animals, cool stuff, culture, Environment, life, photos, predictions, technology, thoughts, travel, Traveling

How Tesla has changed my life & could transform society

A little over a year ago, I purchased an entry-level Tesla Model S75 after my Chevy Volt was totaled in a car accident. The alternatives to the Model S that I considered at the time were another Chevy Volt or the Chevy Bolt. But after a test drive in a Model S, it was love at first drive.

To skip the long post with photos and get to how Tesla will change our lives, click here.

To be fair, the Chevy Volt and Bolt are both excellent cars for what they are. They cost considerably less than the Model S but also lack major features such as supercharging, over-the-air software updates, and autopilot. The Model S is considerably more comfortable than both Chevy models.

Fast forward to August 27, 2018, and I start a road trip with my wife and our dog that will give me a glimpse of just how much Tesla could end up altering the physical and social landscape of the world. Our road trip is from Southern California (just north of Los Angeles) to Peoria, Illinois to visit my wife’s grandma who has stage 5 Parkinson’s and back to California via Flagstaff, Arizona to visit my wife’s cousin.

We used EVTripPlanner.com to map out the expected supercharger locations ahead of the trip but used Tesla’s navigation suggestions for the supercharger stops during actual execution of the road trip. The original plan was to take a leisurely stroll to get there and to get back. We planned for just over two weeks of total trip time with about 5 days with Grandma in Peoria.

Our first overnight stay was in Las Vegas. Getting there was pretty simple. We stopped in Barstow, CA to supercharge even though Tesla’s navigation had us going to the Yermo station. We really stopped in Barstow for the Del Taco! It’s one of the few that’s owned by the original owner of Del Taco and has the most superb carnitas burritos. It’s just down the street from the charging station in Barstow.

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We decided to stop in Primm, NV for our next stop. Since we already knew we were stopping in Primm, we charged less than we’d normally charge in Barstow.

Primm has become our customary stop for us on our way to Vegas anyway. We stop and play the first slot machine that’s calling our name since it’s the first city on the California/Nevada border. It’s an even better stop now that we have a Tesla! We take our dog (who is named Tesla) for a potty break while the car is charging and then took turns with our own potty breaks and slot machine play. Meanwhile, our car is almost fully charged while we’re doing what needs to be done anyway.

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We’re back on the road and at our hotel in Vegas. It’s the same hotel we stayed at when we got married, so it carries particular sentimental value for us. In retrospect, we wouldn’t stop in Vegas on this road trip again unless we really wanted to stay in Vegas for a night. It’s not very far along for a road trip this long, but it worked great for this first time Tesla road trip!

We got a late start to the second day or our trip, but fortunately our next stop was well within the range we had left, so we didn’t have to charge in Vegas at all.

The drive between Vegas and St. George, UT takes you through The Virgin River Gorge. It was one of the most beautiful parts of this road trip! The video I linked to is not a video I took, but it’s a great representation of that beautiful drive.

St. George’s supercharger station happened to be right next to an excellent breakfast restaurant. We had a nice brunch with Tesla (the dog) sitting just on the other side of the outdoor patio. By the time we were done, our car was fully charged; just like our bellies!

Beaver was our next supercharger stop. There wasn’t much there, but Tesla enjoyed the Dairy Queen!

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Green River, UT was our next planned stop, but the scenery along the way had us stop for a phenomenal pano.IMG_0290.JPG

Green River was an interesting stop. The museum where the superchargers are located was closed by the time we got there, but at least the giant watermelon was still there for a photo-op!

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It was off to Grand Junction, CO, for our final stop on day two. Our leisurely stroll through the Rocky Mountains was well underway, and Tesla (the dog) was really enjoying all the different sites (or smells) as much as we were!

Day three took us to Glenwood Springs, CO, for our first stop. We were already in awe of the beautiful scenery along the Colorado River, and we had eyeballed a few access roads that were even closer to the river. As beautiful as everything was along the way, nothing could really prepare us for the love-at-first-sight feeling we had in Glenwood Springs.

