Not driving electric because of “range anxiety?” You already have it!

I cast my mind back to the days before I got my first plug-in vehicle, a 2012 Chevy Volt. This happened as I was speaking with a potential Volt buyer about my 2017 Volt’s gasoline usage. Regular readers of this blog may remember that I came very close to going a full year without having to buy gasoline. EV newbies are always concerned about how many public chargers are “out there” and “range anxiety.”

“Range anxiety” is the term used to describe how an electric vehicle owner feels, as their battery gets closer and closer to running out of electricity, as they drive. The reason for the anxiety, is that there currently (pun intended) is no way for roadside assistance to bring a gallon of electrons.

What occurred to me, during my discussion, was that I used to have range anxiety, before I had a plug-in vehicle. I hated having to go to the gas station, so I would put it off as long as I could. I often would be on my way to work, thinking, “Can I make it to work without getting gas?” “If I make it to work, can I make it to a gas station, when I leave work?” “Which gas station has the lowest price?”

I was experiencing range anxiety, IN A GASOLINE-POWERED CAR!!!

Range anxietyHow about you? Do you put off buying gas as long as possible, thinking if you can just squeeze another 1/2 commute before refueling, you’ll decrease the number of trips, to the gas station, over the year?

If you’ve let “range anxiety” keep you from moving to plug-in vehicles, realize you already have range anxiety. Think about the convenience, when you refuel at home! Think how you don’t have to stand next to a smelly gas pump, surrounded by the exhaust of the vehicles around you, in whatever weather is happening, when you need gas.

You just pull into your own, private garage and plug your car in, just like you do with your smartphone, AND THEN JUST WALK AWAY. It’ll take care of itself, while you concentrate on enjoying your life.

Now that I’ve been driving plug-in vehicles for more than five years, I cannot imagine why people continue to go stand at gas stations. Every. Single. Week.

Maybe it’s so they can give money to the panhandlers…

EV charging infrastructure: Who? How? Why?

EV Charge StationThere have been lots of people asking why the makers of plug-in vehicles, other than Tesla, aren’t getting more involved in charging infrastructure roll-out. I wrote about the business model for charging infrastructure, shortly after getting our first two Chevy Volts. I was considering starting a business that installed and operated EV chargers. The path to profitability did not seem viable to me. In fact, it seemed so difficult to achieve profitability, that I still don’t understand how these companies plan to survive! In Texas, there’s an added obstacle: Only energy retailers can sell electricity to the public on a per-kWh basis and the EV charging companies do not meet that standard (unless the law gets modified). In order to resolve this, many EVSE companies have based charging on time connected. This places an undue burden on EVs that charge more slowly than others. For example, the Gen 1 Chevy Volt charged at about half the speed of a Gen 1 Nissan Leaf. By charging, based on connect time, it’s as if one gasoline-powered vehicle was charged twice as much per gallon than a different gasoline-powered vehicle.

EV Charge StationLooking back, five years later, I’ve realized a few things:

