Green With Electric Envy
One of the current topics of today is gas prices. You can’t turn on the TV or open a newspaper without finding a story about how much gas costs. Consumers everywhere are making changes. I ride my scooter as much as I can to help reduce how much gas I use for my commute. My car – a 2001 Nissan Sentra GXE – which I paid off in March 2008 and gets around 30 mpg on the average. I don’t have an exact figure of how much I’ve saved, both gas and money, but I’m sure it’s a nice sized dent of what others are spending that drive bigger cars or get less miles-per-gallon with their vehicles.
With the price of a gallon of gas at $4 [give or take 10-20 cents nationwide], people are wanting change. They want to save money. They are tired of big oil. But other than the ten or so models of hybrid and electric cars available today, there is not a large selection of options for someone who is both environmentally conscious and wants to reduce their reliance on gasoline for their daily commute. Change is coming, but not soon enough.
Original image found at chevy-volt.net
More than a year ago, GM announced the Chevy Volt, an electric car of hybrid proportions. It’s not a 100% electric car, as there is a gas engine under the hood. Technically, this makes it a hybrid. The talking heads at GM have been downplaying the word “hyrbrid” as to not lump it in with the current breed of hyrbrid vehicles on the market now. The Volt is technically defined as a plug-in hybrid, meaning you can charge the batteries without using the gas engine to charge them. You have a charging station installed in your garage that you plug into the Volt nightly, which takes approx. 6-8 hours for a full charge. Then when you drive off the next morning, you get about 40 miles of run time on electricity before the gas engine kicks in and starts charging the batteries.
The Volt will be available in 2010 and according to recent reports, more than 30,000 people are lining up to get one. And at a estimated cost of $40,000, it’s almost double what an average economy car costs, but (obviously) more efficient. Exciting, but two years is a long time to wait. Gas could easily be $5 a gallon by then. What consumers want is change now.
It Could Have Been Better By Now
General Motors, who recently posted a $15 billion loss, is trying to scramble, like all of the car makers, to produce cars that are either more fuel efficient or vehicles that use an alternative form of fuel. And many of them are announcing vehicles, like the Volt, that won’t be available for a couple more years. Personally, while I applaud their efforts, it’s a bit late in the game. A deathbed repentance if you will, to try and make things better. Well, back in 1996, a lot of companies like GM had their chance to make a change. GM was at the forefront of change with the electric car.
Original image found at Modern Racer
In 1996, General Motors came out with the EV1, an all-electric vehicle. I won’t bore you with all of the details, which you can read here. But just to summarize, it was a leased vehicle that had a strong following at the beginning. It was the start of what would have been the change to alternative fueled mainstream cars. There were some glitches and other shortcomings [like a short run time on each battery charge], but over the years, that all could have been worked out, getting these out there to consumers. But GM deemed it a failure and by summer of 2003, all cars were recalled, removed from the roads and either donated to schools or destroyed. There is a great documentary film called “Who Killed The Electric Car?” that brilliantly documents what happened, complete with first-hand accounts, discussions with owners, official statements from those that worked on the project and the group that attended the final protest/standoff when they hauled the cars away.
Now GM is claiming the Volt is the next step from the EV1, even going so far to announce that people who worked on the EV1 project are part of this new endeavor. An expected announcement, since it is a given that anyone that was familiar with the events surrounding the demise of the EV1 would be soured on any future work that GM would be involved in. Which is the same sour expression I had when I first heard about the Volt. My thoughts were, “Well, there’s 11 years that we could have been so much further along towards adopting electric cars.”
Don’t get me wrong. I really am happy about any progress made towards reducing our reliance on fossil fuels for transportation, regardless of who is behind it. But you have to wonder how serious people are taking GM for this Volt project and the longevity of it. I’m sure some are being open-minded, but the company is in a different place than they were 12 years ago. They are hurting big time. They have no choice but to finally embrace a change of how they make cars. It’s too bad they couldn’t have been smarter, because if they would have, it could have been them at the top of the heap, producing reasonable electric cars that most of the buying public could afford. But this is where we are today, everyone rushing to be part of the “me too” marketplace and still a couple of years out before they can deliver an overpriced product for the consumer.
Nissan Puts Their Plug Into The Electrical Outlet
Original image found in the post on Jalopnik.com
While we are on the subject of ‘vehicles a couple years out’, Nissan just announced their all-electric car a couple of weeks ago. The test model they showed looks very similar to a Scion xB. While I’m not that fond of the boxy design, I’m really looking forward to seeing what the final specs will be when it comes to the US in 2010. Yes, this one is also two years away, but it’s another option we will have at that time. I’m a fan of Nissan and I could see myself being an owner, quickly getting over my dislike for the body style in favor of driving a car that uses NO GAS.
So you ask.. what are my plans for the future for personal transportation vehicles? Let me outline what I am thinking about.
- Riding my scooter – As most of the regular visitors to this blog know the love I profess of my Honda Metro scooter in my Scooter Sunday posts, it has been the biggest thing I’ve used so far to change my commuting habits. I take it instead of my car to work, to the store, to run small errands and it has become my vehicle of choice when I need to go somewhere [when I am not required to carry large items or additional passengers]. We are planning on getting a second scooter for my wife next year, which will help her save energy and money in her local travels. We are looking at both gas and electric models, depending on what is both practical and affordable at the time of purchase.
