Fiat offers a new color combo for the 500e!

I just found out today that Fiat has responded to customer demand and is going to be offering the color combo some of us wanted all along! They will now offer the black interior option, complete with orange striping along with the electric orange exterior color. For those who weren’t excited about having to try to keep a white interior clean, this is great news!

This information is courtesy of McKevitt Fiat in Berkeley, CA who called me today to ask me my final color choice for my Fiat 500e which should arrive in 4-6 weeks! the timing is hard to predict as they are still arriving on a rather haphazard schedule as Fiat struggles to meet the far great than expected demand for there first electric vehicle.

The only remaining mystery is whether or not the front fascia will be colored orange or white. It usually is colored to match the cars interior color but based on one sample my dealer has seen, it is likely to be white rather than black. This maybe due to the fact that orange cars were all planned with white interiors in mind. Hopefully this will have changed by the time I receive my car as the black and orange contrast is striking!


Last Days for Big Discount on Solar!

Earlier this year,  I was lucky enough to sign up for solar when Sungevity was having one of its biggest promotions of the year. The install went well and my system is working great. They are having another big promotion now, six months later. The catch is this promotion is only good to the end of this month which is just a few short days!

Here’s a link which includes a code that offers $1,000 back if you request a free quote before the end of this month. After the 31st the discount drops down to $500 still a nice discount.

If you end up getting solar with Sungevity, please come back and comment to let me know!

Is Gasoline Cheap or Expensive in the United States? And Why.

Gasoline Price in the United States

The historical pricing of gasoline in the United States, up over time.

One of the presenters here at Plug-in 2013 mentioned that gas was just under a dollar in 2000. That shocked me so I checked the historical price of gasoline in the U.S. and confirmed that her facts were indeed correct. In 13 years our gasoline has increased by 400% but compared to some parts of the world it seems quite cheap. In Europe gas ranges from around $8/gallon to close to $10/gallon in Norway and Turkey. It’s true however, that in some countries it’s less than in the United States.

Cheap gas is prevalent in Venezuela where it’s just pennies a gallon as well as in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to name a few.

But why is it cheaper in the United States than in Europe? How can the price range so much from well less than a dollar to $10? Turns out the big difference between Europe and the U.S. is the amount of tax added to the cost of the gasoline. Taxes are much higher in Europe, whereas in the U.S. the gas tax does not cover the actual cost of the gasoline (that cost includes our efforts to protect our supply) and certainly doesn’t cover the cost of maintaining our freeways as it used to do.

Our cost of gasoline is heavily subsidized by our federal government. But there is no “free lunch.” That money comes from income taxes which means that everyone pays for our petroleum whether they drive or not, as long as they pay income tax. That means that people who don’t own cars, or who drive electric cars, pay for gasoline. Why aren’t we in an uproar about this? Instead, we resist even the idea of taxes increasing, denying the fact that we are paying them all the while. We worry that an increase in gas taxes would disadvantage people who drive for a living and those with lower incomes — while at the same time those very people are paying a large portion of the cost of maintaining roads and wars using their income tax.

Recently, Washington state has begun charging a tax on electric vehicle owners so that they can pay their “fair share” of the cost of road maintenance — this of course ignores the fact that those people, or at least the majority of which who pay income tax, are already paying for a large part of the cost of our gasoline and roads!

Let’s put the tax where it belongs — on gasoline and not use our income tax for this purpose. What do you think? I look forward to your comments!


Recargo’s Research

In surveying users of the recargo website, they determined that people had a longest trip in the Electric Vehicle of just 90 miles. One out of ten people found public EV charging sites to be reliable. The key lack is of adequate availabilty of DC Fast Charge stations which allow compatible cars to be charged to 80% capacity in 20 minutes.

According to Norman Hajjar from Recargo this is the biggest barrier to EV adoption.

Tom Turrentine, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis, has found in his research that the “sweet spot” for range seems to be 120 miles which seems to meet the majority of people’s needs. Also, with a DC fast charger, it is realistic to double one’s range during an extended pit stop, provided of course that one can count on charging at one’s destination. I’d like to add that with an extended stay at the end of one’s trip, a standard 110 volt outlet can be sufficient to charge provided the car won’t be used extensively for a day or two.