  • Plug-in hybrids do not need to charge on public chargers. There, I said it. Better yet, I’ve lived it. In over five years of driving Volts, I have plugged into a public charger under five times, mostly out of curiosity. WHY would I want to be stuck at a public charger to add ten miles of range for each hour I was charging? I can just pull into a gas station and fill up, if my battery won’t get me home.
  • EV etiquette arguments spring up with shorter-range BEV drivers (Leaf, Spark, iMiEV, etc) complaining that they can’t get home because a hybrid was plugged in. The hybrid camp responds with, “Exactly! That’s why we did the ‘smart’ thing and bought a hybrid.” P.S. The correct answer is, “You’re right. Since you asked politely, I will give up the charging spot to you. I’d rather drive home on gasoline than give the anti-EV crowd another nonsense issue with which to dissuade others from buying plug-in vehicles.
  • I believe the newer, longer-ranged EVs, when being used for driving less than 200 miles per day, also will not have a real need to charge at public chargers. If the owner can charge at home, doing so will open up charging stations to those who cannot charge at home (like apartment dwellers).
  • Our government entities are planning on using budget for DC fast-charging infrastructure to build them, primarily, in large, metropolitan areas. This is where they believe the chargers will be most needed because that’s where the EVs are located. That’s fine for Level 2 chargers, since an EV in a large city, is probably less than 25 miles from home and a one hour charge would satisfy that need. But the most critical need will be between major cities, to help EVs make it from one city to another. This is what Tesla has been building: “Destination chargers.” Being from the western U.S., where there’s hours of driving between major cities, I may have a regional bias here…EV Charge Station
  • We need to be smarter about charging locations: Here are some things to consider:
    • Charging centers cannot replicate gasoline filling stations. Have you ever been to a gas station and thought, “This would be a great place to hang out for a couple hours!”?
    • There has to be another attraction, that the EV owner would actually want to use, to fill the charging time and add revenue for the charging station owner. A movie theater and restaurant are good starts. However, movie theaters probably won’t work for destination chargers, as people will show up at all times, not just when a movie is about to start. To facilitate this, you need the ability to stream a movie from the EVSE to the EV’s infotainment system or passengers’ tablets/phones. In this way, the movie starts right when you arrive. This adds another revenue stream to support the cost of the charger.
    • A nice club, like frequent flyer clubs in airports, could be nice. Very clean, quiet reading rooms, restrooms and nice grounds for picnicking, game rooms/arcades, swimming pools, and gyms would be something most EVers would ante up for. Trailheads with chargers (or buses that go to and from the chargers to the trailheads) for nice one to two hour hikes would be a big hit.
    • These “destination chargers” could be a boon to a small town (since that’s where they’d be located). A nice, downtown shopping area, that could be strolled through, would be an invitation for EV owners and their disposable income to stay a little longer…
    • The destination chargers need to be located where they can do the most to push the evolution of transportation forward. Getting to Colorado from east Texas is very difficult because there are no DC Fast Chargers available to the average EV in the Texas panhandle. Due to this, the EV driver has to plan a route that takes them days out of their way, or find hotels/RV parks, with chargers or outlets available for charging overnight. THIS sounds like an obstacle AND an opportunity for small towns who wants to attract visitors.
    • It would be nice, if there was a small EV-specific garage at the destination chargers. Someone who could top off battery coolant, replace or repair leaking tires, replace 12V batteries, etc. Concerns about getting basic EV service in a small town is surely holding back some buyers.
    • These chargers are not going to help move the switch to fun, clean EV driving, unless they are available. Every state needs to have tough fines/towing laws on the books for vehicles (both plug-in and non-plug-in) that are parked at a charger but not charging. There should be a timer, showing time since charging ceased, to prevent fining someone who got back a little bit late. There should also be video surveillance of the site, for the safety of nighttime charging.
    • One last thing that would help: Each charger should have multiple connectors so that the next driver (and the next?) could go ahead and plug-in, knowing that their EV will wait until the previous EV is through charging, before their EV will begin charging. This can make each charger’s utilization climb because, as long as the next EV is in line and plugged in, the charger will experience no downtime or lost revenue.

EV Charge StationNow, who is to responsible for all this infrastructure?

  • The EV manufacturers (some, very late to the EV game) are up to their eyeballs in developing new EVs and trying to get to profitability. I don’t expect much from their camp.
  • The EVSE manufacturers will probably continue to try to ally themselves with EV manufacturers and offer free charging or free memberships. I’m not sure this will do much for those who have already owned a plug-in vehicle, but it will help ease fears of new EV buyers.
  • The government is getting money from the Volkswagen “diesel-gate” scandal and is applying a lot of that to charging infrastructure. Now might be a good time to use some of that to build destination chargers in a small, strategically located town and getting the town to develop surrounding attractions to grow with the charging site. By doing this, we will quickly determine what works and what doesn’t, in added attractions and revenue streams.EV Charge Station

When your dealership is serious about EVs…

General Motors requires that any dealership that sells the Bolt EV must have a DC Fast Charger. It does not require that it get installed.DCFCThe charger is over $10K in cost and, at least in the case of Classic Chevrolet, where I work, the additional service we had to bring in more than doubled the project cost.

I’m happy to report that ours was installed this week. I’ve been keeping my inventory charged for test drives and purchase, on our multiple Level 2 chargers. Now, I’m looking forward to the next batch of Bolt EVs to arrive, so I can try this baby out!

First Bolt EVs at Classic Chevrolet (and possibly, the 1st sold in Texas!)

Bolt EV PrototypeAt long last, our first two Bolt EVs, ordered for clients, have arrived at Classic Chevrolet!

They were placed the first few days orders could be placed. Another five customer orders are in Mesquite, Texas, in a rail yard, awaiting delivery to us. Now that they are arriving, a mystery has been cleared up for me. I’ve been wondering how much charge new Bolt EV would have, upon arrival. These first two arrived with between 50-60 miles of charge. Needless to say, once we receive them, they have to be prepped and charged. We only have one DC fast charger, and it is not yet up and running, so these first Bolt EVs will have to stay overnight, to get fully charged on our Level 2 chargers. That will take approximately 9 hours, possibly more, as all the chargers we have now were configured for Volt. More on that as we experience the actual charge rate…

1st Bolt EV Sale

They traded a Silverado for a Bolt EV!

Hopefully, by Saturday, we can have all this first batch here, ready to deliver and fully charged. Stay tuned!

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???

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…