EV as Truck

by Ben N on August 27, 2016

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One of the reasons I bought our Mitsubishi iMiEV was to replace a Chevy S10 Pickup truck, which has almost 300,000 miles on it and a number of small mechanical problems. We hadn’t intended to use the iMiEV AS A TRUCK, but it turns out that for some people an electric car makes a pretty good truck after all.

To start with, lets take a look at why I had a truck in the first place, and see how an EV actually might be a pretty good replacement.

Hmmm. Things I like about a truck. Well, good view of the road, lots of headroom, I can throw bikes in the back, I can tow our camping trailer or a utility trailer, it’s manly to drive a truck, I can carry engines or big electric motors in it, The bed can get beat on (I don’t have to worry about it looking nice), and well, I guess that’s about it, but IT’S A TRUCK!

So, how does the tiny adorkable electric car compare?

  • View/Headroom
    I actually have a pretty good view of the road. The car sits “above” its battery pack, so it’s a little taller vehicle than you expect it to be. In fact, whenever I park next to a CRV, I’m shocked at how similar they are in a few ways, including height. I’m a 6-foot-tall 200 lb guy, and I fit in the car just fine, with plenty of headroom. Our family car is a 2004 Prius, which is a great car overall, but I do NOT like the seating height or view of the road.
  • Can I throw Bikes in Back?
    Well, kinda. I did pick up a mini-bike frame earlier this summer, and I literally DID just toss it in the back of the car. Full size adult bicycles don’t fit back there too well. However, they DO go well on a bike rack, which can be mounted at the back bumper. An aftermarket roof rack would work too. I also found that an entire PowerWheels electric car fits right in the back of my car!
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  • Towing Ability
    This one is actually so good that I’ve already blogged about it. YES! Electric cars tow great! For starters, there’s NO SHIFTING! In my truck, I have to go through all five gears to pull away from every traffic light to then get back up to full speed. With the electric, all I do is press the accelerator! That’s it! No clutch, to engine rev, not even the slushy shift of an automatic transmission! Also, electric motors are known for torque! Even though my car has one of the least powerful motors on the market, LOW END TORQUE is what you want for pulling away from the traffic light with a heavy load. On the opposite end, the REGENERATIVE BRAKES not only recapture otherwise lost energy, but really work GREAT with trailers. It almost feels like the more weight behind you, the better regen works!
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  • Front Wheel/Rear Wheel
    Like my pickup truck, the Mitsubishi iMiEV is rear-wheel drive. Normally, that would be considered a deal-breaker in my area, due to winter driving conditions. However, the iMiEV has a FANTASTIC traction control system on it. It’s FAR BETTER on snow than my truck ever was. In fact, one winter a few years back, I was towing my Electric Geo Metro behind my pickup to take a friends to work on it. After pulling out onto the main road, my truck got stuck on an icy patch. No problem. I hopped into the towed Metro, turned it on, and used the electric car to push the gas truck back onto a clearer part of the road!
  • Masculinity
    I do have to say that I don’t feel particularly macho driving a Hello Kitty Car. However, I do feel like a man knowing that I’m taking care of my family by driving something that costs us less, and am helping the environment to boot. When you see somebody driving a truck suddenly “Roll some Coal”, those aren’t men, those are boys. My vehicle doesn’t determine who I am, but my actions do. The first time I ever met my friend, Rich, he was hopping out of a 1973 Citicar – a tiny plastic triangle of an EV. Rich is the biggest, manliest guy I know. Sure, he’s  not that much taller than 5 feet, but the beard, the boots, and his AMAZING skills at welding, car repair, and more, make him the Most Masculine of Men, no matter what he drives. And frankly, aren’t the guys with the sports cars or “truck balls” just overcompensating?
  • Carrying Engines and other Big, Heavy, Greasy Machines
    To be fair, I have NOT yet carried an engine in the Mitsubishi. The size of the hatch opening does limit what can be fit inside, especially if it is hanging down from an engine hoist. I do still have my pickup truck, but I’ve really only used it for special “Truck Stuff”, and that list just seems to keep getting shorter. Pretty much the only times I’ve used it this summer WAS for moving some heavy equipment. However, I also have a utility trailer. That can handle anything I would want to put on it, and it’s open-topped, so easy to load on and off with an engine hoist or other overhead equipment.
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  • Beating on the Bed
    One thing nice about a truck is how you don’t have to worry about the bed. It’s metal, it’s outdoors, and if it gets dinged-up, so what! On the other hand, the EV is the newest car I’ve ever owned, and the interior is carpet and plastic. Right after I got the car, I DID put in an interior cover. It’s actually something sold to SUV owners to protect the rear interior of their vehicles from the large dogs they perpetually carry with them. That cover helped keep the car interior clean, but it didn’t protect against extra heavy or pointy objects. So, the other day, I cut two pieces of scrap plywood to size so that they fit the cargo area and the back of the rear seats when they are folded down. One piece is covered with carpet, and the other with the original rear rug, so they look pretty good too! This lets me carry things like old dead lead-acid batteries without worrying that they will dig right through the back of the seats. The wood is in two pieces so that the one can flip up when I need the back seats, or be completely removed.
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  • But IT’S A TRUCK!
    Yeah, well, I guess I can’t argue with that. The Mitsubishi only is quadruple as efficient as the truck, super-low maintenance as compared to the truck, easier to park than the truck, but still does a SIGNIFICANT amount of the work that I demand of the truck.

