I stopped by the local National Plug-In Day get-together Sunday at Schneider Electric and saw about a dozen or so Leafs and one Chevy Volt (that’s the silver car pictured above). I spoke to the Volt guy, who told me his car runs for 40 miles like a Leaf, then switches to a gasoline engine. I asked him if he’s ever tempted to keep his battery charged so he never has to use gasoline. His answer? “All the time!”
Yeah, I guess there’s a market for a Volt, people who regularly need to travel longer distances and such. For me, I don’t see the point, but not everyone has a second car to fall back on. Mostly, I suspect the gas engine back-up appeals to people who suffer from “range anxiety.” Which, it turns out, I have, according to some Leaf folks I spoke with.
I talked to one couple who said they don’t see the need for public charging stations because, even though they live down in Franklin, they’ve made two trips to Nashville on one charge and have learned to stop worrying about range issues. That’s what my Leaf-owning friend in Williamson County says, too. So even though I start worrying when my charge gets below 50%, I’m being unnecessarily silly. This is “range anxiety.”
Okay, I’ll cop to it. Part of it is that I just don’t drive that much. I’ve put 750 miles on my car since July. My friend says she’s put more miles than that on her bicycle! She’s put about 4,000 miles on her Leaf in the same amount of time and has calculated that she’s saved about $350-$375 in gas money so far (and they’d be due for an oil change now, too.) So that’s pretty significant savings.
The Blink charger offers a lot of data on the keypad to help you calculate stuff like this. We pay .091 per kWh, so I figured for the month of September I spent $5.15 on fueling my Leaf. Blink calculated I used the equivalent of 8.16 gallons of gas in September, which at $3.25/gallon would have been, what, $26.50 or so? So for the month of September I saved over $20 in gas. I’ve also saved 46.48 lbs. in CO2 — not much compared to the 23,432 lbs. of CO2 I saved because of the solar panels, but that will increase as I drive more.
Speaking of solar, Schneider Electric has an amazing 6-acre solar farm in Smyrna which powers their factory there. What a great idea.
Last time I flew into Nashville I was struck by all of the giant warehouses just begging for solar panels on their rooftops. That’s a lot of wasted real estate out there.
Meanwhile, the geniuses at TVA have decided the answer is to cut the size of the installations they will approve through their Generation Partners program — for the second year in a row. I haven’t researched this, but I’m going to guess TVA will say they are favoring smaller installations of the kind used by the residential market and small businesses; massive solar arrays installed by big corporations like Schneider won’t be selling their green power to TVA in the future. While I can appreciate encouraging smaller installations, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to focus on one more than the other. We need both. In a sane world TVA would realize its fossil plants are old and leaky, lawsuits are expensive, carbon trading is coming to America, and those distribution center rooftops are ideal real estate for PV systems.