Why Do You Love your Hybrid or Electric Car?

, former deputy director, Clean Vehicles | February 22, 2012, 3:03 pm EST
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Love it or hate it, the car culture is a big part of the American identity. People just love talking about their cars, and I get to hear a lot of inspiring car stories because of what I do.  Once people find out that my research focuses on oil dependence, fuel economy, and electric cars, they can’t help but talk about why they bought and continue to enjoy their vehicle (or bemoan the high price of gas). Just this week I heard two very different but equally intriguing stories about the benefits of cleaner cars.  I know many of you have hybrid or electric car stories of your own, so please share your clean car experience in the comments section below.

The subtle joys of owning a hybrid

The Subtle Joys of Owning a Hybrid

My colleague enjoys her hybrid on many levels, especially the lack of engine noise, pollution, and gas guzzling when stopped in traffic. Her dog, Hazel, enjoys the roomy back seat.

The first story, which inspired this blog post, comes from a co-worker who just happened to email me recently about the more subtle joys of owning a hybrid.  I think her words speak for themselves:

“As I sit here waiting for the drawbridge to let the tanker into the harbor, I especially love my Prius. While every other car spews exhaust–so I can’t open my window–my car sits perfectly still, engine off, but at the ready to spring into action. I can’t understand why anyone would be opposed to clean car technology… No brainer!!!!”

I can’t help but wonder at the potential irony. There she was, stuck in traffic, but instead of being frustrated, she was able to enjoy the benefits of owning a car with cool technology—while stuck, her car made no engine noise, produced no pollution, and guzzled no gas. If the tanker was delivering gasoline or heating oil, then she was inconveniently stuck due to our oil dependence, yet her very efforts to cut down on that dependence helped relieve her potential frustration.

Hybrid cars and national security

I heard the second story on a flight out of Washington, DC last week. I was tip-tap-typing away on my laptop when the gentleman next to me asked what I did. After hearing my answer, he quickly shared that he was on his third hybrid, shifting from a Toyota Prius, to a Toyota Camry Hybrid, and finally to a Nissan Altima Hybrid. He wanted the bigger space of the Camry over the Prius, then switched automakers.

I probed a bit more and found out that he works in the defense industry. You don’t need to be following the latest on world tensions over Iranian oil (though you should) to guess that there’s a connection between his work on national security and his car choice. As it stands, we’re sending nearly $1 billion a day to other countries to import oil, many of whom are either unfriendly or are directly or indirectly destabilizing world energy markets and politics. Driving a hybrid or electric car is a great way to save fuel, cutting our vulnerability to world oil markets and the countries that control them.

What’s your story?

So, what about you? Do you own a hybrid? Did you take a step even further and buy an all-electric car? Or are you still waiting for that high-tech car of your dreams?

Either way, we want to hear your story: what you like (or don’t) about your car, why you bought it, and what you are doing to cut our oil use, reduce pollution, save money, and improve our energy security. Let us know in the comments section below.

And, to learn more about hybrids and electric cars, check out our Model E website with blueprints for the future of electric car powertrains along with an honest look at their promise and pitfalls.


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  • Duffy LeB

    Why is it such a big deal to have an all electric car when the electricity it uses is usually NOT from a non-polluting source.

  • Roger Pelizzari

    My story is a non-story. It’s a warning. If you value the quality of your life, avoid driving an electric car or hybrid car!

    Full article here:

    Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in cars

    Spending time in quite low levels of low frequency EMFs (e.g. 0.4 microtesla (μT) magnetic fields) are associated with an increased risk of developing a number of health problems. The UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) now accepts international research findings linking this level of exposure with a doubling in incidence of childhood leukaemia, the illness most researched for EMF associations. Other serious conditions that have been associated with EMF exposure are various types of cancers, ALS (a type of motor neurone disease), depression, miscarriage and other immune system problems. Microwave (high frequency EMFs) exposure is associated with sleep disorders, headaches, tiredness, concentration and memory problems, and mood and behavioural changes.

    The main problems reported by some car drivers are more immediate ones that include headaches, concentration problems, “groggyness” and unusual feelings of fatigue.

    Powerfrequency fields
    Different cars can expose you to very different levels of EMFs, and where you sit in the car can make a big difference, whether you are the driver or a passenger. The field levels are likely to be higher in the front than in the back. The electrical and electronic equipment (power wiring, fan motors, computerised controls and dashboards, etc.) can disturb electrically sensitive people, especially in the front seats. People can feel worse when cars are stationary, with the engine idling. The smaller the car, that is the closer the engine is to the driver, the higher the EMF exposure is likely to be. Major magnetic peak pulses around 0.1μT occur during braking, and ABS systems tend to put out higher magnetic fields. The more electronics are put into the wheel, like cruise control, the more exposure the driver has to deal with. Automatic windows make extra magnetic pulses.

    We understand that several microtesla is common (we have measured field levels similar to this in a couple of Audi models, a Merc and a BMW), and over 100 microtesla has been measured.

    Low frequency EMFs are generated by different engine and chassis parts. These include the alternator, and the cables which go from the alternator to the battery. These can produce high levels of EMFs, especially when you drive with full headlights at night. The starter motor and cables produce very high magnetic fields when you are starting the engine but these only last for a few seconds and are not a problem for most people.

    We know that some specific cars, including the BMW X5, the V70, S60 and S80 Volvo models, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8, Audi and Renault Scenic cars have had very high levels of low frequency magnetic fields measured inside. There was quite a lot of adverse publicity for Volvo when it was revealed that the V70, S60 and S80 subjected their drivers and some passengers to very high magnetic field levels of up to 18 microtesla. Ford (who own Volvo) said after the publicity surrounding the high fields found in these models “Because there is no evidence about risks of electromagnetic fields in cars, Volvo is not currently taking technical or other measures”. The general public didn’t seem to think much of this response, as sales of Volvo cars dipped after this was made public. Since then, Volvo has developed a 225 Euro ‘fix’ for concerned Volvo owners, but they are not actively marketing it as they don’t want the subject discussed in public. Some Mercedes, Jaguar, & Honda cars also produce high fields, though we have not received detailed reports on particular models. If you are concerned, we suggest that you measure the fields in a particular type of vehicle – especially as models are continuously changing.

    The problem is that the car battery is located in the boot/trunk and not under the bonnet with the engine. As cars have traditionally used the metal car body for the negative connection, they also
    do this when the battery is in the boot and only run one thick power feed wire (12, or 24 volts) from the alternator/charger unit in the front to the battery in the rear. Because the return current is distributed all throughout the vehicle body, the magnetic fields produced do not cancel and extremely large magnetic fields can be found around the cable.

