Skip navigation
Share via:

Pitch

Need a good low MPG car as a secondary car used primarily for commuting? How does 100 MPG and capable of going 0 to 60 in 10 seconds sound?


Description

Summary

There are large numbers of suburban home owners who have more than one car.  I would guess the count is in the tens of millions.  But why are they not using an electric car as their second car?  Electric cars don’t have the range that I need, i.e. range anxiety.  They are too expensive!  They are just glorified golf carts.  There just is not enough infrastructure yet.

The problem is simply that society is not really familiar with the benefits of electric cars.  This niche market is a win/win situation that is being overlooked only because of common misconceptions.

I propose advertising the fact that everyone who owns a home has a 120 volt outlet capable of charging an electric car overnight that will satisfy the commuting needs of 90% of suburban commuters, i.e. the infrastructure is already there.  No oil changes, no gas fill-ups, and it can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in ten seconds, if needed.  You also almost never have to charge the car more than overnight as most owners almost never run low on battery power in any one day.

So let’s go through the misconceptions. There is no range anxiety as the first car can go anywhere using gasoline.  Also, the first car is used much less as all short trips to the grocery store or the mall can be done by the electric car at one third the fuel costs.  By comparison, in my own example, my Nissan Leaf costs 4 cents a mile driving conservatively vs. my Honda Fit costs 12 cents a mile with gas at $2.00 a gallon and worse in rush hour traffic and way worse if the cost of gas goes back up.

So, what would happen if 10 million homeowners traded in their 2nd gasoline car for an electric car in the next two years making a serious dent in greenhouse gas emissions and paving the way for the general acceptance of electric cars?  This would change their transportation habits by depending on an electric car for most of their driving and reduce their transportation carbon footprint by an average of 30% as my own experience is a good example.


What actions do you propose?

Just as you can use crowd sourcing to encourage investments of money into a project, you could encourage current electric car owners, who are mostly very satisfied with their electric cars, to write up their positive experiences and publish them locally.  Also, for people who are even more enthusiastic about electric cars, as I am, you could have regular monthly “Electric Drive Day’s” where people could show gas car owners just what it is like to ride in an electric car.  Most people are impressed with how quiet they are.  The annual “Drive Electric Week” put on by Plug-In America has already shown that this is a very successful way to introduce electric cars to people who come to these events.  This is not new, but what is new is identifying the secondary car for a suburban commuter as a definite win/win situation.  There is literally no downside to overcome other than to inform this segment of the population of what they are missing.

Another way to get people interested is to have amateur film-makers record people who are experiencing electric car rides for the first time.  Tesla has already documented this using the Model S videos on U-Tube, but it is just as impressive in a Nissan Leaf as electric motors have 100% of torque as soon as you press on the gas pedal.

However, the best way to get people to try out using an electric car would be for someone famous to star in a short film depicting an older person who was, through no fault of his own, having to use an electric car as a temp replacement for an SUV in a light hearted movie.  The premise would be to show them fiddling with the owner’s manual and realizing that the button starts the car with no engine noise, the gear shift has only one forward gear and an “ECO” mode that slows the acceleration, etc.  Then realizing that all he needs to fuel the car is to plug in the 20 foot cord that comes with the car to a standard 120 Volt outlet and so on.  I get a kick out of leaving hot looking cars in the dust when they rev their engines at a light and I pop out of ECO mode into full throttle.  Such a movie would let people know that you don’t need a Tesla Model S when a Nissan Leaf Model S will do nicely.


Who will take these actions?

Governments are already involved where tax incentives at the federal and state level are already in play.  And with the President becoming more receptive to fighting Global Warming, getting acceptance from Democratic politicians should be easier, the problem would be in Republicans who are climate deniers.  But that should not stop car owners from seeing a good deal when exposed to the real thing.  Businesses could help by placing a few class 2 charging stations where long term parking (over 2 hours) is the norm but generally, most businesses could care less about what car you drive.  The real infrastructure that would help businesses are where people would spend more than a few hours at their destination.  Movie Theaters, whale watching tours, deep sea fishing, theme parks, etc. come to mind.  No one benefits from a charging station at pharmacy or box store and fast chargers are too expensive. The organizations that could help the most are the ones that are already helping, The Sierra Club, Plug-In America, 350.org, etc.


