos that can self-drive with the touch of a button will be in use in Gothenburg, Sweden. A year later, more than 1,000 self-driving cars from several automakers will be on the roads of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Within 10 years, a major city will have thousands of two-seat electric vehicles that pick you up with a command from your smartphone app and take you to your destination. Think of a convergence of Car2Go, Uber and Google maps. Advanced planning is already occurring in Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo.
Autopilot (self-driving) vehicles are not some future fantasy; they are on the roads today. In California, where I live, they are legal. When I was at the 2014 LA Auto Show and Connected Car Expo, major automakers were showing their capabilities.
Disruptive driving has a face
Disruptive technology, whether it is cloud-based music delivered to mobile devices or self-driving cars, never happens without problems, drawbacks and false starts. It is the same for self-driving vehicles, which are first succeeding in specific fleet applications, then campuses, and then one city at a time.
Regulators will resist, people who like to drive will object, some transit advocates see will see improved cars as a threat, and there will be the inevitable accident. But resistance won’t stop progress. Self-driving cars will dramatically reduce the 2.5 million people transported to hospitals due to car collisions, serve many people don’t like to drive and benefit transit as last-mile solutions.
Threatened industries will fight the self-driving cars that will cost them billions: insurance premiums will be lowered, hospital revenues will drop, fuel efficiency will hurt oil companies, taxi drivers will get new jobs, highways won’t need to be widened, DUI lawyers will need work and fewer police will be needed. Lobbyist and ad campaigns will fight the change, but self-driving cars will win and people will be more productive, safer and less stressed. With cars being the number one killer of Americans aged 4 to 35, there has got to be a better way.
In the long term, 100 percent self-driving cars may transform mobility. In 2015, the bigger impact will be that millions will drive cars with advanced safety technology.
Safety and Advanced Driving
You may already be using technology that facilitates better driving, such as GPS navigation, backup cameras, onboard warnings, monitors and adaptive cruise control. In 2015, you may well be driving a car with advanced driver-assist and safety features. Cars have had adaptive cruise control for 10 years. Lately, more will warn you if you drift out of your lane and brake before you do to avoid accidents.
My car has blind spots. Before changing lanes, I turn my head to look at the new lane and hope I did not miss a car next to me. The best of the semi-autonomous and self-driving cars not only have
2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid
no blind spots, they have algorithms to estimate the blind spots of all nearby cars and stay out of them. They are the best of defensive driving.
When I drove the Toyota Avalon Hybrid with adaptive cruise control, the car automatically slowed when I too quickly approached the car in front of me. My test parallel park of Ford Escape was a breeze when the SUV parked itself.
A concept version of the Mercedes S500 with Intelligent Drive System is already self-driving people through long-distance roads and stressful city streets. In 2015, this luxury plug-in hybrid won’t be self-driving, but will offer safety features such as PRE-SAFE braking to avoid hitting pedestrians or rear-ending the car in front, lane keeping assist and cross-traffic assist.
GM CEO Mary Barra has announced that in 2017 GM will offer a new Cadillac with Super Cruise technology. With a touch of a button, the car will steer itself, accelerate and brake to stay at freeway speeds or avoid collisions in stop-and-go traffic. The 2017 Cadillac CTS will include V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) communication, in the hopes that self-navigation will be improved with wide adoption of V2V.
Mercedes, Ford, GM, BMW, Volvo and others are optimistic about soon offering traffic-jam-assist, where the driver selects a button to have the vehicle self-drive at up to 25 to 30 mph during stop-and-go traffic.
Volvo with Drive Me will have 100 self-driving-capable vehicles (enabled with the touch of a button) on the roads of its headquarters city of Gothenburg, Sweden, within five years. The new Volvo XC90 already has a number of semi-autonomous capabilities such as lane keep and maintaining a safe distance from the car in front. In five years, these cars will also be able to drop-off passengers and valet park themselves. By 2020, Volvo’s vision is that no one will die or be seriously injured in a new Volvo.
In a recent interview with CNN, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk stated, “The Tesla car next year will probably be 90 percent capable of autopilot.” When asked by the interviewer how this would happen, Musk replied, “With a combination of various sensors, cameras plus image recognition, radar, and long-range ultrasonics.”
Fleets Have Used Semi-Autonomous Vehicles for over 10 Years
If you have bought something through Amazon, it may have been routed through their warehouse by an autonomous Kiva robot, rather than a person in a forklift. Goods movement is probably the
Amazon’s Kiva robots keep things moving
biggest area of success for autonomous vehicles (unless you count the Rumba that vacuums your home), with a fast return on investment (ROI) due to optimal routing and delivery.