    In order to reduce the fields, you remove the chassis bonding of the battery in the rear and run an equally thick black wire from the 0v/-12v battery terminal through to a new bonding point next to the alternator on the engine. This new cable MUST run as close as possible to the existing power-feed cable. Ideally, the existing cable should be replaced with an overall insulated armoured co-axial cable with the outer armour carrying the return current, when the magnetic fields would cancel perfectly. The biggest problem is that the starter motor requires hundreds of amps to turn over the engine, so the cables to/from the battery need to be very thick and heavy duty – at least 500 Amps for 30 seconds – to a) not to drop too much voltage and b) not to be a fire hazard. This can be quite complicated to achieve, and most garage mechanics will not be familiar with the necessary procedures.

    Some upmarket cars, e.g. Jaguar, Mercedes, BMW, have electronic control units to change the angle and position of car seats under (even a part of) the driver’s seat. These can give off high levels of magnetic fields, as will heated seats.

    If the car is producing high EMFs, driving can be all but impossible for an electrically sensitive driver. They may well experience loss of coordination and fatigue that can result in dangerous driver error. One person sold his £50,000 BMW because he believed it aggravated his electrical sensitivity. He drives his wife’s 12-year-old Nissan instead.

    Many hybrid cars can give off high levels of magnetic fields. In 2007, the Prius had no fields over 0.08 microtesla (μT), and then only during hard acceleration or battery charging. Hybrid cars tend to have more pulses in the kHz range due to the switching between gas and electric operation.

    Radiofrequency fields
    Electronic dash panels will also produce low levels of high-frequency radiation, these are not generally a problem, but more cars are being fitted with an in-built Bluetooth microwave communications system. This will talk to your mobile phone and any other Bluetooth-enabled electronic device. The effects on people are similar to other digital wireless LAN (local area network) systems – see the Powerwatch articles on these for details. Radio-frequencies are also being used to sense the driver, electronic keytag in some cars, and other vehicle system functions.

    Continuously active Bluetooth systems are being installed in more expensive cars. These expose the driver and front passenger to continually pulsing microwaves. We do not recommend the use of Bluetooth in cars and suggest you get these physically disconnected by your garage.
    GPS mapping systems in a car are merely receivers of radiofrequency signals from at least 3 satellites for giving a location on the earth. They do not add to the microwave exposure of the car’s occupants. However, see GPRS systems, below.

    GPRS/GSM/GPS systems like LoCATe, V-SOL, Quartix, etc. regularly transmit pulsed radio signals using mobile phone technology whilst you are driving around. These systems help the police to locate the car quickly if it gets stolen. The annual payment for the system is quite expensive, so they are not common. It is likely to be wired into a roof aerial, so does not bombard the car occupants with microwaves as much as a mobile phone in the car would.

    Japanese drivers have been using in-car Internet access since 1997. In December 2009 it was revealed that Ford, Mercedes, BMW, Chrysler, General Motors & Cadillac are all offering in-car connectivity. Autonet Mobile, the producers of the hardware, say the system is designed to support several devices at once, enabling one passenger to update a Facebook page, whilst another is gaming online or watching YouTube videos, for example. It also incorporates a docking station so you can move it from one car to the next; thank goodness it can easily be removed!

    Apparently one-third of people surveyed by the Consumer Electronics Association want to check e-mail or have internet access in cars. Letting people log on will be a big selling point among people in their 20s, who will make up 28% of the driving population in 2010, a nine-point increase from 2004. The system installed by General Motors, called Chevrolet Wi-Fi will create a WiFi hot spot 300 feet in diameter around the vehicle.

    Electric vehicles
    Electric vehicles can produce VERY high magnetic fields from the large battery currents and the electric motor. Starting and stopping currents produce very high magnetic field pulses. This may become an increasing problem with car companies and customers seeking more environmentally friendly vehicles and looking at all electric, or dual fuel cars.

    Many electric cars use VLF switching to control the motor’s speed and power. We believe that magnetic fields in electric cars should be measured and published as a matter of priority.

    Men who drive electric fork-lift trucks as a job seem to be at greater risk of testicular and other cancers, especially where the batteries are under the driver’s seat and the driver’s lower trunk is quite highly exposed for hours on end – especially to starting transients. Women drivers may also be at greater risk of developing colon and gynaecological cancers.

    The problem with tires
    Tires are often the largest contributor to magnetic field exposure in most cars. These fields are caused by permanent magnetism in the radial steel bands within the tyre, generated in the manufacturing process and, to a lesser extent, permanent magnetism in the wheel hub itself. When the wheel rotates, the steel bands produce low frequency pulsing electromagnetic fields (usually below 20 Hz) that some people react adversely to. The fundamental frequency of the fields is determined by the tyre rotation rate and has a high harmonic content (Milham 1999).

    Electromagnetic fields are usually highest (they can exceed 2 microtesla) in the front foot wells and some people find they feel better in the back of the car – though not in vehicles where the rear seats are almost over the rear wheels. You can get fabric banded/reinforced tires but they are not as strong as steel banded radials. The answer is to de-magnetise (degauss) the wheels and tyres just as ships were demagnetised during the last war to avoid magnetic mines. Unfortunately large portable demagnetisers are rare these days, though they have centres in Switzerland. Degaussing the tires reduces the fields to low levels, but the fields increase gradually over time after degaussing. When you change your car tires, you may find that the new ones are more highly magnetised than the old ones and this may need to be borne in mind with regard to where you sit or whether de-gaussing may be needed.

    The tire-generated fields are below the frequencies detected by most magnetic field meters, and failure to detect them could compromise exposure assessments associated with epidemiologic studies.

    Electric shocks from the metal body of the car
    Many people are concerned that they get electric shocks when getting out of their car. Such shocks occur after you slide across synthetic seat covers as you prepare to get out of the car, generating static electricity, which the driver or passenger then discharges by touching the metal body of the car. This is normal, but can be somewhat unpleasant. It can easily be prevented by holding onto the metal of the car, perhaps the roof or the door pillar, accessible through the door opening as you get out. This prevents static build-up, so there is no sudden discharge.

    When your car lock doesn’t work
    The Dolphin TETRA mobile communications system is known to be able to interfere seriously with vehicle electronic locks and alarms. This is because the Government’s Radiocommunications Agency (now Ofcom) issued Dolphin with frequencies very close to those used by car-locking and alarm systems. Unfortunately, car electronics are unable to reject the relatively powerful and pulsing Dolphin signals which therefore end up “jamming” some cars’ electronic locking systems. There were about 1000 Dolphin TETRA base stations around the UK. The Dolphin network failed to attract enough customers and was sold cheaply to UK Broadband during 2004. The future of these base stations is now in question but some areas are likely to remain active and may be sold to users such as bus, transport and security companies.

