Well, what are we waiting for?

VTrux grilleI’ve told many clients that if GM offered a Volt-like plug-in hybrid (or fully electric) pickup truck, I’d be a rich man. The rich part, of course, is in jest, but it would mean a serious uptick in plug-in vehicle adoption, in my humble opinion. Imagine a fully electric Chevy Colorado…

The dealership I work for, Classic Chevrolet, is the North Texas service center for Via Motors‘ extended range pickup truck. I’ve been waiting, since Spring of 2014, for the ability to sell one of their trucks. I’ve ridden in one. It was a full-sized Chevy Silverado, crew cab and it was wonderful. Still, I wait…VTrux

Now, several electric trucks have been announced, by various manufacturers. Here are a few:

It is obvious that there are manufacturers that want to pursue this market. For the 2018 model year, Chevy is rumored to be introducing the eAssist Silverado, a V8-powered “mild hybrid” (think Malibu Hybrid, not Volt). It is estimated to get an estimated 13% increase in fuel economy, compared to a non-hybrid Silverado.

When will this market take shape???VTrux solar

May 2017 Sales Numbers

May 2017 plug-in vehicle sales were up, for the vehicles I track, with one exception, and that exception was only very slightly down. In the three previous years, my May sales were great, qualifying me for bonuses from GM. This May, I struggled to sell only two vehicles, making this the worst first five months of the year I’ve had, since my first full year in this business, 2014. Traffic, both phone and on site, are markedly down.

The silver lining to the disaster of May 2017 was Bolt EV orders. Electric Avenue has received deposits for fifteen Bolt EVs. Two of those clients have asked me to hang onto their deposits, while they wait for better timing and one cancelled, in favor of the Volt. Then decided to not get the Volt.

The new month has started off so well, that I have already beaten last month’s crappy performance, with two Volt sales. One of the Bolt EV orders, mentioned above, occurred on the 1st of June. That particular order was interesting. The client had been to two other Chevy dealerships, looking to get an inbound Bolt EV reserved for himself. One dealership seemed completely disinterested and said they weren’t sure they were going to carry Bolt EV. One said they’d have one, that matched his criteria within six weeks (I doubt that’s possible).The client stated, from the very beginning of our discussion, “Whoever gets it in first wins.

Then he walked into Electric Avenue. We have a Bolt EV here, which is on loan to us from an owner. We cannot sell it, but we can show it off and test drive it. I checked our incoming inventory (35 Bolt EVs, including 12 ordered for clients) and did not find one that matched his criteria. After the test drive, we discussed the reasons why the one dealership said they probably would not carry Bolt EV, and I pointed out to him that not only were we going to have them in large (for Texas) quantities, but that we had designated a building specifically for EV & hybrid sales. I explained that we spent tens of thousands of dollars to make an environment for buyers of these vehicles, that is completely different than any other sales building on the premises, and was modeled after my experience working at Apple Retail. I closed with, “When it comes time to get your Bolt EV, support the dealership that is supporting you.” He immediately decided to place a deposit and order his Bolt EV from me.

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

  • Chevy Volt: UP 1% (1,817 vs. 1,807)
  • Chevy Bolt EV: UP 21% (1,566 vs. 1,292)
  • Nissan Leaf: UP 31% (1,392 vs. 1,063)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 5% (1,908 vs. 1,819)
  • Tesla Model S: UP 44% (1,620 vs. 1,125) **estimated
  • Tesla Model X: UP 142% (1,730 vs. 715) **estimated
  • BMW i3: DOWN 2% (506 vs. 516)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: UP 10% (1,000 vs. 905)
  • Ford C-Max Energy: UP 27% (950 vs. 749)
  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric: UP 295% (75 vs. 19) ** My figures in last month’s summary mistakenly were for all Ioniqs, not just the electric that I intended to focus on…

In May, the average price of gasoline was down 2% compared with the previous month, dropping sharply, until the 14th of the month. Then, the price rose steadily, with one sharp dip, until the end of the month, finishing at $2.38.

May 2017 Sales NumbersAs I mentioned earlier, in May I only had two sales for the month. To show exactly what kind of disaster 2017 has been for me so far, take a look at the graph below. The red bars are the months of 2017. Notice how thin they are, compared to the other colors? It has become obvious that we should not have moved into the new building (which gets very low traffic) until Bolt EVs started to arrive.Buzz's Sales By Month

My May sales were comprised of one Z06 Stingray one Silverado 1500. I did not sell a single Volt, so although the Volt continues to be my most popular vehicle, it lost ground to my 2nd- and 3rd-best selling vehicles.Buzz's 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: DOWN 4% (1,817 vs. 1,901)
  • Chevy Bolt EV: (was not available in May 2016)
  • Nissan Leaf: UP 42% (1,392 vs. 979)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 47,500% (1,904 vs. 4) **previous generation Prius plug-in, dying out last May
  • Tesla Model S: UP 35% (1,620 vs. 1,200)
  • Tesla Model X: UP 8% (1,730 vs.1,600)
  • BMW i3: DOWN 27% (506 vs. 696)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 31% (1,000 vs. 1,453)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: UP 77% (950 vs. 538)
  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric: (was not available in May 2016)

We’ll always have Paris…well, no. We won’t.

Paris vs. Big OilThe Trump administration today backed out of the Paris Climate Agreement, which had all but two countries of the entire planet as signatories. This action starts a process that will take until 2020 to complete. During his campaign, Trump had claimed that climate change was a non-issue, created by the Chinese to make American manufacturing less competitive in world markets.

