Stepping into a larger world

A friend of mine that I met, during my 2013 trip to the Chicago Auto Show sent a message to me recently. He said he had seen someone looking for writers for articles, to be published on an automotive website. He thought I’d be a good fit. I responded the only types of vehicles I could write with, with any authority or expertise, would be EVs and hybrids.

Brad, my friend, forwarded my response to the publisher, which resulted in a phone call, from the publisher and a discussion of how publishing with his website works.

I have a demanding full-time job, as well as a blog and a podcast I am starting, so I was pretty timid about sticking my toe in the pond. Armen, the publisher, suggested sending a test article. Like most people, I am unsure of myself, but this seemed like a good approach, so I submitted the article. If you like it, please share from TorqueNews or leave a comment there!

It was published almost immediately on TorqueNews.TorqueNews Article

Huge tracks o’land!

***NEWS FLASH!***

Texas is big. I know, you’ve heard that somewhere before. But here’s the deal: To understand the scale of today’s post, you have to understand the scale of Texas. Driving from Texarkana, in the northeast to El Paso, in the west, takes 11-1/2 hours and covers a distance of 814 miles. A trip from Texline, near the northwest corner of the panhandle to Brownsville, at the southern tip of Texas is a 13 hour drive, spanning about 900 miles.

Texas

Click on image for a larger view.

Here’s a map of the trip I took last weekend:

Lubbock to DFW mapThe city, at the left terminus of the route, is Lubbock, Texas. The large metropolitan area on the far right side is the Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex (DFW). The time it takes to drive from DFW to Lubbock is approximately five hours and is a journey of 335 miles (each way). My wife and I drove, from DFW to Lubbock and back again, this past weekend, to take our daughter Zoe, to college.

Buzz in heaven

Buzz in heaven

Notice the red curve, on each of the above maps? That is the subject of today’s post. The red curve is the drive from Justiceburg at the north end of the red road to Sweetwater at the south end. It’s about an hour’s drive, running 67 miles, give or take.

That area of North Texas is primarily farm land and rocky, dry wilderness that looks like this:

Wide Open Spaces

It is interesting, if somewhat monotonous scenery. Something I enjoy doing, on road trips through Texas, is to stop and read historical markers. Normally, Bonnie (my wife) hates this, but this time she obliged my “hobby.”

PostGenerally, Texans are fascinated by their state’s varied history: The Alamo, the battle of San Jacinto, Bonnie & Clyde, NASA, Judge Roy Bean, Spindletop and more. Now that Bonnie (my wife, not the Bonnie of bank robbing fame) and I are empty-nesters, we can take a more leisurely approach to road trips. The first stop for us was just north of Post, Texas. The town was named after C.W. Post, of whom, you may have heard (see historical marker, to the left). Yes, the maker of Post Toasties liked to explode dynamite from kites to try to produce rain with the goal of ending droughts!

Texas history has had lots of colorful characters.Post, Texas Picnic Area

Shortly after resuming our drive, we spotted something amazing on the horizon: a wind farm. Actually, it was the northern tip of a gigantic wind farm. It wasn’t my first sight of one though. Back in February 2013, I stopped to check out a wind farm, in Indiana, while on my way to the Chicago Auto Show. I thought it was an amazing sight, with over 55 wind turbines!

Escarpment panorama

You’ll want to click on this image.

This time was different.

The northern edge of this wind farm was perched, on the edge of an escarpment. This is a desirable location, due to the wind swooping up, over the escarpment, which concentrates the wind energy. The area we were driving through had lots of these long, steep cliffs, making it a good area to harvest wind energy. It also had been a good area in which to drill for oil and gas. Old & New EnergyWe saw many, many jack pumps, rocking slowly, up and down. What was different this time, compared to the wind farm I saw in 2013, was its size and the number of wind turbines. We saw wind turbines constantly, for at least 60 miles. They numbered in the thousands! The stretch of highway, marked in red in the maps above, show how far we traveled with wind turbines within sight. No photograph could do justice to the vista that stretched out before us. We were in awe!Volt WindFarm 75

In the photo above, at much higher resolution, I was able to count 75 wind turbines. I got curious about the extent of this collection of this wind farm, so I looked at satellite imagery, once I got home.