    Some types of equipment on Ministry of Defence property give off a variety of forms of microwave radiation. Fylingdales has been in the news because it was creating signals which seriously interfered with car-locking devices, resulting in problems with people getting into their cars to leave.
    Visitors to Windermere (Windermere Daily Mail February 2010) found that their cars would neither lock nor unlock when close to a restaurant using a wireless order taker. The frequencies used by the key fobs and the order machine were similar enough to interfere with the comparatively weak signal from the cars’ key fobs. The restaurant’s devices were reprogrammed to avoid the problem.

    Electrical Hypersensitivity (EHS) and cars
    People with EHS are likely to be much more affected by EMFs in cars, sometimes making it almost impossible for them to travel in them. As a general rule, the cars giving most problems are likely to be new, expensive ones, especially those with RF CANBUS, or Bluetooth-enabled systems, or with their batteries in the rear. Another source of problems in one person’s case, was the sampling device for climate control in cars. It was only by disabling this that he was able to tolerate car journeys.
    The older and less sophisticated (cheaper) cars may be able to be tolerated, though magnetised wheels and tyres can be a problem in all vehicles.

    Choose your car carefully, preferably using a meter to determine the field levels, and keep journeys as short as practicable in cars when you are unaware of the field levels you may be exposed to.

    A person who has been studying the condition of EHS and its consequences for some years, found that a significant proportion of those she was in contact with had suffered damage to the back, often from car accidents. This jarring to the spine led to an imbalance in the cranial fluid cushioning the brain, which was felt to result in a decreased ability of the brain to deal with external stimuli. When faced with such a stimulus, the three layers of tissue around the brain go into spasm. It is not clear what effect this would have on general biological functioning, but it may well explain some of the differences in symptoms experienced by some EHS sufferers.

    Possibly extra care could be taken with respect to EMF exposure for some time after such an event in an individual’s life, to avoid the development of EHS. However, there may not be an instant reaction in the body’s internal electromagnetic communication network to a traumatic incident such as a car accident, and other types of provocation may be needed for EHS to manifest.

  • Richard Emery

    The purchasing of the Hyundai Sonata hybrid was because of my wife looking at the car thought it was beautiful and sexy looking. I myself was looking for a electric car but because of the price of the electric cars I felt that this is as close as I’m going to get to a total electric car. we like the car being as quiet as it is and also the comfort. Hyundai is coming out with a plug-in hybrid next year sometime. this will work out fine getting used to a larger car. our previous car was a Mini Cooper clubman. but after 10 years of driving Mini Coopers I felt it was a change for the good. because of the way the car was designed to use a six speed automatic makes it feel like you have a control over what you’re doing. it can be used like a shifting mechanism that is very fast. but with 206 hp combining electric and gas it does not have a problem keeping up with traffic or merging or any of that stuff that you think you’re not going to have. living in Maui it is warm year-round this means you have to have air conditioning on most of the time. even with the air conditioning turned up and traffic it still gets 30+ per gallon. I know that we will probably purchase the plug-in because it will have a longer range than the volt. and by that time we should have a place to plug in at our condos here in kihei. and to add to all this there is a law in Hawaii for every 100 public parking stalls there has to be one charging station. this would mean that all hotels of any size will have charging stations. and here in the islands there are lots of hotels.ALOHA Richard and Jane

  • John

    In my drive are a 2004 Prius and a 2012 Leaf. The Prius is now ‘backup’ and ‘long trip’ vehicle.

    You close your blog entry with these words: “As it stands, we’re sending nearly $1 billion a day to other countries to import oil…”

    What galls me is that more of that imported oil is refined into gasoline and exported to other countries than at any time in the memories of most who read this sentence.


    One of many hits in this search


    It may not be popular with those ‘citizens united individuals’ who pay for the ads that elect our government, but it is clearly time to end subsidies for an industry that uses our tax dollars to profit from such exports, at the same time exposing our young people in military service to instant death to protect their access to these profits.

    Plug in – plug on.

  • My mom and I share a Nissan Leaf which we got last May. Before that, I had a 05 Honda Civic. My first car was an 81 civic. I’ve always liked fuel efficient cars.

    The first EV experience I had was sitting in an EV1 in 1999. I took auto shop and our teacher had access to two of EV1s. I really like that the dashboard was digital.

    I was disappointed when the EV1 program was shut down. I was excited when I got my Prius two years ago, but then I came across the LEAF almost my chance thanks to plug-in america.org. I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to get one. But after learning more about the car over several months, it just made sense. Everything worked out well.

    This May will be a year with the LEAF. It’s been a great car. I don’t drive a lot right now, but my Mom drives it instead of her Honda CRV when I don’t need to go anywhere. She has saved a lot of money on gas. In the long term, we are going to save a lot of money on gas and maintenance.

    The car has had a positive psychological effect on me. Knowing that my car is not polluting the air when I drive makes me feel great! I feel fulfilled that I’m driving my dream car! It’s also fun to talk to people in parking lots about the car and fill them in on EVs.

    I did experience some “Range Anxiety” at first, but it didn’t last long. I usually get about 80-100 miles out of the battery on average. I have yet to enter “Turtle mode,” which kicks in when you are almost out of charge.

    I encourage people to look into plug-ins. While the cost may seem high initially, the savings are worth it. Both in monetary and environmental costs.

  • I converted my Go Kart to Electric and I love it because I don’t have to worry about oil changes, leaking oil, spark plug changes, air filter changes, starting problems, stale fuel, etc etc.

    Also, I don’t have to worry about waking up my neighbors when I take it for a drive.

    Compare that to my brand new gas pocket bike. I have to mix 2 stroke fuel. Also, the power delivery is not as nice as an Electric Vehicle.
    Too many worries with gas.

  • And the stories keep pouring in. Thank you! If you’ve still got a story to post, please add your comment to the thread.

    I’ve also just posted a new blog about the first time electric cars “died.” It was 100 years ago this year. Find out the culprit here and join in the conversation.

  • Joseph Bundens

    I work as a contractor for the EPA and while I may be biased towards saving the environment, I drive a hybrid vehicle also because it saves me money in the long run. I purchased a 2nd generation 2006 Toyota Prius and I love the car. The car is designed to save energy both in the electric motor and regenerative breaking. Even when driving on the highway if your cruising at a constant speed the Prius will generate enough energy that the electric motor will compensate about %50 of the time. Once the car decelerates to 20 m/hr it will run almost completely on electric. If you drive at a normal frequency and normal distance you will make up the extra cost of the Prius with the gas savings at the pump. You pay about %40 less in gas then you would a normal gasoline vehicle of the same class. All in all if it saves money and helps the environment it is a no brainier to me.