Self-driving buses are a natural for university campuses and center city fixed-routes. Autonomous electric buses are being tested in Italy. Campus shuttles are being tested at a Swiss university. In campuses from Stanford University to Google HQ, people are shuttled without anyone driving the vehicle.
100% Autonomous Vehicles Have Been on California Roads Since 2009
Google, in partnership with Stanford University, has successfully had self-driving vehicles on the road since 2009. It is legal in California, but automakers must have at least $5 million in insurance or post a bond. So far, permits have been issued to Google, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Delphi and Audi. Other states have followed suit, as will other automakers and their partners. Google has clocked a half-million autonomous vehicle miles.
Test fleets in urban centers will be followed by wider adoption in cities such as Ann Arbor or Shanghai or Tokyo. Singapore is the most promising country aiming to resolve regulatory issues and make self-driving cars legal nationwide.
These new cars are networks of supercomputers on wheels, with hundreds of millions of lines of code, quickly analyzing input from lasers, sensors and high-resolution cameras to safely drive the autonomous vehicle. The best self-driving cars will not depend on V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) or V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure), because for decades most cars on the road will not have V2V, and most streets will not have V2I. Were automakers to wait for V2V and V2I, we would wait years for global standards, wait decades for infrastructure investment, and wait more decades for all drivers to adopt.
Yet, V2V and V2I will be extensively tested in Ann Arbor and a few other locations in a partnership including several automakers, U.S. DOT, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the University of Michigan. By 2020, there will be a wealth of data about thousands of cars, trucks and buses using V2V, V2I, advanced safety and self-driving capability.
Vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) peaked in the U.S. 10 years ago, primarily because record number of Americans now live in cities where there are better options than driving, including transit,
Car2Go features short-term Smart drives
walking, bicycling, car sharing and taxi alternatives. Transit activists and environmentalists worry that VMT will increase with self-driving cars. Most likely, the opposite will occur as future commuters and city dwellers use a next-generation Google Maps or other apps to guide them through what’s termed intermodal transit—mixed travel with two-seat electric self-driving shuttles, such as the 100 Google is building, that take them from home to a variety of transit modes and from transit to work. With no need to go over 25 mph, these vehicles can be low-cost electric cars.
People spending two and three hours daily in the car will not start spending four or five, even if the car does the driving. With the promise of more cars moving faster with less congestion, self-driving provides the option of less time on the roads.
The Car2Go car-sharing service has 800,000 members in 29 cities that currently use an app to find the nearest Smart Car, logon, drive a few miles, and then log-off. It’s one-way car sharing. A current problem with many car and bike sharing systems is that the vehicles may start at transit centers, but end-up in the wrong parts of the city. With self-driving vehicles, the cloud system can route them to places where they are needed. They can even be clustered at wireless inductive charging locations.
According to a recent report from Navigant Research, the proportion of vehicles sold worldwide with some degree of autonomous capability will be significant by 2025 and is expected to reach 75 percent by 2035. Some will be premium sedans and SUVs, some will be buses, shuttles and trucks, and many will be small electric urban cars that work seamlessly with transit, upgrading our current taxi and car sharing options.
We’re entering a whole new world of connected, autonomous vehicles.
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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.
New Electric Vehicles
There are over 40,000 electric vehicles in the United States, with more being made and sold every day. In most situations, the limited range and speed of light electric vehicles are acceptable. Sixty-seven percent of them replaced cars and trucks that required gasoline and caused significant carbon emissions. Most potential EV buyers, however, are waiting for freeway speed and better range at affordable prices. They do not need to wait long.
Several automakers are targeting 2010 to sell electric vehicles in the United States that you can charge in your garage and other places. Some will give you a range of over 100 miles between charges, drive at freeway speeds, and are likely to cost less than $40,000. Big income tax credits are available to buyers of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. As of this writing, tax credits range from $4,168 for vehicles with a 4 kWh battery pack to $7,500 for vehicles with a 16 kWh pack. Check with your accountant for the latest credits.
Lease programs are also available. BMW is leasing the Mini E for $850 per month, including maintenance and a charging station.
The race to market includes Nissan, Chevrolet, Renault, Ford, Toyota, emerging players such as Smart, Think, Fisker, and a host of other companies. Other companies are betting on the plug-in hybrids covered in the next chapter. Given the financial difficulties of many automakers, some of those who announced plans for 2010 will slip on their delivery dates, or even cancel programs. However, several exciting choices are likely to be on time.
