Hi, my name is Mark Raymaker, I’ve been working with computers for 25 years. My wife is a psychiatrist. We have lived nearby in Vermont for the last 15 years. We ride bicycles for exercise when we can. I have been involved in recycling efforts. One of our hobbies is saving energy. I guess you might call us early adopters – we recently bought a Chevy Volt. I’d like to share some of my reasoning and experiences with the Community, as I learn about and enjoy this terrific car.
Our house is located down a very steep driveway lined with trees. The closest business to my home, a gas-convenience store, is 5 miles away. I have a 56 mile round trip to my job. My wife, on different days, commutes either 20 miles or 35 miles round trip. We enjoy going out to eat on the weekends but again everything is miles away. My first attempt to reduce fuel consumption was to get on a waiting list for the first ‘micro’ car to become available in the U.S., the 2008 Smart car. Someone had ordered one and changed their mind, so I finally got a Smart ‘orphan’ in March 2008. Later that year we put a deposit down on the new reintroduction of a VW diesel. We took delivery of the new clean diesel in early 2009. Both cars got more than 40 miles per gallon and they both were able to manage our steep driveway. So effectively we nearly doubled our fuel economy over our Subarus.
But we rack up many miles and I wanted to further reduce our consumption so I reserved a Nissan Leaf almost two years ago (2010) when the Leaf reservation system became available. And I waited. The Smart was showing signs of all the miles but there were so few choices. A gas hybrid like a Prius would maybe only get 50 miles to a gallon – we already getting 40. If you’re going to spend the money how can you double again what you already have? Buying an electric vehicle became the logical next step.
Why this “obsession?” If you believe any or all of the following litany of issues there are some pretty good reasons.
a) “The greatest transfer of wealth in the history of the world” People don’t understand or want to acknowledge the magnitude of the dollars paid to other countries for a good that is not durable; it is consumed daily and requires replacing daily. Unlike an imported auto or imported washing machine it’s gone the moment you drive your car. Obama is currently bragging that the US is down to 45% of imported oil over the old high of 60%. That’s progress but that still means close to half of transportation energy is not ours. I avoid climate change conversation because the dollars spent for oil is easily accounted for and cannot be argued over.
b) Exxon Valdez, Deepwater Horizon, Shell in Nigeria. Need I go on?
c) Retail gas prices. Schizophrenic. Wildly speculative oil trading. Politics based on gas pump prices. And I don’t expect them to go down…
d) World politics that are formed by energy issues.
I wanted to reduce my consumption as much as possible and I take time to convince others to do so too.
Electric cars are not yet perfect and you can always wait for the “next big thing” that matches your expectations. You can wait until battery technology energy density matches or exceeds gasoline in internal combustion engines and costs the same. How long are you going to wait, 10 years? If no one buys electric vehicles now what incentive will there be to build the next generation battery?
As we became convinced that we would indeed buy an electric car, we started considering more carefully our location, driving habits and goals in buying this car. For us, the main factors were as follows: In our regional area of the Northeast there are very few charging stations. And there’s six months of colder temperature that will decrease battery energy. The gas backup of the Volt better covers these issues for us than a Leaf at this time. And the Volt was available!
Commercial manufacturers of electric vehicles face an uncertain future in their investment. So as a consumer you are subject to long waiting lists. Just this year, 2012, Nissan actually says they will sell Leafs in all markets. Prior to this year you had to be in California or a handful of other states to hope you would actually get the car. Information is superficial. Most dealers and sales people are unaware of any detail information – this is a really new vehicle, unlike anything they have sold before.
Unfortunately both the Chevrolet dealer and Chevrolet want to make Volt sales but they distance themselves from non-sales issues such as public charging stations. For example I tried to get the dealer I purchased the car from to find what I call a “dealer representative.” I wanted to find somebody or some organization that communicates with all regional Volt dealers. Noises were made that this might be possible during the sale. Why did I want this? I wanted to promote a general policy that any Volt owner could charge at any Volt dealer. Right now all these Volt chargers are in service areas that are not readily available to other Volt users.
Still time was wasting, we figured we would work out the issues later. We went ahead and bought a beautiful red Volt. We took delivery on December 31, 2011 – all the better for tax planning purposes! Next time I’ll share some of what I have learned while driving it back and forth to work and around home.
Editors Note: The Chevy Volt just made AOL.Auto's Best Cars for the Money: April 2012.
Mark Raymaker is an Information Services Manager. He may be contacted by comments to this blog or through Member email.