  • Paul Fishman

    I am the proud, and admitedly somewhat eccentric owner of a 2006 Zap PK. The Zap has 3 wheels, 6 batteries, an extension cord, and no gas tank. Zap owners tend to be die-hards, and we have an active internet forum that helps us keep these electric tin cans on the road. I get maybe 18 miles on a full charge, and that charge costs me less than 50 cents.

    I strongly believe that we are chasing a wrong paradigm with the EVs designed to replace the family car for long-range driving. These are great, but I wish the first step by the auto industry would have been smaller urban electric vehicles (UEVs) with a range of 30-40 miles per charge. Most driving, I think, falls into that category, and replacing the big gasoline cars in the urban aas with smaller UEVs would have a huge impact on energy use, emissions, and the urban experience.

    I use my Zap to commute to work sites (I’m a consultant) and run errands (when I don’t use my bike). Most of what I do day to day totals less than 20 miles, and I take advantage of opportunistic charging. To me, this is the future I want to see for EVs.

  • Skip Dunn

    1973 Porsche 914 EV. 144 volt system, 20 hp motor (ca 100 hp peak hp, ~ ICE it replaced). Range unknown (tired batteries) but ca 40-60 miles. Performance similar to ICE 914s. Runs at highway speeds.

    This car is a great looking car which draws attention at all the “Green” shows. It is a great educational tool to explain the simplicity of EVs and their components: battery, charger, controller/trigger, and motor – just the same as on a cordless electric drill. Of course an electric motor has only one moving component (armature), while an ICE and transmission has hundreds of moving parts. Additionally, ICEs need cooling systems, smog systems, intake and exhaust systems.

    Take the Targa top off and enjoy a fresh air drive, or use a converted ICE car for a commute car. Just glide by the gas stations and wave. These are great second cars.

    Since 1967, Electric Auto Association members have been converting ICE cars. To find a chapter near you, go to: (www.electricauto.org>

  • Here is in northern Alberta, Canada i’ve been waiting, and waiting and waiting for the OEMs to come out with an affordable electric car.  I got fed up with waiting…..

    Two years ago I sold my truck as it was no longer being used as a truck. It’s status had been reduced to as a single commuter vehicle which cost allot of money to fuel and insure every month.

    The proceeds from the truck sale went to purchasing a used hybrid car. This was good as my monthly fuel bill and insurance premiums went down significantly. 
    My old truck used to get about 16 mpg and my newly purchased hybrid achieved about 50 mpg. Again, this was good, but I knew it could be much better. So nine months later 
    I had a 4KW Plug-In Hybrid system professionally installed to allow the car to be less reliant on the gas engine and more on the electric motor. The result was an average fuel consumption 
    of over 100 MPG!! With an annual savings of over $1500 between fuel and insurance costs had I kept my old truck on the road, this conversion will pay for itself within three years. 
    Two years has almost flown by already. The game plan is to eventually go full EV and use those future fuel & insurance savings on a solar panel array system to further offset my carbon footprint. 

    Not only have I significantly reduced my carbon footprint, it ‘pays’ to be green too.  🙂

    There is a website about the conversion if you would like to have a look.



    Andrew Bell

  • Skip Dunn

    2007 ZENN. 25/40 mph Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV). Designed to comply with federal vehicle requirements for 25 mph vehicles (ca. 10 states allow higher speeds up to 40mph). ZENN (Zero Emissions. No Noise) is an all-electric, 72-volt vehicle with a 20-25 mile range using conventional lead acid batteries. The ZENN was based on the french Microcar, shipped to Ontario without the drivetrain. ZENN Motor Co installed all the electric drivetrain components.

    245 mpg equivalent (EVs get 4x the mileage of the same gas car). Even though about 60% of our electricity comes from dirtier coal, emissions are still about 50% less using 60% coal electricity. To achieve 0 emissions, charge from solar PV panels. You can’t do that with any ICE (internal combustion engine) car.

    Pros: Unparalleled mileage. Great around town vehicle. Weather tight. Power windows, 4-wheel disk brakes, power retractible top. 2 seater but expandable to 4-seater, or lots of storage space (or space for 6 6th graders!).

    Cons: Limited speed and mileage. Weak heater keeps windshield defogged but not much else. No longer being sold 🙁

    This car is a great 2nd or 3rd car to use around the community, and great for a first all-EV. It is QUIET. Roll down the windows and hear the birds, talk with bicyclists and pedestrians, chat with your neighbors. No heat. No stink. No dripping oil (just clean off the tires and you can drive it onto your living room rug). Just plug it into any 110 wall plug, even at the store, as more businesses are welcoming 110-volt plugins (after someone has explained that the one kilowatt hour draw only costs them around 10¢).

  • Skip Dunn

    2000 Honda Insight. Purchased 2007. 72.6 mpg in 72,000 miles since 2007.

    Pros: Fantastic mileage. Lowest emissions. Great motor-crafting car, i.e. driver actually drives, shifts, takes advantage of terrain rather than blasting through it. “Underpowered,” and minimally powered when electric boost kicks in, which makes it fun to apply driving skills to be in tune with your vehicle. Recalls MG TDs more than Corvettes. Two seater with room for two suitcases and carry ons. Best engineering for mileage (aluminum frame, .25 drag, 2275 lbs, etc.). Did I mention 72.6 mpg?

    Cons: Only a 2 seater. 0-60 not top priority. Lightness gives car a “sporty” feel rather than a “boulevard” ride. I doubt you could tow anything with it.

    Incredible car. Only ca. 14,000 imported, 2000-2006, out of ca. 18,000 made. Legend has it that these $20K cars cost around $50K to build, so Honda may not be building any more. Too bad. If you ever find one for sale, get it!