Of course, today’s news comes as no surprise. Trump’s selection of the head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, benefitted from campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry. Lobbyists, from the fossil fuel industry, drafted letters that Pruitt sent out on state stationery, when he was Oklahoma Attorney General. He sued the EPA, repeatedly to stop implementation of environmental protection rules. On the campaign trail, Trump said he wanted to get rid of the EPA and/or slash its number of employees, making it ineffective. The EPA, under Pruitt, has removed all mention of global climate change from the agency’s website.

On Trump’s first foreign trip, during his stop at the Vatican, the Pope gave Trump a copy of his encyclical on climate change, as a gift. I have to wonder if that embarrassing incident caused Trump to dig in his heels, even more, with regards to the Paris accord…

Now, it’s up to each of us, to save the planet. At the state and local level, we must push for changes to reduce carbon emissions. Local governments need vehicles. They should be looking at hybrids and EVs, where they are appropriate. Government buildings should be topped with solar panels or wind turbines.

We, as consumers, have the power to drive or accelerate change to reduce greenhouse gases. Your wallet is a powerful weapon. If you have the ability to shop for your electricity provider, select one who uses renewable energy, instead of coal or natural gas. I did this over 16 years ago, by switching to Green Mountain Energy. In the beginning, I paid a little more for this. Now, they are very competitive with other, non-renewable energy providers.

If you’re a homeowner, consider adding solar panels to your home. Generate your own, pollution-free electricity from the sun. Lately, I’ve seen companies advertise that they are building solar farms and will provide electricity at a flat, monthly rate to those who cannot put solar panels on their residence (apartment dwellers, those who don’t have good southern exposure, renters, etc.).

When you’re out shopping, select vendors who are making changes to be environmentally responsible. If they have chargers for electric vehicles, hybrid delivery vehicles, solar panels on the business, frequent their establishment and make sure the manager/owner knows that their behavior is what made you their customer.

Recycle as much of your trash as possible. The more we can recycle materials, rather than make them from scratch, the less pollution we generate and the less room we’ll take up in landfills.

Drive a vehicle that is appropriate. If your daily commute is you, alone in a vehicle, do you really need that large SUV? Wouldn’t a hybrid, electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicle work? There are tax incentives (for now, at least). Take advantage of them! Ask your friends, who have these cars, what the pros and cons are. If you have a large family, that requires a large vehicle, use that room to carpool, reducing the number of vehicles on the road. Take mass transit, if possible. Is this convenient? Maybe not. Suffering from lung disease isn’t either.

Most importantly, make sure your elected officials know that environmental stewardship is important to you. Call, write, email them. Let them know this is a primary way you’ll determine who you’ll vote for, and then VOTE! There are many hot-button issues that the politicians use to keep us divided. The pro-life/women’s rights argument has swayed many an election. Ask yourself, “How many babies will struggle to breathe, if we abandon effective environmental stewardship?” One of my daughters struggled every time there was an ozone alert in our area. It sounded like she had whooping cough. It was agonizing for us. “How many babies will starve to death, if we create a new dust bowl?” If you are really concerned about the fate of the unborn, this should be an important issue for you, as well.

Nothing can change a politician’s actions quite as quickly as the threat of impending unemployment. Organize and push for term limits for Congress. Most elected officials today have one, most important issue, with which they’re concerned. It’s keeping that cushy job, in Washington. It takes a lot of money to get elected. They can spend all their time trying to get small, individual donations, or they can have a few dinners for their wealthy contributors and rake in the cash. Then they have become a minion of these donors. Someone like Bernie Sanders only comes around rarely. Most politicians take the easy way out and sell their influence for campaign donations.

But, you already knew this.

Start to act on it.

This behavior only exists because we allow it to exist. We are part of the problem. Instead of complaining about our elected officials’ corruption and short-sightedness, look in the mirror. Change starts with you.

Plug-in vehicle depreciation and the case for leasing

I often hear, as a potential objection to getting a plug-in vehicle, that they depreciate too quickly, when compared to gasoline-powered vehicles. I’ve been scanning used car prices, for the Chevy Volt, in Texas to try to evaluate this.

Of course, I built a spreadsheet, as I am a former manufacturing engineer and am a confirmed EV nerd. I pulled every invoice I could, by using the used Volts’ vehicle identification number, or VIN, to access the original invoice. Of course, I do not know what the original buyer paid for the Volt, so I used MSRP. I also do not know what a buyer will offer on the used car purchase, so I used the advertised price for the current value.

The original invoice, in some cases, could not be located. The newer the model, the better the chance I could locate the invoice. Also, I was only able to locate 34 pre-owned Volts, within 250 miles of my location, so the sample is fairly small. That being said, the percentage of MSRP that the asking price represents was pretty consistent in my sampling.

What I’ve found, is that when you take into account the Federal Income Tax Credit at its full value of $7,500, the depreciation appears to be very close to other vehicles. It is true that not everyone qualifies for the full $7,500, and those who lease do not get the credit. In the case of leasing, the leasing company gets the tax credit. However, leasing incentives put most of the tax credit back into the lease, to lower the monthly payment. For instance, this month, the leasing incentives start at $5,025.

