Oil Spill Leads to Transportation Action Plan

Oil Spill Leads to Transportation Action Plan

Oil Slick Gulf Mexico NASABy John Addison (5/4/10)

National Tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico

Two hundred thousand gallons of oil spill daily into the Gulf of Mexico, destroying the beaches of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas as a result of the BP oil platform explosion of April 20. News viewers witness oil explosions, fires, and destruction. Containment chemicals are dumped where fish were caught for our dinner tables. Billions of dollars of damage is done. Major ports of our nation’s commerce are threatened. We are again reminded of the damage that oil can do to our environment. United States Response to Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

Oil addiction also hurts our economy. In 2008, oil prices dipped to $32 per barrel. Now oil prices are over $80 per barrel, on the way to being triple the 2008 low. While oil companies argue that we are not running out of oil, they should be admitting that we can no longer find cheap oil. Instead, it is now billion-dollar deep-drilling ocean platforms, the highly destructive strip mining of Canada for tar sands, and unconventional sources with high greenhouse gas emissions that brings us our incremental oil that we convert into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and asphalt to widen roads for more cars.

And we continue sending trillions of dollars to parts of the world where people want to do us harm. With rising oil prices we are sending more money for less oil.

To the rescue, since 2005, Americans have used less oil by riding clean, riding together, and riding less. In 2005, we consumed 20,802,000 barrels per day; by 2008, 19,498,000 daily barrels (EIA Data). Consumption continues to drop.

Ten Solutions to Save at the Pump

1. Employer Commute and Flexwork Programs. Major employers are saving employees billions in travel costs. Employers sponsor ride sharing, last mile shuttles from transit, and guaranteed ride homes. Some employers have web sites and lunch-and-learns to help employees in the same zip codes match-up for car pooling. 57 million Americans work at home, at least part-time, with the help of flexwork programs. Employer programs have helped with reduced car ownership.

2. Public Transit. Americans made 11 billion trips on U.S. transit in 2008, a 50-year record. Use has dropped some due to transit operators being forced to cut some routes and remove buses as the recession drove down local sales tax revenues needed for public transit. Americans are eager for more and better transit.

3. Walk. On an average we take 4 car trips daily, compared to 2 in Europe. Sometimes 1 of those 4 trips can be a pleasant walk to market, neighbors, or school event.

4. Safe Routes. Thousands of communities across the nation are showing us how to safely walk to school, community centers, and to public transit. Route maps go on line, pot holes get fixed, sidewalks repaired, danger spots eliminated, and signs displayed. Walk to School Days are on the increase.

5. One Car Households. The average suburban U.S. household has two vehicles. Some more. The average urban U.S. household has one vehicle. More American families and roommates are going from three cars to two cars to one car.

6. Sharing the Gas Miser. Households with 2 or more vehicles increasingly share cars, putting the most miles on the fuel miser as the gas guzzler stays parked more often. My wife and I share the hybrid, when not using transit, and leave the other car parked 6 days per week.

7. Make your next Car a Fuel Miser. You now have a wide-range of car choices that get over 30 miles per gallon. There is no reason to settle for less when you buy or lease a fuel-efficient sedan, hatchback, even SUV, turbo diesel, CNG, or hybrid car. Top 10 Cars With Lowest Carbon Footprint

8. Order an Electric Car which is ideal for many who live in a city where 100-mile range is rarely an issue, and where transit, car sharing, and car rental are also available. The average U.S. suburban household has two vehicles, so the EV could be ideal as one of those two. Top 10 Electric Car Makers

9. Car Sharing. In 600 global cities, cars can be used by the hour. Car sharing is popular with individuals and fleets. At many university and colleges, students with good grades can participate at age 18. Add transit and bicycling and many students live car free.

10. Smart Apps for Smart Travel. Internet savvy people now use Google Maps, 511, car share apps, and smart phone GPS apps to compare car directions and time with public transit directions and time. With a few clicks on a social network a shared ride is arranged, or a shared car reserved. In the old millennium we got everywhere by solo driving in gridlock. In the new millennium we plan and use a mix of car driving, transit, and other modes to save time and money.