  • Oh, and while I’m a big EVangelist of plug-in capable vehicles (no need to get into a tizzy whether a Volt is an EV or not — it’s a Plug-In, which means it’s capable of being fueled on 100% American energy supporting American jobs and keeping spending locally) it’s a fact that can be seen from several comments here that not everybody is either convinced, has the drive or the ability to afford a full-sized electric vehicle And while a *good* electric bicycle can be had for under $1,000 — make mine a folder and I can easily mode-shift with it and take it inside a car, a train, a bus, a plane — most Americans do not yet see the bicycle (even an electrified one) as suitable daily transportation. We’ll see once our gas prices normalize with the rest of the first world…

    So what do you do? Again from my work with the XPRIZE I got to meet Henning Lohse-Busch of Argonne national labs (his group does EPA certified dynometer testing — aka EPA MPG sticker on a new car) and he said that the top reason folks don’t get their US EPA MPG sticker on their car is how they accelerate off the stop line. Hmm… so how do you eliminate this behavior? Well you eliminate all the unnecessary stopping (and waiting at stop lights)! The majority of daily miles are local, mainly city driving. Lots of unnecessary stopping and waiting (the Prius and other hybrids depend on this to have greater City MPG than Highway by using regenerative braking and turning the ICE off when possible). So you examine the personal transportation system as a whole, looking to eliminate the bad acceleration behavior by eliminating unnecessary stopping and you land on yield signs and modern designed roundabouts.

    A roundabout improves the MPGe of EVERY vehicle that goes through it, regardless of the politics or beliefs of its driver. They’re more efficient and far safer than any other intersection style for pedestrians and bicyclists as well as drivers (nobody speeds up to “beat the roundabout” like they do red/orange/yellow lights!). Of course due to confusion with traffic circles and old style roundabouts on the east coast, most folks (about 80%) are opposed to roundabouts going in at first, but a year later the numbers flip and 80% are in support. Further, when you convert from MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent) to gallons-per-100 miles, that in terms of saving on fuel consumption it is far more important to take a ~5 MPG vehicle (such as a city bus) and changing it to a ~10 MPG vehicle (a savings of 10 gallons every 100 miles) versus a 50 MPG vehicle compared to a 100 MPG vehicle (a one gallon savings every 100 miles)

    The benefit is that it makes your plug-in vehicle go much farther as well!

    Our nation needs federal and state roundabout grants/incentives for towns ASAP!

  • After commuting around a small mid-western town in a plug-in vehicle (1998 Twike Active) for the past 5 years, the biggest change in my life was hard to detect — because it was something MISSING.

    The daily stress over the price of gas was GONE. No more worrying about whether I should’ve bought gas before the weekend or wednesday, or saved a few cents by going to a gas station a few blocks over/in the next town. I don’t waste brainpower on remembering the current price of gas, looking at the price of gas as I drive by every gas station…

    And THAT is a big stress relief!

    To be sure, I still buy gas for our “gas-guzzling” family car (2007 Toyota Prius) for out of town trips, but I don’t fret about it: I’ve reduced my personal gas debt by more-than 70% — the amount of foreign oil we spend a billion dollars a day on as well as have gone (and are likely again) to war over. That is also a big stress relief, but alas I find I’m not your typical American (I now fret over the welfare of coal miners who generate the majority of our electricity in the US)

    The majority of Americans who drive go less-than 50 miles a day. Figuring that’s to work and back, their vehicle sits for 4-8 hours a day, then they drive home. Therefore per-charge battery pack range is a non-issue when combined with opportunity charging (plug-in your vehicle at every opportunity so it’s always full). This is where the advantage of an extremely lightweight plug-in vehicle comes in (eBike, eMotorcycle) — generally < 1000 pound total vehcile weight: they can easily charge-to-full in a couple of hours on any regular 3-prong outlet (120V/15A) because a lightweight vehicle does not require a huge battery pack (ergo huge/high current and voltages are not required to fill up — ie, special charging stations). So there are actually more places to charge my TWIKE than there are gas stations 😉

    Plug-ins = Freedom from stressing over gas prices.
    Show OPEC where to stick it: Drive a plug-in vehicle today!

    From my work with the Automotive XPRIZE last summer, I learned something interesting: the majority of the race was electric vehicles, yet everybody there was "a car guy" We all have our own special love for gas-powered vehicles. But we've also all come to the conclusion that it's the wrong tool for the job. Someday I'll get my Candy-Apple Red 1966 rag-top mustang, and if it's in working order, I won't convert it. I also won't drive it everyday! There's knowing the right tool for the job!

    P.S. When you use something that is bad for you that there are viable alternatives, you are not dependant on it — you are addicted to it: we depend upon clean air and water. We are addicted to oil.

  • Rahbaba H.

    I love driving my Electric Nissan LEAF, which I purchased last year. Twenty years ago, I was a big proponent of electric vehicles, and I spent six years running a business which converted gas cars to electric. In 1998, I was finally able to lease the GM EV-1 which I drove for 2 years before GM recalled all of those EVs. If anyone wishes to research EVs, they will discover that electric vehicles were more prevalent on the roads 100 years ago in major US cities because there was no infrastructure to supply gasoline for internal combustion vehicles. Obviously, that all changed.

    I believe that electric vehicles are here to stay, now that oil prices keep rising, and US gasoline will soon cost $5 per gal. In Europe, the cost of fuel already exceeds that price. While batteries for EVs are not cheap either, their costs have dropped significantly in just the past 20 years. I used to install heavy lead-acid batteries in EVs with very little power density, now the new Lithium batteries are lighter and store much more energy. This is great progress.

    Now that I own an EV which I hope to keep for the rest of my life, I will never need to visit a gas station again. It’s a part of my old life that I don’t miss at all. Regarding the source of energy to power my EV batteries, I don’t care if it comes from coal, nuclear, wind, solar, hydro, or geothermal sources. Our whole modern civilization runs on electric power, so I plan to use those same electrons to run my EV appliance. There is no one who can tell me that their home appliances are more important to power than my transportation appliance. As long as we have engineers working to reduce the pollution produced from our energy sources (which they have been doing for the past 100 years anyway), then our civilization will continue to make environmental progress, too.

    • Baird Edmonds

      And if you can install a PV array somewhere on your property the charging can be done completely independent of fossil fueled electricity generation. Good time to do it now that panels are at an all time low cost.

  • George Pelton

    I have owned my Chevy Volt for one year. It is a joy to drive and own. Very smooth, and comfortable. Silent at low speeds, espically if you turn the HVAC fan off. The old Rolls Royce ad said: “the loudest thing is the ticking of the clock.” The Volt has a modern digital clock, so the fan becomes the loudest thing. Turn it off and roll down the window, then enjoy the “magic carpet ride” sensation. Handling is excellent, the low Cg pins the car to the road, and the special Goodyear tires provide great grip on dry, wet, or ice cornered pavement, despite being low rolling resistance. This grip also provides great emergency stopping power. Just in case that is not enough, it is comforting to have eight airbags and five-star crash ratings.