Here’s the spreadsheet:Volt DepreciationI noticed that the 2014 vehicles, now three years old, have only depreciated 43%, whereas I expect most vehicles to depreciate 50% over three years, once the tax credit is taken into account. This may be optimistic asking prices or because this sampling seems to have low mileage per year. In any case, I am not trying to say Volts depreciate at a slower rate than other vehicles, just that they don’t depreciate faster than traditional vehicles. One interesting note: There was a $5,000 price drop on Volts, going into the 2013 model year. This should have had a disastrous effect on depreciation of the earlier model years. Based on the scanty evidence I could find, this did not seem to be the case.

As the disclaimer goes: “Past performance is not a guarantee of future performance.” The Bolt EV may have an impact on Volt resale values, going forward. Only time will tell. For that reason, I recommend my Volt clients lease instead of purchase their Volt. There are actually several reasons why I do this:

  • New, long range EVs (like Bolt) may hurt resale value.
  • Those who do not qualify for the entire tax credit, due to low tax burden (retirees and young buyers), will get better value by leasing and the leasing incentives.
  • Advancements in battery technology and faster charging will make today’s plug-in vehicles seem like antiques, for those of us who’ve been driving them for a few years. By leasing, we a future-proofing our EV experience by being able to move into the next generation of plug-ins more quickly.
  • The return of lease vehicles creates a market for preowned plug-in vehicles. This helps lower income buyers join in the transportation revolution. Although those of us with EV experience may want the latest and greatest, those new to these wonderful vehicles will still feel like they’ve stepped into a brighter future because, even a three year old plug-in vehicle seems like such an advancement over internal combustion engine (ICE) technology.

Of all of these reasons, it’s the last one that is most important to me. Once someone gets their first plug-in vehicle and enjoys the silence of electric drive, the exhilarating acceleration and the convenience of refueling at home or parked at work, the odds they’ll return to an ICE vehicle is negligible. This effect is called “butts in seats.” Until one experiences these things first-hand, they just don’t get it. In my day job as an EVangelist, I insist the EV curious go on a test drive. I tell them right up front, “No matter what I tell you, you won’t really understand, until you drive an EV.”

That’s what will accelerate the move forward, toward the future of electric transportation.

Chevy Bolt EV & Tesla Model 3 EV range: useful or bragging rights?

I’ve been test driving a couple of the very few Bolt EVs I can locate, in my area of Texas.

Why so few, you ask? I’ll digress for a moment…

GM decided to do a phased rollout of the Bolt EV, beginning with California and Oregon and keeping its availability (mostly) limited to states that offer Zero Emission Vehicle credits through the first six months of availability (December 2016 – May 2017). Exceptions to this perceived pattern were:

  • Virginia, in the 3rd month (proximity to Washington DC, perhaps?)
  • Washington, in the 5th month (strong EV market, or just filling in the West coast?)
  • New Hampshire, in the 6th month (Filling in the gap between Maine, Vermont & Massachusetts?)
  • Colorado, in the 6th month as well (What were they smoking when they decided this?!?)

Although the rollout schedule didn’t make me very happy, my being in Texas (9th month Bolt EV availability), I understand the business decision. If GM wants to sell very profitable, big SUVs, trucks and sports cars, in the states governed by the California Air Resources Board rules (also known as CARB states), these credits make that possible.

Manufacturers, like GM, have to produce and sell a certain percentage of zero emission vehicles, out of their overall vehicle sales, in those states. This percentage changes over time, peaking at 22% of vehicle sales in 2025. This makes the credits quite valuable and has been derided by Elon Musk of Tesla Motors, as it gives an economic advantage to manufacturers that produce both ZEVs and gasoline-fueled vehicles. Think about it: Tesla does not make vehicles that run on fossil fuels. ZEV credits would seem worthless to Tesla, except for the fact that there is a market for ZEV credits. Tesla can sell their ZEV credits to other manufacturers, whose percentage of ZEV-to-internal-combustion-vehicle sales does not meet the CARB requirement. Mr. Musk’s issue is that, according to him, Tesla is only able to garner about half of the dollar value the credits have, for traditional vehicle manufacturers, giving those other manufacturers a competitive advantage.

Anyway, I was not happy about Texas’ position in the rollout schedule.

This month we got the great news that the ability to place orders for Bolt EV had moved up one month and I fervently hope deliveries will also commence a month earlier than originally planned. If so, I could be selling Bolt EVs as early as the 4th of July.

Think about the advertising possibilities: “Celebrate Gasoline Independence Day Sale!” Now back to our original programming…

Some people have gone to states, where Bolt EV is available, bought one and had it shipped home. I know of three, in my area of Texas. There are very few, because GM has threatened dealers with lawsuits, if they sell outside their defined territories. (There have been stories of Bolt EV being sold into other countries, not just other states.) This caused the well to dry up and kept the Bolt EV a rarity, in my neck of the woods. Fortunately for me, I have friends in EV places and have had some Bolt EV road time and thoroughly enjoyed it. Although the Bolt EVs exterior styling is not my cup of tea (I plan to keep driving my Volt), my wife loves it and is ready to give her 2015 Volt to our daughter, Zoe. We’d then trade Zoe’s 2014 Volt in, on a new Bolt EV purchase or lease.