- Reducing trips – When we do take either my car or my wife’s truck, we do what we can to reduce multiple trips. If we are out, we plan to get all of the items we need in one trip, not driving all over to save a buck on some item. It’s much more cost effective to pay a little more and just purchase the products we need at one or two stores. Believe me, this helps a lot and goes a long way to not only reducing the gas we use, but reducing the effect on the air and environment.
- Walking – I need to exercise. As I recently told another blogger, I plan to start an exercise program that will help me reduce some of the load I’ve let collect on my body. Why get in the car to go 4-6 blocks when you can walk. My step-daughter lives 4 blocks away. Where possible, when we go over, we walk. Of course, with winter coming in four months, that may not be as feasible, but while it’s 80-90 degrees out, we plan to walk instead of drive. Same with some store visits. We live about 4 blocks from a couple of stores and the last couple of trips we made were on foot. So not only do we get exercise, we also leave the car and truck at home, further reducing our oil consumption.
- A new blog site – In an effort to really stretch myself thin with yet another project, I am working on a new blog that I will launch soon. It’s going to be based on cars, vehicles, transportation and everything that has to do with how we get around. I’ll announce it here on this blog when it’s ready.
Let’s Hear From You
So what have you done to reduce driving? Walking? Biking? Scooter? Bus? Train? Tell me. I really want to know. And the more details, the better.
I haven’t really done much more than take less trips and talk about trading both of our SUVs. One of them gets decent gas mileage but the other one has been a thorn in my side since we go it. We got a great deal on it (at the time) but the value has dropped so much, now I’m very upside down. I don’t know how we’d be able to trade it.
I can guarantee you, the next car I purchase will either be electric, hybrid, or get really good gas mileage.
First of all great post here. It really got my wheels turning on how I can conserve gas in more ways than I am doing. Luckily I don’t live to far from work so I don’t use much gas for that. I also have combined errands so I am not just running out once for something tiny like say a gallon a milk. I also find myself doing more of my purchasing online on sites like amazon and ebay.
Next spring I plan on buying a scooter as well.
Good luck with everything you are doing to be green.
I haven’t done anything. In fact, I’m thinking of going to buy a new SUV since they’re all so cheap.
The greenest car in the world is the one that is left parked in the garage every day, or the one that drives 2 miles a day rather than 60.
Working remotely is the most efficient way to commute. Remote Office Centers are an option for people who really want to cut back on carbon emission and fuel usage.
A Remote Office Center leases individual offices, internet, and phone systems to workers from different companies in shared centers around the suburbs.
The concept is pretty new, but so are electic cars. Remote Office Centers can be found on the internet by searching for “Remote Office Centers” in quotes.
ajooja – I so want a hybrid, but price and having a car payment deter me for a while. The upside down SUV is pretty common. My friend works for a used car dealer here in town and SUVs and trucks are a hard sell these days.
drop dead chris – Thanks for the props. Purchasing online is something I’ve done for at least the last 10 years. It really does save time, money and gas. When you get your scooter, you’ll have to come over and comment on one of the Scooter Sunday posts.
avitable – I know of many SUVs that are on the cheap now. Sounds like it’s a buyer’s market for you.
I paid of my 2002 Saturn LW300 at the beginning of last year and I’m loving the lack of car payment right now. Currently it has 94,000 miles on it and I’ll be driving that car until it falls apart. Literally. When it does, and I’m in the market for a new car, I’ll certainly be looking at hybrids and/or electric cars.
I’m glad they’re *finally* coming out with environmentally friendly cars that don’t look like arse. I mean, I’m sure the Prius is a great car, but it looks wanky and just isn’t practical for me and my two dogs. So now that I’m seeing other hybrids that don’t look so bad, I’m rather pleased.
A scooter would be an excellent way of commuting. If only I didn’t have the Arizona summer. I also try to work from home whenever I can to save gas.
kevin – Another commuter without a car payment. It’s very liberating, even if I know I’m going to still be putting maintenance payments into it over time. I’m planning on doing the same thing as well…. driving it till it falls apart. Mine has 92,000 on it now.
I’ve never liked the look of most Prius models. There was a model that had a trunk and looked like a normal car, not some futuristic freak. I liked the EV1, but it looked a bit like an alien pod. Of course, that was 12 years ago, too. The Civic Hybrid is the best looking out of all of them.
Arizona summers are not kind to scooter riders.
I really enjoyed reading your ideas. I have a hard time because I have 4 kids and need a car big enough to fit all of us. I rarely go anywhere though, so I guess that helps. But seriously, I try really hard to combine trips, plan shopping in order so we make as few backtracks as possible. It is just a little, but I guess even a little helps.
Great post! I really wish the car companies would have stuck with their effort earlier. Even now, these sort of seem like half-assed attempts to me, you know what I mean? Oh well, I am going to hope for the best!
