Category Archives: electric car

Living The Leaf Life, Update

In honor of Earth Day I thought I’d update folks on my Nissan Leaf experience. Short answer: yes I still love my car. No, I haven’t had any issues — not with range, nor with anything else.

The one question everyone always asks when I’m out and about is, “what kind of gas mileage do you get?” To which I always answer, “Zero.” Ha ha. People are still wrapping their heads around the idea of a non-internal combustion engine. And I get that; it’s a big change. The concept of a car without a tailpipe — which doesn’t require regular oil changes! — is a big effin’ deal, to paraphrase Joe Biden. You know what else the Leaf doesn’t do? Get hot. You come in from a long drive and the hood is pretty much cool to the touch.

The Leaf’s Carwings software tells me I average 7 miles per kWh. Based on that, we calculate I get the equivalent of 300 miles per gallon. That’s factoring in what NES charges for electricity on a $3.65/gallon gas price: since we have a solar array on our roof and are actually selling our power several months out of the year, it doesn’t quite work out that way for us. But you get the general idea.

And no, we haven’t seen any uptick in our electric bill; in fact, as I’ve mentioned before, because of home energy efficiency work we did last year like insulation and ductwork sealing, we’re actually using less electricity than last year, when we didn’t have an EV.

All of this has to be presented with a big caveat: I don’t drive a lot, mostly just in-town stuff. So, “your mileage may vary.”

Last week I saw this story in a local paper about the number of public charging stations which go unused. We see these stories a lot these days, and they annoy the hell out of me. Fer crying out loud, people: the Leaf has only been available in this state for, what, a year? Jesus. Give it a rest. This stuff takes time. Quit yer whining.

You know, I’m always hearing people say, “there’s an EV charger at such-and-such place and .. I never see anyone using it!” My response? So what! How many times do you see empty handicapped parking spaces? Or how about those parking spaces retailers reserve for expectant mothers? I see them at shopping malls and grocery stores all the time, and they’re always empty. No one bitches about those, do they?

These are things that retailers do to serve their customers (except for handicapped parking, which is required by law). If you’re going to be all “free hand of the market” about this stuff, then let a business owner do what they think serves their clientele. Don’t get your shorts in a knot because you think you know better. I’ve got a steaming cup of STFU with your name on it.

I mostly charge my car at home. Sometimes I charge when I’m out and about, but because I live in town, these public charging stations are not for me. They’re for Leaf owners I know who live out in Williamson County and come into town to do their business. These public chargers will be used as the number of EV owners increases.

And let me add, I’d use the ones down in Brentwood and Williamson County if I knew they were there. There really needs to be a better way of letting people know where these things are: some kind of standardized signage or something. Carwings is supposed to tell you where chargers are located but half the time they don’t show up on your console screen until you actually use one.

So far, the Leaf life is working out really well. Last time I crunched the numbers I calculated I spent $8 a month on transportation, versus the $100 or so I’d spend previously. The economics work, but also: it’s just a great little car.


Filed under Earth Day, electric car, energy future, environment

Gov. Haslam: EV Owners Are Watching

Gov. Bill Haslam, R-Pilot Oil, says we have a major problem looming, which is funding our road infrastructure due to declining gas tax revenue. His Transportation Commissioner concurs, saying:

Transportation Commissioner John Schroer said in budget hearings last week that he has met with the heads of the House and Senate transportation committees about the effect of improving fuel economy and the advent of electric vehicles on Tennessee’s gas tax system.

“We’re going to have to figure out before it’s too late how we’re going to systematically fund transportation in the future,” Schroer said at the hearing. “We can’t always rely on the gas tax to be the way that we fund transportation.”

Schroer said part of the discussion with lawmakers centered on what to do about electric vehicles, such as the Nissan Leaf.

Well, you can’t say I didn’t see this one coming. Leaf owners such as myself well know that we will have to pay some kind of tax to make up for the gas taxes we no longer pay, this is not a shocker. Fair enough, we’re using the roads, we’ll pay our fair share. But “a major problem for the state’s infrastructure over the next decade”? Doubtful.