So, is it a truck? No.
However, I’m really having a great time with this car. I LOVE the fact that it JUST PLAIN WORKS. Reliability was getting to be an issue with the truck. I was always a little stressed that something else would go wrong with it right before I had to get to an important job. No concerns at all like that with the EV. I also love the single-speed gear reduction and regenerative brakes for towing!

Am I now a truck hater? Nope! We have a long tradition of loving trucks in the U. S. of A., and if you really WORK for a living (building things, laying block, hauling stuff) there’s nothing wrong with having a truck. In fact, I still have delusions of creating a Plug-In Hybrid Pickup. I’m sure that if the car manufacturers got off their butts and built the Ford F-150 Energi or the Chevy Volterado, they would sell them like hot-cakes!

How about you? Are you making great use of your electric vehicle in a way that the naysayers won’t believe? Let me know! Post a link to your EV towing your trailer,hauling gear, or doing other “Truck Stuff”!

‘Til Next Time, Stay Charged Up!
-Ben

PS: A few weeks ago, I took my Little Girl out canoeing with my Dad, in the wooden canoe he built from scratch. Did we take the iMiEV? Nope. We took his truck. If I have to borrow the canoe, I may as well borrow the truck to go with it! A week later, the little girl and I tubed down the same river. We took the iMiEV and used the car’s 12V spare tire air pump to inflate the giant inner tube, then let the air out to pack it back in the car when we were done!

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The JOY of Towing! Camping and EVs

by Ben N on August 18, 2016

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The last few days, I’ve been out camping using my Teardrop Trailer. How did we get to the campground? By towing it with an EV, of course! While I had never done this before, I was AMAZED at how well-suited electric vehicles can be for Towing!

IMG_9930Earlier this summer, I installed a Torklift Central eco-hitch on my car. It was a little on the pricey side as far as hitches go. Unfortunately, as a “Weird Car” (there just simply have NOT been a lot of iMiEVs sold in the United States) demand just means there’s not a lot of mass-produced inexpensive accessories for this vehicle. On the other hand, the eco-hitch is very well made and extremely solid! I got the 2″ version. Among other reasons, it works well as a receiver for a bike rack, rear support for lumber, or all sorts of other utility-adding devices which could be inserted.

Our camping trailer is something that I built back in about 2005. It’s really my first true DIY project, and is part of what later lead me to building electric motorcycles, electric cars, and renewable energy projects. The trailer is small enough to be pulled by a car, yet still features a full kitchen and an insulated sleeping compartment.

I hitched up the trailer, took it for a ride around the block for a shake-down test, and then headed out to the campground. The campground was less than 20 miles away, and I had NO IDEA what I would get for range from my tiny battery pack. However, I assumed that even if I got HALF the range of normal, we would still be able to make it to the campground just fine.