There are hundreds of ways to save at the pump, or avoid it all together. The above are a just a few as people shift from their only choice being driving a gas guzzler, to options that include ride sharing, car sharing, walking, bicycling, buses, and rail for some of their trips.

Waiting for Responsible Government

We can all make a big difference without waiting for responsible government action, but it would help. The cheapest way to end highway gridlock is to invest in public transportation. Instead government cuts funds for transit and spends billions widening highways. For oil companies, we allow them to drill off our invaluable shores, fight wars to protect their oil, and then put oil companies on welfare. As Forbes Magazine discussed on April 5, the most profitable company in the United States, Exxon, paid zero U.S. income tax in 2009.

At a time when the average U.S. tax payer is hurting, we need to end oil tax loopholes and ensure that the 4 million vehicles in government fleets are gas misers or electric. While a minority in Congress block all attempts at progress, local communities are taking action across the nation by making cities vibrant, with work, services, and play close at hand. Portland, Oregon, is a role model in creating urban density and great public transportation. California with SB375 is requiring regional plans that integrate development, transportation, and greenhouse gas reduction.

In the United States, we embarrassingly have more vehicles than people with driver’s licenses. We have 246 million vehicles. AAA estimates that it costs $8,000 per year for each car owned, which creates a financial burden on cash-strapped Americans. You can help your pocketbook and help the nation by riding clean, riding together, and riding less.

Americans Use Aftermarket Products to Fight Rising Gas Prices

Americans Use Aftermarket Products to Fight Rising Gas Prices

Supercooler

Supercooler

In the past few months, oil prices have soared from $32 to over $70 per barrel. Americans are being hit with the double whammy of reduced income and increased fuel costs. Many vehicles are built to go fast and built to outlast their warranties. Cars and trucks must outlast their warranties under a wide range of conditions, including extreme heat and cold. Vehicle electronic control units are compromises and not optimized to get the best fuel economy for any one specific drive cycle and weather. This creates an opportunity for a variety of fuel saving aftermarket products.

Aftermarket products and service is big business. In 2007, aftermarket product U.S. sales were $285.5 billion. Sales in the automotive aftermarket (cars and light trucks) totaled $211.4 billion and sales in the heavy duty vehicle aftermarket totaled $74.1 billion.  The current recession has caused a modest decrease in revenue; rising fuel costs are now increasing revenue. AAIA

Tommy Guilbeau puts on 35,000 to 40,000 miles a year driving his 2006 Dodge Ram Hemi. Working for R.E. Michael Company, he delivers building air conditioning, boilers and heaters over a wide area. I talked to him while he was on his way to deliveries in Birmingham, Alabama. Tommy uses two after market products that save him thousands of dollars per year by boosting his mileage from 17 mpg to 26 mpg – impressive mileage for a pick-up carrying loads.

How did Tommy Guilbeau save over $2,000 in annual fuel cost? Tommy explained to me that he picked-up one mile per gallon by adding Tornado, a $70 device which is designed to improve air flow to an engine’s combustion chamber. It works with either a carbureted or electronic fuel injected engine. It gets its name because it delivers air in a vortex, instead of static air flow.

Tommy said that he gained a massive 7 mpg by installing Supercooler – a $699 device that improves mileage by delivering cooler air to the engine’s combustion chamber. Supercooler includes a thermal jacket installed around the vehicle’s air conditioning systems accumulator. Supercooler’s patented system also includes a liquid coolant, ColdPump, and IceBox. Supercooler installed his system in one day. Tommy stated, “Supercooler is great, especially if you do a lot of freeway driving.”

Products like Supercooler can save thousands per vehicle annually if you are located in a hot climate where the air conditioning is running most of time. If you are located in a colder northern climate, it may not pay for itself.

Aftermarket products are not for everyone. People with new vehicles are concerned that automakers will not honor warranties if they see ad-on products. Fleets with trained mechanics are more comfortable installing and maintaining the devices. Individuals often want experienced mechanics to install and set-up devices.

