Ego Power+ lawn equipment at the start of season 4

Ego Lithium-ion battery-powered lawn mowerBack in March of 2014, I wrote about my excitement at acquiring a lawnmower, powered by a lithium-ion battery. It was an Ego Power+ model. Less than a month later, I decided to get their string trimmer as well. In August of that year, my good friend Charles joined me for a video review of these two devices, as well as the leaf blower. I was so blown away (pun intended) by the leaf blower, I bought one, shortly after the video review.

EGO String TrimmerToday, I started my fourth season of lawn care with these devices.

My main concern, in getting battery-powered lawn equipment, was battery longevity. I keep the batteries on their charging unit, hanging on the wall of my garage. In the Summer months, with Chevy Volts charging in the garage, it can get pretty hot out there. Winter months don’t get too cold in my garage, both due to me living in Texas and the charging Volts. However, it was with great curiosity, that I began my yard work.

Grass growth is just getting started, in Texas, so the load was not very heavy for the mower. The grass catcher was only about 1/3 full, after I finished mowing the front and back yards. At the height of the season, I will easily fill the grass catcher and have to empty it out about half-way through the back yard. The load on the string trimmer was about the same as usual, because I edged and trimmed everything as I normally do.

EGO BlowerThe mower battery gave out very close to the end of mowing the back yard, which I do after the front yard. Usually, it needs a charge about half-way through the back yard. The string trimmer lasted through all the trimming. Its battery is shared by the leaf blower, but as it is a windy day, I did not end up using the leaf blower. Normally, I just use it for a very short time. In my estimation, the smaller leaf blower/string trimmer battery is as strong as it was, at the time of purchase. I think the mower battery is as well, but won’t know for sure until the grass is thicker. At the peak of the growing season, I perform my yard work in this order:

  • Use string trimmer, in the front yard, to edge all sidewalks, the driveway and to trim around the house and brick gardens.
  • Use leaf blower to clean up walkways
  • Put string trimmer/leaf blower battery back into the charger.
  • Mow the front yard.
  • Put mower battery back into its charger (if I’m not in a hurry).
  • Use the string trimmer to trim around the entire perimeter of the back yard.
  • Mow the back yard.

Even if I do not place the mower battery back into the charger, between front and back yard work, it usually lasts well into mowing the back yard, just not as close to the end as it did today. My “gut feel” is that the battery is as good as ever, especially since it hasn’t been taken off the charger for the last five to six months.

As always, I’ll keep you posted on developments…

One year of 2017 Volt ownership

Today marks the anniversary of acquiring my 2017 Chevy Volt. The screenshot below, is from the “MyChevrolet” app. Everything is proceeding, according to my expectations (which were based on my previous 2012 Volt lease).

A few high points:

  • I bought gasoline on two occasions, March 4th (after a trip to Austin, Texas) and on August 10th. As you can see in the image below, I still have 50% of the 2nd tank of gas, in the gas tank!
  • I have 50% remaining, in the oil life. As with my first Volt, I expect the first (and only) oil change to occur around the 2nd anniversary of acquisition, at approximately 28,000 miles.
  • I am pleased to report that I am staying within my lease mileage limit of 15,000 miles per year. The current odometer reading is 14,314 miles.
  • I am also pleased to see that I have run 95% of the miles traveled (13,612 miles) on electricity. My electricity provider, Green Mountain Energy is a provider of 100% renewable energy (wind and hydroelectric), so those miles are pollution-free.
  • I average 3.3 miles per kWh. Driving 13,612 electric miles would have used 4,125 kWh. We pay 8.5 cents per kWh, so my electric cost (if I was paying for all the electricity for my Volt), would have been $350.61 for the year. I charge at work and at home and it’s free at work, so my actual cost is much lower, but for vehicle comparison purposes, we’ll pretend I paid for all the juice.
  • The remaining 702 miles utilized gasoline. At 43 miles per gallon, I used 16.33 gallons. At a cost of $2.00 per gallon, those miles cost me $32.65.
  • Total fuel cost (electricity and gasoline) was $383.26 for a year of driving! (and I always drive in Sport Mode and love hard acceleration…) My previous non-Volt vehicle was a 1999 Lexus ES300 that averaged 22 MPG. Driving the same distance would have cost $1,301.27, meaning I saved $918.01, compared to the ES (and enjoyed driving MUCH more!). I also didn’t have to go to the gas station every 5-7 days.