I played around with the gear selections in my car and found that both the “E” (Eco) and “B” (Brake) modes worked well. Both modes provide firm regenerative braking when I let completely off the accelerator. The car is rear-wheel drive, so the tongue of the trailer puts weight right over the drive wheels – perfect for towing! Normally, I would have towed this trailer with an S10 pickup truck. Unfortunately, the truck has over a quarter million miles on it,  just doesn’t run great, and the exhaust is loud. Combine that with a manual transmission, and it’s actually a little bit of a pain to tow with, especially in stop-and-go traffic.

On the other hand, the Mitsubishi’s single speed gearing means that there’s NO SHIFTING AT ALL! Even when I had my old Dodge Shadow for towing the trailer, the automatic transmission was terrible about down-shifting to second gear when going up big hills! The iMiEV’s instant torque also meant it kept up with traffic just fine pulling away from stop signs and lights. The EV was a JOY to TOW with!

IMG_0822The trailer is built on a 4′x8′ utility trailer frame. The proportions look a little off. The trailer appears just a little too tall for how wide it is….  Exactly like the Mitsubishi. In fact, another great thing about towing was that my exterior rear-view mirrors had a clear view straight back on both sides of the car and trailer. No need for “Mirror Extenders” like you sometimes see on large pickup trucks!

IMG_0791When we got to the campground, I was at exactly half the battery pack, and had traveled 22.2 miles. The campground is actually closer than that, but I had to run an errand and stop for ice on the way there. The Range Remaining meter let me know I had about another 20 miles worth of travel available in the battery pack. So, it looked like my range with the trailer was about 42 miles! Since the official EPA range on the car is 62 miles, I figure I lost about a third of my range when pulling the trailer. Not bad! If it was only half, I still would have been happy. There’s plenty of GREAT state parks and campgrounds within 40 miles of my house!

IMG_0794Our friend ended up not being able to make it out the first night, so we checked in using her reservation, and set up camp. However, we never originally intended to make an electric car trip out of this, and we weren’t in charge of the reservation, so it was a NON-Electric site – no place to charge. But there were lots of available camp sites with electricity. I hiked over to the Camp Host site to say hello and ask about the best place to charge the car. Unfortunately, nobody was in at the Host site.

Two sites from ours was an un-occupied electric site, so I parked the car there and started charging using the available 120V. (Overall, my experience with charging at State Park Campgrounds have been overwhelmingly positive. On my Loop the Lake Trip, camp hosts and park rangers were amazingly helpful for me to charge, even when I wasn’t staying over night.)

The next morning, I intended to unplug and move the car BACK to our site. Of course, I’m not much of a morning person, and tend to be in a thick mental fog until drinking about a quart of coffee. So, when I was walking back from the bathroom building the next morning I COMPLETELY forgot about moving the car.

That is, until the Camp Host came over and reminded me…
I got a brief stern talking to including the line “If you wanted an electric site, you should have PAID for an electric site!”
That was even after how I mentioned that I would have if I was in charge of the reservation, I had specifically come looking for him the night before to ASK about charging, and mentioning how I usually make a donation to the park for more than my fair share of electrical use.

In the end, we sort of decided that he was just grumpy. Of course, the guy was also just doing his job, making sure that people didn’t park more than 2 cars per site, or bring in firewood from outside the firewood ban area (carrying bad insects with them…)

Our friend showed up later. She’s a professional Nanny and caretaker for a special-needs individual, who was with, along with a couple of step-children. While they were around the corner at the playground, we got a visit from a Park Ranger. We now had three cars at our site, as I had backed in to unload some firewood. (It’s OK, it was local!) Of course, he asked that we move one of the cars, and then also asked “Were you charging an electric car over there?”

I sheepishly explained that I had, then why I had, what the expected cost was, and my typical voluntary park donation. After that, the Ranger had some questions about my car. (“You towed with that! Nice!”) Pretty soon, he was asking about winter heating, range, 120 vs 240 volt charging, and what I know about Teslas.

The Ranger had pretty much laughed-off me charging at the other site, and spent a good 15 minutes talking about electric cars. When he finally left, I stepped back to our picnic table, where my wife and her girl-friend were chuckling. She said “It’s amazing how you go from being in trouble, to getting out of it, and then making a believer out of someone.”

Yep, I suppose it’s true. I end up doing a lot of talking about electric cars in parking lots and out on trips. There still just aren’t too many of them out there. People usually have a lot of questions and misconceptions about electric cars.