Many drivers would prefer to adjust vehicle characteristics for fuel economy, rather than acceleration, or for towing when they never tow. The new 2010 Prius, let’s drivers pick on of three settings. Most vehicles offer no choices, so drivers are attracted to aftermarket products.

Chris Fitch has been dealing with accessories for years. Chris sees big mileage gains with chips and software that give more control to drivers. He recommends products like Bully Dog,  Superchip, and Hypertech.  These devices let you set your performance/mileage preferences, get more data from gauges, allow fleet managers to download data, and give drivers realtime feedback to improve mileage. Devices are available for a range of gasoline and diesel cars, SUVs, and trucks. Many devices reprogram your vehicles computers to better mileage or performance settings. For warranty work, some can reprogram to manufacturer defaults and be removed.

Living in Florida, Chris always uses air conditioning and has Supercooler installed on his 2006 Toyota Tundra Force V8. His mileage took a 25 percent hit, when his girl friend ran the truck without running the air conditioning and therefore not running Supercooler. Chris states that his weekly gas savings pays for the system in months.

Only some aftermarket products boost mileage. Other products are for performance, looks, and convenience. Many products have not been put through rigorous testing on the same drive cycle under the same conditions as unmodified vehicles to verify improvement claims. Fleet managers can test one modified vehicle with an aftermarket product for a period of time, before installing the product on a larger percentage of the fleet. For individuals, aftermarket products are often leaps of faith.

One vehicle expert told me, “I find this hard to believe without certified test data. All this stuff reminds me of PT Barnum. It will most certainly void the OEM warranty unless the manufacturer has approved the device and installation.” An even bigger concern is that some of these devices are illegal in some states without EPA and ARB certification.

Yet it is hard to believe that the $285 billion per year spent on aftermarket products is all wasted money. This article does not begin to cover all the alternative products for boosting mileage, nor when they get results. It does demonstrate that fleets and individuals do not always settle for generic vehicles when a big part of their budget – fuel costs – gets hit. From tuners to tires, programmers to plug-in hybrid conversion kits, from cold air to exhaust heat, fleet managers are using hardware and software to go farther with less money.

As gasoline and diesel prices gyrate upwards and fuel budgets run on empty, more drivers and fleet managers are taking charge of engine performance to meet their specific duty cycles, hauling and cargo weight demands, and take advantage of local temperatures.

2010 Cars Deliver Performance and Fuel Economy

2010 Cars Deliver Performance and Fuel Economy

John Addison test drives the MINI Cooper Convertible

John Addison test drives the MINI Cooper Convertible

By John Addison (4/24/09).

This is my first time to drive on a race track and I’m wondering if these are my final moments on planet earth. Here at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca I take the Andretti Hairpin and learn to accelerate in successive turns. After accelerating uphill, I enter “The Corkscrew” where I cannot see the sharp downhill turn to the left until I am in the middle of it. As I get into this sharp turn, I need to prepare for the sequence of curves that immediately follow. Yes, it’s a corkscrew.

I try to remember the coaching that I received. Hold the steering wheel with something less than a death grip. Breathe. Look ahead – but looking ahead at the top of the Corkscrew I only see blue sky. Looking ahead to my future, I only see darkness.

The 2009 BMW 335d that I am driving handles beautifully, offers more turbodiesel acceleration than I care to try, and I guarantee you that the brakes work.

After three laps, I exit the track, park the BMW, remove my helmet as I leave the car, and resist kissing the ground in front of real drivers. I have been invited to test drive new vehicles with the Western Automotive Journalists, even though I write about green cars and clean transportation. I long for yesterday.

Yesterday, I tested cars with good fuel economy on streets with posted speed limits. Drives included three cars that made the list of Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Cars.  Yesterday, the 20 mile test drives were along the ocean in Monterey and on beautiful tree lined roads where I could easily see the next turn.

I had the most fun behind the wheel of the MINI Cooper Convertible. I couldn’t stop smiling with the top down, the sun shining, and the panoramic ocean views. The car was tight enough in handling that I had the experience of being connected with the road, rather than being insulated.