Where will these actions be taken?

As the leader of the free world, this would happen mostly in the USA.  Having more than 2 cars in a family is not as prevalent as in third world countries, but the showing that the United States is finally embracing electric cars in a big way would help a lot.  Also, in that respect, many of the world’s industrialized countries are far ahead of us in accepting electric cars for commuting.  So, considering that maybe half the population of the United States is in urban and suburban areas and most of them commute to work, it should already be a trend, but it is not.  So, what other reason is there to consider than people are just not aware of the advantages of commuting with a fully electric car?


How will these actions have a high impact in addressing climate change?

Emissions will be reduced by at least 30% (see below) for each family that embraces this idea.  The nice thing about this particular action is that it is a no brainer.  It works every time.  And when people realize that, they may even figure out other niche situations where an electric car is better than any gasoline car.

Using the CoolClimate Network Carbon Calculator      (http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/carboncalculator)

The following is the results for Travel with two Honda Fit’s at 28 MPG.

Total Travel   7.5 tons CO2/year

than the average household in Newark, Delaware 19702 with 2 people and similar income.

The following is the results for Travel with a Honda Fit using 28 MPG and a Nissan Leaf using 100 MPGe

Total Travel   5.2 tons CO2/year

 

than the average household in Newark, Delaware 19702 with 2 people and similar income.

The result is a 30% reduction in CO2 for travel based on a low mileage gasoline cars in this instance, i.e. it should be much higher replacing an SUV with a Leaf.


What are other key benefits?

Hopefully, when a larger number of commuters are driving all electric cars, the demand for businesses to provide some class 2 chargers for the commuters that live farther away will increase so they can take advantage of the economy electric cars provide over longer distances.  In effect, the chargers will double the commuting distance enjoyed by the many electric commuters that live close by.

Of course, with the number of electric cars increasing, the amount of air pollution will be measurably decreased.

Since electric cars use less energy when going slow, even more energy is saved in heavy traffic.  Thus heavy traffic conditions start saving energy instead of gasoline being wasted on idling or using a lower gear.

Hopefully, if this idea is fully embraced, the oil industry will start getting the message as demand for gasoline starts to decrease instead of increase.  And whenever this occurs, the sooner the better for combating Global Warming.


What are the proposal’s costs?

If done right, getting a movie done by Tom Hanks or another actor who has already shown an interest in combating Global Warming on the level of “Years of Living Dangerously”, but using Benjamin Franklin’s idea of keeping it funny and then start people thinking about it, it may even pay for itself.  But failing that, the cost of some kind of movie would have to be borne by the project. 

Getting people involved on a volunteer basis is already being done by the many social and science based organizations supporting combating Global Warming and should not require much more that presenting the idea in a way that gets them involved.  This is not a protest movement but one that shows families one way of saving money on commuting and enjoying the process.  So, in many respects, this is a win/win idea.


Time line

If this does not immediately take hold and produce some kind of outcome in two years, then the electric car market may do it on its own with 200 mile batteries projected to be introduced in 2017.  However, new battery technology may also mean major costs at the beginning.  If electric cars are not embraced in win/win niche situations, then it may revert back to being something that is only good for people who are already well off.  Not the average homeowner who happens to have more than one car.  Car makers, of course, find it easier to sell new expensive technology to richer people and ignore the main stream if people are not aware of the advantages of current lower costing electric cars.  This idea, if done quickly, can produce a much larger benefit sooner rather than later.  After all, the challenge is to change America’s perspective on electric cars, not to make car makers richer.

 

After people get used to the idea of having an electric car in their driveway that saves them money as well as helps the environment, the job should mostly be done.  This is for changing an attitude permanently in the least amount of time to be successful.  In five years, the cost of current technology batteries will have dropped 50 percent if current trends keep up.  So, ten years from now, electric cars could be as prevalent as cell phones with just as much a dramatic change on the environment.  But it will not, by itself, reverse Global Warming, but it should be able to change our demand for gasoline dramatically.  Long term change is icing on the cake, but even if all the transportation modes become electric in the next 100 years, there has been enough damage done to still feel Global Warming effects well into that future.


Related proposals


References