Driving Emission Free Today, Cutting Vehicle Upkeep Costs Tomorrow
As retirees, we now are learning to function with a more fixed income, but car expenses are typically an ongoing element in our financial outlay.
And as our regional population continues to grow, car emissions become a more and more serious personal and social health concern in the unhealthy air quality of the Sacramento Valley summer "inversion layer" situation.
Electric Vehicles or even plug-in hybrid vehicles can reduce significantly the negative air quality impact from our daily driving, and their regular upkeep and power supply costs can cut our personal driving expenses in a significant way.
Yes, a new electric vehicle (EV) or plug-in hybrid (PIH) will likely cost a bit more at acquisition, but there are federal and state incentives that make the initial outlay easier to accept, and the daily operating costs of EVs and PIH vehicles are amazingly low.
In the greater Sacramento area, one of the obvious things we can ALL do to personally support cleaner energy is to consider adding SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC PANELS to our homes. Since 2009, the federal tax credit for adding solar panels amounts to 30% of the initial cost with no upper limit, so a solar PV system that can supply your house AND produce power credits to power your EV or PIH can pay off in around six and a half years if your electricity comes from PG&E and around 11 years if you are a SMUD customer.
Our home here in West Sacramento, served for electricity by PG&E saw monthly electricity costs of around $250 before we added our solar panel system, now we have ZERO monthly electricity use costs for our home and for charging our two EVs.
We currently are driving a 2011 Nissan Leaf and a 2011 Chevrolet Volt, both of which are charged each night, from midnight to 7 am at very reduced "special EV rates" while our solar PV system brings us a credit each day from the excess output we generate from noon to 5 pm and return to the grid for other customers. Our total fuel and upkeep costs last year for 22,000 miles on our cars was less than $400.
Range of Vehicle Choices for EV and PIH Technology:
Pure electric vehicles that are more easily affordable are being introduced by many major car companies. The Nissan Leaf (base price around $35,500 before tax rebates) has a realistic range of around 75 miles between charges and it drives and handles like any other smaller hatchback. It has very good air conditioning, heated seats and steering wheel, and is a full 5-passenger design easily keeping up with any freeway driving needs within it's range.
There is also an EV version of the Honda Jazz, the Ford Focus, and even the Smart car. Coda, a new company to our market, now offers an EV with a range of 125 miles from the larger battery used there, and all these can either be leased or bought in California today.
The most basic commuter EV with freeway access is the Mitsubishi i. This model is a bit smaller than the Leaf and has only about 63 miles range, but it can easily be one's second, city, car for the typical range of daily driving. List price on the Mitsubishi is about $29,000 and with federal and state incentives this can be in one's garage for under $20,000.
Pure EVs need virtually NO upkeep. There is no oil to change, no air filters on the engine, and even the brakes get little wear, as these designs use regenerative braking to add electric power back to the battery system, reducing the need for full pressure braking on the car's actual brake system. The main "upkeep" on an EV is simply to ....rotate the tires!
On the high end of the EV range are the new models coming from Tesla. The Model S sedan is now being delivered to early depositors, and this luxury/performance EV has the feel of a high end Jaguar with the performance to match ....or leave the gas driven Jaguar in the rearview mirror. For car devotees who want to cut the cord to Mideast Oil and drive without any emissions and longer driving range, the Tesla models become the choice. Every early roadtest of the Model S has been most positive, and my own short test drive left me lusting for more. Tesla will also introduce a all wheel drive SUV model in early 2014 and more information on this can be checked out on their website. The Tesla sedan comes in various battery capacities with a basic range of around 140 miles ($57,400) to 265 miles ($77,400).
Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles also known as "extended range electric vehicle (EVER)", can eliminate the "range anxiety" that can disturb drivers of a pure electric who can get anxious about where they can get more power for their vehicle to add a spontaneous sidetrip.
The Chevrolet Volt is the most obvious plug-in hybrid. The Volt was first delivered in December of 2010 as a 2011 model year product, and after a slow sales start (hampered by scathing attacks from the political right), the Volt is now approaching the sales goals GM initially projected.
Recent owner surveys conducted by independent sources have reported the Volt has the highest customer satisfaction of ANY car in the current market. Volt owners are a very happy group.
The 2013 Volt starts at around $40,000 with a federal tax incentive of up to $7500 and a California rebate of around $1500. The Volt is returning about 35-45 miles of pure electric driving and then, if necessary, smoothly transitions to a gas engine which powers a generator to keep the electric motor going to power the car. Even running the gas engine, most Volt drivers still report over 40 mpg for their longer drives. Combined mileage using both electric and gas varies on how many longer trips require the gas engine to function, but our Volt has 107 mpg overall for 18,500 current miles. Most daily drives with a Volt will never see the gas engine turn on, so the car is really an "EV without worries."
Coming into the market right now are further PIH models from Toyota and Ford, all at about the same initial price, but with less real electric driving range than the Volt.
Next year, GM has promised a Cadillac coupe version of an upgraded Volt power system.
Coming late next year, Fall 2013, will be plug-in hybrid technology from BMW, which holds considerable promise. The announced BMW i3 will use a carbon fiber body shell to reduce weight and improve efficiency and will offer the option of a small range extender gas engine. Details are sketchy at this time, but base price for the i3 is likely around $45,000 plus the typical BMW options.
Volkswagen, Audi, Mercedes,Lexus, Infiniti and even Porsche are all working on adding electric power systems to future models, so there will be many more choices in the next 3-4 years.
National Plug-In Car Day, Sept. 23, offers the chance to see virtually all the plug-in options currently available at the Folsom Outlet Mall, 11-4 pm. Enthusiastic owners will be around for discussion and there will even be ride and drive options for many of the current models. This event is cosponsored by the the Great Sacramento Electric Auto Association and the Sierra Club.
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