If you want to enjoy driving, consider the MINI. If you need to seat more than two adults, be aware that the backseat practically touches the front. Cargo space is minimal. If your household has two or more cars, the MINI would be a fun second car with great fuel economy. The MINI is small enough to allow city drivers parking spaces that most cars pass by. If you want more leg room and cargo, then the MINI Clubman is a better choice by being 9.5 inches longer.

The Mini Cooper and Clubman have a loyal following that enjoy good gas mileage with a combined 32 mpg. Base MSRP for the MINI Cooper is $19,200; $24,550 for the convertible.

By contrast the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid easily seats five, has plenty of trunk storage, and actually delivers better mileage than the MINI due to Ford’s impressive hybrid drive system. The new Ford midsized sedan that I drove has an EPA certified 41 mpg rating in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. The base suggested price is $27,995.

While the MINI invites you to go out and play, the Fusion Hybrid invites you to efficiently drive from point A to point B while consuming as little gasoline as possible. This car will not be popular in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, or Venezuela. It may prove to be popular with anyone considering the Toyota Camry Hybrid; Ford delivers equal room, safety, and comfort with better rated mileage. Although the Fusion Hybrid has a better mileage rating than the Camry Hybrid, that advantage is not always delivered in real world driving. Edmonds Test Drive

In theory, the Ford Fusion Hybrid can travel up to 47 miles per hour in electric mode; I could only sustain the engine-off mode when gliding downhill. Even on flat roads driving 25 mph, the engine would engage.

Ford does a nice job of encouraging drivers to get better fuel economy. The SmartGage had a display section that filled with green leaves as I drove with a light touch that reduced demands on the 2.5L engine. The Ford Fusion Hybrid delivered the smoothest driving experience of any hybrid which I have driven. I did not notice the transitions from gas to electric mode. The transitions were seamless.

Even better mileage was delivered by the 2010 Honda Insight EX which I drove in Monterey. It is rated 43 mpg highway and 40 mpg city. The Insight’s combined EPA rating of 41 contrasts with the 2010 Prius expected rating of at least 50 mpg. The Honda Insight has an aerodynamic body similar to the Prius. Although the two five-door hatchbacks look similar, the Prius is a longer midsized car. In theory, the Honda Insight pricing starts at $19,800 which has pressured Toyota to offer a Prius with a base price only $2,000 higher. The 2010 Insight that I drove included upgrades such as a navigation system and six speaker audio system. The vehicle price, including pre-delivery service, was $23,770.

I started the Insight, and then touched the ECO button. Even in that mode, I had enough acceleration to get on any freeway in a hurry. The ECO mode helped me minimize demands on the 1.3L gasoline engine as I navigated the roads hugging Monterey’s dramatic coast. Like the Ford Fusion Hybrid, I was rewarded with a display of green leaves for my eco-driving behavior. Handling was smooth and a bit sporty. Similar to the Prius, the view through the rear view mirror was constrained.

The mirror is one reason that my mother prefers her Honda Civic Hybrid which also delivers slightly better mileage than the Insight. Drivers who want a conventional looking sedan will pay more for the Honda Civic Hybrid.

Driving the Honda Insight was smooth and quiet even when I went up a sustained 16 percent grade, demonstrating that its electric motor is quite effective in blending power with the 98 hp engine.

Price will definitely be a factor in buyers deciding between the Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius. In some markets, such as California, another factor may be the ability to get an HOV sticker with the Insight. For my money, if I could get a larger more fuel efficient Prius for only $2,000 more, then I would get the Prius. On the other hand, if there was a $5,000 price differential at the dealer, then I would go with the Insight. All in all, both are wonderful cars.

I valued the test drive experiences. Now, I am glad to be away from the track and at the computer composing this post. Race track driving can be dangerous for the neophytes. Every now and then I do something dangerous – ski double black diamond runs at Park City, bodysurf Bonsai Pipeline when 12 foot waves are breaking on the outer coral reef, or most daring of all, argue about politics on a crowded New York subway. Perhaps the danger is induced by too much testosterone for the day, or too much caffeine, or by a longing for my lost youth. Most days, if I want an exciting ride then I get on my bicycle or the city bus or the Prius that I share with my wife.

