Sustainability. A few thoughts…

Plug-in hybrid and EV drivers have many reasons for driving the vehicles they do. Some (like me) love the rush of electric torque and acceleration. Some love bypassing gas stations, without stopping. Some like the environmental friendliness of their ride or the near-silence of an electric drivetrain.

Many of these drivers follow their migration to a new mode of transport with a boosted environmental greenness. Some switch to an electric company that generates electricity from wind, solar or hydroelectric sources, in other words 100% pollution-free electricity. Some, (like me) look into acquiring solar panels for their home, in order to reduce their cost of electricity (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) as well as contributing to a more sustainable world.

Sustainable. Interesting word and how we apply it…

We often think of ways to make human existence more “sustainable,” as global population continues to rise. We recycle. We buy reusable canvas bags for grocery shopping, while eschewing the old “plastic or paper?” question, at checkout. We donate to, or join, environmental organizations, like the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, etc. and join others for hiking or cleaning up an area park. Some even join in protests against off-shore drilling, fracking, coal mining, nuclear energy or non-stop war.

But we fail to change in a way that’s fundamental to sustainability. We don’t walk the walk.

We buy an EV because it’s fun. Ecological friendliness is a nice added feature, that gives us some bragging rights, but it wasn’t our main goal. I’ll admit, saving money on gasoline was the major reason I got my first Volt.

Today, we are bombarded with causes to support. We are asked to sign petitions via email pleas, social media, television and radio. We often sign these petitions, feeling proud of ourselves for being so ecologically-minded. Then we get in our gas-powered car and commute to work or back home. We just can’t understand why the government can’t (or won’t) stop off-shore drilling or fracking, when the reason is right in front of us (or around us, as we drive). We continue to buy gasoline to fuel our commute. Someone has to get that gasoline for us and they expect to be paid for this service. These companies donate to politicians who promise less interference in their day-to-day business and will continue to do so as long as there is profitable demand for their product.

I have a friend, who is constantly brain-storming ways to make mankind more sustainable, and more lucrative for himself, but he drives a large “Hemi” pickup truck, of which he is quite proud. He has plenty of reasons for needing a large pickup, but I have those same needs and resolve them by renting a truck the few times of year I need that functionality. We were discussing his latest sustainability idea, when I called him out on this. We are good friends and we can be “real” with one another. He may have been a bit chastened, but he’s not out there shopping for an EV right now…

Another form of “sustainability,” is the sustainability of the profitability of the providers of the new approaches to transportation and energy generation. If these companies cannot turn a profit, they will stop providing their products and services. That’s how capitalism works. Capitalism is not about being behind any cause, other than business profit. We all know that and accept that. It’s one of the things that keeps me from having to trade chickens for bread at the local market. Due to this, capitalism is, by its very nature, conservative and resistant to change. Companies will squeeze every bit of revenue from current products, before innovating new ones. There are exceptions to this, such as Elon Musk (Tesla Motors/Space-X/SolarCity), Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak (Apple/Next/Pixar) and others, but they are the exception, not the rule. Buyers of products, even buyers of new, sustainable transportation, want the lowest price possible (of course). However, new products have huge R&D costs, which take years to recoup. When purchasing your next plug-in vehicle, charging station, etc, you may want to factor in your desire for the company to continue its development. Squeezing every last dollar, during your negotiations, may make the salesperson less interested in selling that vehicle to the next consumer who walks in the door. Spending hours asking questions of your salesperson but then purchasing the vehicle at a different dealership, in order to shave another $10 off your monthly car note, teaches a lesson, albeit one you probably didn’t intend. It actually moves the salesperson, dealership and manufacturer away from sustainability.

How we deal with other plug-in vehicle drivers also has an impact. When we park at a public charging station, but do not plug our vehicles in, or stay long past the time our battery is charged, we artificially reduce the number of available charging locations. It may even cause an EV driver to become stranded, reducing their satisfaction with their vehicle and therefore their desire to get another plug-in vehicle, in the future. When their friends ask how they like their EV, they will mention this issue, making their friends less open to plug-in vehicles. Again, this works against sustainability. We would never think of blocking a gas pump for hours at a time. Why do we do this with charging stations?

There are many ways to drive, or defeat, sustainable products. Where are you on the sustainability scale?

I visited a place called a “gas station…”

August 10th Fill UpWhen I picked up my 2017 Chevy Volt, it had a full tank of gas (Thanks, Classic Chevrolet!). I had meetings to attend, in Austin, Texas the next day, (approx. 3 hour drive) and had to fill the gas tank, on my way back to DFW.

That last gas station visit was on March 4th.

Today, I had errands to run, all over town, and was almost home, with 15 miles of electric range to spare. Bonnie needed to take my car to the Texas Rangers game, because there were 5 passengers, in all. Although she may have had enough range to cover that drive, I (prematurely) filled the gas tank, to make sure they wouldn’t worry about it. I only had one gallon of gas left, in the tank. Filling the tank, took just under 8 gallons of gas.

Today is August 10th.

from the Volt Website

This is from Chevrolet’s Volt web page (my emphasis in red).