    I love spending 10 seconds to plug it in every night, and having an alternative to visiting the gas stations. I went 7.5 months without filling the gas tank, and it took less than $20 of premium to fill the 9.3 gallon tank (it still was 1/4 full). I programmed my utility’s TOU (time of use) rates into the car, and set it to charge based on departure time. Off-peak electricity is only 2.5 cents/kWh (plus fuel charge, probably 5 cents total). I pay only about $15/month to charge at home, and really like buying from my low cost, reliable, utility, instead of using petroleum.

    You can buy a good ICE car for less, but I feel sorry for anyone who buys one of the many ICE cars that cost the same or more. They really get less car for the money, and the “user experience” is no where near as satisfying as the Volt.

  • Wattson

    Leaf driver for 8 months and 10,600 miles. Absolutely love the car. It’s fast, agile, and effortless to drive. Our solar panels go up next week and will cover our entire electric usage for almost half the original monthly cost (also, a good footnote is these panels are U.S. made, installed by U.S. workers). I’ve dreamed of owning an all-electric powered by solar for about 15 years, so I’m still a little stunned.
    I commute about 40 miles roundtrip to work, but on the weekends try to stretch out for longer runs. LA, Orange County, and Old Town Temecula all have free charging stations available in cool spots.
    The batteries are warranted to stay within their rating for 100,000 miles and are designed to last the life of the car. There’s a myth being perpetuated by the misinformed that battery replacement is something to worry about, when the reality is they can last quite a long time (take the Prius taxis that have gone approx 300,000 miles before needing a $1700 battery refurbishment). Considering I’ve already saved a net of $1500 in gas costs versus electricity, I’m not worried.

  • Chad Schwitters

    I bought an electric car because I was interested in the economic, energy security, and environmental benefits. At the time I didn’t know anybody that had one, so I was a little nervous. But I was prepared to suffer a bit to do my part. My wife wasn’t–she told me to experiment all I wanted, but to stay away from her Prius.

    Within a month of buying the car (a 2003 RAV4-EV), my wife became the primary driver and I started shopping for another EV. My Mom has a same-generation gas RAV4, and the electric one is the same speed and room, but quieter, smoother, lower maintenance, more responsive, and cheaper to operate. We are not suffering–this is a huge win!

    Range is completely, totally, 100% not an issue. It would be if you wanted to never use gas again; but few people go that far. If you’re a one-car family, buy a PHEV. If you’re a two-car family, replace one with an electric. In either case you still can drive on gas, so you can still get anywhere you want without ever having to wait for a charge.

    Of course, even when you don’t HAVE to wait for a charge, many of us owners find ourselves WILLING to wait for a charge because we really don’t want to drive the gas car anymore. Most people assume driving an electric is worse…but it’s far better!

    Gas drivers pay a lot of money for smoother, quieter luxury cars. And for sports cars with more responsive accelerators and gobs of low-end torque. These are just natural traits of electric drive. Anybody complaining about them not being a “real” car has clearly not driven one!

  • Paul Scott

    I got my first electric vehicle, a Toyota RAV4 EV in 2002 just after installing a 3 kW PV system. For over 9 years, I’ve run my house and car on sunlight. I sold the RAV after 8.5 years and 91,000 miles for $18,000. Not bad for an old SUV! I now drive a LEAF and have totaled 102,000 miles between the two cars. My electric bill averages a mere $100 per year for both the house and car. I haven’t been to a gas station since December of 2002. It feels great to drive without polluting other’s air and to never give the oil companies any of my money. It’s also a great feeling that the money I save can be spent on local goods and services generating jobs for my friends and neighbors.

  • Warren Tighe

    My wife and I drive a Nissan LEAF for about 90% of our car trips. We charge it at home at night for a cost of about 3 cents per mile (compared with about 15 cents per mile for a similar size gasoline car). Higher gasoline prices won’t affect us. And there are no oil changes, no routine maintenance except tires, brake pads, and wiper blades, and far fewer things to break or wear out. In summary, our LEAF is a very quiet, smooth, sophisticated, and zippy car to drive – and its cheap to operate. We love it.

  • Gretchen

    When you have dropped a ton of money on a trendy new fashion accessory like an EV it is understandable you would aggressively overlook the downside. Those EVs are hideously polluting to manufacture and drive, just not in your own backyard…so it’s all OK, right? Wrong! Manufacture of EVs hogs up enormous amounts of rare earth elements which are mined out of vast scarring mines in Communist China where the earth is raped with impunity (but it’s not in your backyard so it’s OK, right?). Manufacture of electric equipment, including for EVs, is legendary for creating and releasing dioxins into our precious environment. Dioxins are deadly toxins but who cares, right? Massive battery packs in EVs will require replacement, unleashing mountains of groady spent batteries into our corrupt industrial system to be carelessly dismantled in 3rd world countries by exploited workers. Plugging in your EV prompts a belch of coal smoke and steps up the sinister buzzing of a nuke reactor — but that’s not in your backyard so it’s OK, right? Coal pollution from mountaintop removal is not a problem as long as your backyard isn’t in West Virginia so it’s OK, right. And where the heck are they storing spent nuclear fuel these days, anyway? Not in your backyard so who cares, right? Sure just keep consuming and wasting and taking and tossing out with impunity until all the earth outside your own backyard is destroyed. Justify it with smug assertions you are polluting less — without acknowledging the extent of your own pollution.

    • Hi Gretchen,

      Thanks for your comment. I’ve been glad to see some of the back and forth in this thread, though personal attacks are not welcome.

      My main concern about your comment and some others is that they appear to either try to mislead or show a lack of awareness of the data on hybrid and electric cars. UCS is an organization based in sound science, so I need to point out that you don’t have the facts on your side.

      Argonne National Laboratories and MIT, among others, have done good research showing that electric cars are only somewhat more energy intensive to make/dispose and are overall better when it comes to the environment. Check out these resources to learn more.

      MIT analysis looking at every major part of a car shows that making and disposing a conventional gasoline vehicle produces as much global warming pollution as driving for one year (Table 3). Electric cars boost that by about a half a year, but can save about ten times as much or more.

      Argonne analysis looks at conventional and advanced vehicle piece by piece and finds that, in most areas, hybrid cars are far superior to modern conventional vehicles when it comes to energy and pollution (e.g. see figures starting with 19). And where they are not, the problem can be easily solved by supporting more renewable electricity.

      Also, as some comments below have noted, batteries are valuable and recycling programs either already exist or are being developed.

      Finally, keep an eye out because UCS is close to putting out a report about the real story on the costs and global warming footprint of electric cars compared to gasoline cars.

      • Thompson M. G.

