EV Chapter 2 – one year anniversary

One year ago, I wrote EV Chapter 1 and rejoiced in the excitement on our Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Tesla Model S. Now one year later, I think it is a good time to dig in to some of the details. In one year, we have driven the Tesla 17,243 miles. This included mostly in town typical commuting, a few trips to the cabin, as well as a trip to Omaha last year for the Elite 8 NCAA basketball tournament and a trip to Chicago for a lacrosse tournament. We consumed 6,092 kWh of electricity which cost us $408.16, putting driving the Tesla at a cost of just under 2.37 cents per mile. To drive that same number of miles in our 2006 Prius would have cost us over $1100 in fuel and in our 2007 Highlander Hybrid it would have cost us over $2200 in fuel.

The other key differentiator for me that warrants moving to electric vehicles is the reduction in emissions. Despite some of our electricity providers (Dakota Electric) portfolio including Natural Gas and Coal, our Tesla still results in the emission of 1/3 of the CO2 that the Highlander does and about ½ of what the Prius does. The other factor to take in to account here is that the electrical grid is going to continue to get cleaner with more and more renewables coming online, based on the simple fact that they are now cheaper than traditional fossil fuels. On a related note, kudos to Xcel Energy for continuing to shift to clean energy and driving towards their goal of being 100% carbon free by 2050. For a large company that supplies the majority of the electricity to 8 states, that is an awesome commitment.

In terms of maintenance costs, thus far we have not paid anything for maintenance on our Tesla in part because being a CPO it came with a bumper to bumper warranty. We have had it in a few times for minor things but our only real investments have been in winter tires with an set of rims and all weather floor mats. As a gift I received a floor jack and a torque wrench and do tire rotations / changes myself.

One year ago I stated, ‘it is still a stretch to justify purchasing most electric vehicles based on cost alone, but things are definitely trending quickly in that direction’ and that remains true and is continuing to shift very positively. For a daily commuter car that you do not need to drive across the country with, it would be easy to make and win a financial argument for buying an EV over a car with an Internal Combustion Engine. Those examples would be a Nissan Leaf and many others that are already released and pending release. Buying a Tesla, it remains a little bit more challenging to justify based on price alone but it currently remains the only EV with a robust SuperCharger network that allows you to drive the car anywhere without compromising on charging time. When thinking about your next vehicle, another thing to consider is the used EV market which continues to grow with compelling options. If you are planning on making a vehicle purchase anytime in the future and want to learn more about the options, please reach out. Being an advocate and helping evangelize EV’s is a strong passion of mine and in the picture above, that is our car on the right at a local farmers market.  It is 100% clear that EV’s are the future as they will win on their own economically.

Lastly, the other part worth mentioning is that I really like driving the car. It handles nicely and has a variety of features that make driving the car truly enjoyable. Some examples are the large touchscreen with an internet connection, streaming music and navigation, heated seats, and the ability to pre-warm or cool the car from the mobile app. The over the air updates that come to the car are impressive as well, I am not aware of other cars that gain features and functionality at no additional cost after the owner takes delivery.

EV chapter 1

Today is an exciting day as we just added a ‘new to us’ electric vehicle to our family. With teenage kids who have their own busy schedules, it became more and more desirable to add a 3rd vehicle to simplify transportation. I think adding the vehicle might actually decrease the total miles we drive as a family, an adding an electric vehicle will reduce our overall emissions and fuel spend.

There was much deliberation and debate on what vehicle to get and when to execute. The Tesla Model 3 we pre-ordered was slotted to arrive late summer of 2018 which seemed too far away when thinking about the kids having summer jobs and such. We weighed leasing and buying traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and every flavor of hybrid and electric. In fact, several months ago I would have guessed that it would be a used Nissan Leaf and that I would title this blog entry “turning over an old leaf”. After much deliberation and debate, we ended up purchasing a certified pre-owned (CPO) 2014 Tesla Model S. One of the core decisions in going with Tesla was the mitigation of range anxiety; being able to do 99% of charging at home while maintaining the freedom to take longer trips leveraging the supercharger network. We chose CPO because of the added comfort of a fresh warranty and similar. It is a decent time to be in the market for a used Tesla as there a lot of private sale options and the market has a lot of low mileage lease returns as well. Make no mistake, they hold their value well and it is a financial commitment, but it is one I am glad we were able to prioritize. It is important to me to vote with our dollars and live our values and this is another positive step in that direction. If you find yourself in the market for a vehicle in the future and want to talk it through, I am very willing to share my experiences and opinions.