BMW has tried to address this issue with their i3 which will offer both a range extender that adds 80 miles to the cars range as well as the option to have a DC Fast Charge port installed.

Personally, I like Fiat’s approach of offering a few car rental credit for those rare longer drives. Personally I only drive on long road trips two or three times a year so renting for those occasions is perfectly reasonable, especially with the cost included in the lease price of a car. The exceptional situation for me is when I would drive a bit further than normal, such as from Berkeley to San Jose and thus would need to charge at my destination, or take a different car, or public transportation. So in affect, it might prevent me from taking the car I want but it’s a rare occurrance and why focus a solution on the rare exception rather than the normal need?

Driving Demand: Britta Gross, Director, Advanced Vehicle Commercialization Policy, General Motors

Growing the market requires a focus on the vehicles. Will take time to get all dealerships up to speed on EVs.

The biggest challenge dealers have is the financial details. Consumers don’t always consider tax credits and rebates. California is an exception — there dealers can be confident and clear about what qualifies for how much.

We need to help dealers do homework and determine pricing with incentives.

GM has installed 395 workplace chargers. Provided for free to promote technology. Valuable for people who don’t have access to charging (or have 120volt only) at home.

GM has found that when targeting people and getting them to take a test drive of the Volt, then one out of three will buy a volt within several months. The key is getting people inside these vehicles.

Hard to communicate total cost of ownership to prospective buyers.

Fact is that EVs are luxurious compared to gas vehicles, quieter, better acceleration from standstill, no trips to gas station,

Via Motors at Plug-in 2013, Plug-in America’s Annual Conference

Via is targeting trucks as the light duty pickup trucks are the best selling vehicle in America. Some of their trucks offer the ability to export electric power at 110v and 240v to power tools. Fleets can receive up to $57,000 per vehicle as an incentive.

Key Fleet Customers include: Verizon, Coca Cola, Fedex, PG&E, Aaramark and many others.

Goto to determine how much an electric work vehicle can save you. Eight life cycle savings can be over $70,000. This is in addition to the zero emissions benefits!

Clean air and huge savings — sounds good to me!

Plug-America with Jessie Knight, Jr., SDG&E

Jessie Knight, Jr.

Jessie Knight, Jr. from SD&E, speaking at Plug-in America

Jessie spoke about San Diego Gas and Electrics accomplishments and goals going forwards. First he told us about San Diego’s adoption of Electric Vehicles including 600 charging stations and over 6000 electric vehicles on the road. 80% of all charging is accomplished between 12am and 5am when there is excess capacity on the grid and rates are lowest. SDG&E has already brought significant solar PV onto the grid to use for powering EV charging stations (EVSE). As the use of solar powered renewable energy increases, and abundance of electricity will be available at the peak of sun during the day. SDG&E plans to create a variable rate structure to promote EV charging when an over abundance is present — even if it is in the middle of the day!

What he didn’t discuss is how the charging stations will know about the rate changes and turn on and off. Most home charging stations are simple and do not have such technology built in so this functionality may be a ways off. In the long term, however, I think it is an invaluable way to balance individual needs while stabilizing the grid.

Plug-In 2013 in San Diego

I’m here in San Diego getting ready to attend the official opening party for the annual conference about electric vehicles. Things have come a very long way since I attended my first such event in 2010.

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to test drive both the new Chevy Spark EV as well as the relative old-timer, the Chevy Volt. I’ve previously driven the Tesla Model S, the Nissan Leaf and the Toyota Rav 4 (the last of which seemed to garner the least bit of interest).

For now, I’ll say that the Spark lives up to its reputation of being a surprisingly powerful if somewhat unrefined vehicle. It’s very much a go-kart like experience and while acceptable for a short commute I would not relish an extended drive in it. The Volt is much more refined, relaxed, and not nearly as impressive in its power-to-weight ratio.

Stay tuned for a more detailed write up of my test driving experiences along with news and photos from the conference.