Thursday, March 21, 2013

Electric Cars

I admit it. I talk on the phone in my car on the way home from work almost every day. I do it hands-free, of course, and wouldn't even consider talking on the phone if I didn't have some sort of hands-free device. For the longest time I simply used my upgraded Apple™ headphones, the ones with the soft earpieces that should have been included with all their phones. For the last month or so I've been using my new Bluetooth™ LG HBS730 (yeah, I mentioned it in the last post, too). I discovered I like not having wires. So I usually talk to Darling on my forty-minute commute home.
What does this have to do with electric cars?
I don't have an electric car. I have a white 2003 Toyota Camry which I bought at CarMax (and then removed the "Max" part of that). I like my car. It's getting a little old but it runs well and I'm comfortable with it.
Darling would like me to get a new car. I don't really want one. As I explained to her, if someone bumps into me at a light (it happened) I can simply get out, look at my bumper, mutter "You're an idiot" and we're done. I'm not concerned if someone opens a door into my car in a parking lot. I don't worry about parking my car in the driveway instead of the garage (though I'd remedy that if I could).
Prius. Why so odd looking?
A new car would change all that. Darling, however, still thinks I should upgrade to a "used" car that is newer than what I have and pass this one on to our youngest son, JV. I'm not averse to this plan, but I am reluctant to spend the large amount of dollars required to implement it completely. Cars, for me, are not a source of ego gratification. (Gadgets might be…) And I have no idea what kind of car I would get. Replacing my car with a newer version of itself seems … silly. Being the life-long champion of renewable energy that I am, I considered the hybrid cars out there.
They are very expensive, so I didn't make the leap.
Once in a great while, though, I'll see a car and go "Wow! That is a nice car." Darling perks up when I say that.
I said it yesterday, on the way home from work while talking with her on the phone. (See how all those background elements just converged? Aren't you glad you read this far?)
I was halfway home when a car in my rearview mirror caught my eye. The clean lines swept back and there was a futuristic look to the headlights that drew me to look closer. I slowed for a light and it moved past me so I pulled behind it to see what it was.
A Tesla Model S.
Darling wanted to know what kind of car it was so I told her. Now I've been reading about Tesla Motors for a few years, so I knew a little about them, but they aren't common dinner table topics. They were incorporated in 2003 and had their IPO in June, 2010. If the electric car market is truly viable, they are a leader.
I still had to look all that up. When I got home we looked at the web site for the cars.
Oh my. Beautiful, but pricey. Their base model costs about $59,900 (though they advertise it with the $7,500 tax credit as $52,400). The upper end vehicle will set you back $94,900, though you can add further options if you like. At that point, what's another ten grand? You'll still need to make some modifications to your garage electrical system to handle it, though.
So I still say "Wow! That is a nice car."
I was on the way to work and started thinking about electrical cars, though. I mean a hybrid you simply start the engine when your batteries are drained. As I drove to work I pondered whether you needed to have a lightweight cycle in the trunk with some sort of power converter in it so you could pull over and peddle some extra juice into the batteries.
Twike drives with a joystick. Really.
Someone else already thought of that. The Twike is driven predominantly in Germany and Switzerland and you peddle as you drive. That would get us all back in shape in a hurry if we had to drive that car to and from work. They recommend a peddling speed that is just short of breaking into a sweat. I think my commute would be a lot longer. Just for fun I did a back of the envelope calculation on the cost for a Twike and it still comes to probably over $30,000. And I have to peddle it. You'd also need a motorcycle license for it. (To be fair, for my distance to and from work I wouldn't have to peddle; the on-board batteries would have sufficient charge.)
There are other electric cars, of course, like the Elf. I didn't even bother looking at the price point for that one.
When I mentioned this to my buddy Wes, he said he tried finding information on the internet about how much an electric car costs in electricity. He couldn't find any such information.
That's like a challenge to me. Using the numbers on the Tesla site I came up with some calculations. If you figure a yearly driving distance of 12,000 miles (very low in the Houston area) an electric car would cost about $396 for a year versus $1560 for a gasoline powered car. Of course, there are quite a few assumptions in those numbers, as follows:

The Tesla is beautiful and Darling pointed out it is the kind of car a millionaire might drive, except I'd be a millionaire because I didn't buy it. If I was a billionaire I'd get one. And I'd worry about someone opening their car door into it in the parking lot. I'd probably buy a different car to drive around in - maybe a 2003 Toyota Camry. Maybe something I could peddle, but it would look like this:

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