That being said, the Bolt EV is a hoot to drive! I have witnessed the wheels break traction at 40 miles per hour! The roominess of the interior, which is mentioned in every review I’ve read, is impressive. Some of the Bolt EV drivers I know are over six feet tall and still have oodles of headroom in both the front and rear seating positions. The rearview mirror’s monitor display, reverse and forward parking cameras and the wrap-around camera (like you’re observing from a drone above your Bolt EV) are amazing. I hope those features make it to the Volt…

However, I’ve been thinking about the battery pack and the Bolt EV’s impressive range of 238 miles per charge. While it is great for bragging rights, as it was the first EV to have range like that, for under $70K…WELL below $70K, is that much range really necessary? (Bolt EV starts at $37,495 or $29,995 after the $7,500 Federal Income Tax Credit.)

How often do you drive more than 100 miles, in a single day?

GM representatives have stated that battery costs are down to around $145 per kwh (for GM) and are still falling. For a 2nd generation Volt, that’s $2,668 but the Bolt EV’s 60 kwh battery that’s $8,700!

Don’t get me wrong. I am proud GM was able to do this. It is impressive and the Bolt EV is an impressive vehicle, but let’s think about the use case for the BoltEV:

  • It has a range of 238 miles per charge.
  • With optional CCS fast charging, you can add 90 miles of range in 1/2 hour or fill the battery in 2-1/2 hours.
  • Although not very common today, CCS fast charging is being deployed along major highways and in major metropolitan areas.

DFW to EstesParkLet’s take a trip from where I live, Fort Worth, Texas, to one of my favorite places, Estes Park, Colorado. The distance is 834 miles, most of it being freeway driving or mountainous terrain (after Boulder). We probably wouldn’t get 238 miles per charge, due to high speed and/or terrain, so let’s estimate 200 miles per charge. Here’s how that looks:

  • Start out at 8:00AM, with a full charge at home.
  • Drive 200 miles @ 60 MPH, to Quanah, Texas (3 hours, 20 minutes – arrive 11:20AM)
  • Charge 2-1/2 hours, grab lunch, walk around the area (if not just at a roadside rest area)…um…read for a while… Depart 1:50PM.
  • Drive another 200 miles to Dumas, Texas (3 hours, 20 minutes – arrive 5:10PM)
  • Charge 2-1/2 hours…Watch a movie in the car. Grab dinner, toward the end of the charge. Depart 7:40PM
  • Drive another 200 miles to Trinidad, Colorado, passing through Raton, New Mexico (3 hours, 20 minutes – arrive 11:00PM)
  • That’s 15 hours, so let’s stop for the night, I’m beat!
  • Hopefully I booked a hotel with a level 2 charger (at least). Charge overnight for 9-1/2 hours* (more on this later) Depart, after breakfast, at 9:00AM
  • Drive 200 miles to Denver, Colorado (3 hours, 20 minutes – arrive 12:30PM)
  • Charge 2-1/2 hours. Have lunch. Depart 3:00PM.
  • Drive 70 miles to Estes Park, Colorado (1-1/2 hours of twisting, sometimes steep, mountain roads – arrive 4:30PM)

That’s 22-1/2 hours of driving & charging (not counting the charge/stay at the hotel). Of course, that depends on several factors, including finding CCS fast chargers, that are not already charging other EVs, in Quanah, Texas (population 3,000), Dumas, Texas (population 14,691) and Denver, Colorado (should be easy), as well as finding a hotel, in Trinidad, Colorado with level 2 charging* (at a minimum).

How would this trip go, if driving my Volt?

I would save 5-1/2 hours. I’d still have to stop for lunch and dinner on the first day, although it would take no more than an hour to do so, each time. I’d also have to stop to buy gasoline, but that could be combined with some of the meal stops. Lunch on the second day would be at my destination, saving me 2-1/2 hours on that day alone. I would arrive at my hotel in Trinidad, Colorado at 8:00PM, instead of 11:00PM and in Estes Park around 2:00PM, instead of 4:30PM. More rested, with more time to enjoy Estes Park.

The difference, although substantial, is small enough that I might actually opt for the Bolt EV, to save on fuel, have peace and quiet & reduce pollution, if I had another person help with the driving. However, this may be too rosy a picture, if I have to spend even more time finding a CCS fast charger or wait for a charger to become available. Over time, as battery charge times are reduced and chargers begin to proliferate, this issue will diminish. I am sure this trip is not reasonably possible with today’s charging infrastructure. Unfortunately, as I saw in a recent presentation by the North Central Texas Council of Governments, although charging infrastructure is being planned, as can be seen here and here, the DC fast charging is mainly focused around urban centers and there are currently no plans to expand charging infrastructure along my route. In fact, the designated corridors require Texans heading West to go North and East, around Kansas to Nebraska and then turn West on I-80 to get to Colorado and further West.

That means that for the foreseeable future, the Bolt EV should not be considered a long distance vehicle. It is more than just a daily commuter, with occasional trips, since within Texas I could drive to:

  • Houston (and on to Galveston Island with a 30 minute CCS fast charge)
  • Austin (the State capitol and grooviest city in the state)
  • San Antonio (home of the Alamo and Riverwalk, with a 30-45 minute CCS fast charge, in Austin)
  • Corpus Christi, Texas (with an overnight stay, in Austin. That’s okay, as it is a long drive for just one day)
  • Shreveport, Louisiana (if very careful or with an hour-long Level 2 charge)
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (if very careful or with an hour-long Level 2 charge)

Big Bend National Park, at the border with Mexico, and El Paso, Texas would become too far to reach in a reasonable time. Texas is a big state, in case you haven’t heard.