There are so few EVs on the road now and for the foreseeable future that I doubt the loss of our gas tax revenue constitutes “a major problem for the state’s infrastructure.” I mean really, if we’re going to have that many EVs on the road in 10 years then you folks better be more worried about the electric grid than fixing potholes in state roads. Slap an extra $100 tax on the sale of every EV and I think we’re done for now.

Pardon me for being suspicious that the Leaf has been singled out. You know, there are people who run their vehicles on cooking oil; they don’t pay gas tax, either. Why not mention them, too? They’ve been getting a free ride for years. Meanwhile, people who buy gasoline for things like lawnmowers DO pay the tax but don’t use the roads. Right now, from a revenue perspective, I’d say it’s all a wash.

But yes, over time we will need to address the issue, as will the entire nation. This is not an issue unique to Tennessee. I’m just not seeing the urgency here. And pardon me for saying this but the Haslam Administration doesn’t have a good track record when it rushes in to things.

Unless… well, unless Gov. Pilot Oil has something else in mind. I do think such cynicism is warranted, based on the governor’s past actions. After all, Gov. Haslam, you did leave your Pilot Oil holdings out of your “blind” trust by pretending to not understand the entire point of a blind trust.

And you did play all innocent when your freeze on new state regulations meant the family’s chain of truck stops could skirt an environmental rule affecting fuel storage tanks. You batted those baby browns and gave us that aw-shucks grin and said, “who, me? Did I do that? Well, I do declare!”

You know you did, governor. So I really just don’t trust your motives here, nor should anyone. No offense, but you sorta asked for it. It’s obvious that gas-free EVs and higher CAFE standards (which you openly opposed, for obvious reasons) are going to cut into Pilot Oil profits eventually. I’m not denying that. And you are in a position to keep tabs on the family business in a way the public is not, because Pilot Oil is a privately-held company. Meanwhile, as governor, you are in a position to enact policies that directly impact said privately-held company. That’s just the facts. You basically asked us to just trust you, but why should we? I don’t trust any politician.

So Gov. Haslam, I conclude that your conflict of interest just keeps rearing its ugly head. That just really sucks for you. It just won’t go away. That said, this is a problem you created when you chose to keep your Pilot Oil holdings out of your blind trust.

It’s just inconceivable to me that you won’t solve this “major problem” in a way that benefits the people who sell gasoline: mainly, you and your family. And our local news media’s willful amnesia about the source of your family fortune is pretty sucky too, since we’re on the topic.

Anyway, I’m putting the governor on notice: I’m watching. I’m paying attention. I’m doubtful that you will take any action against the interests of Pilot Oil. And I’m very suspicious of this sudden appearance of a “major problem” for our infrastructure.

Don’t think for a second I won’t call you on it. You’ve been warned.


Filed under Bill Haslam, electric car, infrastructure, taxes, Tennessee

Leaf Peeping

Look At All The Leafs!

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.


Filed under electric car, environment

Living The Leaf Life

I’ve had my new, all-electric Leaf for about 6 weeks, and I was out of town for two of those, so really it’s been a month of driving time. So here’s my update.

First of all, I totally love it. I love not worrying about gas prices anymore (how much is gas? Anyone? Bueller?). I love all the gadgets and doo-dads, which let me add are not unique to the Leaf. I still get confused by the keyless entry … on more than one occasion I’ve left my keys in the car, which is a good way to get your car stolen. I also sometimes forget to put it in park (which is the push of a button) before turning it off (another push of a button.) Too many buttons to push; I’ve been driving for 35 years and old habits die hard.

I’ve put a little over 400 miles on the Leaf and have taken it on the interstate just twice. I love how it drives, love how quiet it is. After years of driving an SUV I love being small again. I forgot how great it is to be able to zip in and out of parking places.

But I know, I know .. you want to know about the range, don’t you? That’s the first thing everyone asks: how far can you go on a charge? My answer is: I don’t know! It depends on how you’re driving (interstate or surface roads), if you’re in “eco” mode, if you’re running the A/C and have a car full of passengers, etc. The Leaf has regenerative braking, so you’re recharging your battery as you drive, too. So it’s hard to tell. So far the rule of thumb — 100 miles — seems about right.