That’s 5 months and 6 days between fill ups, and I could have gone even longer! 5,801 miles. 17 gallons of gasoline (about $34, at today’s prices). 341 miles per gallon., not counting the cost of electricity.

Well, how about adding in the cost of electricity, you say? I charge at work (for free – Thanks again, Classic Chevrolet!) and at home, at a cost of about 50¢ per day. That’s 159 days, costing about $79.50 in electricity.

That’s a cost of $103.50 to go 5,801 miles. Think about that for a moment. Even at today’s low price of $2/gallon, that’s roughly equivalent to 57 gallons of gas ($103.50/$2.00), for a total MPG dollar equivalent of 102 MPG!

But what if I could not charge at work for free, you say? Then the cost of my charging would roughly double to $159. Add in the cost of the gasoline I used ($34) and you have $193 to go 5,801 miles. So even if I paid for all the electricity my Volt used, I would be getting the dollar equivalent of 60 MPG. I’m looking forward to gas getting back to $4 per gallon…

Just one of the many reasons I love our Volts!1st Day

July 2016 Sales Numbers and “I informed you thusly!”

In July 2016, the plug-in sales results were mostly down, compared to the previous month, with a few notable exceptions. As I predicted (a pretty easy prediction, at that), The Chevy Volt became the first plug-in vehicle to exceed 100,000 units sold, in the U.S.! Being a member of a multi-Volt family, I’m happy to see the Volt be the first to reach this number. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, or in the Facebook Volt groups, you know I’ve been singing the Volt’s praises for years. Now, if we could just get General Motors to do the same…

Here are the July 2016 sales figures, compared to the previous month:

  • Chevy Volt: UP 24% (2,406 vs. 1,937)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 3% (1,063 vs. 1,096)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: DOWN 64% (4 vs. 11)
  • Tesla Model S: DOWN 42% (2,150 vs. 3,700) **estimated
  • BMW i3: UP 143% (1,479 vs. 608) *** stopped a 2 month downward trend
  • BMW i8: DOWN 2% (166 vs. 169)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 21% (1,341 vs. 1,700)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: UP 20% (755 vs. 630)

In July, the average price of gasoline took a pretty significant downturn, to $2.16 per gallon, in the U.S. I’ve seen my personal vehicle sales lean toward heavy duty pickups and SUVs, and I believe the price of gas is driving some of this. I did happen to sell (and test-drive) the 2016 Malibu Hybrid, for the first time and I have to say, it’s an exceptional car, especially suited for larger families and taller occupants, than the Volt. The battery technology, used in the Hybrid Malibu, came from the Volt, albeit on a much smaller scale and no plug-in capability. The Malibu is a more traditional hybrid and could be a great choice for those with no access to charging at home, such as apartment-dwellers or college students. It gets 46-47 MPG. Although the Malibu is compelling, the Volt is still my choice, as my family and I do not need the extra room.
July 2016 EV Sales Numbers

July started terribly for me, with my sales the first four weeks of the month at only four vehicles. My sales for the last three days of the month were five vehicles. I ended up with nine sales, tying my best July so far.
My Sales By Week

Vehicle Sales By ModelWhen looking at my own sales, by vehicle, my Volt sales have turned around, compared to the Silverado 1500 pickup. I sold two Silverado 1500s but three Volts, in July (3-1/2 actually, as I helped another salesperson with a Volt sale, earning 1/2 of the deal). My total Volt sales are now at 41, while my Silverado 1500 sales are at 43. Third place in my sales is the Corvette Stingray and that continued in July, with one Z06 sale.

Plug-in sales, compared to the same month a year ago, were mixed. The Leaf, Prius  and BMW i8 were all down, with the Prius only selling 4 units. Tesla year-over-year numbers once again reflect a sizable increase in sales. However, the big jump up, both as a percentage and in units, was that of the Chevy Volt. The BMW i3 and the Ford Fusion Energi both showed increases well over 50%.

  • Chevy Volt: UP 83% (2,406 vs. 1,313)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 9% (1,063 vs. 1,174)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: DOWN 99% (4 vs. 584) *last month down 98%
  • Tesla Model S: UP 34% (2,150 vs. 1,600)
  • BMW i3: UP 58% (1,479 vs. 935)
  • BMW i8: DOWN 24% (166 vs. 217)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: UP 57% (1,341 vs. 852)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: UP 9% (755 vs. 693)

Tenacity defined

Tenacity

Almost four years, after acquiring our first Chevy Volt, I finally had a service issue with my 2017 Volt, “The Silver Surfer”. The problem was that the A/C stopped running in automatic mode (i.e. thermostatically controlled), but ran perfectly, in manual mode. Classic Chevrolet‘s service team determined that the A/C controller unit was faulty and needed to be replaced. It took a couple days to get a new controller. Once installed, there was software that needed to be installed, to initialize the controller. Once that was completed, the controller failed. This happened twice. The GM Volt Support Team had our Service Tech checking wires for shorts, but none were found.

