Making the Move to an Electric Car

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You’ve just learned that 2016 was the hottest year on record; it broke the record set in 2015, and 2014 before that. That worries you, as  it should. So, when do you decide to do something about it?

Governments talk about climate change and make pronouncements, but it’s individual action by people that will make an impact. In the United States, we have just elected a new president who is not interested in climate issues the way Mr. Obama was, and is nominating climate deniers for his cabinet, so there is great trepidation about what may happen next. But car companies are introducing more new EVs every year, so you can take action.

I’ve written about cars for 25 years, and test driven 1,200 of them. Since 2011, when the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt arrived, I’ve tested essentially all of the pure EVs and hybrids–and even got an hour with the new Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle recently.

Without exception, the pleasures of driving powered by an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine are many. You’ll feel the smoothness, thanks to no reciprocating pistons or thousands of explosions per minute. EVs, even tiny little Chevy Sparks and Fiat 500e’s, zip off the line with surprising authority. The extra quiet makes conversation between the front and rear seats easy, and you’ll hear your favorite music in a new way.

There are three ways to go, and each makes sense for your particular situation. If you live in an urban area and are going to be commuting  and driving around town on errands, you could consider one of the first-generation pure electrics, such as the Leaf. With 80 or 90 miles (130-140 km) per charge, you shouldn’t become stranded, and you’ll never have to stop at a petrol station again.

The downside to this choice is when you want to do intercity travel. Here, you can either use your other, internal combustion vehicle, or rent one for the trip. Or consider some kind of public transit, if it’s available.

If you want to drive locally with an EV, but need frequent longer-range travel, a hybrid vehicle, exemplified by the Toyota Prius, uses electricity part of the time and petrol the rest. You never have to plug it in–it generates power using regenerative braking. The downside is that it’s still a fuel-powered car much of the time–but it emits about half the CO2 of an average car.

A third option, the plug-in hybrid, such as the aforementioned Chevy Volt, lets you drive in pure EV mode for a limited distance, so you get the best of both worlds. You need to plug it in, but if you don’t you can still get where you’re going. When you do plug it in, it doesn’t take that long to replenish the battery.

If you’ve solved the range issue for your needs, the next big factor is price. Electric vehicles, particularly pure EVs, simply cost more. Blame the high price of batteries, but that’s coming down. And, electric cars today make up a tiny slice of the market, so design and production costs must be spread over many fewer units.

If you are lucky enough to be able to afford a Tesla, you can get hundreds of miles (or km) of range, and use their proprietary Supercharger network for fast battery fills along  the way. Most of us can’t, however.

A new option has just arrived in the United States–the Chevrolet Bolt EV. With its official 238 mile (383 km) range and starting price of US$37,500, minus federal and state rebates, it can be quite affordable. I got mine two weeks ago (the photo above shows delivery day!)

The Bolt EV is coming to Europe soon as the Ampera-E. At this point, I’m not sure if it’ll make its way to the U.K., but stay tuned.

Many questions remain that are worth thinking about. A big one is, “Where is my electricity coming from?” I’ll address these in more detail in upcoming blog posts.

Why not start out on your path to the future today? Test drive an electric car today here at (Available in the UK for now)

Steve Schaefer.


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