Let me add, I have a friend with a Leaf who lives in Williamson County. She drives her daughter in to Nashville every day and says the Leaf goes further than you think. She put 1,200 miles on her car in three weeks so she would know. I haven’t had a chance to put my car to that kind of test yet.

My first two weeks I was a mileage hawk, I’d freak out if my charge got below 60 miles. I was paranoid I’d run out of charge for some bizarre reason. Now I barely pay attention to it. One of these days that will get me into trouble, I’m sure.

Plus, it’s not like there’s a rule that you have to be on empty to recharge! I’ll recharge at 70 miles if I think I’m going to be doing a lot of driving the next day. The charge issue really is not as big of a deal as I thought it would be. There are several public charging stations around Nashville and I’ve taken to using the one at the Publix grocery store, too. I plug it in and can get another 10 or 20 miles while I’m doing my shopping and other errands. Multi-tasking!

The second thing everyone asks is, “what’s your electric bill like?” I have received two electric bills since getting the Leaf and both showed we used substantially less electricity this year than the same months last year. That’s a reflection of the home energy efficiency upgrades we made earlier this year — foam insulation in the attic, insulating and caulking in the crawl space and duct work, etc. (People, if you haven’t done this to your home, go into your wallet right now, pull out a $20 bill, and throw it in the garbage can. Now do that every week. That is an illustration of what you are doing by not insulating and caulking your home.)

So again: I don’t know! Suffice it to say, I’m not using so much electricity to charge my car that I’ve countered the effect of our home energy efficiency upgrades.

In many ways, nothing has changed. The Leaf is a car like any other. But in other ways, everything has changed. I mentioned using the public charging station at Publix, well let me tell you: I have now changed where I do all of my grocery shopping. I used to shop at Whole Foods because their organic produce can’t be beat (can someone explain why the organic produce sections at traditional grocery stores are so crappy? The produce is never fresh and the selection always sucks). But if I can recharge my car for free while I’m doing my shopping, hell yeah I’ll shop there. And then I moved my checking account to the bank in the Publix shopping center so I can do my banking while I’m there. And there’s a terrific little wine store there too, even a nail salon if I’m so inclined. So now I can kill and hour or so with shopping, banking, and other stuff while recharging my car!

So get a clue, Nashville retailers. An EV charger brings customers — not just for you, but for everyone around you. And Whole Foods, you really screwed up by installing a charging station at your Franklin store but not the Nashville one. What were you thinking?

And here’s another thing. The other night we went out to dinner and took the Leaf. Amazingly, there was another Leaf in the parking lot — I’m not the only one driving an electric car in Nashville! So just a little tip, Nashville retailers.

I’m excited to see more public charging stations crop up. There’s now one at the Loveless Cafe. The Loveless is pretty far from me, so it would be fun to take the Leaf out there and recharge while enjoying some yummy chicken and biscuits. But what if I get out there and someone is using the charger? Or worse … a non-EV is parked in that spot? (Judging by this picture that has been a problem in the past). That would be horrible. We’ll have to see what happens.

I bought an annual $10 Green Parking Permit from the Davidson County Clerk last week. This allows me to park downtown in city lots and on the street without paying. With hockey season coming up, we’ll be downtown a lot more and $10 is about how much you have to pay per night. I think we’ll get a lot of use out of it. Just a tip: you don’t have to drive an electric car to be eligible for the Green Parking Permit deal (but you do have to live in Davidson County). You can see if your vehicle qualifies here.

So far, so good. I’m loving the Leaf life. For anyone who doesn’t have to commute 80 gazillion miles a day, it’s a great car.


Filed under electric car, environment, Nashville

My New Ride

Hey, Gov. Bill “Pilot Oil” Haslam, BP, the American Enterprise Institute, Koch Brothers, ExxonMobil, and the rest of you dirty energy folks! Suck on this:

My Blue Leaf

The first thing you’ll notice: no tail pipe! The second thing you’ll notice, if you drive one: no heat! I pulled the car into the garage and the hood is still cool to the touch.