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While taking Tesla for a walk during the supercharger/bathroom break, I happened upon a beautiful flowering plant that was abuzz with honey bees!

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It was almost like a scene from a movie… I was focused on the bees flying around, doing their duties when along came a gust of wind. When I looked behind me, I saw a flier for the Iron Mountain Hot Springs. This couldn’t be coincidence. It’s obviously an act from above that has brought this tattered old flier to my feet!

My wife and I got back in the car once it was ready to continue the trip. One of the nicest things about Tesla’s navigation (and mobile app) is that you receive a notification when your car is charged enough to continue along your route. As we drove off, I showed my wife the flier for the Hot Springs. The navigation ended up taking us through Glenwood Springs on the way back to the freeway. I felt a sense of deja vu as we drove through the little town. The ye olde buildings and main drag had us contemplating a road trip just to Glenwood Springs in the near future.

Before we were even back on the highway, my wife had pulled up all sorts of information about Glenwood Spring. We’d both spend the next 72 hours pining over this quaint little town in the middle of Colorado and figuring out if we can make it from our home to Glenwood Spring in a single day. Turns out there’s an adventure park there, great hiking trails, and caverns! And, yes, it’s only 17.5 hours of drive + charge time from our house!

After Glenwood Springs, we kept on our trek up the Rockies, through Vail, Silverthorne (great supercharger stop), and even stopped for a scenic view of a historic railroad.

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By nightfall we were in Denver, and a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in years (and who made my wife’s engagement ring) happened to be available for dinner. We enjoyed some great sushi in a small town called Parker, just outside of Denver. After dinner, my wife and I had a quick conversation that would end up changing our lives forever.

With the urgency of Grandma’s health in the background, I asked my wife, “What do you think about driving all the way through to Peoria from here?”

Autopilot had been doing the vast majority of the driving for us so far. Supercharger stops and having our dog with us also meant that we needed to stop at regular intervals that made a long haul pretty easy on the butt and back. Unlike stopping for gas and rushing off, we had to stretch our legs and let Tesla (the dog) pee while Tesla (the car) charged. It’s a match made in heaven for comfortable long haul driving; at least that was our thinking.

Turns out we were right!

We stopped at the prescribed supercharger stations in Nebraska (what a LONG state!) in Iowa. A 30-60 minute charge for the car allowed enough time for me to recharge my brain and rest my eyes enough to keep focused. Of course, Autopilot is what really made the biggest difference. Autopilot significantly reduces the fatigue of driving a long haul. There just isn’t as much tugging on the steering wheel. It really adds up over a long drive like this. While I was driving, my wife rested so that she could take on the second half of the 900+ mile stretch between Denver and Peoria.

By the time we were finished with Nebraska, I was finished with driving. My wife took over for the remainder of the stretch until we stopped at the last supercharger until Peoria, where I took over again. When all was said and done, our non-stop driving took us from Grand Junction, CO to Peoria, IL (nearly 1200 miles) over the course of a day-and-a-half! We were all exhausted, even Tesla (the dog).

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Still… that was nothing compared to our road trip back!

Because we came in a day early, we decided we could leave a day later too. Thanks to Tesla Autopilot and supercharging, we were able to get two more precious days with Grandma!

On September 8, we mapped out our trip to Flagstaff. We’d head straight to Albuquerque, NM. Just supercharging and meal breaks. We left just before sundown and quickly realized that wasn’t the best idea. Missouri rain drops the size of golf balls were in our future. How would Autopilot handle it? Perfectly!

The only spot where Autopilot had difficulty in the rain was on a stretch of the I40 where they had paved the road and hadn’t put down proper markers. In fairness to Tesla, I could barely figure out where I was supposed to be on the road and everyone was driving under 50 mph the whole time.