1 Year Summary

February 2017 Sales Numbers

February 2017 presented mixed results in plug-in vehicle sales. It’s always a difficult month to forecast, as the post-December hangover might, or might not, continue past January. One surprise, for me at least, was the decrease in sales of the Chevy Bolt EV. According to GM’s published roll-out schedule, three more states began to receive the Bolt EV, in February. They are Massachusetts, Maryland and Virginia. With the awards garnered by the Bolt EV, I expected additional states would mean additional sales. It is unclear to me, what the reason for the slowdown is, as I am in Texas and won’t have a Bolt, in stock, until August

Within the last week, I finally had an opportunity to drive the Bolt and found it to be exceptional (surprise, surprise). Two show cars were brought to us for charging and minor cosmetic repairs, in preparation for the Dallas Auto Show. I went to our Service Manager, Mike Zorn, and told him he needed to come experience the joy of EV. He climbed into the driver’s seat and drove into the Service area. I assumed he was going to pass through, to the back lot to plug it in. The chargers, in the Service area, were all occupied, so when he brought it back and parked in front of Electric Avenue, four Service Department members climbed out! Understand: these are all high-octane, big truck or sports car fans. It was so cool to see their obvious enthusiasm for the Bolt. They were impressed, indeed!

***HOLY COW!!!*** While writing this blog post, the Parts Manager just dropped in, asking if he could drive the Bolt! We aren’t allowed to test drive these two, as they are show cars, but his interest assured me the future will be bright for this EV.

Here are the February 2017 sales figures, compared to the previous month:

  • Chevy Volt: UP 13% (1,820 vs. 1,611)
  • Chevy Bolt EV: DOWN 18% (952 vs. 1,162)
  • Nissan Leaf: UP 34% (1,037 vs. 772)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: VIRTUALLY UNCHANGED (1,362 vs. 1,366)
  • Tesla Model S: UP 94% (1,750 vs. 900) **estimated
  • BMW i3: DOWN 17% (318 vs. 382)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: UP 38% (837 vs. 606)
  • Ford C-Max Energy: UP 35% (639 vs. 473)

In February, the average price of gasoline bottomed out at $2.26 per gallon, on the 7th and rose through the rest of the month, finishing at $2.32. The price began to rise quickly, after February 26th. Gas averaged $2.29 per gallon, over the month, which was just a slight increase over January’s average.February 2017 EV Sales NumbersFebruary sales, for me at least, were still slow. Part of this was my move into the new EV & Hybrid Sales Center. Traffic was pretty low across the entire dealership and I had the additional challenge of moving, setting up and being in a building that had been closed for a couple months. Shortly before my move, we began a sell-off of “Courtesy Transportation Program” (or CTP) vehicles. CTPs are ‘loaners,’ provided to our customers by our Service Department, while the customers’ vehicles are being serviced. GM has a program in place that helps dealers do this and there are certain rules for the program. For instance, to qualify for an additional incentive, that varies with each type and trim level of vehicle, there is a minimum mileage/time in-service requirement. We try to rotate vehicles out of the program as early as possible, and mark down the prices accordingly. A huge number of these vehicles were removed from the program recently and, being in Texas, most of them are Tahoes, Suburbans, Traverses (all SUVs) and Silverado pickups. For customer convenience, we park all these vehicles in a “Clearance Center” parking lot. However, so many were released at once, that the lot in front of my new building, was a sea of SUVs. Fear not: our entire Volt and Malibu Hybrid stock was parked in front of the EV & Hybrid Sales Center, as well! As with any new home, there are bugs to work out, some things aren’t completely ready (like signage, although that got fixed yesterday) and methodologies. I have redesigned the sales process for the building, based on my experience at Apple. Very few salespeople were interested in the new building or new process, so my team is a pretty small one. However, I believe by October, there will be salespeople here that will wish they had jumped on the EV/hybrid bandwagon.