I take the train every day, so I only drive about 7 miles a day. But I do let my husband drive me around on the weekends. Honestly, the gas prices have not affected us too much yet, since only one of us drives for commuting, but I think if I ever do buy a new car, I would like something that is more fuel efficient and better for the environment.
Can’t wait to see the new blog and hear all about the exercise program!!!
tori – With 4 kids, it is harder to ride a scooter or find smaller forms of transportation. Combining trips is what I hear a lot of people doing these days. It makes a lot of sense.
kilax – Yes, I think they are too late and too half-assed. All of these new more efficient cars coming out and we still have to wait two years. Seems very short-sighted.
You mentioned you take the train. 8 years ago, when I worked downtown, I took Trax, our light-rail system here in SLC, to work each day. For 18 months, I drove to work twice. It was nice. I don’t ride it as much, but when I go downtown and don’t need my car, then I take the train. It’s up to $4 for a round trip ticket, which if is fine for two people, but anymore than that and it gets to be more cost-effective to drive, even with parking fees and gas.
The exercise posts will happen a bit sooner than the new blog. I think you will like them (as well as others will, too)
I few years ago I got tired of driving the 22 and spending so much time on the road. Not to mention the wear and tear on my vehicle and the cost of gas. I live literally a half mile away from the office now. Also, I’ve reduced my grocery budget and my gas budget by buying my groceries online. I don’t impulse buy anymore and the nice delivery guy climbs the stairs for me, reducing the wear and tear on my bad knee. Sometimes I get the delivery fee for free, sometimes not, but overall I spend a lot less money than I was spending. The truck already delivers in my area (lots of my neighbors do this) so I’m not taking them out of their way. Overall, I save myself quite a bit of money this way. And my car loves staying in the garage on a Saturday!
winter – A half a mile is very close. And I thought my 3 mile (each way) commute to my place of work was close. That’s awesome. Impulse buying can take a huge toll on the finances. I’ve learned to curb most of my purchases, especially the rule of “don’t go to the grocery store hungry” With the grocery delivery you use, that’s not an issue. I wish they had something like that here. We get milk, eggs and butter delivered every other week, but that’s about it. Parking the car on the weekend helps, I’m sure. Especially where you live. OC roads and freeways can be murder on the weekends.
yup, for me it’s the bus. I need some kind of wordpress plugin where I can put in when I ride the bus, and it shows a little calendar and the days I commute via the bus would be shown as green, and then add the however much I saved that day by taking the avg price of gas that day times the mpg/whatever. that would be a cool plugin.
whall – That would be a great plug-in to have. Something that does the automatic calculation for you, complete with a color change, showing the green on days you take the bus and red for days when you drive.
I reduced my driving by losing my job. Now I don’t have to go nowhere. Yea me!
brandon – Not having to commute to work saves on gas. Go you!
Holy crap i can’t believe I didn’t get in on this post earlier….. YIKES…. Well what I did when gas hit $2.50 a gallon I sold my beloved V8 truck and bought a Diesel jetta that gets about 40-45 mpg in the city, and 50+ on the highway. I use that for all my long trips and to visit customers when i have to. I have a (believe it or not) paid for 1981 VW Vanagon that I drive back and forth to work in the winter when I cannot make the 5.4 mile (one way) bike ride. When I have to go downtown i do my best to ride my bike down to the train station and take Trax whenever possible. Even at 40-50mpg and an 11 mile commute gas prices suck…. I take the Vanagon hunting and anywhere I am going that is relatively flat, I take the Jetta if Iam going into the mountains to go fishing or whatever because the Vanagon in the mountains is painfully slow…. and the mileage in the Jetta is sooooo much better.
I have ben looking into doing a CNG conversion on the Vanagon, but found out just today that it would cost around $8,000 to convert and since there is not EPA certified kit I would not be eligible for any of the tax incentives which would have taken $6,500 off that $8,000. Since Utah just opened up all the state (except UDOT) CNG stations that would have been perfect since my office only 6 blocks from the School Districts pumping station, and at $1.00 per gasoline equivalent gallon that would have been sweet…..
Which leads into the next topic I personally think you should bring up in your Blog here…. T. Boone Pickens and his plan to exploit America (again)…. ;o) (I could help you with input if you are interested… LOL….)
Anyway great topic that really hit home this time, just wish I had seen it earlier….
kris – Your biking is impressive. I mean, you ride a lot… that day you came over for the BBQ… you rode your bike. And of course, with the Jetta Diesel and it’s amazing mileage. The Vanagon loves the flat roads…. visions of Autozone and trying to find a decent decline to jump start… LOL.
The CNG is a good alternative fuel, as most city and state governments have a decent sized fleet of vehicles that run on it. And with Utah opening up CNG stations to all residents now, that makes it more of a viable option… well, if you don’t count the $8,000 to convert a 17 year old VW… LOL
Wait…did you delete my comment?
blondeblogger – Uh.. which comment? This is the first one that I’ve seen on this particular post from you.
Oh good…I thought I’d pissed you off with my comment. Must’ve got eaten by a spam filter or something.
blondeblogger – I had a couple of spam comments on this post, but nothing that came from your account. All comments you post that have 1 or no links in them get approved automatically.