The true reason we were bummed about going through Missouri at night was that we ended up missing out on the fudge factory in Uranus. The roadside billboards gave us a good chuckle driving through: The Best Fudge Comes from Uranus

Having learned a bit from the drive out, we started checking to see what was within walking distance near each of the supercharger stations. We ended up adjusting our stops because the Springfield, MO supercharger had a Waffle House right there. Other stops had Waffle Houses close (it’s Missouri, after all), but the Springfield supercharger was the perfect opportunity to take a longer stop and enjoy some Waffle House!

We ended up stopping at the Joplin, MO, supercharger because the mapping software was telling us we needed to stop there in order to make it to Tulsa. This was definitely one of those moments that wouldn’t really happen in a 90 or 100 Tesla or even a Model 3. The stop in Joplin was very quick though. Tesla maps had us out of there in about 15 minutes.

We should have spent that 15 minutes a little more wisely because we would have noticed that the Tulsa, OK supercharger was in the parking lot for the Hard Rock casino. It was a fun use of a $20 bill until we realized that there were cash only toll roads along the way.

Our settings for navigation had us avoiding toll roads, so the directions on the map looked a bit odd. Once we realized that the tolls trimmed more than an hour off our drive time, we found all the quarters in my wife’s purse and took the toll roads! It’s definitely worth it to take the toll rather than the dark back roads.

By daytime, we were in Texas. Shamrock, TX gave us our first glimpse of the old Route 66 and what was the old school equivalent to superchargers back in the 1930s.IMG_0623

On the way out of Texas, we stopped at the Amarillo supercharger. Driving through Amarillo gave me a craving for some steak! There wasn’t anything right near the supercharger, but you could smell the steak. I started plotting a road trip just to Amarillo while chatting it up with a fellow Tesla driver who was also charging.

Next thing you know, we’re in New Mexico and getting closer and closer to Albuquerque. Then the real rain hit! I thought the golf ball rain drops in Missouri were something… A monsoon was blowing through Albuquerque, and it was a site. Lightening and thunder! Tesla (the dog) wasn’t a big fan of either, but Autopilot handled the torrential rainfall like a champ. We checked into our hotel and relaxed for the rest of the day. Just over 1200 miles in under 24 hours!

We were all a little slow getting up the next morning…

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We hit the road and noticed a freeway with the same number as the freeway closest to us in California: 118. We decided to take an exit to go along the 118 and soon discovered that we were likely along the path that inspired the Disney “Cars” franchise.

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Wasn’t long before we were in Flagstaff! Just one supercharger stop in Holbrook (along with a cheeseburger). Otherwise, we were just like the Nat King Cole song!

The biggest surprise of the trip took place on the way to Flagstaff. While cruising along I40 on Autopilot, my Model S pulled suddenly to the right and slowed down. There didn’t seem to be any reason for Autopilot to do this. The road was clear ahead. I grabbed the wheel, thinking perhaps there was a glitch. Autopilot disengaged, and that’s when I noticed what the issue was. There was a car in the passing lane that had been driving in my blind spot that moved into my lane. Autopilot navigated away from that car and likely avoided a 75 mph sideswipe! The driver of the other vehicle kept swerving in and out of the two lanes until the next exit. We were feeling extremely thankful for Autopilot before, now it was a lifesaver!

We shacked up with my wife’s cousin in Flagstaff, called Grandma to let her know we made it safe, and spent the rest of the day enjoying family time. Thanks to Autopilot, we again were able to arrive without being as exhausted and stayed up late with full bellies from a great family dinner.

As we were going to bed, we got the call about Grandma. As sad as it was that she was gone, my wife and I were so grateful for the extra two days we had with Grandma because Tesla Autopilot made it so much easier to drive for longer distances. We felt so fortunate to not stay in Denver overnight on the way out and leave for the road trip back a day later.