So the Bolt EV is pretty good for trips of less than 325 miles, one way, but beyond that, it becomes less appealing. This begs the question, “How often do you drive that far, in a single day?” In the 15 months I’ve had my 2017 Volt, I have gone to Austin once. Based on that, it would work for me. If it was my only vehicle, I’d have to rent a gas-powered vehicle for longer trips, take a flight instead or stay overnight somewhere along my route. There’s nothing wrong with that! Most of the time I go to Colorado, I fly. When I last drove to Corpus Christi, I stayed overnight in Austin, as I showed I’d have to do, in the Bolt EV.

Tesla Supercharger locations

Tesla Supercharger locations. Red = existing, Grey = planned.

The Tesla Model 3 is, according to the Tesla Motors’ Model 3 page, will have 215 miles of range per charge. That’s a small enough difference, when compared to Bolt EV, that the trip would be comparable to the Bolt EV trip outlined above, with this exception: Tesla has been and continues to roll out “Superchargers,” (or DC fast charging) infrastructure. General Motors has decided to leave that to 3rd parties, like ChargePoint, EVgo and others. Unfortunately, those companies appear to be focusing on large, urban areas, in order to maximize electricity sales and seem to be ignoring the areas between cities (i.e. “destination chargers”). The two maps below show ChargePoint and EVgo CCS fast charger locations. It appears that leaving the development of infrastructure to the free market will not generate what will be needed for inter-city travel, at least not yet.

There are multiple Supercharger locations, along the route from Fort Worth to Estes Park (see image above). Unlike the Model S and Model X, the Model 3 does not include free Supercharging. However, at last year’s shareholder meeting, Elon Musk announced the Model 3 would get free “long distance charging.” Although there was no clarification (Level 2 or Supercharging?) it would seem, since the “long distance charging” would not be that advantageous if it was not DC fast charging, that Model 3 owners would have access to the Supercharger network, shown in the image above.

ChargPoint

ChargePoint locations

EVgo

EVgo charger locations

Here’s my point: Most of us don’t need 238 miles of driving range. Surprise!

We don’t need the extra battery weight. We don’t need the extra battery cost. The longest regular commute any of my Chevrolet customers have is 50 miles, one way. They might be able to charge at work. Even without charging at work, a 30 kWh battery pack could suffice. At 119 miles of range (maybe more, since the Bolt EV would be lighter, with a smaller battery), even that person’s commute could easily be handled and the Bolt EV could be $4,000 cheaper, making the base model’s price $25,995 (after tax credit). For those with less than a 100 mile round trip commute, driving a Bolt EV is overkill. It’s like driving a traditional car that has a 75 gallon gas tank. You would either just be topping off the battery each day, never using the extra capacity for which you paid, or only charging one or two times a week.

Wait a minute. THAT’S THE ANSWER! Charging only once or twice a week!

One market that is difficult to penetrate with an EV, is the apartment dwellers. The Bolt EV would be a great fit for those who cannot charge at home, due to lack of charging infrastructure at their residence. Instead of daily charging, the Bolt EV would be handled like a gasoline car. You’d fill up once or twice a week. If CCS fast charging was made available at places where people would reasonably be expected to stay for at least an hour (sport venues, restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores, shopping malls, schools and their job), the Bolt EV or Model 3 could open up a previously impossible market for EVs.

Other segments of the market that have been DYING to drive electric, but haven’t been able to yet, include young people, at the beginning of their career, who live in apartments, and retirees who live in retirement communities or assisted living facilities. The last issue to resolve for these groups is the income tax credit. It tilts the market to more affluent buyers, who have enough of a tax burden to get the full benefit of the credit. If we changed the tax credit to a point-of-sale discount, regardless of income level, demand could increase dramatically. We need to do this!

*One last thing: I mentioned hotels with chargers. When I am booking a hotel, I always ask if they have chargers for electric vehicles. If they do not, I say, “I can’t book with you because I need to plug in my EV.” If they say they have chargers, I always say, “Great! I’ve been looking for a hotel that provides a place to charge my car!” Since I drive a Volt, that’s not exactly true, however businesses may not know the draw a charger can have for new clientele. EV owners are thought to be affluent, thanks to Tesla, so we’re a market they’re dying to dominate. Please do this when you book your next hotel reservation. If you visit an establishment that has a charger for their customers’ use, please ask for a manager and thank them for it.

The more we all do this, the more useful our vehicles become and more people will feel comfortable making the jump to electric driving.

Solar Panel Generation: 150 day report

Solar Volt

My 2017 Chevy Volt (The Silver Surfer) being charged by the sun! This shows only one of the four groupings of panels on The Duck (what I call our house).

If you would like to contact our solar panel provider, click here to email them.

It has been 150 days, since our solar panel system went on line. We started generating electricity from solar energy, on December 21st. The 150 days ended on today. Our solar panels generated a total of 5,387 kWh or, in other words, almost 5.4 megawatts. These 150 days are not the most conducive to energy production, since they began with December 21st, exactly on the Winter Solstice of 2016. As you may know, the Winter Solstice is known as “the shortest day of the year.” It’s really the day with the shortest period of sunlight. You may also think that means the day of the least solar energy generation. That, it is not, as overcast longer days can result in lower energy generation. With this in mind, if we just divide the total amount of energy generated so far, by 150 days and multiply by 365 days (to get an estimate of annual production), we would arrive at a figure of 13.11 mWh per year. Since these 150 days are not average, over the year, we can expect our total annual production to be more than that. Our solar panel provider estimated that our annual production would be close to 16 mWh. I am not sure it will get that high, but if we average both these figures, a compromise estimate of 14.55 mWh is produced. More on this later…

Our highest single day of energy generation so far, was May 4th. On that day, our solar panels generated 60.41 kWh, which is just slightly more than the Chevy Bolt EV‘s battery capacity. The least energy generated in a single day, so far, was 4.4 kWh on December 23rd. Another low production day was March 5th, when 5.66 kWh were generated. As you can see, daily production can vary greatly, as is illustrated in the upper chart below.150 day solar energy production chartsAs you start to look at larger blocks of time, the pattern smoothes out. In the lower chart, by looking at weekly system output, you can see the trend toward higher energy generation. Weeks 21, 51 & 53, were obviously not a full seven days.