I think it is still a stretch to justify purchasing most electric vehicles based on cost alone, but things are definitely trending quickly in that direction. I am looking forward to no oil changes or worrying about the various other parts of an ICE vehicle which typically wear down or require maintenance. Electricity prices are far less volatile than oil prices and our overnight electricity rate for the car is almost half the cost per kWh of our normal rate. I anticipate our electrical bill going up about $60 per month based on my preliminary estimate of miles we will drive the Tesla. At current fuel costs and the reduced electricity rate for overnight charging, for every 100 miles we drive the Tesla we will save over $6 in fuel costs compared to our other vehicles.

Our electric cooperative also participates in the Revolt program which allocates wind power renewable energy credits on our behalf. Energy comes from all kinds of sources here in MN (wind, natural gas, coal, etc.) so there is no way to say the electrons that go in to my car actually came from a wind farm, but this program dedicates wind energy on our behalf and more importantly (in my opinion), sends a clear message of what is important to me as a consumer, and steers my provider towards leveraging more renewables.

Thank you to all of the family and friends who helped make this a reality, especially my wife Andrea who as our family’s chief financial officer was able to make this happen. I think she would agree that the picture at the top should say ‘Zero Emissions, Some Compromises (kitchen remodel, new carpet, family vacations, etc.)’. Below is an actual picture featuring our 2014 Tesla model S flanked by our 2006 Toyota Prius which has over 200k miles on it.

WP_20171207_23_26_01_Rich

Basic Electric Vehicle Math

When thinking about the cost of using a traditional vehicle versus that of using an electric vehicle (EV), there can be many factors that can be incorporated in to the equation that can make it very confusing. These can include the varying blends of gasoline by season, driving conditions and driving style, electricity sources and efficiency of delivery, air resistance, tire inflation and tread patterns, vehicle weight, and more. To simplify things; it is easy to have some real data for comparison when narrowing the focus to the price per mile of operating the vehicle, taking the original cost of the vehicle and all of the other factors out of the equation temporarily.

In the chart below, I took 3 common gasoline vehicles and 3 readily available electric vehicles (assuming the Volt is not using gasoline). For the comparison, I used $3.25 per gallon gasoline prices and have two separate costs of kWh from an electric company. The first price (0.10 / kWh) implies you have taken no special action and are just plugging the car in to an electric outlet. The second price (0.04 / kWh) assumes you have coordinated with your local electric company to get their EV rate. Most electric companies will charge a reduced rate for charging EV’s off hours; for example my local utility company charges 4 cents per kWh between the hours of 11pm and 7am for charging an EV.

EV

The basic data here can be pretty interesting. Assuming you drive 10,000 miles annually, you could save close to $1,000 per year on fuel costs alone when comparing to a Toyota Camry. In addition, walking out to a fully fueled car each morning and never having to stop at the gas station has it rewards as well. EV’s now can also be set to pre-warm the cabin before you ever step in to the cold garage, set to only charge at certain hours, and more. When it comes time to consider a new vehicle, I encourage you to go take a drive as the fear that it is like a flimsy golf cart is not warranted. The safety and technology has improved and the vehicle pricing continues to decrease, making arguments adopting an EV even more compelling.

Litigious Shenanigans

Anyone who knows me or has read some prior blog posts knows I am a huge fan of Tesla Motors (TSLA) and electric vehicles in general. The math of electric cars is undeniably compelling and will be the subject of a future blog post.

TSLA has been on the receiving end of countless lawsuits in recent years by automobile dealer associations and others. Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Virginia and others have lawsuits in various stages of flight and appeals trying to completely block TSLA from selling to consumers, limiting how many vehicles they can sell, etc. In fact, it is currently illegal in Arizona, Maryland, New Jersey, and Texas for TSLA to sell directly to consumers. Despite this TSLA has stores in many states (see map above) including those that block the direct sale, where consumers can get more information, see and drive the car, and then go home and order online. The core argument of this litigation is that the direct sales model TSLA has violates state automotive franchise rules and that the TSLA sales model would set a precedent that ‘threatens the way independent franchises have sold and serviced vehicles for eight decades’.

This type of argument is so monolithic and predictable, with obvious$ motivations. It is unclear to me how this is a different approach than a local grocery store trying to block a farmers market or girl scout from selling cookies. It was not too many years ago when the big three sat with their hands out asking for a bailout simply because they were unable to adapt to the changing needs of consumers and watched competitors like Toyota make record profits by selling efficient and reliable cars. You would think that the auto industry would be watching the success TSLA is having and implementing options for adapting their sales model and products to compete, similar to what big box retailers had to do to compete with Amazon. The auto industry should also be reveling in the fact that TSLA recently made their patents public.