The next day was an easy trip home from Flagstaff back to Simi Valley, CA. We did the same Barstow Del Taco stop and even shared part of a burrito with Tesla (the dog). By the time we made it home, we logged 4,544.5 miles for the whole trip with 2,182.1 for the trip back home. I calculated out the mpg equivalent to the kWh we consumed on the trip, and it comes out to be about 129MPG!

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The Summary

Convenience is a relative term. Is it possible to drive 4500 miles in an ICE faster than we manged to do it in a Tesla Model S75? Most certainly, but that wasn’t our goal. Our trip was surprisingly comfortable. Most of the legs of our trip were 1.5 – 2 hours with 30 – 45 minute supercharger stops in between. This ended up being the perfect timing for our legs, back, butts, dog, and bladders.

Visiting my wife’s family in Illinois and Arizona more often will bring our family closer and create greater bonds between everyone. These trips are obviously possible using an ICE, but they are far more comfortable and healthier for us because we are doing them in a Tesla with Autopilot. You can’t really put a price tag on family, so what Tesla has provided for us is worth far more than the cost of the Model S. It’s also something that’s just not possible in any other EV on the market.

Getting out of the car every 1-2 hours for a good 15-30 minute stretch slows down your travel but ensures a better rested body. On several of the stops, my wife and I would even get in a good 20 minute meditation. The benefit of avoiding physical and mental fatigue coupled with the assistance of Autopilot made for an enjoyable 4500 mile road trip that we’re now planning on making 3-4x per year.

How Tesla Will Change Our Social & Physical Landscapes

Tesla’s vehicles and infrastructure make it easier to be closer to your family when there are longer distances between you. It’s not about a fast road trip. It’s about the quality/comfort of the time on that road trip and how you feel when you arrive. With Autopilot and superchargers, you arrive well rested. The drive is considerably more comfortable and less stressful thanks to Autopilot and the required, prolonged supercharger stops.

Locations with superchargers that provide amenities are desirable, and I think that eventually superchargers will be operated by companies other than Tesla. As other EV makers produce cars worthy of road trips, 3rd party supercharging equivalent stations will become an enticement to road trippers. Towns with supercharger spots (like Glenwood Springs) will have a wider tourist draw than towns without the charging infrastructure.

The day will come when you go to sleep by yourself in a car and wake up, well rested, at your destination, 3K miles away. The car will stop at the necessary charge stations and recharge all on its own and then head back down the highway. Flying will still be the quickest way to travel from NY to LA, but Tesla will change that for many other common long distance adventures.

Flying from LA to Vegas used to be something I preferred over driving. Now, I’d prefer to drive from LA to Vegas in a Tesla. I get some great carnitas burritos and my total driving time in only one hour longer than it is to fly when you factor in drive time to the airport, TSA lines, and getting a cab to the strip/hotel.

Then there’s the flexibility in time. Catching a flight from LAX to Aspen (closest airport to Glenwood Springs, CO) is a one hour drive to LAX + one hour arrival time window + two-hour flight to Aspen + one hour drive + whatever time on the tarmac (usually at least 30+ minutes). That 5.5 hours is considerably shorter than the estimated 17 hours of Tesla driving. 12 hours of time is a whole day at the caverns, adventure park, and hot springs. So, you can’t beat that… other than there being only a single non-stop flight between LAX and Aspen per day and flights with layovers can end up being longer than 15 hours in flight time.

It’s also nearly $400/ticket to get to Aspen on that non-stop flight. Tesla supercharging (which is included with my Tesla Model S but can run upwards of $0.26/kWh) would be approximately $81.02 for as many people as you can fit into a Model S (five adults, comfortably). Even with just two people, the $ cost savings is notable. Throw in the scenic drive and those Barstow Del Taco carnitas burritos…

Tesla road trips will increase regional tourism. Plenty of couples/families like mine will enjoy slightly longer road trips because they are now more comfortable and easier to accomplish thanks to Autopilot and superchargers! Families will be brought closer, and communities will prosper from friendly road trip tourism. My wife & I already have several trips planned for a variety of adventures, and based upon the wonderful Tesla drivers we met along the way, we’re not the only ones!

