You may be a jerk if…

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s routine, “You may be a redneck, if…” is very well known and is the inspiration for today’s blog post rant. I live in the Dallas / Fort Worth area, one of the largest metroplexes in the U.S. Every day, it seems, I get stuck in a traffic jam, only to find, upon reaching the problem, that several vehicles have rear-ended one another. This is definitely happening more often, than in years past, and I believe it is primarily due to stupidity.Texting did this

Those who know how I came into the world of EVs and hybrids are aware that I had been a victim of this same sort of stupidity in my life. I was sitting, stopped in traffic, when I saw a large SUV hurtling toward my car, the driver of which was busily typing away on his smartphone’s screen, while looking down at it.

I was certain I was about to die.

There was no way for me to move out of the way, so I just quit watching the mirror, thinking, “This is a stupid way to die.” At the last moment, the driver must have looked up, because he hit the brakes and only totaled my car but left me unscathed. That accident is what eventually brought me to the world of plug-in vehicles. I guess I should find the texter and thank him.

Or not.

It happened again, while I was sitting at a stoplight, in my brand new 2017 Volt. The truck behind me (already stopped) just hit the gas and rear-ended me! We were both sitting at a stoplight! I admit I did not handle this incident very well. I got out of my car yelling “WTF?!?” The driver of the truck held up both hands, in apology, when I noticed one hand was holding…you guessed it… his smartphone.

Almost every new car today has, at the very least, bluetooth to connect to your smartphone. Using bluetooth, in a 2012 Volt, I could do so many things without touching the phone at all, that I was thrilled at the convenience and safety. Compared to how today’s Chevys handle voice commands to your smartphone makes the 2012 version look ridiculous, but it still worked very well.

Today, with bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, there is absolutely no reason to ever touch your smartphone, while driving. With both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, here’s what you can do with any smartphone that allows voice commands and has (at least) bluetooth:

  • Make a phone call.
  • Dictate an outgoing text message.
  • Have the phone read an incoming text message.
  • Play songs/audiobooks.
  • Get driving directions with spoken turn-by-turn instruction (even display the map on the large radio touchscreen, if you have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto).
  • Update your Facebook status. (but why?)
  • Create geographical reminders: “Remind me when I leave work…” or “Remind me when I get home…”
  • Place an appointment on your calendar.

In Austin, Texas, a city ordinance was created to outlaw texting while driving. However, when pulled over, the person accused had the obvious out, “I was dialing a phone number.” or “I was checking my navigation route.” Since then, the ordinance has been changed to not allow the driver to hold any electronic device in their hands, while driving.

My question to the Texas State Legislature is, “Why isn’t this law statewide???”

The problem with distracted driving has gotten to the point that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have studied the phenomena with these resulting statistics:

  • In 2015, distracted driving killed 3,477 people.
  • In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 3,328 in 2012.
  • In 2013, 424,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, an almost 10% increase since 2011.
  • In 2013, nearly one in five crashes (18%) in which someone was injured involved distracted driving.
  • 31% of U.S. drivers ages 18-64 reported that they had read or sent text messages or email messages while driving at least once within the 30 days before they were surveyed.
  • Younger drivers:
    • Drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.
    • In 2013, more than two out of five students who drove in the past 30 days sent a text or email while driving.
    • Those who text while driving are nearly twice as likely to ride with a driver who has been drinking.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has created a video and statistics page addressing distracted driving.

Every day, during my commute, I see drivers drifting out of their lane, driving well below the speed limit (while traffic piles up behind them), braking or swerving suddenly. Invariably, when I pass them, they are looking at a smartphone screen, dialing (or texting with) a smartphone, even watching videos on their smartphone. One time, in Fort Worth, I had been in a terrible traffic jam, finally gotten to the accident and saw a three-car pileup. It was during the morning commute, so I assumed texting was involved. As we passed the accident and started accelerating back to normal speeds, the car next to me weaved toward my Volt. I turned to look and the driver was texting! Even seeing a major accident didn’t dissuade the woman from texting.

This behavior is not limited to distractions from electronics. I have even seen drivers, on the freeway, with a book open on their steering wheel!

Here’s where these drivers are showing immense disrespect: They are piloting a hurtling hunk of metal on roadways they share with the rest of us, without ever having a single concern for our safety (much less their own!). They’re not just risking their own lives, they’re risking the lives of every driver around them. In my opinion, the vehicle manufacturers are enabling this behavior with options like Lane Change Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Forward Collision Alert, Teen Driver, etc, but in their behalf, I’m sure these safety features lessen the chance of a distracted driver causing an accident. They are also the proving ground for more advanced automated driving systems that will (hopefully) end the distracted driver issue once and for all.