To see the pattern a little better, we can look at it by calendar month (below). The current month only shows the first 19 days, resulting in 1,090 kWh. Using the daily average generated in the month, I expect May’s result to be the highest on the chart at approximately 1,778 kWh, a total so high, as to be off this chart.Monthly kWh

How was last month’s bill affected by the solar panels? I’m glad you asked! We used 1,676 kWh total. Our average usage for this month, over the last 3 years has been 1,492 kWh, but this month has been warmer than usual. Of this amount, 433 kWh came from our electricity provider, Green Mountain Energy and 1,243 kWh came from the solar panels. We generated 74% of the electricity we used. Our Green Mountain Energy bill was $20.57. The payment on the solar panel system is $154.54. So, our total electric cost was $175.11 last month. If we didn’t have the solar panels, our bill would have been $133.96, so we overpaid by $41.15 last month. (this will vary, so more on that later)

Green Mountain Energy, currently 😉 charges us 11.6¢ per kWh, the “solar rate” we got, when we switched providers. They buy any overproduction at the same, retail rate in monthly (billing cycle blocks). Before we got on the “Solar Buy-Back Plan,” our rate was 8.5¢ per kWh. This means they are actually buying back at somewhat less than retail, since the rate was lower when we were on a normal energy rate plane. However, when I created a spreadsheet, to check the financial soundness of getting solar panels, we still came out ahead, when compared to a company that charged the lower rate but bought back overage at wholesale, instead of retail. It’s jumping through math like this that discourages people from getting solar panels, because they just can’t tell if it makes economic sense or not.

As you may know, I love making spreadsheets and performing analyses, so…yay!

Our solar panels (38 in all) cost $33,480, including permits and installation. The federal government’s tax incentive for solar panels is 30%, or in our case $10,044, leaving us with a cost of $23,436 in out-of-pocket expenses. One really cool feature of our solar financing plan, is that the first payment is due one year after the panels are installed and operational. This gives the buyer time to realize the tax credit and pay it into the loan, resulting is a monthly payment, based on the system price, after the tax credit is applied. We financed the panels over 20 years, resulting in a monthly payment of $154.54.

So, the big question is: Are we paying more for electricity + solar panels per month that we were for electricity alone? We still don’t know definitively, and won’t until we’ve analyzed a full year of data. However we can now start to make an educated guess.

If the solar panel company is correct, and our solar panel system generates 16 mWh of electricity over the full year (and that is still a distinct possibility), the total cost we’ll pay per month for electricity + solar panels, would be 13¢ less, than just buying electricity from our provider at the higher rate they’re charging now. However, if we compare the total amount we were paying on the previous plan, we could pay as much as $61 per month more, on average, than we were, which is about a 36% increase. We expected to pay more, during the first few years and reap the benefit of lower overall cost, as energy prices go up, over time. Again, only time will tell. The rate we’re paying now per kWh is approximately the same as the U.S. national average rate per kWh.

Here’s what we feel we are getting for this:

  • We generate ZERO pollution, for the energy we use during the day, because we generate it from the sun. Even though Green Mountain Energy provides “100% renewable energy,” during times of low winds or low solar generation, Green Mountain Energy has to buy energy from non-renewable sources, to keep the lights on, which do generate pollution. To make the claim that they’re 100% renewable, Green Mountain will purchase energy from other renewable energy companies, to offset the dirty energy they had to purchase during these shortages.
  • If we add a battery backup to the system, these benefits would continue after sunset, when the batteries would continue to provide electricity, after sunset, or during a blackout or brownout.
  • THIS IS PROBABLY THE BIGGEST FACTOR: On average, in Texas, solar panels add $15K of value to the home, when it comes time to sell. Once this is taken into account, the solar panels really only cost us $8,436, that $61 per month is eliminated. Our system is larger than the average residential system installed in Texas, so the actual cost may be even lower than that! This means that we’re really at break even now, with additional savings as energy prices rise, over time.

In late December, I will have a full year’s worth of data and will revisit this, but at this point I think we made a very good financial (and ecological) decision.

If you would like to contact our solar panel provider, click here to email them.

If you’re going to sling BS, don’t try it with a Texan!

I was lying in bed this morning, as it is my day off, when I heard the email ping of my iPhone.

In case you aren’t a long-time reader of this blog, I changed careers to become a salesperson, at the largest Chevrolet dealer in the world, because of my love for the Chevy Volt.

The email had been sent by my manager (and the guy who went out on a limb to hire me), Hank Gaylor. Hank had received an email from his father, after his father had seen a story claiming it took $18 to fill a Volt’s battery from empty. Here’s what Hank’s dad saw: (my added comments in red)

As a “joke”, my Chev dealer gave me a Volt as a loaner while my full-size pick-up was getting some attention.  He thought it was funny to give his energy company CEO (emphasis added) this thing here on Vancouver Island!  I live 30 kilometers outside of Victoria near Sidney.