        David, I would have written Gretchen off as being an uninformed/misinformed alarmist until I read your chirpy smiley-face response and checked the references you cited. Turns out Gretchen makes several good points while David’s story is slippery and full of holes. Those cited reports offer little more than admonitions to lighten vehicle weight to improve fuel efficiency (and that is equally true for EVs and petroleum-fueled rigs). The Argonne report does acknowledge the very same problems with EV manufacture Gretchen worries about. Then Argonne glosses over these serious issues by dreaming of futuristic solar panels and near-perfect waste recycling. Looks from where I’m sitting like UCS could only palm off a hopeful, wishful unreal report of “real costs”. The data that’s out there supports Gretchen and prompts true scientists to look deeper and wider into the promise/folly of electric vehicles. And I must say, it is a rare cold day in you-know-where when I find myself in agreement with people like Gretchen but she sure called your bluff. Good one, Gretchen!

    • Paul Scott

      Gretchen, your comments about the manufacturing costs (energy and resources) are only marginally true, but neglect the powerful arguments in favor of EVs on the energy source, national security and macro-economics of plug-in technology. You also inadvertently admit that you don’t really care about the pollution from dirty electricity since you obviously use that same dirty energy to power your house. Had you taken the steps to install solar PV, or switch to your utility’s renewable energy program, you would be running your house on clean, renewable power. Any plug-in vehicle you purchased would then run on that same clean power. This is the goal of those of us who are real environmentalists, you know, the ones who walk the walk.

      You must me unaware that EVs can be manufactured without the use of rare earth elements, or with very little. The AC induction motor used in the most powerful EVs such as Tesla are made from iron, copper and steel. No rare earths at all. The battery in the LEAF is made from lithium, manganese and graphite. Batteries from EVs will be used for energy storage for years after they are no longer used in the cars. Then the lithium and other elements will be used for new batteries.

      You don’t tell us what you drive, so I can only surmise it’s powered by internal combustion. The fuel you buy comes mostly from foreign countries, many of which are openly hostile to us. Our military spends $80 billion every year protecting our access to the world’s oil. That works out to 55 cents a gallon that you don’t pay when you buy gas. You force all taxpayers to subsidize your fuel of choice. http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG838.html

      The extraction, shipping, refining, delivering and burning of oil creates massive pollution that is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths every year. You pay nothing for that, either.

      A full 45% of our trade deficit comes from purchasing foreign oil. As the global price rises, billions more leave our country. This is money we could put to much better use here. On the local and regional level, it’s even worse. Here in CA, we spent $55 billion for gasoline last year and about 90% of that money left our state, never to return. That $50 billion, if it stayed here every year, would generate millions of jobs, but instead, it goes to enrich foreign petrol dictators and people like the Koch brothers who corrupt our political system.

      You are wrong on virtually everything you say, and you leave out the worst of the problems of remaining 99% reliant on oil for our transportation. It’s not just about the environment. Our economy and national security are equally important.

    • james billmaier


      You have some mis-perceptions about electric vehicles. The new breed of EVs uses a Li-Ion battery which is highly recyclable (80-95%). After the 10 year plus life of the battery in a mobile application like an electric car, the batteries can be used for another 10+ in stationary applications like grid balancing sitting at the bottom of a power generating wind mill. Today, the US does produce ~50% of its electricity by burning coal, but even in regions where 100% of their electricity is produced by burning coal, an EV measured “well to wheel” still produces less CO2 than the average gas powered car in America. As we move to producing more of America’s electricity with cleaner approaches, the EV will become cleaner…unlike gas cars that typically get dirtier with age, EVs become cleaner with time.

      EVs are not a perfect solution to personal transportation…their just way better than the alternatives.

    • Warren Tighe

      Gretchen, if someone came out with a gasoline-powered vacuum cleaner would you buy one to avoid the negative impacts of manufacturing, generating electricity for, and disposing of the electric motor in the vacuum? How about a gas-powered cell phone to avoid those dirty batteries in the phone?

  • I am crazy about my 2006 Prius. It is the most reliable car I have ever owned, and I have owned cars for over 40 years. It is fun to drive and remarkably roomy for a small vehicle. I love getting 50+ mpg on long trips. I can’t understand why anyone would buy any other car.

  • I had a 1968 Mustang that I restored – dropped in a 5 speed, headers, dual exhaust, aluminum intake and so forth. But it got 16 mpg on a good day (on premium) and smelled of raw exhaust (no emission control in ’68). I converted a ’92 Miata to electric drive, and you know what – it’s faster than the Mustang and a lot more fun to drive. The Mustang has been sold and I don’t regret it for a minute.

  • Betty Hamilton

    First of all, my husband and I were opposed to the invasion of Iraq. When we heard on the radio in October 2002 that if every vehicle on the road would get 10 mpg (I *think* “10”) more, we would no longer need foreign oil. That’s when we began to look for a more fuel efficient one. Our American made car had decent mpg for a top-of-the-line 4-door sedan, but we had recently had some expensive repairs, so our search for a new vehicle was on.

    As soon as we drove the 2003 Prius, we were hooked. I loved the feel and comfort; my gadget-loving husband loved the technology. We purchased our Super White “Snowflake Wonder” on December 21, 2002, and we are still driving it. My husband does the servicing himself and said the oil changes are the easiest he’s ever done.

    Since our beloved Prius is heading for its 10-year anniversary, we are looking at different cars, but it looks like we will replace it with another Prius. We’ve been just too happy with our current one to change. BTW, we have not missed the larger “top-of-the-line” car that we sold to buy the Prius.
    Visit: http://www.drivecleanacrosstexas.org

    • Paul Scott

      If you must get another Prius, be sure to get the new PHEV Prius. Once you drive on kWh from renewable electricity, you’ll never want to go back to pure ICE.

  • P M Joshi

    I have owned Nissan LEAF for 9 months and have put 10,000 miles on it. My other car is Mercedes which keeps sitting in my garage for months because I have no need to drive it unless I am going somewhere far away – but wait – for many of those cases, I could just fly or rent a hybrid or gas car. I am convinced that Leaf can work as the only car for most people. Range is a total non-issue for 90% of the population for 90% of their driving. Leaf saves you cost of a gas fill-up every week and even one fill-up cost (around $50) can easily buy you 1-2 days of rental car for going anywhere outside range of LEAF. So, you have to consider an EV as something giving you a free gas card every week. I have routinely driven Leaf for more than 120 miles in one day with little bit of charging in the middle and I have driven Leaf as far as 90-96 miles on freeways without charging anywhere.