Yes, I have chugged the Kool-Aid.

But you knew that already…

I only had five sales for the month, including four SUVs and one Volt. I did not sell a single pickup, so the Volt continues to rise as my most popular vehicle (again, surprise, surprise).Vehicle Sales By Model

Plug-in sales, compared to the same month a year ago, were up with only one exception. Last month that exception was the Ford Fusion Energi. I’m encouraged that, in a usually slow month, plug-in vehicle sales continue to rise, year-over-year. This was not true in February 2016, when compared to February 2015. The Chevy Volt, once again, took top honors with a total of 1,820 units sold, compared to the Tesla Model S’s volume (estimated) of 1,750 units.

  • Chevy Volt: UP 62% (1,820 vs. 1,126)
  • Chevy Bolt EV: (was not available in February 2016)
  • Nissan Leaf: UP 2% (1,037 vs. 930)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 13,560% (1,362 vs. 6) **previous generation Prius plug-in, dying out last February
  • Tesla Model S: UP 6% (1,750 vs. 1,550)
  • BMW i3: DOWN 55% (318 vs. 248)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: UP 4% (837 vs. 932)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: UP 35% (639 vs. 490)

For those who have been reading my blog for a while, you may have noticed my posts have become more rare. I am working longer hours, to get the new building up and running and to build a team of like-minded EVangelists. I have the next few articles planned, but am a little short of time… Thanks for stopping by!

Chevy Bolt EV and the new EV/Hybrid Sales Center

Buzz, Bolt EV brochure and "Electric Avenue"Yesterday was an important day for me. Classic Chevrolet, in Grapevine, Texas, held the grand opening of its new EV and Hybrid Sales Center. The center was an idea I pitched to Tom Durant, President of Classic, early last year. Informally, we have been calling it “Electric Avenue,” in homage to the 1983 hit song by Eddy Grant. I’ve been playing the song a lot lately, as the date to open approached.

Eddy Grant "KIller on the Rampage" album

This is the album cover. 80’s enough for ya?

A couple of weeks back, a client who wanted to order a Bolt EV from me, contacted me to say he’d gone through a dealer in California, bought one and had it shipped to him in Texas. This is possibly the only Bolt EV in Texas, so I had to ask if he’d mind bringing it by the dealership to show to others wanting a Bolt. He graciously agreed to do so.

Bolt EV at Classic Chevrolet

Potential Bolt EV buyers attending the grand opening

This, I thought, is exactly the centerpiece we needed for our grand opening! (more on this in a later post…)

My original idea was based on my time at Apple. I worked in an Apple Store as a Business Manager, so it occurred to me that moving someone from Windows OS to MacOS has many of the same challenges as moving someone from a gasoline-powered vehicle to an EV or hybrid. The potential customer has tons of questions, as I did before getting our first Volt, back in 2012. Answering these questions requires a salesperson who has a deep understanding of these new vehicles. As I’ve mentioned before, it takes a salesperson much longer to sell an EV and the profit margin is thin, meaning the salesperson’s commission on the sale will be small.

Longer sales cycle + lower profit margin = disinterested sales staff.

Buzz at the Mothership

Buzz at the Mothership.

Thinking of my days at Apple, it occurred to me that the sales model for EVs has to be different than how other vehicles are sold.

The first step, in my opinion, would be to leverage technology, so the salesperson isn’t constantly repeating the same answers and anecdotes, over and over. The Chevy website has videos to view, but it seems that people are not getting the answers there. Also, some of the questions might require much more than a two minute video to answer. I also felt that sitting across a desk from customers places a barrier between salesperson and customer. Apple preached this and has been working on ways to get even the “Geniuses” (technical assistance providers in the stores) on the same side of the table as the customer. Having been involved in business sales at Apple, I knew of many apps available to help businesses, could be employed in this model.