I’ve had this car for, oh, about two hours now and it has a ton of features and gadgets that will take me a week to figure out. But really it’s just like any other car. There are a few things I’ll have to get used to, but little that’s unique to the Leaf, or the electric engine. Sure, there’s the no-noise thing, you know the car is “on” because a green light tells you. But anyone who drives a hybrid is used to that (my old Toyota hybrid says “READY” in big letters.) That’s because there’s no engine “rumble” like you get with an internal combustion engine to let you know the car has started.

The Leaf starts with the push of a button, and you shift into drive or reverse with a weird little toggle thingie. If you’ve ever driven a stick-shift and learned the old H gear system, the Leaf’s toggle is counter-intuitive: reverse is to the left and forward, drive is to the left and down. And I’m also going to have to get used to looking in a display screen when backing out of a parking space, not looking behind me: the display screen has much better visibility.

The car is eerily quiet, something else you’d be used to if you drove a hybrid. Except the Leaf stays quiet, whereas the hyrbid eventually has an engine rumble. As any student of physics knows, noise and exhaust are signs of inefficiency. So the fact that my car is quiet and has no tailpipe is to me a sign of progress.

The stuff that will take me forever to get used to are the satellite radio, GPS map, Carwings, cell phone bluetooth connection, etc. Except for Carwings, which is unique to the Leaf, I think all the rest of the tech stuff is pretty much standard on most new cars these days. I’m not that tech savvy so I will need to spend a couple days figuring out all the doo-dads and gadgets.

I must say, it’s awfully … blue. I’m sort of wishing we’d gone with the white. Actually, I wish there’d been a green option. I mean, it’s called a Leaf! Y’all didn’t think of making one in green? The only color options were blue, white, silver, black and red. Ah well, maybe next model.

I do feel a little bit as though I’m fiddling as the Titanic sinks (or the economy burns), buying a new car right now. Of course, I reserved my Leaf way back in May 2010. I had no control over the timing of this purchase, and boy I sure wish it had been a month ago, before the whole debt ceiling crisis threatened to take down the economy. But we needed a new car, and gas and oil changes are one less expense I have to worry about.

So, off to drive my new car.


Filed under electric car

The Tennessean Strikes Again

More corporate astroturfing from The Tennessean? I know, y’all are shocked!

Our local fishwrap ran a hit piece on electric vehicles today, using the National Center for Public Policy Research as its source. This group is another one of those right-wing think tanks funded by the usual suspects (Scaife, Olin and Bradley foundations, as well as Philip Morris and ExxonMobil). They have an anti-environmental agenda, and have been on the, um, “leading edge” of climate change denial since the ’90s. They’re pro-fracking, pro-drilling, and anti-endangered species. Their president is Amy Moritz Ridenour, who recently found her way over here to comment on my “There Is No Light Bulb Ban” post. Basically these are people who if they saw a butterfly floating by, they’d stomp on it.

I’d forgotten about Ridenour’s NCPPR connection (funny, since it was just a few days ago. D’oh!), but I remembered they were in the news for laundering Tom DeLay’s travel money. The organization set off big Jack Abramoff bells with me, as well. So I Google’d. Ah yes: Abramoff was a former board member and used this organization to distribute some of his Choctaw donations:

Another scholar whose Abramoff Fellowship has gone largely unquestioned is Amy Ridenour, who was and remains president of the right-wing National Center for Public Policy Research. Ridenour received some unwelcome attention last year when she testified before a Senate committee investigating Abramoff’s activities. The subject was a $1 million grant that Abramoff, a longtime friend of Ridenour’s who served on her board, funneled from his client, the Mississippi Choctaw Indian tribe, through NCPPR. Some of the money ended up in Abramoff’s pocket. Ridenour testified that she was unaware of the latter transaction. But why did she agree to let NCPPR be a front group for these contributions in the first place? And why did she similarly agree to put NCPPR’s imprimatur on a congressional junket that Abramoff led to Great Britain, one that famously included a stop at the St. Andrews golf course in Scotland? (Ridenour has said she didn’t know in advance about this side trip.)

