Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Volt, Jolt, Bolt, and Green – GO ELECTRIC!
By Kathy Gause

Well, we took the plunge and bought an electric car, a Chevy Volt in 2011.  First Chevy ever that we purchased – I still cannot believe I was disloyal to Toyota.  It started with simple research for a paper in my Energy class.  I had been putting off investing in another car due to the economy and continued to drive my old Nellie, even sharing it with my daughter.   So, when I began reading and looking into energy saving cars, it quickly captured my attention.  I became addicted to why are we tolerating the rising gas prices, knowing they will never decrease?  Do I want to spend half my paycheck at the pump?  Why am I driving a car that uses a 150-year old dirty and noisy technology?  Listening to lectures from my Professor, I began asking even more questions and my American individual spirit started to kick in.  Do I really want to be completely dependent on the whims of world events and a liquid fuel transported thousands of miles across the ocean?  How can I visit my family hundreds of miles away if oil interruptions occur?

We casually began car shopping on a beautiful Memorial Day weekend, an appropriate time for energy saving.  We quickly discovered the best kept secret – the inventory of electric Chevy Volts and Nissan Leafs were non-existent and one or two Toyota Pruis remained.  I test drove the Pruis and liked it.  The Volt was available to test drive at the VA Beach Patriot event the next weekend.  The dealer had 2 allocations for 2011 but none to showcase.  Now, my curiosity peaked and we planned to test drive the Volt.  Meanwhile, I called the Pruis dealer and asked about the car I test drove – they had slapped an additional $1,000 premium on it.  I called the Manager and mentioned that was not the price I was quoted 2 days ago.  He never called me back.  As a loyal Toyota fan and a Toyota Avalon driver, I became disillusioned.  I discovered that my friendly credit union offered me an interest rate that I could not pass up – no obstacles remained.  Since I was researching the Energy electric car topic for my paper, I called a few Northern Virginia dealers and shockingly, no Pruis’s could be found and as for the Chevy Volt dealers, they said that if I were quick, I could order a Volt but had to pay a $10,000 premium.  And, I was lucky, they said, because NY and CA car dealers were adding up to $20,000 premiums!  This maneuver put a damper on the $7,500 Federal rebate and encouraging the American economy, not to mention discouraging electric car risk-takers.   So much for supply and demand.  I understand the Federal government is going to modify the rebates so it is immediate, but this dealer price sharking should be stopped.  So, the quest was on and I do love a quest.

I had discovered the new Obama Administration announcement that week setting in place some goals for federal use of electric vehicles.  Wonderful news, but I should have known that any Volts left would quickly be scoffed up for the grand rollout for the federal fleet.  However, this is a good move for the USA.  I received a call from the Chevy dealer, telling me that I could not order a 2010 Volt, but once I test-drove in 2 days and ordered with a small deposit, I could secure a 2011 Volt.   Sounded good to me and I was buying American, investing in American jobs.

We were the first customers on Friday at the Patriot event to test-drive the new Chevy Volt.  It was sleeker than in the brochure…it was on the boardwalk and the day was clear and the crowds had not yet arrived.  It drove as smooth as silk.  As soon as I sat in the car, I knew it was perfect.  The electronics are a bit hi tech, but I will get used to it like a new pair of shoes.  One huge fly in the oil was my husband – he is 5 foot, 17 inches and he had to feel comfortable in it.   I did not think I was going to get him out of the car.   He fit fine and loved it, although the back seat space behind him was a bit tight.   He is a retired engineer and this baby is an engineering marvel….quiet as a church mouse.  Chevy has thought of everything – merely click a button and the car politely “chirps” to warn pedestrians or bicyclists who might not be paying attention.  You push a button to start the engine and I felt green all over when I realized the dashboard was telling me when I was not using any gasoline.  This smart car had a rear view camera that signaled when I was backing up and a curb (or anyone or anything) might be in my intended glide.  The car almost drove itself and it reminded me years ago when I was in a sailplane – I felt like I was on a cloud. …40 mpg and I can drive 40 miles on one charge…yes, the sticker price is a stretch, but we are baby boomers, have worked hard all of our lives and why not help the economy and the environment.  If not us, then who?  As early adopters, we will be the first to own a Volt in the Norfolk VA area.  I already have the EV (electric vehicle) charging stations on my iphone as an app.  Free on-star service for 5 years will ensure data is collected to improve this wonderful invention.   Why didn’t I look into electric cars before my paper?  Education is key to our prosperity and I made a bolt to buy a Volt, once I understood the entire picture.  It will take a few months and we are looking into a small electric charging station but we could also plug it into a regular outlet in our home, just like our cell phone.  About $1.20 per night to fully charge.