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culture, Economics, life, philosophy, predictions, thoughts

Gas-Ex

EV owners have a problem: detachment from the daily anxiety of driving a gas-powered vehicle.

This might seem a bit odd given how often the idea of range anxiety and long charge times come up about EV ownership, but those are obvious anxieties. The daily anxiety experienced by ICE drivers is much more subtle and happens much more often. It’s based upon psychological conditioning, and most ICE drivers will experience it multiple times in a single day along their daily commute.

The concept is fairly simple to understand in that it’s not a shocking, jarring anxiety like what one would experience during an automobile accident or by having a boss constantly yelling at you at work. This is an extremely subtle anxiety along the lines of living paycheck to paycheck and coming home during the summer to realize you forgot to turn off your air conditioning unit. Or getting your property tax bill.

It’s something I noticed the other day while driving my EV along PCH and passing a gas station I used to stop at near Zuma Beach when I would take a motorcycle ride down the coast. PCH is a wonderful highway for a relaxing, yet exhilarating motorcycle ride The scenery is some of the best coastline and mountains you can find in the world. There’s a reason it’s been used in so many movies over the years. I digress to help paint the serene picture of riding through Malibu on a warm summer beach day. It’s pure bliss. Kinda…

Over the years, I’ve chosen that particular station because it was consistently the least expensive gas in the area. On my latest drive by the gas station, I was reminiscing of my motorcycle rides through Malibu and stopping at that gas station because it was the least expensive. That’s when I had the realization about what I’d like to call Acute Gas Price Anxiety.

The concept is pretty simple and easy to replicate for your scientific sample size of one (or more, depending upon how many drivers one has in their household). Why do you choose the gas stations that you choose? If you have an app on your phone like GasBuddy (which has been around since 2000) you are likely weighting your gas station choices heavily towards gas prices. Even if you don’t have GasBuddy on your phone, if you are presented with no time constraint and an intersection with 2+ gas stations, you’re going to pick the one with the lower prices, then brand preference, then lines.

What does any of this have to do with anxiety?

This is something along the lines of what the guys over at Cleantechnia alluded to years ago, identifying 4 types of gas station anxiety.

Driving an EV allows you to become conscious of the subtle anxiety our minds create when driving by gas stations. An ICE driver will glance at gas prices even if there is no need for gas at the time of driving by the gas station. The train of thoughts that continue are where the subtle anxiety comes in. Thoughts about whether you should get gas now, before gas prices go up heading into the weekend. Thoughts about how unfair gas taxes are. Thoughts about how you might not take that trip to the beach this weekend because it’s going to require getting a fresh tank of gas that you don’t have the money to pay for until you get paid the following week.

This subtle anxiety compound any negative trains of thought you are already having. The results can be detrimental to your short-term well-being as well as your long-term mental health. Constant exposure to this subtle anxiety might seem, on the surface, trivial or a problem for the “weak-minded”. Yet, plenty of psychological studies suggest that prolonged exposure to subtle stress is detrimental to our health.

As an EV driver, you silently glide by the stink of the gas station. Silent in your vehicle and also silent in your mind. There isn’t the chatter of stress nipping at the heels of the back of your mind. An EV driver experiences driving completely differently from an ICE driver, not just because an EV doesn’t pour exhaust out the back, constantly vibrate from the engine, make noise, accelerate slowly, and have noticeable transmission shifts no matter how smooth its transmission is.