The battery was dead – later he admitted they almost never charged it.  While the car was “OK”, on gasoline, it was pretty anemic.  So for the extra money, even taking into account Chev rebates and Provincial incentives, you get an under-powered, heavy car that felt “too small” for its actual size (battery has to go somewhere). “Underpowered”? PLEASE! I regularly out-accelerate 5-series BMW’s and pickups don’t stand a chance, against my Volt

Now the kicker: at a neighborhood barbecue, I was talking to a Neighbor, a BC Hydro executive.  I asked him how that renewable thing was doing.  He laughed, then got serious.  If you really intend to adopt electric vehicles, he pointed out, you had to face certain realities.  For example, a home charging system for a Tesla requires 75 amp service. I don’t know about Telsa’s charging requirements, but we have two 240V chargers, at our home. Each is on it’s own 30 amp circuit. Our A/C unit is on a 45 amp circuit. Perhaps Canada just recently started experimenting with electric service in their homes…

The average house is equipped with 100 amp service. So in Canada, I could have A/C, an electric oven and a few lights/electric outlets in use at the same time???  On our small street (approximately 25 homes), the electrical infrastructure would be unable to carry more than 3 houses with a single Tesla, each. Do Canadians have to take turns, with their neighbors, for cooking? watching TV?  For even half the homes to have electric vehicles, the system would be wildly over-loaded.

This is the elephant in the room with electric vehicles … Our residential infrastructure cannot bear the load. We have ample delivery in the U.S. of A., but it still needs updating. Smart grid is being deployed here.  So as our genius elected officials ram this nonsense down our collective throats, not only are we being forced to buy the damn things and replace our reliable, cheap generating systems with expensive, new windmills and solar cells, but we will also have to renovate our entire delivery system!  This latter “investment” will not be revealed until we’re so far down this dead end road that it will be presented with an oops and a shrug. Oddly enough, there is no fuel cost to renewable energy plants, but you keep paying for coal, natural gas, uranium, etc FOREVER!

If you want to argue with a green person over cars that are Eco-friendly, just read the below:

Note: However, if you ARE the green person, read it anyway.  Enlightening. This is a parody, right? Did they get it from The Onion??? (The Onion is a news parody site.)

Eric test drove the Chevy Volt at the invitation of General Motors…and he writes…For four days in a row, the fully charged battery lasted only 25 miles before the Volt switched to the reserve gasoline engine. He must have been driving through two feet of snow, UPHILL THE WHOLE WAY, on flat tires, towing a boat. 😉

Eric calculated the car got 30 mpg including the 25 miles it ran on the battery. “Eric is an “energy company CEO???” I won’t be calling him if I find a math error in my bill!  So, the range including the 9 gallon gas tank and the 16 kWh battery is approximately 270 miles. Actual Volt range is 370 miles (1st generation Volt 2011-2015) and 440 miles  (2nd generation Volt 2016+)

It will take you 4 1/2 hours to drive 270 miles at 60 mph.  Then add 10 hours to charge the battery and you have a total trip time of 14.5 hours. Why not charge the Volt while you sleep, the night before you leave and charge again, while you sleep, after your arrival? Also, why not use a 240V fast charger (I have two, myself) and reduce charge time to 4 hours?  In a typical road trip your average speed (including charging time) would be 20 mph. If you used the slowest charger possible and charged during your drive, instead of taking my advice above. Then again, on long road trips, I treat my Volt like any other car, just running on gasoline and only charging at the hotels.

According to General Motors, the Volt battery holds 16 kWh of electricity.  It takes a full 10 hours to charge a drained battery. The cost for the electricity to charge the Volt is never mentioned so I looked up what I pay for electricity.  I pay approximately (it varies with amount used and the seasons) $1.16 per kWh. If that’s really what Canadians pay for electricity, my average monthly electric bill there (1,980 kWh per month) would be $2,297. Yes, PER MONTH! 16 kWh x $1.16 per kWh = $18.56 to charge the battery. For these calculations, and to address both generations of the Chevy Volt so far, see my comments below.

$18.56 per charge divided by 25 miles = $0.74 per mile to operate the Volt using the battery.  Compare this to a similar size car with a gasoline engine that gets only 32 mpg.  $3.19 per gallon divided by 32 mpg = $0.10 per mile.

My Volt Display

My Volt’s actual display. Today

Volt status 17May2017

My Volt’s status 17 May 2017

The gasoline powered car costs about $15,000 while the Volt costs $46,000 No, MSRP is $34K (LT) to $39,500K (loaded Premier, no navigation, no $1K pearl paint). After you deduct the $7,500 Federal Income Tax Credit for a Volt purchase, it has dropped to $26,500 to $32,000. The Chevy Cruze Hatchback is close in size and functionality to the Volt, since the Volt & Cruze started on the same platform. It is also good for this example, as it gets 32 MPG average, as this Canadian uses as his example.

A Chevy Cruze Hatchback (LT, with remote start) lists for $24K ($2,500 less than an LT Volt). A Chevy Cruze Hatchback (Premier, without sunroof or navigation) lists for $27,500K ($4,500 less than the Volt (Premier, without sunroof or navigation). ……..So the American Government wants proud and loyal Americans not to do the math, but simply pay 3 times as much for a car No, it’s 10% more for the LT and 16% more for the Premier, that costs more than 7 times as much to run, and takes 3 times longer to drive across the country….. Again, if treated like a gas car, your travel time is exactly the same as any other gas car. Oil changes on a Volt, typically are done every 1-1/2 to 2 years, depending on gas engine usage. Try that on a gasoline-powered car! There’s a savings there, but wait! There’s more!