Inventors like Tesla and Einstein are to thank – they had this all figured out 100 years ago, with a lithium battery being the heart of the electric car, but the ICE (internal combustion engine) and the oil barons won that time.  We are still using the antiquated ICE engines.  Lets’ open our minds and keep an open mind about electric cars.  China and other countries are.  This technology will help keep jobs here in America, if we do our homework and learn about it.  EV’s are making a comeback.  For a great read, try the book, “Jolt” or “Bottled Lightning”

For those who would like an electric car but the Volt is a bit pricey until the technology is paid for, numerous smaller “city cars” will be arriving on the market soon.  Helps the climate and will be a great investment.  The technology exists for cars to avoid crashes now, so, hopefully, this will be incorporated into some cars.  For the Volt, it has a detector that warns you if you are near any pedestrian or an obstruction because the car is so quiet, smooth and fun to drive.

It is amazing how one teacher can make a difference - Dr. Steve Yetiv, my exceptional professor at ODU who inspired me to research and learn more about Energy and Global Interdependence.  He nicknamed me “EV” for being an early adopter of an electric vehicle, which is why my license plate is EV VOLT.  I challenge readers to find out more about how we can each do little things to free ourselves from oil dependence.  Check out the visionary actions that the Administration is working on, including the rebate that covers the research cost of the innovative lithium battery and other rebates on appliances and solar panels.   Look into all the outstanding energy initiatives our country is forging ahead with, including cooperative efforts throughout the world with other countries, celebrating and motivating our scientific efforts, and pushing American ingenuity.   As Tesla (scientist behind first electric car in the early 1900’s) quoted, ‘Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments.  The present is theirs; the future, for which I have really worked, is mine.’ 

Five years later, (2016), not only am I delighted with my Volt purchase, my spouse also purchased a Volt.  We will never go back to conventional gasoline-driven ICE cars.  In my Volt, I have driven over 57,000 miles, taking occasional long drives to PA and the metro DC area. ….33,149 are all electric miles where just the battery and electric motor propels the car.  For the rest of the miles the Volt operates as a gasoline hybrid with its ICE engine driving an electric generator.  My Volt’s average miles per gallon is 92 mpg.  My spouse’s Volt has 17,208 miles of which 11,992 miles are all electric, with the average mpg of 125 miles per gallon.  He doesn’t use any gas in his daily local driving, only using gasoline for interstate trips.   We used to spend $5,000 per year together on gasoline for our two ICE cars, but now spend about $1,000 per year total the for electricity and gas that power our two Volts.    A full charge takes about 4 hours with our 240 volt charger that we had installed in our condo garage (along with a security cage).  Now that 4-hour charge might sound like a lot of time, but it's really only a few seconds of my personal time to plug the car in when I get home at the end of my day.  The Volt charges while parked for the evening and I have a fully charged car every morning when I start my day.  Charging a fully depleted battery costs about $1.44 in electricity.  This will take us about 42 miles, on a good day (i.e., not heavy air conditioning or heater usage).  Plugging in my car is much easier, convenient and quicker than going to the gasoline pump, and it is odor-free.  My car is extremely quiet, comfortable and spacious.  If you do your research, electric cars in the early 1900’s were once called “women’s cars” due to the fact that electric cars did not need to be cranked to start and did not exude that smelly, greasy soot when starting.  Once gas stations began popping up instead of electric charging stations, the rest is the history of the oil baron’s wealth and political savvy and how Nikola Tesla, a great scientist, is like a phoenix rising.

Kathy Gause

Who Killed The Electric Car?  Sony Pictures Classics
Revenge of the Electric Car, A film by Chris Paine
Jolt! by James Billmaier

High Voltage by Jim Motavalli

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Archipelago snorkeling with fish and turtles
 San Cristobal Island - sea lions reign - a common sight - sea lions mingling with native folks and tourists - sea lions are sunbathing on someone's kayak that is docked.
Birds enjoy the tranquility of cliffs and lava formations

 Pelican perching on cliff.

Playful sea lion trying to get our attention from the zodiacs.

San Fernandina and the wonderful land iguanas sunbathing

Santa Cruz Island and awesome land turtles!

The magical Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, near the equator, is one of the most beautiful places I have been.  The eyes of the wildlife look straight into yours and the birds, penguins, sea lions, land and sea turtles, land and sea iguana, lizards, have no fear of humans...you must be accompanied by a certified naturalist to enter this protected place.  Hopefully, the wildlife will still control these islands for many years to come.