January 20, 2013 – Vol.17 No. 45
AN EV AS AN ONLY CAR.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
As the previous story tells, I've got new car on my mind.
I know what I really, really want. I've got the garage to put it in. There's a big electrical panel box on the wall to wire in a charging station. Most days I don't go very far... just a few miles. Most days range isn't an issue. Yet I make some long trips. Could I live with a car that could only go 75 miles, or perhaps less, without reenergizing? Could I live with an electric car as my only car? Since I'm no millionaire and can't buy a Tesla S with a big battery pack, could I live with a lesser range car like a Ford Focus Electric or a Nissan Leaf?
(As I write this the Focus Electric and the Leaf are the only two, highway capable, all-electric vehicles available in Florida showrooms. And, by the way, if a Cars.com search is accurate, the only two EV's currently available in ANY US new car showroom.)
It would be a huge leap to live in a battery life and charging station constrained world. Would it be a real pain in the you know what?
Let me think. As above, most days my EV-as-an-only car would be just fine. Shopping for food is less than a mile away. Home Depot and Lowe's are less than eight miles. The island is only five miles away. Round trip, with a scoot up the length of Anna Maria would only be about 17 miles. Sarasota to the south is only about 16 miles, so 32 round trip. St. Pete's about 26 miles in the other direction. The most frequent trip beyond 75 miles range, round trip, is into Tampa International, but the airport has charging stations so I could top up while there. I could be making as many as 20 trips to TPA this year. I'll have to scout out the charging station situation there next time I'm traveling by air.
In fact, I should check out the whereabouts of all the charging stations currently installed just beyond, say, 30 miles away so I could charge up if need be and make it home without that churning in the stomach known as range anxiety. Me, being a stickler for detail, I should actually visit these charging station sites if I'm really serious about the EV leap.
I think you're getting the idea. If one is to go cold turkey and dump the combustion-engined car for an EV as an only car you have to do some pondering, ciphering, and planning. And should write it all down.
There'll be times I'll take longer trips. I'll need to rent a conventional car. How many of these trips will I take each year? Where do I rent? What will it cost? When I run over and grab the rental car, can I leave the EV at the agency? Can I leave it for a few days or a week? Will it be safe?
Ideally, I wish EV car dealers where I a kind of EV hub. When I needed another car for a longer trip, or perhaps a vehicle that could do something my little EV couldn't - like carry some furniture or building supplies for a project - I could swing by the dealer and grab a rental and go. Think about this: the dealer as an e-vehicle hub. Reserve a car or truck by smart phone app. Hop over to the dealer, maybe sip a cuppa there and browse the showroom. Hand the EV greeter-person the keys and order a service, a cleaning and full charge ready and waiting for my return. Get in the rental and make my trip. On return – announced by me to the dealer-EV hub a few hours in advance by that same smart phone app – my little tail-pipe-less car would be clean, polished, full of fresh electrons and awaiting my arrival. What's in it for the dealer? An additional body through the front door drooling over the latest model and of course making money from the rental, the servicing and selling the EV in the first place.
But then, which car to buy? With its new $6000-lower price on 2013 models, a Nissan Leaf would fit the bill. There's also a $199/ 36 month lease deal for 2012 Leafs to sweeten the pot (as well as move them off the showroom floor to make room for the 2013's). Yet I find the Leaf a little frumpy. The Focus EV is a really handsome car. There's a $300 or so lease for the it with less down than the Nissan, so there's some math to do to compare. When leased, the $7500 tax credit from the Feds goes to the lessor, not you, which helps bring the capitalized cost reduction down making monthly payments less.
Yet there's one big stickler to the EV as an only car idea: The unplanned, beyond-range trip. These are often, all too often. For example, I'm out buying some house parts. The first store doesn't have what I need. The next store, another 10 miles away only, has only one part and I need four, the store after that has only two said parts in stock. The next store is still farther away and the battery is dropping its charge all the while. Beyond that halfway point I have to hightail it home to base camp. The spur of the moment trip is common in daily American life and its not surprising to rack up more than 75 miles running around accomplishing very little.
My dream of an EV-only life may be squashed by the reality of living in America. Gasoline has given us when we want it, where we need it, mobility. Batteries add a constraint to day-to-day living that would be extraordinarily different to work around unless there were charging stations everywhere. (Which there aren't.) So I may go back to the plug-in hybrid dream – for now – while I ponder the EV life some more.
--- FORD'S C-MAX: SPOT ON. At least from the auto show floor, thumbs up for the hybrid.
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