IMG_0795A day later, I was walking through the campground when I saw a Tesla Model S. I quickly ran over to it, hollered Hello to flag them down and said something like
“HiI’mBen-Ihaveanelectriccarhere-atthecampgroundtoo-I’mrightoverthere-Pleasebemyfriend!”

I guess I was just pretty excited to see another electric car at the campground, and maybe I should have tried catching my breath before speaking with them. It was a couple in the Tesla, and clearly they were camping, as the back seat was packed with tents and sleeping bags. I actually didn’t know if they were coming or going and I wasn’t able to find them again later at the camp ground. I also didn’t catch the license plate, but it was from out of state, either Illinois, or possibly Michigan. My area is considered “Up North” to folks from Chicago, and there’s a long tradition of Chicagoans coming up here ever since the Gangsters of the Prohibition era.

For the rest of the time on the trip, we had camp-fires, went swimming, and  hiked out to an area that included a fish farm and spring house from about 100 years ago. We even found a Neil Young album at the park’s Free Little Library, which we loaded into the car’s media player, and then returned.

IMG_0798One evening, the numerous kids were at camp, all being especially noisy and quarrelsome. It was sunset, and I dragged my wife away for a minute onto the walking path behind our camp site, which faces the lake. Hiking only 50 feet or so away, it was suddenly very quiet, just the sounds of the breeze and the insects, and a great view of the sunset reflecting on the water. It also let us reflect on the fact of how good it was to have each other and only ONE very well-behaved young daughter!

IMG_0820The last day of camping, we packed everything up and hitched up the trailer. My iMiEV is the “Deluxe” model, which includes a backup camera that displays on the radio’s video touch-screen. It’s a breeze to hitch a trailer when you can back right up to it, seeing exactly where the tow ball and the trailer are. It’s also a great safety feature with all the children running around. (That’s mine in the photo.)

The trailer was again a joy to tow home.

There’s all sorts of advantages to owning an electric vehicle. For me it was both for financial savings and the ecological advantages. But to find out how great it also was for towing, was just icing on the cake.

‘Til next time, Stay Charged Up!
-Ben

PS: Tesla camping is becoming a thing. People will just fold down the back seat and sleep inside. It’s completely possible to run air-conditioning all night, although that sounds an awful lot like “Glamping” to me. I’m sure people do the same with the Volt as well. The iMiEV may be just a tad small for that, although how the back seats fold completely flat is one of my favorite features of the car.

PPS: Of course, the main disadvantage to towing with an EV is that it shortens an already short range. If this is a big issue, plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt are a great solution. I also have a friend who just towed a Teardrop most of the way across the country with his Tesla Model S. The larger battery pack and available SuperChargers make a trip to a place like the Grand Canyon completely possible. In the mean time, I’ll just check out some GREAT parks close to where I live!

PPPS: RV Parks are also the hidden majority of existing electric car charging infrastructure! Besides PlugShare, you might want to try RVParky as a great app for finding places to charge your electric car!

 

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On a Bike!

by Ben N on August 9, 2016

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Recently, we’ve had some nice weather AND I’ve had a little time available.

This Saturday, my wife said she was going to have brunch with friends, and wanted to confirm that I could watch our 5-year-old girl that morning. I double-checked the calendar and said that I could.

Well, I’ve also been doing some reading lately, including the excellent blog, Mr. Money Mustache. It’s a financial independence blog, but also features great advice about punching yourself in the face for being lazy and flabby! Why take an expensive car when you can have the fun and free exercise of a bike?! The point isn’t just to save money, but also to MAXIMIZE LIFE through experience and good works.

And I have to agree. While I LOVE electric cars, the weather was nice and there was certainly NO reason to take a car. My plan was to take the Little Girl to our local Farmer’s Market and to the park. That’s only about 2 miles away.

So, I pulled out my bike, a beat-up old Murray 6-Speed that I’ve barely ridden this summer, and started pumping air into the tires…. by hand. (My air compressor is at my brother-in-laws, still sitting there from working on the Star Trek Doors…) I did find however that the tiny hand pump I have actually works pretty well. That and it doesn’t need any electricity, it’s extremely portable, and MUCH quieter than the air compressor. (On the other hand, it won’t run air-powered tools. Well, the right tool for the right job!)