EA Main RoomI described a layout, similar to an Apple store, with tables and barstools, where clients and salespeople could gather to discuss EVs & hybrids. These tables would be employed as the place to get answers. As such, without personal financial information being discussed, a single salesperson could answer the questions for multiple clients simultaneously, multiplying the salesperson’s effectiveness.

JV Buzz

Buzz, in an Apple brochure

It also allows current EV drivers to share their knowledge with potential EV owners. The importance of this is that the person considering the switch to electric propulsion would drop their defenses, believing the EV driver isn’t making a commission and therefore, would be more truthful than the vehicle salesperson. This is similar to the idea I pitched to my Volt salesperson for National Plug-in Day. Who better to explain EVs than an EV owner? All of us a raving fans and the enthusiasm can become contagious, as the buyer realizes how happy the EV owner is with their purchase. Of course, there will be many times when there won’t be an EV owner at the table, so the next step will be to add iPads, held in kiosk frames attached to these tables. Behind each of the televisions, will be a computer, wirelessly connected to the iPads and directly connected to the television. On the iPad, could be a list of common questions from the EV-curious. The customer, by tapping on the question they want answered, would see a short video or presentation, answering the question, displayed on the television nearest the table. When a customer enters the main room, the TVs would all be playing slideshows or videos in a loop, so they can be passive in their interaction, if that’s the style they prefer. When it becomes time to take a credit application, or have any other private conversation, there is an office (at the far end in the photo above), that would be employed. Even in that office, the client and salesperson are on the same side of the work surface, which is a countertop along two of the office walls.

Education LoungeAnother effort that is very time-consuming for the salesperson, is the vehicle delivery. Once the buyer purchases or leases an EV or hybrid, a good salesperson will spend about forty-five minutes, to an hour, explaining how everything works. This is time the salesperson is not making money for the dealership or themselves, so this step is often hurried and not informative. My solution to this was guided by the layout of the building. At the end of the building, opposite the office, was a 16′ X 16′ room that formerly housed a car rental desk for clients dropping their vehicle off for service or the body shop. (Our dealership gives out loaner vehicles, if the customer’s vehicle is still under warranty and they made their service appointment in advance.) I decided I would use that room for the delivery portion of the sales workflow. While a customer is waiting for a salesperson to become available, waiting for a test drive or waiting to go to Finance to make the purchase, they can watch a video to be told all the things I would tell them, after the sale was complete. Some dealerships have created a position specifically for vehicle delivery, a technical person, who can help the customer learn about their new vehicle, to set up their OnStar (telematics) service as well as their Chevrolet web portal and MyChevrolet phone app. I don’t care for that idea, because I want to make sure my customers get all the information they need. The video approach helps kill waiting time, a common frustration in the car-buying experience and it also allows EV buyers to share their excitement with one another.

It worked!

Robert, the Bolt EV owner, chatting with other EV enthusiasts!

Another purpose for the room, would be to offer it to EV clubs and other groups wanting to learn about EVs and/or hold meetings. I have offered it to the leadership of the North Texas Electric Automobile Association, for their meetings. I look forward to hosting meetings of groups wanting to know more, without the pressure of taking up a salesperson’s time, knowing they are keeping the salesperson from making a sale. It was quite gratifying, when I saw the visitors at our grand opening, naturally gravitating to the “EV Learning Lounge,” sharing stories and enjoying the camaraderie of fellow EV fanatics.

Bolt BadgeI do not claim to have all the answers, but I do recognize many of the hurdles to EV sales. Several of my colleagues, seasoned car salespeople, have expressed doubts about my ideas and expect me to fail. This building will be a work-in-progress and a learning experience. I’m sure we’ll have to tweak things along the way, but I am determined to make the EV buying experience faster and much more fun.

Many thanks to Tom Durant for the opportunity to move EV sales forward!Tom Durant, Buzz and a street sign