In his “All Our Patent Are Belong To You” blog post, CEO of TSLA Elon Musk wrote: “Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis. By the same token, it means the market is enormous. Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day.” Of course the release of the patents initially scared Wall Street who thought perhaps Elon was having a Tony Stark (Ironman) like moment but despite all of the obstacles and naysayers, TSLA stock has had over 1000% growth in a few short years. At a time where numerous other companies are fleeing for tax inversion benefits or cheap overseas labor, it appears as though later today TSLA will officially announce that Nevada will be the site of the new 5 billion dollar battery factory which will create 6,500 jobs in northern Nevada. Seeing a CEO with the passion, vision, and ethical fiber to put environmental stewardship in high regard is refreshing and I look forward to the continued innovation.

The beeping bleeping hummer

Once each winter my son has an out of town hockey tournament and this weekend was it.  There are few things he looks forward to more; as a pre-teen boy what could be more desirable than playing an excessive number of games of a sport you love in a shortened time frame while getting to spend every waking minute with your friends swimming, eating pizza, playing Xbox, participating in general shenanigans, and getting out of school early to make it all happen.

At about 1:10am we were both awoken by the sound of a car alarm going off.  It would silence for an intermittent amount of time, sometimes 20 seconds, sometimes a few minutes and then sound again for another half minute or so.  Eventually the sound became unbearable and I went down to the from desk to inquire what they could do as the sound was clearly coming from a vehicle in their parking ramp.  They dispatched their security officer to investigate and I returned to my room after a brief unsuccessful investigation myself to find the vehicle and ensure it was not mine.

As the sound went on and on I called back to the front desk and they said they were still trying to locate the vehicle but could hear it.  I went back out to assist and found the vehicle one floor up from my room and within 75’ of my rooms window.  The security guard arrived to the vehicle at the same time.  He was about 6’5 and 250# which I found impressive for a hotel security guard.  At first glance I thought he might just rip open the hood and pull the battery out with his bare hands but he opted to take a more diplomatic approach and wrote down the license plate number and went to call the local police department so he could get a registered owner, cross reference it to the guest list, and get the owner to address it.

I noticed two things while in the ramp.  First, the vehicle was a residential Hummer which is a vehicle I have a general negative stereotype about being someone who cares about the planet.  Second I noticed that the dome light was on.  As I returned to my room and let my son who had his head under four pillows know it would be addressed soon I began to wonder if it were possible that the alarm was sounding to warn that the dome light was on.  Could this vehicle which I stereotype as arrogant be so bold that when the dome light is on it feels a need to warn its owner?  Was there some logic in re-designing and marketing of this big dumb residential American vehicle where someone thought that the dome light being left on was so potentially hazardous to the battery that sounding the horn and flashing the exterior lights for hours was warranted?  I began to fear for our troops overseas and hoped that the military version did not have this same logic.  My brain racing I decided to do some quick research and learned that this is a known condition with the hummer and the reason the dome light was on is because the vehicle had gotten wet (rain / snow mix here) and the door sensor (which had also gotten wet) thought the door was ajar.  Apparently this warrants the alarm sounding.  The reaction to a wet door jamb is another condition I hope is different on the military version.

I was tempted to go back to the parking garage and lay eyes on the person that would be coming to fix their car and give them a piece of my mind as I stood safely behind the security guard.  Common sense prevailed and I decided that I also did not want to shatter my stereotype of the owner of this vehicle.  I picture him as a middle aged male who has a full head of hair with product in it and was likely a little groggy from all of the Lowenbrau he had earlier, he likely works in sales and whatever he is selling has some sort of slime / predatory factor where he takes advantage of people.  In my vision, he is staying at the hotel with his son who is on a competing hockey team, his son is a marginal skater and ends up in the penalty box often by trying to make up for his lack of skill and trying to live up to his big dumb American dad’s expectations.

Imagination, stereotypes, and pre-conceived ideas can be powerful things and I could be way off of the mark but I am guessing my vision is closer to the truth than it being owned by an elderly widowed woman who is in town for the birth of her first great grandchild.  On a separate note I would like to add that the Holiday Inn staff responded wonderfully to this issue and my scan through the parking garage also revealed that the hotel had four electric vehicle only spots with charging stations; two of which were occupied (a Volt and a Leaf).  That was simply wonderful to see and kudos to the owners of those vehicles and the hotel for its progressiveness to provide that service.  This entry may have offended a few but I hope it was found humorous to more as that was the intent.  Time to get back to sleep.