Wind turbines from above

Click for MUCH larger image

In the image above, you can easily spot the wind turbines, due to the shadows they cast. Much of the land around the turbines is farmland. For each turbine, there is a small gravel drive and pad, surrounding it. Beyond that, farmers are growing crops. This has to be a financial boon to the farmers with no negatives, like possible crop contamination. Here’s a closer view:Satellite zoomed

In satellite imagery, of this area of Texas, one can observe both the wind turbines as well as jack pump sites. Many Texans seem to like the image of the old, oil and gas jack pump, but I have to admit loving the beauty, grace and spectacle of the gigantic wind turbines.

Times change.Old & New

A journey of a thousand miles…

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

August 3rd, 2012, five years and ten days ago, I took that first real step, into the life I’m enjoying today.

this morning, I was going through some old emails and found a reminder of how my electric vehicle journey began. It all started with me reaching out to Jerry Reynolds of Car Pro Radio Networks to ask advice. He had given me great advice before, so I was going back to the well.

Here’s my email to him:

Email #1Jerry’s reply:email #2(Note: The GM Jerry mentioned, Eric Bryant, was the guy who commented, 14 months later, that I should be working at Classic Chevrolet! Hank, my current manager, hired me a few days after Eric’s comment was made, even though I had no car sales experience.)

My update to Jerry:email #3

Not knowing anything about blogging, I started blogging almost immediately, because of my love for my new car. (Be nice!)

His final reply:These days, I am a recognized EV and hybrid sales expert at Classic Chevrolet and working alongside another great EVangelist, Tim Stewart, in a building dedicated to EV and hybrid vehicle sales and education, that we’ve nicknamed “Electric Avenue.”

On the day Electric Avenue opened, Jerry interviewed me about it.

And it all started with the single step of asking advice about a car…

Time is fleeting.

A lot of my friends, whom I hold in high regard, are silent on social media, or so it seems. It is well past time that we spoke, in a unified voice, against white supremacy, Nazi flags/regalia/salutes, nighttime torch marches meant to intimidate, violence against others due to race/religion/sexual orientation/ethnicity.

If you refuse to believe that one political party courted the alt-right, in order to win elections (or at least held their noses/comments so as to not alienate those voters), let down your guard for just a moment and listen to your heart. We all make mistakes. We are all human.

If you have forgotten a candidate who did not renounce endorsements by racist, terrorist organizations, while deflecting media inquiries about the lack of renunciation, let down your guard for just a moment and listen to your heart. We all make mistakes. We are all human.

If you are a proud Southerner (as I am), but have been swayed by arguments that the monuments & flags of the defeated Confederacy are your heritage and have not been twisted for the purposes of being racist and used for intimidation, let down your guard for just a moment and listen to your heart. We all make mistakes. We are all human.

Real Americans, join hands!We all make mistakes, out of anger, me included. However, we are approaching a moment from which our country will be unable to turn back. America will become that country that gave way to dark forces, which the world WILL rise to defeat, after much noble sacrifice. Generations of Americans, decades, if not centuries from now, will have to hang their heads in shame, when discussions of the coming war arise.

I implore you to let go and search your soul, without blaming yourself, to find the good person I know you to be. Then speak up against the hatred and violence, AND all politicians that are complicit. American politics is not a game, like football. Sometimes, it’s okay for your team to lose, if it makes the country better and your children safer.

It was the silence of very good people and an anger and frustration that had been building for decades, that caused a good country to lose its way, just 80 years ago. An extremist minority there, thought they were justified, in their anger and hatred and lit a fuse that devastated a generation worldwide. They thought their country to be invincible and it almost was. If only their good people had risen up to say, “No! This is wrong! The demagogue speaking now, does NOT speak for me!” then perhaps history would have been different.