No, the daily life of an EV drive is delusional: absent the daily subtle anxiety of gas prices and the trains of thought tied to gas prices and the oil industry.

blogging, technology

The EV federal tax incentive is NOT a subsidy

A knock I hear frequently about electric vehicles (EVs) is that they require government subsidies to sell well rather than letting the “free market” decide. I’m assuming “free market” refers to dealer network and government collusion and externality benefits of petrol fueled vehicles. However, I usually have to distinguish between a tax credit (which is NOT a subsidy) and a tax rebate (which is a subsidy). The federal tax credit afforded to EV owners is often (incorrectly) labeled a “subsidy” by anti-EV folks. However, the federal tax credit for an EV purchase is limited to the buyer’s federal tax burden.

If you have no federal taxes, Uncle Sam does not cut you a check for $7,500. If you only have $5,000 federal taxes owed at the end of the year, you also don’t get a $2,500; you just don’t have to pay the $5,000 in federal taxes. In short, it’s you keeping more of your own money (which is why it’s called a tax incentive) rather than you getting someone else’s money (which is why it’s NOT a subsidy).

State issued tax rebates are subsidies. Not having to pay for the health problems caused by driving a petrol powered car is a subsidy.

blogging, Economics, Environment

Resolving the Externalities of Internal Combustion Engine Usage or the answer to Electric Car Tax Incentives

Anyone following the rise of electric car transportation has often heard gripes from anti-EV folks about a “dirty grid”, “subsidies”, or even how EVs allegedly produce more pollution during their manufacturing than what is produced for the entire life of an internal combustion engine. Wired magazine even go into the mix with their (bunk) article talking about how EVs aren’t as green as you think they are. I’m not going to link to any of these “articles” because they are, quite frankly, gibberish. They often make claims such as lithium being a rare earth material (it’s not) or that Tesla uses permanent magnets in their motors (they’re AC induction, so they don’t; and Tesla gets all of it’s cobalt in North America).

Instead, I’m going to link to articles that provide insight into an often overlooked topic of internal combustion engines (ICE): externality economic benefits afforded to ICE manufacturers. As is turns out, driving in rush hour traffic is potentially twice as hazardous to your health than currently believed. This externality benefit is afforded to car manufacturers who are making ICE. They incur relatively zero cost for developing a product that produces emissions that the manufacturer has zero responsibility for. This is a tremendous economic benefit afforded to ICE manufacturers. While they are responsible for containing the pollution produced during the manufacturing of their product, they have zero responsibility for the pollution created during the usage of their production AND there is no way to use their product without producing pollution (unless you put the car in a museum).

One might argue that the driver should be responsible for that pollution or that the driver is responsible for the pollution because of paying taxes on gas. Let’s not pretend that the taxes on gasoline are even used for their intended purpose of rebuilding roads let alone healthcare costs incurred from the pollution caused by refining and burning gasoline. Also, the manufacturers of ICE don’t provide (or even have) the ability to collect pollution, so we’re stuck with tailpipe emissions spread to someone else’s property and effecting their lives. These effects are very costly, and the burden (as detailed in the RAND report I’ve linked to) is on health insurance companies, or government, and individuals deprived of their health liberty due to no action of their own! Certainly, one’s own rush hour car pollution is enough to kill them dozens of times over, but I digress… Perhaps the health insurance companies could lobby to get their money back?

The solution is fairly simple. Place a health insurance tax on the manufacturer of ICE vehicles that cannot be passed along to the consumer unless that consumer is a government agency. This tax would be paid to companies and individuals paying for health insurance to help offset their increased medical costs due to the products developed and sold by ICE manufacturers. The tax would be based upon the pollution (we’re not just talking about CO2 but ALL air pollution) produced by a vehicle from driving it 10K miles per year with the average life being 10 years for the vehicle and adjusted annually for the increased pollution that an ICE produces as it ages (which is the opposite of what happens with EV since grids are becoming cleaner each year).