Ah, well. That’s all water under the bridge. But you know, it’s a little odd that The Tennessean never even identified the NCPPR as a conservative group — something I believe the organization itself openly admits. Their website identifies them as a group

supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.

Isn’t that code for, “Hey we’re a conservative group supportive of the Republican Party!” You’d think The Tennessean would have mentioned their source’s partisan leanings. Sadly, no.

And as for Bonner Cohen, the “senior fellow” they quoted? Let’s ask SourceWatch:

Bonner Cohen headed EPA Watch, which received funding from Philip Morris. He purported to edit EPA Watch as an independent newsletter published and distributed by the non-profit American Policy Center, but in fact it was a publication of the APCO & Associates PR Group, originally owned by Philip Morris’s Washington legal firm, Arnold & Porter (ie A&P Co = APCO)

During this time he shared the work with Steve Milloy (“Junkman”), who was running the organization known as The Advancement for Sound Science Coalition (TASSC), which purported to be a grass-roots, sound-science organization, but which was originally a tobacco industry front (run also by APCO) pushing a “sound science” line.

Milloy clearly wrote a number of the articles published in EPA Watch, and Cohen eventually became listed as President of TASSC when it moved from being a vehicle just for defense of the tobacco industry, to having a wider agenda, opposing government attempts to regulate a number of polluting industries for the benefit of public health.

A Philip Morris document states that EPA Watch was an “asset” established to assist Philip Morris achieve a broader impact than just on the issue of second-hand smoke. Another Philip Morris document argues the need to “develop a plan for EPA Watch / Bonner Cohen as expert on EPA matters, i.e. regular syndicated radio features on EPA activities.”

Oh, so in other words, another corporate astroturfer. Yeah, we figured as much.

The only thing that would make this more perfect is if The Tennessean got Bonner Cohen to write a “Tennessee Voices” column.

Hey, Tennessean: you still suck. But don’t worry, you’re apparently in good company.


Filed under astroturfing, electric car, media manipulation, right wing, The Tennessean

The Incredible, InEVitable Leaf

Today Mr. Beale and I went down to Nissan headquarters in Cool Springs to test out the new Leaf as part of their “drive electric tour.” It was quite an amazing experience. If you get a chance to check one of these out, I recommend it.

There were about 25 or so people in our group, from all walks of life: engineers, car enthusiasts, DFH-types, you name it. I was impressed with the intelligent questions people asked; these were clearly enthusiasts. Well, except for the lone asshole in our group who arrived having decided he didn’t like EVs for some reason. Dude, why’d you sign up for the tour, then? He snorted at the battery’s 100,000 mile warranty (“What happens if there’s a problem at 400,000 miles? Huh? HUH?!”) Let me add, I heard that same comment when I bought my hybrid. The batteries were only gonna last a year and cost thousands of dollars to replace! Well, wrong.

Most hilariously though was his issue with the “e” logo on the home charging station, which really seemed to tick this guy off. “Will all chargers have that? Even the public ones?” Answer: No. “Well that’s gonna be confusing!” Dude, how do you ever negotiate the plethora of gas station logos? BP, Shell, MapCo, Exxon — you must be completely flummoxed, you poor dear.

Give me a break.

Anyway, fortunately he was pretty much the only asshole — though one person snorted derisively on hearing there were just 250 Nissan Leafs on the road right now, as if that somehow implies nobody wants one. Of course, I’ve already addressed that here. But everyone else just seemed interested in learning what the Leaf is all about. And I learned a lot. For instance, I didn’t know Nissan has been making electric cars since the 1940s. The current disaster in Japan has temporarily shut down all of Nissan’s manufacturing but we were told the plant is expected to reopen in a week (though who knows). But the Leaf will be made in Tennessee’s Smyrna plant in 2012 and I think that’s going to be super exciting for Tennessee.

But you know, the car is pretty ordinary. It drives like any other car. It’s quieter, but if you already have a hyrbid you’re used to that. It’s a lot larger than I expected, the same as any other car. Mr. Beale drives an Altima and I’d say they’re about comparable. It drives pretty much the same as any other car, save some interesting electronic shifting and a push-button start.