The Cruze gets 32 MPG (average) and has a range of 397 (city) to 520 miles (highway). The Volt has a 440 mile range (full battery and gas tank) and gets 42 MPG (on gasoline) and 82 MPG (on electricity, see below). Using my real world experience, over the 16,978 miles I’ve driven so far, I have bought about 18 gallons to go 706 miles (see image above) for an average of 39.2 MPG on gasoline. On electricity, I’ve driven 16,272 miles. Yes, I can charge for free at work and at many locations in the DFW area, but for the sake of argument, let’s say I paid for all the electricity I’ve put in my Volt, my cost of electricity for driving 16,272 miles is less than $400. That works out to a dollar equivalent of 96.8 MPG (dollar equivalent at current gas price) on electricity! ($400 ÷ $2.38 = 168 gallons. 16,272 miles ÷ 168 gallons = 96.8 MPG equivalent). Those same miles in a Cruze would have required 530.5 gallons of gas, at a cost of $1,263! Over the time I’ve owned my Volt, I have saved at least $820. That’s over 439 days of ownership. Over just one year that would be $682 saved per year. At that rate, break even on ownership is 6.6 years. Once you include the reduced frequency of oil changes in a Volt, break even is about 6 years, or the finance term used by most Americans, when purchasing a new car. The Volt is a far better car than the Cruze (which I like very much) and at 6 years, they cost about the same. After that point though, I save $682 per year by owning the Volt, as mentioned above.

**DISCLAIMER** In actuality, I only pay for about half of the electricity my Volt uses, since I charge for free, like many Volt drivers, at my job or when I find a free charging station. By the way, how many times have you found a free gasoline station? 😉  At 1/2 the electricity paid for, I’m really spending about $202 per year, in fuel (gasoline & electricity) and saving about $848 per year, or $71 per month. With half my electricity being free, I get the dollar equivalent of 166 MPG. Break even for me will be at 5.3 years.

The error, in the math provided by the Canadian above, is in the cost of electricity and how much it takes to fill the battery. Here’s how it really works:

NO ONE pays $1.16 per kWh. Average, in the U.S. is $0.11, or 11 CENTS per kWh. This should be shown as $0.11. Many Texans pay less than 9 cents per kWh. I’ll bet the person in the story meant to say 11.6 CENTS per kWh (or heaven help Canada!).

The 1st gen Volt battery had 16 KWh of storage, but you were never allowed to use all of it. Lithium Ion batteries should never be completely drained or filled. The 1st gen Volt allowed only 10.8 kWh to be used. Some electricity is lost in the transfer and the Volt runs fans (and sometimes A/C) to keep the battery in a good temperature range while charging. I averaged 12.8 kWh to fill the battery from “empty,” in our 2012 Volts, accounting for fans and transfer loss. Filling the battery 12.8 kWh X 11.6 CENTS ($0.116) = $1.48 per full charge, not $18.56 as this guy states above.

Once filled, the 1st gen battery, on average, would go 38 miles on a charge, NOT 25. $1.48 ÷ 38 miles = 3.9 CENTS ($0.039) per mile. Currently (pun intended), with gas in the U.S. averaging $2.38 per gallon (last month’s average), that’s the dollar equivalent of 61 MPG. ($2.38 ÷ $0.039)

HOWEVER: if you pay 8.6 cents per kWh, like I do, it only cost $1.10 for a full charge of a 1st gen Volt. $1.10 ÷ 38 miles = 2.9 CENTS ($0.029) per mile, which is the equivalent of 82 MPG. If gasoline prices rise, the Volt’s MPGe (dollar equivalent just gets better and better).

I personally have gotten as much as 52.7 miles on a single charge in my 1st generation Volt (2012, see image), but that’s not average. However, on that day, I got the dollar equivalent of 115 MPG.50 Mile ClubThe 2nd generation Volt goes an average of 53 miles per charge, with a lighter battery with only 2/3 as many battery cells. However, it stores 18.4 kWh, of which 16 kWh is useable add 2 kWh, for cooling during charging, and you get 18 kWh per 53 miles. Using the math outlined above, it gets the average dollar equivalent of 60.4 MPG (11.6 CENTS per kWh) or 81.4 MPG (at 8.6 CENTS per kWh, like I pay).

Not only does the Volt get fantastic gas mileage, it is very fast off the line. It is so silent, GM installs low speed noise makers (or pedestrians would get run over in parking lots). It generates ZERO pollution while doing so. If you get your electricity from renewable sources, like I do (wind generated from Green Mountain Energy and solar panels on our house), even the creation of the electricity you use generates ZERO pollution!

We have 3 Volts, in our household. If the example you presented were correct, it would have bankrupted us! THIS KIND OF B.S. HAS BEEN PRESENTED BY CONSERVATIVE MEDIA AND OIL COMPANIES, SINCE THE VOLT CAME OUT. I BATTLE IT EVERY DAY. I can’t blame them. They’re just trying to survive. I just hope people stop falling for this bullshit. (Texas term. NOT cussing!)

Obama drives Volt

Why, on Earth, would conservative media hate the Volt so much???