Speaking of youthful enthusiasm for racing, if you are concerned that your teenager may drive like a racetrack driver, take a look at Ford’s MyKey. When teenagers use their personal key, the will be constrained to the maximum speeds programmed by their parents.

If you want great fuel economy, few compromises, and driving pleasure, test drive the latest hybrids from automakers like Toyota, Honda, and Ford. The intensified competition between them is bringing better performance and safety and economy.

John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report and is the author of Save Gas, Save the Planet.

Ford Expands Hybrid Success to Electric Vehicles

Ford Expands Hybrid Success to Electric Vehicles

President Obama views Ford Plug-in Hybrid at Edison Electric

President Obama views Ford Plug-in Hybrid at Edison Electric

By John Addison (3/21/09).

Toyota’s global market share leadership has been helped by the success of its hybrids. Looking to a future that will increasingly emphasize fuel economy and lower emissions, Toyota will put 500 plug-in hybrid Priuses on the road in 2009.

Competition is just getting started in hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles. One company that Toyota must watch carefully is Ford. It is Ford with the world’s most fuel-efficient SUV – the Ford Escape Hybrid. It is Ford that is now selling a mid-sized hybrid which can be driven to 47 mph in electric vehicle mode – the Ford Fusion Hybrid.  It is Ford that is successfully testing the Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid with major electrical utilities across the nation. It is Ford, not Toyota, which will be selling commercial electric vehicles in the United States in 2010.

“In 10 years, 12 years, you are going to see a major portion of our portfolio move to electric vehicles,” Ford CEO Alan Mulally said at the Wall Street Journal ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara, California, this month. Ford will start selling commercial electric vehicle in 2010, a sedan EV in 2011, and a plug-in hybrid in 2012. “You’ll see more hybrids, but you will really see a lot more electric vehicles,” he said. Reuters

Last week, I discussed Ford’s plans with Nancy Gioia, Director, Sustainable Mobility Technologies and Hybrid Vehicle Programs at Ford.

This is the fifth year of success for the Ford Escape Hybrid and its cousins the Mercury Mariner Hybrid and Mazda Tribute Hybrid. The vehicle has enough passenger room and cargo space to be popular with families to taxi fleets. The SUV delivers an impressive 32 mpg. It is the only SUV that could make the list of Clean Fleet Report’s Top 10 Low Carbon Footprint Vehicles.

The new Ford Fusion Hybrid midsized sedan has an EPA certified 41 mpg rating in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, making it even more fuel efficient with less CO2e emissions than the Escape Hybrid. The Fusion Hybrid is powered by both an electric motor and by a 2.5L Atkinson-Cycle I-4 Hybrid engine. The advanced intake variable cam timing allows the Fusion and Milan hybrids to more seamlessly transition between gas and electric modes. The Fusion has a continuously variable transmission.

Fuel economy is not only a function of what we drive, but how we drive. Ford conducted a study that resulted in an average of 24 percent improvement in fuel economy when typical drivers were coached by eco-driving experts.  With the Fusion, Ford introduces SmartGauge™ with EcoGuide, which coaches hybrid drivers to maximize fuel efficiency. In the future, SmartGauge will be included in a number of Ford vehicles.

In addition to the visual feedback with SmartGauge, the new Fusion Hybrid includes Ford’s MyKey™ , a programmable feature that allows drivers, parents, or fleet owners to limit top speed and audio volume of vehicles, and set speed alert chimes to encourage safer driving. Tire pressure monitoring is another new feature that helps improve mileage.

