When two wheels just aren’t enough.

Sustainable Danville Area Tip of the Month – September 2013

By Cynthia Ruzzi

I started a new job back in March.  It’s the first time I’ve worked within miles from home and I love it!  Instead of commuting down I680 for hours, I can now walk or bike to work…but it hasn’t really worked out that way.  First, I rationalized that I needed to get comfortable with the work culture and appropriate office attire.  I was thrilled to learn that my office building has showers and lockers and this motived me to commit to ride my bike at least three times a week.  I did keep my commitment for Bike-to-Work, but it honestly took more time to pack my clothes and change at the office then it did to peddle down the Iron Horse trail to my destination.  I have other excuses too – ‘It’s too cold in the morning’, ‘It’s too hot in the evening’, ‘I have too much to carry from the store’ and ‘I have friends to meet’.  But the number one excuse for not walking or peddling to work more often is Eddy, my EV!

Eddy is my electric vehicle.  To be specific, Eddy is a Nissan Leaf with LEAF standing for ‘Leading, Environmental, Affordable, Family’ car.  Guess this is true with over 30,000 on the road in the US. I count an open air Jeep, a few BMWs, Hondas, Toyotas and a Porsche amongst the autos that have moved me through years of driving, but I’ve never named a car before.  However, I love this car!

I was on the wait list for the first units delivered back in 2010, but I waited because we just didn’t need a new vehicle when my number came up. Waiting gave me lots of time to research and test drive alternative EVs and review my driving priorities.  Let’s start there.

Create a pattern of your daily driving habits.  When considering an EV, you have to get past ‘range anxiety’. This is the concern that you’ll run out of electric ‘juice’ before you reach your next charge station.  The average Northern Californian commutes 20-30 miles each way to work. While work proximity isn’t an issue for me, we do have a hybrid for longer weekend trips.  During the week most of my trips are local and rarely on the highway.  While the US Environmental Protection Agency official range for the 2013 year Leaf is 75 miles, I’m getting 95 miles between charges. And in a pinch, I can extend Eddy’s range by tapping into one of the many Chargepoint or Blink charging stations popping up in convenient places all over the East Bay.   

Buy a car that fits your driving habits. The Tesla S is a beautiful car whose luxury features make the top Lexus model look like an economy car.  However, given the limited time I spend behind the wheel and the Tesla price tag reaching past $70K – I would be paying over $13 per mile to glide in style. 

Buy a car that fits your cargo needs. Eddy seats five like clowns in a toy car.  However, two adults and a very large dog can be very comfortable around town.  Eddy’s large hatchback trunk has extra depth unlike the Ford which retrofitted the Focus and ‘stole’ trunk space for the batteries.

Don’t be fooled by plug-in hybrids.  My husband wants a Chevy Volt.  However, the Volt only goes 38 miles on an electric charge before reverting to driving on premium gas and getting only 35 city/40 highway as a hybrid. Perhaps this is a great trade-off for somebody if they only have one car or they have unpredictable driving habits. However, I’d put my money on a Prius III getting 50 miles a gallon on regular gas over a Chevy Volt if I’m driving to Sacramento or beyond. For more information about electric vehicles and fuel economy, visit http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/taxevb.shtml  

Save a dollar and use smart energy. Eddy doesn’t have a tail pipe so there’s zero pollution in motion.  However, since we ‘feed’ him twice a week from the PG&E grid and their energy is only 33% renewable, there is still pollution from PG&E firing coal plants for our power needs.  I’d love to add solar to our home, but we are energy conservative, and thus, we have only seen a $20 bump in our electric bill per month. So for now, I am content that our EV saves me a trip to the gas station, an additional federal tax credit of $7,500 and another $2,500 from the State of California for purchase of an electric vehicle.  And this makes up for not burning smart energy of my own – on two wheels.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News



One response to “When two wheels just aren’t enough.

  1. Cyn ~ WONDERFUL article~ clap, clap, clap! 🙂 Heidi