The results from this would be reduced out of pocket medical costs for individuals since they are no longer subsidizing ICE manufacturers, a likely bankrupt automobile industry as electric cars would suddenly become significantly less expensive than ICE, and we can finally get rid of those tax incentives for electric vehicles that anti-EV folks love to complain about! Joking aside, there are considerable health costs that ICE manufacturers are causing by continuing to manufacture products that have no method to avoid. Taxing the manufacturers for their externality benefit they receive at our expense is a potential way to provide those manufacturers with incentives to make better products that are less detrimental to our health and puts the financial burden on the industry directly responsible for substantial increase in healthcare costs over the last half century.

blogging

How the Chevy Volt Could Become the Most Popular Electric Car in the World

Development of the 2016 Chevy Volt is well under way, and it doesn’t seem like GM is giving many hints as to what is going to change with the v2.0 of the Volt. The latest Volt production has slightly more battery range than the first version of the Volt, but there is no guarantee that will remain the case. There have been suggestions of adding a fifth seat and reducing overall battery capacity, among many other rumors (including a minivan version). The only thing that seems to be guaranteed with the 2016 Volt is that it will retain it’s signature look (which means it’s not going to look like a weird space ship like the Nissan Leaf).

Here’s what I think GM should do with the Volt that would make it the most popular electric car in the world!

  1. Ignore the vocal minority about the fifth seat. Sure, there are people who will swear they’d buy the Volt if they just had that magical fifth seat. I’m calling BS on that. Most commuters are driving by themselves. So, this idea that Volt sales will have a massive leap forward by reducing battery capacity to fit a fifth seat is a farce.
  2. Reduce the engine size and increase efficiency. From what it looks like, GM is already on this. The reduced weight and better efficiency will make for better electric range in the first place!
  3. Increase the regenerative braking. Anyone who has driven a Volt in traffic knows that dropping the Volt into L will make your range that much better as well as reduce brake usage significantly. Take it a step further, GM! Give a regen option like the Tesla Model S where it’s so aggressive that you turn the brake lights on. Allow the customer to turn it on or off because there are a ton of drivers that don’t understand regenerative braking and will be bringing it into the dealerships over and over because they think something is wrong with the car.
  4. Ditch the flywheel transmission. Yes, the Volt does have a flywheel that will engage when going up a hill and the vehicle is in mountain mode. The idea is that it gives just that much more oomph that will help you get up a steep hill faster. Outside the Grapevine in Southern California, I can’t think of many other places that have hills that are so steep for so long.

    Here’s an example: You can drive from Santa Cruz to Pleasonton, CA on a fully charged Volt! Again, insane, right? That’s more than 50 miles, and there’s a giant mountain in your way! The Volt only goes 38 EPA electric. Except that the real world and EPA are completely different. I have made that drive in a Volt before. In fact, I almost made it to Dublin from Santa Cruz, and I’ve been able to go nearly 60 miles on a single charge (on several occasions) without driving 20 mph. You drive up the mountain from Santa Cruz and the downhill is so long that by the time you pass the Cat Tavern, you’ll realize that all the battery it took to get up the hill is coming back to you and then some!

    Ditch the flywheel, GM! The electric motor is plenty.

  5. Offer an option with triple (or preferably quadruple) battery range. Sounds completely insane, right!??! Here’s the great news. The Volt uses 10.9 kWh of it’s 16.5 kWh battery capacity (roughly 66%). My understanding is that this was done to avoid the horrors of battery degradation, but batteries are getting better and better for both capacity and less degradation. Given the current EPA rating of 38 miles electric, the Volt’s true electric range is roughly 57 miles before becoming a brick. Of course, real-world scenarios (like the Santa Cruz to Pleasanton drive I mentioned above) could mean range upwards of 90 miles!

    GM should stick with at least a little bit of cushion on their battery for warranty reasons alone, but 33% is definitely too much. Take it down to 20% on the existing battery configuration. That’s a software upgrade, so even existing Volt owners could get an electric range of roughly 46 miles by just getting a software upgrade.