The strangest thing about the Leaf is that it’s so quiet, they’ve actually had to add a speaker that emits engine noise at speeds lower than 18 mph to alert pedestrians a car is coming. I find that odd, and hope some day in the future pedestrians will have been conditioned to watch out for automobiles, not just listen for them.

But at the same time, the car is rather extraordinary. No tail pipe. No oil changes. No gas stations. This is quite revolutionary and I can see why Koch-types are scared. But it’s also the wave of the future. In 20 years every car will be an EV, it’s inevitable. Mark my words.

The Belly Of The Beast
Best Reason Yet To Buy A Leaf
The Famous Lithium Ion Battery
The Home Charging Station
(With Totally “Confusing” Logo)

Note: I’m not on Nissan’s payroll, do not own stock in Nissan, and in no way do I have any financial or other connection to Nissan. I’m just a big believer in the EV revolution. Thought I should make that clear.


Filed under electric car, Nashville, Tennessee

The Leaf Will Fail Because The Atlantic Says So! That’s Why!

So yay! I’m getting my Nissan Leaf in May. Don’t know when in May but that is the latest. I’m so excited! I’ve been waiting a whole year for this car, and I’ve had to jump through all sorts of hoops in the process. More on that later.

But anyway, I’m thrilled to be one step closer to being internal-combustion-engine free. No tail pipe! No oil changes! Suck it, Koch Industries! But please don’t tell McMegan and her colleagues at The Atlantic, who yesterday confused “deliveries” with “reservations” to come up with her “ZOMG the Nissan Leaf is an epic fail!” post:

Autoblog reports that the Chevy Volt sold 281 units in February, down from 321 in February.  Meanwhile, sales of the Nissan Leaf dropped from 87 to 67.  The trend seems pretty dismal….

Wow that’s pathetic. Except these sales figures are just for the U.S. And while I can’t speak for the Volt, I know the Leaf has had a very slow, strategic rollout. And that actually there are thousands of people who have reserved a car and, like me, are anxiously awaiting its delivery — indeed, Nissan reached its cap of 20,000 reservations three months ahead of schedule last year. Which seems to indicate a high level of interest to me. But hey, what do I know about these things. I’m not a fancy-pants business and economics editor with an elite institution like The Atlantic.

But let’s not let facts stand in the way of a good talking point, namely “this whole EV craze is just a waste of time and money because nobody wants them.” Which she says thusly:

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that companies have made this sort of colossal misjudgment.  It wouldn’t even be the first time an auto company has done so.  (Remember the Edsel)?  March and April sales volumes should be telling: gas prices are high, and the Leaf is supposed to hit 4,000 production units this month.  If volumes remain low, we may be looking at green elephants.

Actually, no. You cannot walk up to your local neighborhood Nissan dealership and buy a Leaf. That’s not how it works. You have to have reserved one a realllly long time ago! There was a long, involved application process! And not everybody who wants one gets one. You have to apply. And meet certain criteria. And on top of that, Nissan stopped taking reservations back in September. So no, March and April sales figures won’t tell you jack shit (or virtually jack shit).

Hon, is your gastritis acting up again? Seriously, she acts like she doesn’t know any of this, as if the Nissan Leaf has been rolled out like any new automobile. That’s not how it works.

In fact, McClueless’ talking point notwithstanding, the Leaf has reportedly sold out its first year’s global production of 27,000 units. Six thousand of them were for the Japanese market. The question McBefuddled should be asking is, why aren’t more of these cars coming to the U.S. market? As someone who has waited an entire year for her car, I’d like to know: is lack of EV infrastructure in the U.S. hampering the rollout? Are cars going to Japan and Europe over the U.S.? Is there a production issue? I have heard lots of complaints about the slow pace of fulfillment. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for electric cars or demonstrate a lack of consumer interest, this is a problem on the supply side. I’ve even heard the rumor that freshly-minted Nissan Leafs are sitting at the Port of Long Beach waiting to be delivered to Tennessee (I have no idea if that’s true. That’s just the rumor.)