The next challenge to overcome was the fact that I do NOT have a two person bicycle, nor a bike trailer, nor a bolt-on child’s seat. A while back, we had a bike cargo trailer I modified, but that has since been dismantled and the parts used for other things.

One thing I LOVE about my bicycle is the wire rear panniers. The pair of wire cargo baskets spans the back of the bike, so that there’s also sort of a “cargo fender” on which to strap things down. I had a hunter’s bean-bag seat and set that right on top of the rear fender. Everything looked about right for the Little Girl to sit comfortably on the bean bag and have her feet sit right down in the baskets.

We gave it a try. With the bike up on its center kick-stand, I lifted her onto the back of the bike and confirmed that she fit, felt safe, and comfortable. She confirmed that she did.

With that, I kicked up the stand, hopped on the bike, and we were off. The Little Girl hugged me from behind, just like the passenger on a motorcycle would.

Riding to the Farmer’s Market made me feel out of shape. I do tend to go for walks for exercise, but a bike uses different muscles, and runs at a different pace. Oh well, riding the bike is good exercise, and the only way to GET IN SHAPE is simply to do it!

IMG_0620Once we were at the Farmer’s Market, we parked the bike, and started looking around to see what was in season and what we could get a good price on. (Typically those two things are the same!)

We ended up getting a giant cauliflower, a big bunch of beats, and a pile of eggplant, spreading our wealth around by buying from three different stands. There was plenty of room in my cargo baskets for the goods, and the doubled-up center stand holds the bike straight up and down. A regular kick stand would let a bike tip right over with this much produce loaded in it.

IMG_0291We loaded ourselves onto the bike and headed off the the local park, which has some AMAZING playground equipment – not just slides, but all sorts of monkey-bars, climbing gear, and much more. Enough to keep any kid busy for hours. I monkeyed around on the bars a bit too while the Little Girl ran around and had fun.

Once she was finally ready to go, we headed back home. To do so, we had taken a slightly different route, which also made me realize there was one more thing we could do on the bike we could never do in the car – RIDE THROUGH THE TUNNEL! There’s a small pedestrian tunnel that runs UNDER a set of railroad tracks we would otherwise have to cross. It’s only open to pedestrians (and bikes) and it’s easy to forget that the tunnel is even there. In a car, you drive right past without even noticing it! I had a good line of sight, and saw no oncoming pedestrians, so we shot right through the tunnel at high speed!

Back home, we unloaded, put away the groceries, and stashed the bike in the garage. For dinner that night, I made Eggplant Parmesan from scratch for dinner. It was a lot of work, but turned out really good.

IMG_0644The Next Day, Sunday, the Little Girl and I went out canoeing with my Dad. We went for just a short trip in a local river, but we took the cedar strip canoe that my Dad built from scratch. Not a single other boater went past without shouting “Nice Boat!”, “BEAUTIFUL CANOE!!!”, or something of the same sentiment.

My Dad jus smiled a little and said. “Thank you.”

I wasn’t on a bike, but it was nice to think to myself that it was day two of “Don’t be lazy” DIY Human-Powered transportation.

Today, I was back to having a little time to myself. I still needed to get plenty done today, but much of it was errands, going to the bank and post-office, etc. So, I once again dusted off the bike and headed out.

IMG_0665I found that a plastic recycling bin happened to fit nicely INSIDE my wire pannier. It kept my hat, water bottle, library books, keys, and everything else from rattling around. Also, I could pull the whole bin out and carry everything into the house easily and at once.

I headed in to town, taking essentially the same route as for the Farmer’s Market a few days earlier. Right away, I noticed it was a little easier to pedal. Of course, this time I didn’t have the added body weight of another small human riding right behind me, but it sure felt like it was easier to pedal JUST BECAUSE OF MY RIDE A FEW DAYS BEFORE! Does it take only ONE RIDE to get in shape? Heck no! But it really did seem easier. It’s encouraging to know that even a little practice starts to make a difference fast!

The other thing that I noticed was how I was a more aggressive rider! (In a good way!) I think there’s several reasons for that. For one, I didn’t have the girl on back. Standing on the pedals to pump hard tends to swing the bike back and forth – not great with someone hanging on back – and this time, I didn’t have that to deal with.