It is easier to put out a torch than a forest fire.

We need your good voice, before it is too late.

Using the right tool and the 1% car

The Right Tool


The Right Tool

My office phone at the dealership rolls over to my iPhone, after two rings. In commissioned sales, a missed call is missed income and a tragedy at bill-paying time!

This morning, as I was getting ready to jump in the shower, my phone rang. The caller said she wasn’t sure why she’d been transferred to me, but she was interested in the Volt. Just to make sure I understood, I said, “Is the first letter of the car bravo or victor?” I always want to make sure we’re discussing the same vehicle. She affirmed that is was victor for Volt.

She said she had one question, “If I get a Volt, does the dealership have a charger, on site, I can use to recharge my car?”

I responded, “Yes, we do, but you won’t want to use it.”

“Why is that?” she asked.

I explained by asking, “Do you want to stay at a Chevy dealership 4-1/2 hours every day?” I explained how far you can go, on a single charge, and the time it takes to refill a depleted battery pack. I added that the Volt comes with its own charger that can be plugged in at your home for exactly that purpose. She asked, “Can it be plugged into any ‘normal’ outlet?” I explained that it plugs into a 110V outlet, just like an iPhone. The circuit would have to meet a minimum amperage, but basically, yes. She seemed very surprised. I went on to say that most Volt owners only recharge at work or at home, due to the time it takes to charge. I explained that there are apps for smartphones that locate public chargers, and some chargers are free to use, but that the Volt’s backup gasoline engine allows owners a degree of freedom that purely electric vehicles do not have.

At this point, she said she is an apartment dweller and doesn’t have an outlet near her parking spot. She asked if she could run an extension cord from her apartment to her car. I explained why that isn’t a good idea. I also mentioned that the Bolt EV is a better choice for apartment dwellers, because the average driver would only have to charge one a week or so. The Bolt EV also supports DC Fast Charging, which means the weekly “fill up” would take only about 2-1/2 hours. She was aware of the Bolt EV, but said her budget was only $14K, so she was looking for a used Volt.

I passed along something one of my managers once told me, “You don’t ever have to plug the Volt in. It can be run, exclusively, on the gasoline engine and would result in about 37 MPG. Then I told her that in her situation, I would recommend a “normal” hybrid, like the Malibu, Prius, etc. Since those vehicles don’t get plugged in, but get impressive gas mileage, they are also a good choice for an apartment resident and can be acquired, on the used market, within her budget. She thanked me and ended the conversation.

It amazes me, after 79 months of Volt availability, that people are unaware of basic things like charge time or that the Volt comes with its own charge cord, just like a smartphone. THIS is a failing I put at GM’s doorstep.

The 1% Car


I’ve been thinking about writing this for a while and the previous narrative seemed to make this time appropriate.

I’ve spoken with people who LOVED the Volt test drive. They needed the efficiency and could live with the limited seating capacity. However, they started asking about three-row crossovers, like the Traverse or SUVs, like the Tahoe. When I asked why, their response usually went something like this:

“Once a year, we have family come down to visit us and we need a vehicle that has the capacity to handle that.”

I am floored by this approach to car buying! The customer is deciding on the best vehicle, based on how it will be used 1% or 2% of the time! My response is usually along these lines:

