What in Car-Nation Are We Driving At?
What in Car-Nation Are We Driving At?
Yes, this is a Car Nation. We have built our lifestyles and cities around automobiles. We associate personal freedom with cars. We think that driving these things all day everyday ought to be right there in the Bill of Rights. Since I am right in the middle of the Baby Boomer generation, I grew up with all of these warm-fuzzy automobile associations. I go to Classic Car shows and look at Ford Falcons and T-Birds, ’66 Lincolns and fin-tailed Chevys.
Well, there is good news! Here in 2018, the Rise of the Electric Vehicle (EV) is in full swing. There are now several varieties of EVs, some with long ranges. We have the Tesla and the Chevy Bolt, each with around a 250 mile range. The Nissan Leaf is up to about a 150 mile range. Kia has an EV as does BMW, and there are many others. It’s difficult to keep up with all the new EVs available. Several of the major auto manufacturers are saying all their new designs will be electric.
But WHY? The most compelling reason for this paradigm shift is that electricity is significantly cheaper than gas and can be had from a variety of sources, including renewable sources.
Let’s do the math
Here in upstate NY, our electricity costs are around 12 cents per kWh. The Chevy Bolt can go 3.5 miles on 1 kWh. So, with 10 kWh, it can travel 35 miles. The cost of 10 kWh is 10 x $0.12 = $1.20. Meanwhile, the cost of a gallon of gas, which will get you 35 miles only if you have a car which is fuel efficient, costs $2.75.
What’s even better is that home solar electricity is about half the cost of utility power, so, at our house, we can get 35 miles for $0.60. That would be like driving my ’64 Renault in 1975 when gas was about $0.60/gallon and the Renault got over 30 mpg. Wow!
So we bought our first pure EV, a Chevy Bolt, in September of 2017. Now we are seeing some other nice benefits, mainly very low maintenance. The only scheduled maintenance is… wait for it…tire rotation! And if you love a sporty car, this thing has “jump”, 0 to 60 in 6.5 seconds.
Some things to consider with EVs
- EVs are great for local and regional travel. The vast majority of our travel is local (go to work or store, come home). If you only go on a couple of longer trips each year, it would be cheaper to have an EV for local and rent some other car for a trip. If two people in the house have cars, one could be a hybrid (Prius, Chevy Volt, etc.) for longer trips.
- Get the PlugShare app to find charging stations. This is great for regional travel. For example, if we go to Syracuse, we can find a charging station to plug into while we are at the mall or airport or wherever. When I fly out of Syracuse, I’ll stay at the new Hampton Inn near the airport the night before if the flight is early. They have an EV charging station in their parking lot. EV charging stations are multiplying rapidly. Soon there will be many more “super-chargers” which can charge in an hour or less. Tesla has a number of these around for their cars.
Don’t forget: you can walk and bike to some places! Make it a point to walk and bike when possible. This saves even more money and keeps you in shape. Loose mass, save gas.
So now you can run everything with electricity, which means you can run everything on solar power.
To update my previous blog about heating, we ended up getting an air-source heat pump (instead of ground-source). These are less expensive for a retro-fit and we added more solar panels to run it. ETM now installs air-source heat pumps, so you can convert your heating system to a solar-powered air-source heat pump. And, if you do not have enough space on your roof or yard for solar panels, you can buy into our community solar project. More on that next time!