Also, I think all the motorcycling that I’ve done in the last year or so has made me a better bicyclist. On a motorcycle, you go the same speeds as a car, and you tend to “Get Out There!” and really be right in with the traffic. Having done more of that, I think I was just a lot more confident on a bicycle than I used to be. And in 25 MPH zones in the city, there’s no reason why a bike can’t just be right in there with the car traffic. Of course, I want to be visible and signal turns, but that’s what bright colored shirts and hand signals are for.

I also noticed what good road visibility I had on the bicycle, as compared to a car. I flew past a parked classic sports car. The top of the door was level with my knee! The head position of the driver would have been at about the height of my hip! I literally have a head-and-shoulders view better than the average car driver.
In fact, now that I think about it, my view was never blocked by any car traffic, even once, and at a stop, I’m basically standing at 6 feet tall.

Besides the actual view, the bike also has advantages over the car of no distracting radio, air conditioning controls, or lack of auditory information from having the windows rolled up.

So, I’m planning on doing some more biking – kicking my own ass to stop being lazy and actually DO something. I know we are called Human Beings, but I don’t think we are here to BE. We are here to DO.

‘Til Next Time, Stay Charged-Up!
-Ben

PS: Later, one of the Little Girl’s friends told her that they saw her on the bike. The Little Girl admitted to me that she was “embarrassed to be seen in a basket…”. I asked if she still had fun, felt safe on it, etc. and she did – she just didn’t like being SEEN in a BASKET!
My next transportation project may just be a European-style cargo bike or some sort of bicycle that can carry another passenger, just NOT in a basket!

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Simple EV Payback

by admin on August 7, 2016

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I just got my latest electric bill in the mail today. One of my favorite features of the bill is that it shows my electric use this year versus the same month last year. Since I’ve had my electric Mitsubishi iMiEV for LESS than a year, and we haven’t changed our electric use otherwise, it’s a pretty good indicator of our use of electricity for the car.

The bill for this past month was for 560 kWh of energy use. Same month last year was 323 kWh. The difference is 237 kWh, which should roughly be the amount of energy used in the car. (And yes, my power use this month last year was less than HALF the average household in my area and almost a THIRD of the national U.S. Average.)

I’ve found that “Four Miles per Kilo-Watt-Hour” tends to be a fair rule of thumb for many electric cars. Using that, 237 kWh of extra electricity should have netted me around 948 miles of travel. (237 x 4 = 948)

I also track mileage when I use the car for business, and I happened to have entries for the first and last days of the month – 36,119 miles and 37,023 miles. So, I put on 904 miles in the month. That’s within 5% of my estimate of 948 miles, so not bad for a rough guess!

Now, let’s imagine that instead of an electric car, I was driving a NEW gasoline car at the national average of 25 MPG. To go the same 904 miles, I would use 36.16 gallons of gas. Which really isn’t bad considering how INEXPENSIVE gas is right now. At my local gas station yesterday, regular unleaded was $2.099. So, that 36.16 gallons would have cost me $75.90.

But instead of $75.90 at the gas station, I spent $30.81 on my electric bill. That means I saved $45.09 this past month by by electricity instead of gasoline. Ignoring the fact that all my electricity comes from renewable sources (and that’s nearly impossible to do with a gas vehicle,) my purely ECONOMIC gain comes to $45.09.

If that was my average every month all year, I’d save $541.08 annually.

Since I paid $7,000 for the car, it would take 12.94 years for the car to pay for itself!

That sounds like a long time, BUT, here’s the thing: Most cars NEVER pay for themselves! We buy cars not as a way to save money, but as transportation. The next time somebody asks me what my “Return on Investment” is on the car, I’ll ask them what the ROI on their Mustang/Corvette/Suburban/BMW is.

Again, this is ONLY the MOST SIMPLE way of viewing cost savings on the car. In this example, we are COMPLETELY IGNORING:

  • There are no oil changes to pay for (4 times per year)
  • I will never have to replace a muffler or exhaust system (or do a whole lot of other maintenance)
  • Gas is really cheap right now

Figuring in the savings on maintenance, driving more miles per year, or gas prices going up all make the car pay for itself SIGNIFICANTLY FASTER.

