New Electric Vehicles – Save Gas, Save the Planet Excerpt

New Electric Vehicles – Save Gas, Save the Planet Excerpt

Plug In ElectricExcerpt 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.

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

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.

Resistance is Futile – Save Gas, Save the Planet Excerpt

Resistance is Futile – Save Gas, Save the Planet Excerpt

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.

It’s Time to Lose Weight – Save Gas, Save The Planet Excerpt

It’s Time to Lose Weight – Save Gas, Save The Planet Excerpt

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.

It’s Time to Lose Weight

Americans spend an extra $3 billion on fuel because vehicles are heavier than they were in 1960. The world’s drivers consume an extra 39 million gallons each year for each pound of added vehicle weight. The American Automobile Association’s (AAA) research shows that the annual average cost of driving a small sedan is $6,320 per year versus $10,448 for a four-wheel-drive mid-size SUV. Heavier vehicles result in lighter wallets.

Cars need to go on a diet. SUVs need a crash diet. A weight savings in the frame and body leads to other savings. A lightweight auto requires a smaller engine and powertrain, which in turn requires less fuel weight. The less a vehicle weighs, the less fuel is required.

Websites like compare the mileage of various cars, trucks, and SUVs. For many models, the actual results of drivers are included.

Vehicles can be better designed. Minor reductions in weight and drag can improve fuel economy up to 50 percent for a cost of a couple of hundred bucks. Even heavyweight SUVs can be put on a diet. GM made its Tahoe’s body 400 pounds lighter by using aluminum hoods, tailgates, drive shafts, and bumper structures. The body was made more aerodynamic through wind tunnel studies. GM then saved more weight with new seat materials, electronic power steering, and a new hydraulic system.

In Europe, Volkswagen has sold diesel cars that get close to 80 mpg. These cars are smaller than United States offerings with lightweight powertrains.

Leave the heavy metal behind when you buy your next car. Your current vehicle is probably made with steel rather than lightweight aluminum. The average amount of aluminum used in European cars rose from 110 pounds in 1990 to almost 300 pounds by 2005. The two million tons of aluminum components put in European cars saved over 250 million gallons of fuel annually and 40 million tons of CO2 emissions over the lifespan of the vehicles. With the growing use of aluminum, composite materials, and aerodynamic design, we will see diesel cars delivering 100 miles per gallon and more if they are hybrid.

Using carbon fiber makes vehicles even lighter than aluminum. Carbon fiber requires half the weight of steel and improves protection of passengers and driver. My bicycle is carbon fiber, making it easier to get up hills. My golf clubs use carbon fiber; unfortunately, nothing can help my golf game.

One carbon fiber sports car, the Tesla Roadster, has been recognized with design awards from Time Magazine to Popular Mechanics. In announcing the awards for Best Product Design, BusinessWeek proclaimed, “The Tesla Roadster electric car took the gold with an exciting shape by the Lotus Design Studio in Britain and an all-electric plug-in engine. The Tesla is the un-Prius: a hot, fast sports car that’s also green.” Tesla achieves over 200 miles per electric charge because the sport car’s body is made from light carbon fiber and the frame is made with aluminum.

Diesel – Save Gas, Save The Planet Excerpt

Diesel – Save Gas, Save The Planet Excerpt

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.


Over half of all car sales in Europe use diesel engines not gasoline. Diesel fuel contains more energy per gallon than does gasoline. Diesel engines are far more efficient than gasoline. I have enjoyed driving the new diesels from Volkswagen, Mercedes and BMW. Performance was excellent, and the driving experience was smooth and quiet.

The exhaust was invisible and without odor. The new cars perform far better than old diesel trucks and buses that can be loud and have annoying exhaust. If you plan to buy a German car, make turbodiesel your first choice. The car will probably use 25 percent to 40 percent less fuel than its gasoline counterpart.

Turbocharging compresses and delivers more air to engine cylinders, resulting in the same amount of diesel fuel delivering better mileage and performance. It took awhile for these new turbodiesels to get approval to be sold in the United States because of new federal and state emission standards and because of requirements for ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel. All new offerings are likely to be turbodiesel, so I will simply refer to these vehicles as diesel.

Should your next car be a hybrid or a diesel? The answer depends on the type of driving you do and if you want a car, truck, SUV, or minivan. The best hybrids deliver better mileage in stop-and-go city driving than do diesels. Diesels can get over 40 miles per gallon on freeways, while hybrids often have better fuel economy in city driving than on the highway.

You might also prefer a diesel engine if you are enthusiastic about biodiesel, which blends fuel from plants or waste, instead of only being sourced from petroleum. In the chapter about biofuels, you will see that some blends of biofuels help the environment while others hurt. Some types of biodiesel helps performance, others can void vehicle warranties or damage engines. The new diesels, with their high-pressure injection, demand a much higher quality fuel than the diesels of yesterday. Most automakers can void your warranty if you use over five percent biodiesel in the new diesel cars, trucks, and SUVs.

Why not have the best of both with a hybrid diesel? This approach is slowly being adopted. Thousands of buses and trucks are hybrid diesel. Volkswagen and Mercedes plan to bring hybrid diesels to the United States that will deliver over 40 miles per gallon. GM plans to bring a plug-in hybrid diesel to Europe that will deliver over 100 miles per gallon.

Millions of trucks deliver our goods, run farms, help keep our cities running, and bring people to fix our homes. Diesel has long been the standard in big heavy-trucks. Diesel engines are more efficient than gasoline and the engines last longer. Diesel fuel packs more energy per gallon than gasoline. Diesel is increasingly being offered so that light trucks can deliver more miles per gallon.