If you have a car with bluetooth, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, PLEASE use these capabilities to keep all of us (you included) safe! Don’t even hold your phone, during a phone call, as it limits your field of vision and takes one hand away from steering. If your car is old enough to not have these features, please pull off the road and park, to use your phone.

If you have a teenager that is driving, or about to be driving, please have a very strong conversation about texting while driving. I have told my daughter Zoe, that if I ever discover her texting while driving, I will sell her Volt the very same day.

Your life and your children’s lives are worth more than a phone call or text message.

My life is too, by the way…

March 2017 Sales Numbers

March 2017 plug-in vehicle sales increased across the board, in the vehicles I track. Last year, March was my best month is sales, until December blew all my sales numbers up. In 2017 March was much more reserved and traffic was light.

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

  • Chevy Volt: UP 17% (2,132 vs. 1,820)
  • Chevy Bolt EV: UP 3% (978 vs. 952)
  • Nissan Leaf: UP 43% (1,478 vs. 1,037)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 23% (1,682 vs. 1,362)
  • Tesla Model S: UP 97% (3,450 vs. 1,750) **estimated
  • BMW i3: UP 121% (703 vs. 318)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: UP 20% (1,002 vs. 837)
  • Ford C-Max Energy: UP 4% (662 vs. 639)

In March, the average price of gasoline languished for most of the month, finally starting to climb around the 27th, finishing the month at $2.32. The price began to rise quickly, after March 26th and continued to do so, into April.March 2017 EV Sales NumbersAdoption curves (lower of the two charts immediately above) show the continued rise of the Tesla Model S, The Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf. Leaf sales are being driven by huge discounts, on the current model, while waiting for the next generation Leaf. The Plug-in Prius (now Prius Prime) is showing life again, after a long stagnancy while the market awaited the new model. I still just don’t understand the sales volume of the Prius, but believe it has to do with the reputation of the Prius moniker more than a direct comparison of features/EV range.

I only had six sales for the month, including two Traverse SUVs and one Volt. I did not sell a single pickup, so the Volt continues to rise as my most popular vehicle.Vehicle Sales By Model

Plug-in sales, compared to the same month a year ago, were up with only two exceptions, the Tesla Model S and the Ford Fusion Energi.

  • Chevy Volt: UP 14% (2,132 vs. 1,865)
  • Chevy Bolt EV: (was not available in March 2016)
  • Nissan Leaf: UP 19% (1,478 vs. 1,246)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 23,929% (1,682 vs. 7) **previous generation Prius plug-in, dying out last March
  • Tesla Model S: DOWN 14% (3,450 vs. 3,990)
  • BMW i3: UP 112% (703 vs. 332)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 19% (1,002 vs. 1,238)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: UP 9% (662 vs. 610)

Greater Fort Worth Sierra Club meeting: Electric vehicles

On Wednesday, March 22, The Greater Fort Worth Sierra Club hosted a meeting about the state of EVs in the State of Texas. It was held in a meeting room at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. Presenting at the meeting, was Kristina Ronneberg of the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

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Kristina may be reached at KRonneberg@nctcog.org

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North Texas has made huge strides in reducing air pollution. One of my daughters suffered respiratory issues on really bad air quality days and throughout her life, I’ve witnessed the bad days becoming fewer and fewer…

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I added the example vehicles.

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This is how I met NCTCOG: The Electric Vehicles North Texas stakeholder group.

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NCTCOG does a FANTASTIC job promoting National Drive Electric Week.

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This is where I see things a bit differently. In my opinion, the VAST majority of EV miles will be local, not cross-country. For this reason, I recommend focusing on changes to construction codes, to encourage outlets for charging in multi-family construction, encouragement of making 220V outlets standard in new home garage construction. Hotel/motel/restaurant charger focus for long distance trips and finally, charger locations in urban areas that are in areas people could reasonably expect to be at, for multiple hours at a time: malls, theaters, hospitals, restaurants, arenas/stadia, hotels, city parks, golf courses.

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See previous slide for my thoughts on this.

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Texas’ Senate Bill 26 may bring back the $2,500 incentive for eligible vehicles registered in Texas. (I got one of these checks!)

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