My friend Richard Coffey likes being able to drive his electric car in the carpool lane, even when he’s alone. He likes not spewing carbon into the air when he’s idling at a stoplight. But what he likes best about driving his 2012 Chevy Volt is that it saves him money.
He’s leasing it for $250 a month and says he was spending that much on gasoline before he made the switch to electric. Now he spends about $50 a month on gasoline and on electricity to charge the Volt’s battery. That’s a savings of $200 a month.
He paid $2,420 up front to lease the Volt. But the monthly savings, along with zero maintenance, put him way ahead over the two-year lease.
The Coffeys charge their Volt late at night, because that’s when electricity rates are lowest. The rate will go even lower in late spring, when PG&E will offer a new electric vehicle rate.
In addition to saving money, the Volt also saves the Coffeys time. It has a sticker on its bumper that allows it to use carpool lanes even with a solo driver. That saves Richard’s wife, Wendy, 30 to 60 minutes each way when she drives the Volt from their home in Scotts Valley to her job in Foster City.
The Volt goes 40 miles on electricity before the motor kicks in and starts burning gasoline. Overall, Richard says the Volt averages 61.6 miles per gallon of gasoline, but that’s because Wendy’s long commute uses a lot of gas. When Richard drives around Santa Cruz County, he uses hardly any gas and sometimes averages 160 miles per gallon.
Richard also works over the hill at the four Watchcare shops he owns. When he drives the Volt over Highway 17, the electricity gauge sometimes goes backward. On a recent commute, at the top of the summit, the gauge showed he had 15 miles of electricity left. At the bottom of the hill, the gauge showed he had 23 miles left.
“Some of the energy used to climb up the hill was recaptured going down the other side,” Richard said. “And you also regenerate the battery around town every time you slow down.”
He predicts that all cars will eventually have rechargeable batteries, and that will be good for planet Earth.
But some experts say electric cars aren’t as green as environmentalists claim.
Bjorn Lomborg is the author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist.” Last month, the Wall Street Journal ran an article by him saying that almost half the lifetime carbon emissions from an electric car come from the energy used to produce the car, especially the battery.
He also noted that electric cars are recharged using electricity overwhelmingly produced with fossil fuels, including coal, which produces lots of pollution.
I emailed the article to Jay Friedland of Zero Motorcycles in Scotts Valley. He said it ignored two key facts: Car batteries are lasting longer and are recycled 90 percent of the time.
As for the recharging issue, Friedland said the nation’s electrical supply is getting cleaner. Another recent Wall Street Journal article noted that coal’s share of power production fell from 49 percent in 2007 to 37 percent last year, partly because more electrical utilities are switching from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas.
As our electrical supply gets cleaner, electric cars will get even greener.
- Mark Rosenberg is an investment consultant for Financial West Group in Scotts Valley, a member of FINRA and SIPC. He can be reached at 439-9910 or firstname.lastname@example.org.