My Volt had been in the shop for three weeks and I got it back today. I’ve had a Volt loaner (LT model) as a replacement for my Premier, because Classic added Volts to their loaner fleet, knowing Volt owners don’t want to drive an ICE when their Volt is being serviced.

Pat Galan web

The MAN, Pat Galan!

The Service Technician (Pat Galan) was tenacious, in tracing the problem. On two occasions, he was advised by GM’s Support Team to keep checking the wiring for short circuits. Pat felt there was something else going on, because he could get the controller installed and everything would check out. But once he installed the software, things would stop working, or worse, the controller would fail.

Then something odd happened: A Volt in Washington state had the same issue. Then four more in the Eastern U.S. exhibited similar problems. Pat became more and more certain that there was something wrong with the software or the installation program. GM’s Support Team contacted Pat and verified what he’d surmised: The software installer program was faulty. A new install app was sent out and everything worked!

Tim Foote...he's a hoot!

Tim Foote…he’s a hoot!

Many, many thanks to Tim Foote, my Volt Service Advisor, who kept me updated, during this process, Pat Galan, the Service Technician who was tenacious in his efforts to track down the culprit and Mike Zorn, the Service Manager who kept checking on things to keep everything on track, even though he was unaware that the Volt was mine.

This proved what I’ve thought for years now: Your selection of a salesperson, knowledgeable about your new vehicle (especially the Volt) is important, but just as important is your selection of a Service Department that truly understands your vehicle and  a dealership that supports the vehicle by making sure the technicians are well-trained, certified and have the freedom to delve as deeply as is warranted to get to the bottom of any issue.

Mike Zorn

Mike Zorn leads the team

Premature enumeration? 100,000 Volts!

100,000 Volts!I’m going to go out on a limb here (but not very far) and announce that the Chevrolet Volt became the first plug-in vehicle (PHEV or BEV) to reach 100,000 units sold, in the United States!

Unless sales took a nose dive, back to levels not seen since the introduction of the 2017 Volt, this happened at some point, during this month (July 2016). Opposed by conservative politicians and conservative media, it took the Volt 67 months to reach this milestone.

How long do you think it’ll take the Chevy Bolt to do the same?

CONGRATS CHEVROLET AND PLANET EARTH!

Enthusiasm for Volt…IN TEXAS!!!

TXGarageThe other day at work, one of my colleagues escorted a man toward me and I heard him say, “This is the guy you need to talk to.”

The only times I hear that, is when someone needs help with Apple CarPlay or want to ask about the Chevy Volt.

The man with my friend was David Boldt, Managing Editor of TXGarage, a relatively new automotive blog, based in the DFW area. We sat down at my desk and discussed all things Volt and how I came to be such a fanboy.

The next thing I know, I see this enthusiastic review!

EVgo Subscription: consumers beware! **UPDATED**

pickShortly after I started working at Classic Chevrolet, in Grapevine, Texas, EVgo (a subsidiary of NRG) offered a two year EV charging subscription plan for $99. You could charge as many times as you wanted, during those two years. I knew I didn’t need it, but bought a subscription anyway, in order to show the fob, used to authorize charging, to my Volt customers, in case they were concerned about being able to charge and what the costs would be.

I hardly ever used the subscription, as I can charge both at home and at work.

A few months, after the subscription ended, I was contacted by EVgo. The representative told me that they had inadvertently charged my credit card $2,813.20! They said they had caught the error and would be crediting my card within a few days. When they credited my account, they only credited $2,705.00, leaving a charge of $108.20 on my card.

When I received my next credit card statement, I called and asked why the entire amount was not credited and the representative said the $108.20 was for the next year’s subscription. I explained I did not want to continue the subscription and had not signed up for it, so they eventually credited that amount to me card.

Twenty-two days later, they charged my card for $108.20 again. The next month, charged another $108.20, for a total of $216.40 in overcharges. I contacted my credit card provider and they credited my account the $216.40, pending an investigation, putting things back to zero. Eventually, EVgo credited the $216.40 and my credit card company reversed the credit they gave, again leaving things at zero, where they should have been.

Finally, it’s all resolved! (or so I thought)

The next month, EVgo (oddly) credited my account another $216.40, leaving me with a $216.40 surplus, I should not have received. This was followed a month later, with a new charge for $266.40, which corrected their over-refund, but left me with $50 in the hole, because the correction should have been for $216.40 instead.

I called EVgo, on a Sunday, to protest the charge and explained I did not want their service, had not asked for the service and wanted the overage refunded. The representative, while looking through my account records, stated the account had been closed and there should not have been any charge. Then he noticed a new account number had been created, in my name. It was this account that had the $50 overcharge. He said he’d have to send it up to a higher level, within EVgo, to have it corrected, which would have to wait until Monday (tomorrow).

Hopefully, this will all be resolved tomorrow.

This has been a nightmare for me. If you sign up for any kind of subscription charging plan for your EV, be sure to check your credit card statements very carefully.

**UPDATE**

I just received a phone call from an EVgo rep, who told me the $50 was two $25 charges from the bank, due to a processing snafu. Ego has waived the two fees and will be crediting my account for the $50.

Hopefully, this is the last I’ll ever hear of this.