Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

the hesitation on plugging in that car.

Electric cars are the next big step in alternative fuel vehicles, behind hybrids. And there are tax rebates of up to $7,500 for people who purchase an electric vehicle. But is it enough to get them sold?

A recent article from USA Today discusses how US drivers are being slow to embrace electric vehicles. Most are afraid to be stranded somewhere without a charging station. And that's a legitimate concern. Charging stations aren't super common yet, and it's one of the first things I researched when I began looking at all the information on electric vehicles. What's the point of buying one if you can't charge it? Of course, I found that you can charge your vehicle at home, which eliminates a lot of worry for simple in-town driving.

However, just this week, news came that two electric vehicle charging companies are merging to create the largest American charging network, and bring stations to most shopping malls in the country.  

Nissan Leaf sales dropped 65% from June 2011 to June 2012. While sales for the Chevy Volt aren't high, they have tripled in the first half of 2012, from the first half of 2011.

And the US Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu says that the US must make affordable electric cars. Another USA Today article states that "even the mass-market Nissan Leaf at $36,050 (not counting the $7,500 tax credit) has a payback period of seven years at $4 a gallon, according to Edmunds.com. The DOE estimates the extra cost of a Toyota Prius hybrid over a Camry is recouped in two years; a Ford Fusion hybrid needs 2.4 years to recoup."

Electric vehicles just can't compete with the lower cost of hybrids. Secretary Chu says that reducing the cost of batteries for the vehicles is the key, and the goal would be to reduce vehicle costs so there will be options between $20,000 and $30,000.

When I began doing this research, I was inspired by the electric vehicles and imagined (okay...still imagining) myself driving one in the next year or two. But the prices that stared back at me made me more hesitant. As much as I would fit driving an electric vehicle, I simply cannot afford a $40,000 car, even with a $7,500 tax break.

But again, these cars are still very new, and once even more research is done and technology is developed, they will become easier to produce, and the cost should come down. Just how long will it take? I will still dearly hold on to my current car, and I'd still love my next one to be electric. I just hope it can happen that way.

plug in that car!

I've had my current (and, well, only) car for almost 10 years now. I keep saying that I'd love to keep my car for a few more years, as long as it holds out, and get an electric car once they are more mainstream and a bit less expensive.

In the past few weeks, amidst a friend almost buying a hybrid vehicle, and my own car taking two expensive trips to the shop, the thought of getting a new car has been forefront. I've always been a fan of hybrids, but my real dream is to own a fully electric vehicle.

I researched the availability of charging stations in my town, of which there is 1 - at a Nissan dealership. Car Stations provides a search feature for charging stations by zip code, and the US Department of Energy provides a search feature for all alternative fuel stations, including compressed natural gas, biodiesel and electric.

But, you can actually purchase your own charging station via Home Depot's website. It's a hefty chunk of change, but it would allow you to charge your vehicle while you're at home, and according to the Nissan Leaf website, the average homeowner should only see a moderate bump in their home utility bill. Most electric vehicles use a 240v charging dock.

The other big key to electric vehicles is the tax rebates. Fueleconomy.gov lists tax incentives for some electric vehicles. The US Department of Energy has an index of all federal and state laws and incentives. For example, the current Louisiana incentive is:

Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) and Fueling Infrastructure Tax Credit

The state offers an income tax credit of 50% of the cost of converting a vehicle to operate on an alternative fuel, 50% of the incremental cost of purchasing an original equipment manufacturer AFV, and 50% of the cost of constructing an alternative fueling station. Only dedicated AFVs registered in Louisiana may receive the tax credit. Alternatively, a taxpayer may take a tax credit of 10% of the cost of the motor vehicle, up to $3,000. For the purpose of this incentive, alternative fuels include compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (propane), biofuel, biodiesel, methanol, ethanol, electricity, and any other fuels that meet or exceed federal clean air standards. (Reference Louisiana Revised Statutes 47:6035)
Practical Environmentalist has a comprehensive list of electric vehicles, but I'll simply focus on the more popular ones.


The Nissan Leaf is probably the biggest name in electric vehicles, and I believe is the best-selling. They have a range of 62 to 100 miles between charges and start at $35,200. Much of the interior fabric is made from recycled plastic water bottles. The Leaf also works with the Carwings app, allowing you to essentially control your car from your iPhone.



The Chevy Volt is another mainstream option. They have a range of 25 to 50 miles between charges and start at $39,990. They can also be charged through a 120v outlet, though 240v charges them faster. The Volt does contain a reserve gas tank for extended range.



Ford has made an electric version of their popular Focus. It gets a range of around 100 miles between charges and starts at $39,200. The Focus Electric boasts a cloth interior made of 100% recycled materials. The car also takes advantage of the MyFord app, which allows you to monitor and schedule charging your car, and can give you remote charging status updates.



And while not nearly as mainstream, but extremely adorable, is the Smart Electric. I've always been a fan of Smart Cars, but have never gotten to experience riding in one. The regular ones are plenty eco-friendly, but the electric version takes it to a whole new level. The vehicles are not officially out for sale yet, but you can peruse some of the features on the Smart website.

But while all these cars have great features, sleek designs, no emissions and tax incentives, are they actually going anywhere? My next post will explore that.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

publicity

A few weeks ago, I attended an event that I helped put on with work. It was an outdoor event with disposable trash cans and free bottled water. I knew there were extra trash cans, so I asked if we could make one of them a recycling bin, since I knew there'd be lots of water bottles. It was alright, so I took my (bad large) handwriting to the box to distinguish it.


Later, I found some markers and color coded the bins with green and brown.


Toward the end of the event, there were a few water bottles in the recycling bin, and many in the trash bins. Granted, the trash bins outnumbered the one recycling bin, but they weren't at a point where I couldn't end up consolidating everything to the recycling bin. So there I was, with help from my boyfriend, picking through all the trash bins to separate the recyclables out. And we promptly brought the collection to the recycling dump, to save delegating something to someone not as committed.


It felt good to be bringing a full trash bin worth of recyclables to the dump, especially after making it happen at a city-wide public event. I was also pleased to hear a few compliments during the day from people who noticed there was a special bin for recycling.
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