If you live in a household with more than one car, the EV may be perfect for one of your cars. A common way to charge your EV will be to run an extension cord from an outlet in your garage to an electrical plug that is conveniently located on the outside of the car.
An electric vehicle will not be for you if you have no place to plug in and charge the batteries. If you park on the street, or have no electric outlet in your apartment building parking, then charging at work or public charging stations will need to be convenient.
Charging at home with a standard 110-volt outlet is known as trickle charging. The vehicle may need four to 10 hours to be adequately charged, depending on the miles since the last charging and the type of vehicle.
Fast charging is also possible, but there is a scarcity of charging stations and a lack of standards. Fast charging takes more electricity, and more energy is wasted as resistance causes heat loses. Fast charging can take as little as ten minutes, but usually requires an expensive charging station using a 480-volt line and special safety requirements.
Most electric vehicles are smaller and lighter than gasoline vehicles so that they can be driven for a range of more miles before recharging is required. This causes some to worry about safety. New electric vehicles, though, will not be for sale until they meet stringent safety tests, including crash tests. Is small less safe? The icon of small is the Mercedes Smart Fortwo car, three feet shorter than most sub-compacts and weighing only 1,800 pounds. Yet the Institute for Highway Safety gave the Smart Fortwo the top rating for front and side crash protection.
Although $40,000 is a lot of money, battery electric vehicles create a number of savings. You never pay for gasoline. Electric charging may only cost 2 cents per mile for charging; adding $20 to a typical monthly electric utility bill this is a fraction of what most pay for gasoline. There is no engine to maintain. Brakes last longer because braking energy is stored in batteries, reducing brake wear and tear. There is less to fix, maintain, and worry about under the hood.
You can get an EV like the Childers’ that costs less than $10,000, but it is limited to 25 miles per hour and 20 to 40 miles between charges. At the other end is the Tesla Roadster with a range of over 200 miles and effortless acceleration to freeway speed. Unfortunately, the Tesla Roadster will set you back more than $100,000.
As prices drop to below $30,000 after tax credits, freeway-speed electric vehicles will appeal to a growing number of drivers. Stylish offerings are coming in sports cars and four-door sedans, not just something that looks like a golf cart. Advanced batteries will have up to 150,000-mile warranties. Enthusiasts will be getting electric vehicles in the next two-years. Most will wait for prices that are closer to today’s fuel-efficient hybrids.
If you want to test drive an EV, it may be easier than you think. Your town may have an EV club. You can spot electric vehicles on any major college or corporate campus. When you take a parking lot shuttle at a ball game or amusement park, ask the driver if you are riding on electricity. You can rent EVs in some beach towns, tourist areas, and at some airport car rentals.
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.
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.
Excerpt from Chapter 1 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.
Resistance is Futile
The Toyota Prius is more aerodynamic than a Chevrolet Corvette. Both have less wind resistance than a square-shaped car or SUV. Being aerodynamic and using low rolling resistance tires are reasons that the Toyota Prius achieves good fuel economy. Manufacturers have been improving engines and transmissions for over 100 years. Engines today have improved timing, fuel mix, less resistance, and variable valve timing. Automakers such as Honda, GM, and Chrysler, continue to improve fuel economy with new engines that can shut off valves when not needed; for example, a variable cylinder management system can deactivate half of an engine’s cylinders during cruising and deceleration. Also used is the continuously variable transmission, which keeps the engine, running at a fuel-efficient speed. In 2007, Nissan sold over 1,000,000 vehicles with continuously variable transmissions. When you buy your next vehicle, look for cars with better miles-per-gallon due to use of advanced powertrains.
Does your family or household own more than one vehicle? If so, use most often the vehicle that consumes the least gas. It is a no-brainer. My wife and I share the high-mileage hybrid. As our main car, it puts on the most miles. The other sedan, which still gets good fuel economy, is used only on days when we both have destinations in opposite directions. There are more than one hundred car models that offer over 40 miles per gallon. An increased number of these models are being made available in the United States. People are often surprised by the excellent safety of some lighter vehicles with excellent fuel economy.
When you buy a new car select one that gets high miles per gallon or one that runs on electricity. If you are watching your budget, this is likely to be a light gasoline vehicle with good mileage. If you have more to spend, you can achieve greater fuel economy with hybrids and with diesels.
A growing number of vehicles are aerodynamic, lighter, safer, use advanced powertrains, and better tires. When you are ready to buy a new car, focus on the mileage for your type of driving. The solutions to our oil dependency are not in the distant future. They are here today. With lighter materials, better drive systems, and better safety features, you have a number of excellent vehicle choices.