So yes, there are issues, but not the ones McHeadUpHerAss wants to see when she writes

It’s going to take a long time at this rate to hit their sales target.  Here’s Charles Ghosn, the CEO of Renault, saying that he’s going to sell 500,000 electric cars a year by 2013…

I just have to wonder how this woman got her job. Yes Ghosn did say that. I believe those may have been global sales numbers .. at least, that’s how I read the Times piece. And let me add, while Renault owns a large chunk of Nissan, the Leaf is by no means the only EV in Renault’s arsenal. In fact, the company has three other electric vehicles in its lineup: the ultra-compact Twizy, the Renault ZOE available next year, and the Kangoo Express Z.E. and Maxi Z.E., light commercial vehicles. These vehicles are now or soon will be available in countries Not America.

The question is, why? Why so many more consumer options in Socialisticky, Communisticky countries where innovation is supposedly crushed by the oppressive hand of the Taxman? How come American consumers have such limited options? McBargle doesn’t even think to ask such a question, let alone answer it.

Accompanying this McNonsense was The Atlantic’s Daniel Indiviglio, who appeared compelled to correct the gaping holes in McHeadUpherAss’s piece, while sticking valiantly by her “failing Leaf” premise. Either misery really does love company, or Indiviglio was offering McMegan some cover:

Through February, a measly 173 Nissan Leafs — the new all-electric plug in car — had hit the streets in the U.S. That sounds pretty weak. After being on the market for three months, isn’t there more consumer interest in a zero-tailpipe emission vehicle than that?

Actually, yes there is. As Indiviglio learned from Nissan:

A spokesperson confirmed that the low number of vehicles hitting the road through February was accurate, but that’s because this number reflected deliveries. She also said that high number of reservations was also correct. The low number of deliveries is reflective of production ramping up slowly. Through February, the vehicles were only available in six or seven markets. Throughout the rest of the year, however, she said 50,000 Leafs will be produced, available worldwide.

As someone who has been waiting an entire year for her new car, trust me: lack of interest ain’t the issue. Oh, but there’s more:

That is, if people stick with the reservations. The bar was pretty low to reserve one — just a refundable $99 deposit. So there might be some question of whether these reservations indicate serious interest. But would that many people really bother paying $99, even if they could get it refunded, if there wasn’t a strong chance they would buy the vehicle?

Again, no! No, the bar was NOT low to reserve a car: I had to go through an application, a site visit, I have to live in one of just a handful of markets where these cars are even available, I had to show that my driving habits were compatible with the Leaf’s range, and I have to be a homeowner so I can install the charger in my garage. I also had to have the proper wiring and voltage in my garage so I can accommodate the charger.

On top of all that, I had to be willing to buy a car sight unseen and I had to be willing to wait 12 months for the thing! You may call that a low bar but I sure don’t.

I know we’re talking low bars, but I’m going to resist temptation and not make the obvious snark about Daniel Indiviglio’s reporting skills. Instead let me simply suggest that you actually talk to someone who has reserved one of these things before your next story on how the Leaf is the biggest consumer failure since New Coke. Just a thought.

You know what pisses me off about this whole thing? McFail started with the idea that American consumers are not embracing EV vehicles, and then went looking for some numbers to back up that presupposition. So that’s how you kids do journalism these days! And her colleague Indiviglio, while trying to correct her, still stuck by that basic premise for some absurd reason I cannot fathom.


Filed under electric car

Turning A New Leaf

[UPDATE]: Just in the nick of time, too.


Sorry, the headline is lame, I’m still on my first cup of coffee (which is how most of my posts are written), but I find this very exciting news:

State officials hope to give a boost to electric car sales with a $2,500 incentive to early buyers of the Nissan Leaf in Tennessee via a program that could later be extended to buyers of other alternative fuel vehicles.

Gov. Phil Bredesen, speaking during a TVA conference on electric vehicles Wednesday, said the state plans to tap a petroleum escrow fund marked for energy projects to provide rebates of $2,500 to the first 1,000 buyers of the new Nissan Leaf electric car later this year.