United States Infrastructure Company (USIC), a utility services business that operates a fleet of 3,500 vehicles nationwide, could benefit from using MyKey, said Phil Samuelson, USIC purchasing and asset manager. The company uses many Ford vehicles, and its drivers put an average of 24,000 miles on each vehicle every year. “Operating a fleet equipped with MyKey technology could be great for our business and our drivers,” Samuelson said. “By encouraging safety belt use and limiting the top speed and audio volume on our vehicles, we’d be better able to protect our employees and our fleet investment while potentially saving fuel, too.”

What Ford is not offering in its hybrids and plug-in hybrids is a flexfuel engine. The U.S. flexfuel offerings from any automaker have failed to deliver respectable mileage when running on gasoline. Typically their mileage is reduced 27 percent when running on the E85 ethanol blend.

Ford may make hybrids even more affordable in 2010 with a new Focus hybrid or other hybrid 4-door sedan. By 2012, Ford will have a new more fuel efficient hybrid drive system. Currently, Ford hybrids use NiMH batteries. The more expensive lithium-ion batteries are planned for the electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid offerings. By 2012, even the hybrid offerings may be lithium if a cost advantage can be secured. For 2012, Ford is evaluating battery technology and has not made final decisions, explained Nancy Gioia. Ford battery partner for the Escape PHEV is Johnson Controls-Saft.

A charging infrastructure will be critical to the success of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. “There are 247 million cars in the U.S., but only 53 million garages,” observes Richard Lowenthal, CEO of Coulomb Technologies.  Because they need less range, urban dwellers are most likely to benefit from owning an EV, but least likely to own a garage. One U.C. Davis study determined that 80 percent of plug-in car owners want to charge more than once a day. That means we only have 12 percent of the charging stations that we need.

Electric utilities in many areas are not ready for the load of everyone in a neighborhood charging an EV, especially at peak-load hours. Utilities will want to encourage smart charging during the night, when excess electricity is often available. Since 2007, Ford has been working with utilities and research organizations to develop extensive data from demonstrations of prototype Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrids. Ford now has over ten partners including:

  • Southern California Edison
  • New York Power Authority
  • Consolidated Edison of New York
  • American Electric Power of Columbus, Ohio
  • Alabama Power of Birmingham, Ala.; and its parent, Atlanta-based Southern Company
  • Progress Energy of Raleigh, N.C.
  • DTE Energy of Detroit
  • National Grid of Waltham, Mass.
  • New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, a state agency.
  • Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

Utilities need to lead with a smart-charging infrastructure and communications standards. In addition to Ford’s official plug-in demonstrations, fleets and communities have converted Ford Escape Hybrids to be plug-in. Google uses Escape plug-ins that are solar charged. Xcel is evaluating vehicle-to-grid in its Smart Grid City.

Drivers of the demonstration Ford Escape PHEV will make far fewer trips to the gas station. It uses common household current (120 volts) for charging, with a full charge of the battery completed within six to eight hours. Look for faster charging 220 volt on-board charger in the future. When driven on surface streets for the first 30 miles following a full charge, the Ford Escape PHEV can achieve up to 120 mpg – roughly 4.5 times its traditional gas internal combustion engine-powered counterpart. A fully charged Ford Escape PHEV operates in two modes, electric drive and blended electric/engine drive.

Commercial sales of the Ford Escape PHEV are planned for 2012. Ford is not waiting until 2012 to start selling battery electric vehicles.

In 2010, Ford also plans to begin sales of zero-emission battery-electric vans. To speed time to market, Ford will be collaborating with Tanfield’s Smith Electric Vehicles to offer battery-electric versions of the Ford Transit and Transit Connect commercial vehicles for fleet customers in the UK and European markets. Smith Electric Vehicles will build the Transit Connect in Kansas City, Missouri.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity is in offering a 4-door sedan that can achieve freeway speeds and has a range of at least 100 miles. In the typical U.S. household with two vehicles, one of those vehicles almost never travels over 40 miles in a day. In 2011, using Magna International to do the power system assembly, Ford will offer a C-sized 4-door sedan electric vehicle with both 110 and 220 volt on-board charging. The battery supplier is to be determined.

Through continued advances and strategic partnerships in hybrid-electric, plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric vehicles, Ford is positioned to compete and even lead in growth segments of the auto industry.