In the real world, I’m guessing this car will actually pay for itself in about 5 years. Since it was already a 3 year old car when I got it, that means I’ll have an 8 year old car, that has completely paid for itself. The average car in the U.S. is now 11 years old. I’ll have a newer than average car, completely paid off (I didn’t take out a loan on it in the first place!), and having paid for itself, while still under it’s 100,000 mile warranty.

Of course, I won’t know the real “pay-off” date until that time in the future, as that will all be based on actual miles driven and  actual gasoline prices.

But let’s do an imaginary scenario. Let’s say that you drove the average number of miles per year in the U.S., and you are driving an electric car in my area. How much would you really save if gas prices went up? Let’s say to 2008 prices. The average miles driven in my age and gender bracket is 18,858 miles. (Wow! That’s a lot…) That, times 25 MPG is 754.32 gallons times $4.00/gallon is $3,017.28.

At that fuel cost, my electric car would totally pay for itself in two and a half years!

Moral of the story? The more you drive and the more expensive gasoline is, the more cost savings an electric car provides. But even if you don’t drive all that much, and gas is cheap, you can still enjoy the instant torque, quiet ride, and renewable-sourced energy of your electric car!

‘Til next time, stay charged up!

-Ben

PS: Just wait until I have my solar photo-voltaic system installed. The financial Return on Investment of solar combined with an electric car with BLOW YOUR MIND!

PPS: Another way to look at all this. How would you like to have an EXTRA $50-$100 going into your retirement or college-savings fund every month?

 

 

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About the only thing as much fun as a long-distance trip on an electric motorcycle is a friend stopping by who is ON a long-distance trip on an electric motorcycle!

On Tuesday, I was fresh back from the MREA Energy Fair when Ben “Benswing” Rich stopped by my house.

He’s out on tour this summer on his electric motorcycle. (You can read all about it at http://www.benswing.com) As he’s doing so, he’s stopping at some very cool locations and events…. and also my garage.

I was at home when Ben pulled up. Fortunately, I caught the reflection of his cycle in a mirror, through a window, zipping past. Electric motorcycles are so quiet that there’s definitely no VROOM-VROOM to announce themselves to the entire neighborhood – which is especially nice coming and going early in the morning and late at night.

Ben was all geared up in black leather and fancy biker pants. First things First. We plugged in the motorcycle. Rule number one of long distance riding is to ALWAYS plug in the motorcycle BEFORE doing anything else! One time, I was at a campground and a guy came over to me to start asking questions about my Vectrix. We chatted for a little. 45 minutes later, I realized that I hadn’t even got the chance to plug in my cycle before we started talking! Lesson learned. Plug in first.

Ben has 3 chargers on his bike – two 2500 watt chargers mounted in saddle-bag position, and a 10,000 watt “Super-Charger”, (and the bike’s stock charger!) The limiting factor in how fast the bike can charge is really based on how much electricity he has access to!

I always thought of my garage as being pretty good as far as power goes. I have a 50 Amp NEMA 14-50 plug (popular at RV Parks!) along with a 6.6kW J1772 charging station. Ben plugged in to both at the same time.

We got to talking about the joys and challenges of long-distance riding, and even shot a quick video overview of Ben’s charging setup.

Unfortunately, I found out that although I have quite a few circuits in my garage, I’m limited by the main fuse! My panel has a 50A/240V or 100A/120 main breaker. Doing the math, that’s 12,000 watts. I checked the T.E.D. whole house energy monitor, and it was reading over 13,000 watts for my whole property!

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It didn’t take all that long until my garage main breaker popped. Ben turned down the power on his charger a bit, then we flipped the breaker back on, and the bike continued charging.That got me interested in how much HEAT was being made by all that current. I had my thermal camera handy and shot a few stills of the breaker box, Ben’s bike, and his charger. We even shot a little thermal video.

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I believe the total charge time for the bike was only 38 minutes. Which was FAR TOO little time to spend with a neat guy like Ben. Oh well, guess I’ll just have to follow his adventures on his web page, just like everyone else! He did mention that while on the road, most of his updates would be through his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BenRidesElectric/?fref=ts

If YOU are out on an electric vehicle adventure, and happen to be going through south-eastern Wisconsin, stop on by! I’ll leave the charging station on for you. (Seriously, I’m on Plugshare…)

Until next time, stay charged up!

-Ben Nelson

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