  • You (the client) loved the silence and the acceleration of the Volt and know you’ll be giving this up, in the crossovers and SUVs, right?
  • Let’s look at the economics: The Traverse and Volt are in the same price range, but only the Volt gives you the $7,500 tax credit.
  • The Crossover/SUV gets 19 miles per gallon but the Volt gets the dollar equivalent of at least 80 MPG (conservatively)
  • Driving the crossover 15K miles per year, results in a fuel cost of $1,776 per year. (15,000 miles ÷ 19 MPG X $2.25 per gallon)
  • The Volt would have a fuel cost (electricity) of $640 per year, to travel the same distance. Assumptions: 11¢ per kWh, 20% charging loss, 0.31 kWh per mile, 41.1 miles per day: a VERY conservative estimate. (15,000 miles X 0.31 kWh ÷ 80% X 11¢)Rental rates
  • The resulting savings, of driving the Volt year round, just in fuel/electricity is $1,136 per year. This figure does not include at least three oil changes for the crossover/SUV per year or the convenience of refueling at home.
  • The image, to the right, was just pulled today, for rentals the week of Christmas 2017, in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Just the fuel savings would rent one or two SUVs for the week!
  • Why not rent a really nice SUV, for the one week per year that the family visits, and thoroughly enjoy the driving experience the rest of the time?

July 2017 Sales Numbers

Bolt EV Take-OffJuly 2017 plug-in vehicle sales were mostly down with a couple up slightly, and the Chevy Bolt EV jumping up 20%, as it continues it’s rollout across the U.S. The image to the left shows the adoption curves of the plug-in vehicles I track, including the original Prius (non-plug-in). As can be seen, the Bolt EV has outperformed them all, over the first eight months of availability, even though it is still not available in all states yet!

For the last three years, July has been a pretty good month for me. This July was pretty good as well, mainly due to my Bolt EV customers’ orders beginning to arrive. My final Bolt EV sale of the month is an interesting story. The daughter of the dealership’s owner gets a new demo vehicle, about every six months. She could pretty much have any vehicle here, but her last two choices had been Volts (fully loaded Premiers). In July, she decided to purchase a vehicle: The Bolt EV. Stay tuned. I hope to have a video interview with her soon.

I mentioned last month that the 2018 Volt was about to go into production. Production has started and my first two 2018 Volts have been built! More on that in a later post…

July 2017 EV Sales NumbersHere are the July 2017 sales figures, compared to the previous month:

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 13% (1,518 vs. 1,745)
  • Chevy Bolt EV: UP 20% (1,971 vs. 1,642)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 15% (1,283 vs. 1,506)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 2% (1,645 vs. 1,619)
  • Tesla Model S: DOWN 39% (1,425 vs. 2,350) **estimated
  • Tesla Model X: DOWN 25% (1,650 vs. 2,200) **estimated
  • BMW i3: UP 6% (601 vs. 567)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 1% (703 vs. 707)
  • Ford C-Max Energy: DOWN 10% (844 vs. 936)
  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric: DOWN 26% (43 vs. 58)

In July, the average price of gasoline was about the same as the previous month, $2.27. It bottomed out on the 4th of July, at $2.22, but rose 11 cents per gallon over the rest of the month, ending at $2.33.

My Sales By MonthAs I mentioned earlier, July 2017 marked my first Bolt EV sales. In the graph above, the largest bar for June and July is red, representing a tie for best July ever and the best June I have ever had. But notice its size, compared to all the other red bars for 2017. Things are getting better???

Vehicle Sales By ModelMy July sales were comprised of six Bolt EVs, three Malibus (still no, not hybrids), and a Volt . As in June, I did not sell a single Silverado pickup, so the Volt continues to be my most popular vehicle, but the Bolt EV has already surpassed my career sales of four other vehicles: the City Express van, Sonic, Spark and Trax.

Plug-in sales, compared to the same month a year ago, were mixed.

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 37% (1,518 vs. 2,406) **2017 model year ended, awaiting 2018?
  • Chevy Bolt EV: (was not available in July 2016)
  • Nissan Leaf: UP 21% (1,283 vs. 1,063)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 41,025% (1,645 vs. 4) **previous generation Prius plug-in, dying out last July
  • Tesla Model S: DOWN 34% (1,425 vs. 2,150)
  • Tesla Model X: UP 120% (1,650 vs. 750)
  • BMW i3: DOWN 59% (601 vs. 1,479)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 48% (703 vs. 1,341)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: UP 12% (844 vs. 755)
  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric: (was not available in July 2016)