    What will capacity be with battery technology for 2016 production? Most likely at least another 4 miles EPA with the existing 33% battery reserve. That means we could be looking at roughly 50 miles when we combine battery efficiency improvements with the software update I’m talking about.

    Back to increasing total battery capacity… Chevy Volt batteries are on the market to consumers for just over $2600, which means that GM is paying significantly less than that for the battery packs they’re putting into the Volt during production. The trick would be to figure out the proper configuration for being able to triple physical capacity. There’s a limited amount of space to work with, but I’m betting that the Volt can definitely be made to support 3-4x the battery capacity. Reduce the size of the gas tank or even take it out all together (which would then mean you can get rid of the gas generator completely, and could likely get up to 5x). Even if we took the $2600 retail price of the battery price, it would add $7800 to $10400 to the sticker price of a Volt to have 3-4x the battery capacity. Sans a motor and gas tank, and that would theoretically drop costs for GM as well.

    Is there a market for a $45000 electric car that can go nearly 200 miles (the additional battery weight will reduce mileage, so it’s not just a projected electric range x4)?

    I’m betting there’s a HUGE market for that type of car at that price point! If GM can still keep a small engine and 2-3 gallon gas tank to give you the extra 90+ miles you might need from time to time, then you really have an amazing electric car offering! No, it’s not the performance of a Tesla Model S, but it’s also a fraction of the price.

    Going with the increased battery capacity and smaller gas range extender, this Volt configuration would likely net buyers the full federal and state rebates. So, the out of pocket cost on this type of Volt would be roughly $35000 ($45000 minus $7500 federal and now $2500 state) in a state like California. Seems like an excellent option to me!

  6. Offer an option to have a 6.6KW charger with the larger battery capacity and utilization. Studies are showing that DC fast charging doesn’t have much of an impact on battery life. The Volt takes roughly 4 hours to charge with it’s existing battery setup. Recharging a fully depleted battery would then take 16 hours… Not a good thing. The larger battery capacity would need at least double the charging rate. Better yet, quadruple the charge rate at the same time! 180 miles in 4 hours would be phenomenal, and probably unnecessary.

    One need only look at the stats that you can find in the Volt smartphone app to see that there are plenty of people pushing over 2000 miles per month in EV miles. That’s roughly 67 EV miles per day, which means that Volt owners are pushing their Volts’ EV range daily! There’s clearly demand for more electric range, more so than a fifth seat.

  7. Offer the Traverse as a Volt. Don’t go with the small MPV that many have been suggesting is going to happen or something small like the Equinox. The Traverse is a legit SUV rather than a crossover. It seats 7-8 people, and GM could easily get 5-6x the battery capacity of a current Volt into something the size of the Traverse. Sure, the weight will mean that the Traverse Volt doesn’t go 300+ miles, but imagine an SUV that goes over 200 miles electric with another 90+ miles range extension that starts at roughly $50k! That’s going to be nearly half the price of a Tesla Model X. Sure, it won’t be as cool, but $40K is a lot to pay for cool.

It’s been suggested that GM doesn’t make any money on the Volt right now. That might be the case, but I’m betting that with everything I list above GM would be making a profit on these types of Volts!

Radio

Who Really Causes Environmental Problems?

Some of our largest environmental problems have not been caused by who you might think. Often, environmentalists cite the Bush Administration or “capitalists” as causes for major environmental problems. Yet, the contributors to some of the largest environmental problems we face today are none other than environmentalists. They are environmentalists who jump on the band wagon of plastic vs. paper bags or electric cars or ethanol fuel.

Plastic saves trees but bio-degrades only after 900 years, is made from crude oil materials, and has amassed such a large pile of garbage that there is now a massive island of trash floating in the Pacific Ocean

The electric car is a mythological zero emission vehicle

And bio-fuels will lead to deforestation.

Don’t contribute to the problem, educate yourself by listening to my radio show this weekend. Dean and I have some great guests on the show, and we’ll be talking about environmentalists who damage the environment.