Test Driving the New Nissan EV

Test Driving the New Nissan EV

San Diego to Get 100 Nissan EV

San Diego to Get 100 Nissan EV

By Tom Bartley (3/26/09).

Walking up to the new Nissan Electric Vehicle prototype car, my first surprise was getting into the right hand front seat.  This car was only one of two in existence and driving in Japan is like the UK, on the left side of the road.  I had never driven a right hand drive car before, but I felt more comfortable to see the brake pedal on the left and the accelerator pedal on the right.  The only real difference was using my left hand to release the parking brake and move the shift lever to DRIVE.

I was excited to receive the invitation to test drive the new Nissan EV during its announcement with San Diego Gas and Electric in San Diego on Monday, March 23, 2009.  This was to be a limited rollout using a “mule” and not the actual car, but I knew all that and still wanted to feel what it was like to drive it.  I didn’t pay much attention to the style looks or interior of the car because Nissan is developing the final production model with a different body in Japan.
This electric vehicle was so quiet, I worried just a little about the absent minded driver who would accidentally step on the accelerator without realizing this quiet car was ready to go.

As I eased my foot into the accelerator I asked the company driver if I could floor it.  He agreed and I looked for an opportunity.  Not much distance at first because we started out on the short side of the course along the pier.  The course was conveniently laid out such that the high speed long side would put me into the water if something failed and I couldn’t stop.  Definitely not a golf cart, the accelerator had some real control.  The car felt so comfortable that by the time I turned around and headed down the long side I had forgotten about driving from the right side.

The longer part of the course allowed a quick acceleration to 70 km/h (45 mph) on the speedometer before I tested the braking regeneration, not wanting to test the Port’s capability to recover me out of the water.  Nissan’s more than 18 years of electric vehicle experience was evident by the control smoothness and no transmission design.  Driving the car felt like an ordinary gasoline car with the extra spirit of a turbo kick after an initial start up.

I have driven many of the electrically propelled vehicles, including the fuel cell million-dollar prototypes, and I am familiar with the high torque off-the-line acceleration of electric motors.  Nissan was successful in making this car feel like any other gasoline car I was used to driving on the road.  I can’t say enough about the control system because I have observed how difficult that can be in an electric vehicle.  It’s not a sports car, but neither will parents with kids have any trouble keeping up with traffic or staying out of the way.

The test mule prototype was a square bodied five passenger, four door, mini SUV that looked like an oversized bread box or a shrunken HUMMER.  I saw the car take one trip around the pier track where I estimated the people load to be in excess of 700 pounds.  The acceleration performance seemed to be the same as when only two of us were in the car.  If the car handles the same empty or loaded, that’s HUGE.

Charging options are a standard 4 hour, special 26 minutes, or emergency to get me home.  Nissan and SDG&E are working towards making available pre approved according-to-code installations through the county.

One thing for sure, the car recycles braking energy and the number of brake jobs will be few and far between.
How much is it going to cost?  Nissan is acting coy, but probably around $30,000 plus or minus.  Don’t go away yet; it qualifies for the $7500 EV tax credit, making it somewhat competitive with small hybrid electrics.  Nissan says that the car will save money unless gasoline drops below $1.10 per gallon (fat chance of that ever happening again).  I don’t believe the quoted 90 cents to “fill the tank”, but maybe SDG&E has something up its sleeve with special charging rates in the middle of the night using the smart meters now being installed around the San Diego area.

Ok, I’d like to have one.  When can I get one?  Nissan is planning to provide 100 fleet vehicles in San Diego through SDG&E.  I saw conflicting reports on whether SDG&E was planning to use all 100 vehicles or would offer some of those vehicles to other fleets.  Nissan would like that number to go to 1,000 in preparation for a full blown production and will be accepting “soft” fleet orders during the next 12 months for probable delivery in 2011.  The general public won’t have its turn until 2012.  If I can sell my gas guzzling high performance high maintenance Corvette Classic I might look for a way to get one of the fleet cars.