“There’s no reason Tennessee can’t take the lead … in the development of electric vehicles,” the governor said. “We want their components to be made here and sold worldwide with a ‘Made in Tennessee’ label.”

The $2.5 million state program, which provides perks on purchases in addition to generous federal incentives to buyers of electric cars, makes Tennessee at least the second state with such extra benefits. California has a $5,000 incentive for buyers of all-electric, plug-in vehicles.

I might as well ‘fess up and let everyone know I’ve been on the waiting list for the Nissan Leaf for the past five months. I work from home so it’s perfect for someone like me: My driving is mostly around town doing errands, going to hockey and football games, shopping, etc. I have solar panels on my roof so I won’t have to feel too guilty about the electricity I’m using for fuel. And our garage is perfect for installation of a home charger. Mr. Beale already drives a Nissan but his car was getting some mileage on it. So we’ll trade it in for a Leaf, and we’ve got the hybrid if we need to drive further than 100 miles, which is maybe eight times a year.

Anyway, I’m excited about the new incentives. There’s so much right about this program, not the least of which is the fact that these cars are made right here in Tennessee. I love that I’m creating jobs for my neighbors and also helping the environment.

I know our state gets a bum rap for a lot of the silly stuff we do, but the Tennessee EV program is actually quite advanced. We’re actually way ahead of states like Vermont and Oregon and whatnot, states one usually assumes to be green and progressive. We’ll have a network of charging stations so I could, actually, drive my EV all around the state (and perhaps I will and blog about it):

Jonathan Read, CEO of San Francisco firm ECOtality, said Tennessee would be the first state to take the electric vehicle beyond the 100-mile range that is rapidly becoming the standard for all-electric mass-production vehicles like the forthcoming Nissan LEAF and Ford Focus Electric expected next year.

He said: “With these plans completed, the state of Tennessee will emerge as a leader in EV adoption, and serve as a critical blueprint for how best to connect major population areas with EV infrastructure.

“We are thankful for the input TVA and our partners in each city have provided throughout the planning process. We are taking a smart and strategic approach to the deployment of EV infrastructure so as to best create a connected, highly functional EV charging network,” added Mr Read.

Kim Greene, president of Strategy and External Relations at TVA, said there was a “groundswell of enthusiasm” already growing in the TVA area and the entire state as a result of The EV Project.

I’m just so proud of our state for being leaders in this critically important area. I’m proud of TVA and I’m proud of Gov. Bredesen.

And I’m worried. Just a teensy weensy bit worried. Because here’s the thing that’s so radical about EVs: no internal combustion engine! Wrap your head around that one for a minute. That means no tailpipe. That means no gas station stops — ever. No need for fill-ups. No need for oil changes. Nada.

The only reason you will ever need to stop at a gas station is to buy a soft drink. And think about how Mr. Haslam’s family makes its money: gas stations. So, if Bill Haslam is our next governor (and it’s looking likely) I do have a concern that he will self-servingly try to obstruct this program. It’s mostly a federal program and he can’t mess with it too much, I don’t think, and it looks like it may be too far along for him to screw it up even if he wanted to, but I think it’s a fair question.

Having seen the excellent documentary “Who Killed The Electric Car?” and seen how politics can destroy a pilot program (especially when the corporation behind it isn’t fully on board) I think my fears are justified.

In California, people literally were trying to hide their EV’s from GM. The auto maker went around and repossessed every car it could find when Bush’s EPA challenged the state’s air quality law which created the market for EVs. Eventually every EV was crushed. Stupidly, of course, but they did it. It was about politics, nothing more, and GM paid for its stupidity and short-sightedness. Let’s hope they learned a lesson because the EV ain’t dead, it’s alive and well and the wave of the future.

And I am just putting Nissan and Bill Haslam and the oil lobby on notice: not again. From my cold, dead hands, people.


Filed under electric car, environment, Gov. Bredesen, Tennessee, TVA

>How To Run A Country Without Oil

>If you have a spare 20 minutes, give Shai Agassi’s TED talk on electric vehicles a watch. It is amazing, especially at the end when he talks about moral choices:


Filed under electric car, energy future