    Cost of driving with off-peak rates is so low that you never worry about driving. Apply those savings in driving costs and Leaf can beat any conventional or hybrid car in being cost-effective with or without the subsidies!! Do your math. If you come with a different conclusion, double check your math. I did my math before purchase and validated it over 9 months of driving. In fact, the economics on Leaf is so amazing, people have no idea until they do complete accounting. When people do complete calculation, it is clear that it is an amazing bargain compared to even used cars and I have driven tons of used cars but I would prefer buying Leaf over a used car!!!

    People might say EV may still cause pollution by burning coal in power-plants. There are many fallacies with this logic : 1) On a per calorie basis, EV is 3-4 times efficient as ICE car so even if you were burning fossil fuels to produce electricity to run EV you are still polluting far less. This is exactly why efficient diesel trains never burn diesel directly but have on-board generator that produces electricity from diesel and then only electric motor drives the train.
    , 2) It is far easier to regulate and clean up few hundred power plants than to clean up millions of polluting cars, 3) Power plants are not in your backyard but your kids and you will keep breathing the polluted air from gas cars, 4) If you install solar panels, you can officially claim that your driving causes zero pollution anywhere. And as electric supply becomes greener with more solar, wind we all can reach closer to that ideal but remember that dream will never be a reality with gasoline cars.

  • Wow! Thanks to all of you for sharing your stories. And to those who are still thinking about sharing, please jump in, the water’s fine.

    Like I said, people LOVE talking about their cars.

    And after reading all of your comments I can’t help but sigh thinking about articles like this one, where electric car sales are painted as disappointing. Here are the facts: In their first year, electrics are selling better than hybrids did in their first year on the market in the U.S. As some of you made very clear, every one of the nearly 20,000 Leaf and Volt owners are doing their part, and it is just the start. No, electric cars won’t save the world overnight and nobody should expect them to. But when you look at how much you all appreciate your cars and all the benefits they provide, it seems clear to me that with more time and more support, they could have a real big impact in the coming years and decades.

    I see the same thing happen with hybrids. Articles will talk about disappointing hybrid sales, but they don’t mention that about 2 million hybrids have been sold in the U.S. since they were introduced. 2 million people helping to cut fuel use and pollution in cars they really like. And before the decade is out, I’d lay odds that will go up by almost a factor of 10.

    Keep the stories coming, then we can point the naysayers here so they can see the love!

  • I love my Volt. I think it is marketed all wrong. For me this is a hybrid that if I plug it in when I go to work I get 195 miles per gallon. It is quiet, smooth, powerful, and a well-appointed car. I traded up from a Mercedes CLK and am happy I did. It is wrong to compared this car to some low-end gasoline car – it is a REALLY NICE CAR with unbelievably great gas mileage. The car came equipped with Bluetooth, Navigation, and OnStar.

    I have driven the car over 14,000 miles and its lifetime MPG now sits at 196. Considering the cost of electricity and gas I’ve saved over $1700 in fueling. I go to the gas station about every 60 days.

  • Question. Why drive a 5 horsepower car with a top speed of 30+ miles an hour and one that will only go 20 miles on an 8 hour charge?
    You can come up with a dozen valid reasons to drive an electric car.
    However, ‘cheap and fun’, are less appreaciated than most other choices.
    Our Zenn NEV (1 of only 500 built),costs about a penny a mile for energy. Even with a small 5 HP motor, it will beat almost every other car and truck from a stand-still at any green light, without trying.
    The example of instant ‘EV’ torque is folowed by a big grin as motorists pass by my diminutive car, and sometimes all I see is a cloud of blue smoke.
    Yes, to some the advent of the electric car, is a bit too revolutionary for their early acceptance.
    Sadly, they must have never driven one, and they know not what to say.

    • Cheri

      Golf carts are fun to drive, too. If you don’t have anything better to do. I bet a person could drive a golf cart around the village on errands. How cool would that be?

  • Rob

    I love my ’07 Escape Hybrid. For me, it is the perfect balance of MPGs and functionality. My lifetime MPGs are currently sitting at 38.2 after 70,000 miles. It is roomy enough to haul 10 bails of pine straw, or all my camping equipment, or the LAX field striping equipment, or 4 adults (although I have had myself and 7 teenagers in it before 😉

    Other keys for me are:
    – I only have to change the oil every 10,000 miles
    – It has required the fewest repairs of any car I have ever owned
    – It totally blends with the other cars
    – Except when the engine is off and I am in stealth mode (love that)

    The other thing that it has done for me is made me much more aware of vehicles than I ever was before. Prior to this, I just drove and never really thought about it much. My only objective was to get where I was going. Since buying this vehicle, I have learned the what makes engines work more efficiently and how to maximize their potential.

    Plus it has made me a much safer and more conscientious driver. I no longer tailgate or zoom around people. I rarely go over the speed limit, nor do I “rush to a red light”. Plus I plan where I am going beforehand, so that I don’t need to make any sudden lane changes to not miss my turn. I also make it a point to not be distracted by anything else while I am driving, which before I would multi-task and not think a thing about it.

    I do wish that I got Prius or better type MPGs and I do know people who do that in their newer models Escape Hybrids, because the technology gets better all the time. But overall, I have used almost 900 gallons less than I would have if I had kept driving my Corolla. If everyone had used 900 less gallon over the last five years, how much better off would we be?

  • Tina

    I love my funky homemade EV! After 10 years its still fun and a thrill to slide silently down the street – especially because sometimes it sqeaks.
    I was able to balance the weight so it handles much easier that the original gas version. If I can ever buy LiFePO4 batteries that are made-in-america, I am going to drive it straight to the racetrack because even with an old battery pack I am always the first one across the intersection after the light turns green! I test drove the Mitsubishi Mi-EV and will snap up their pickup model as soon as they announce it! So fun to drive!
    I’ve also learned how to get male humans to notice the EV, Just back it up, especially up a hill!

  • I bought a Ford Fusion Hybrid in 2010. I chose this car very consciously, choosing to vote for change with my wallet. I wanted a car that could generate at least some of its own energy. I wanted my seats covered with fabric made from recycled fabric. I wanted an American-made car. (Though I later learned it was assembled in Mexico.)

    Now that I’ve had it for a couple years, I love that the car gives me feedback on my driving habits. I’m a better, safer, more fuel-efficient driver because it helps me understand how my driving impacts the car’s gasoline usage.

    Now, when I talk about the prospect of a smart energy grid, I tell people about my hybrid. Feedback -does- make a difference. Knowledge is critical.

    I’ll also say that I just love the car in general: It’s comfortable, it’s got a lot of fancy gadgets, it’s nice to be able to ignore the gas station for weeks at a time, it’s nice not to have to take the car in for as many oil changes … and it’s fun to drive. It’s also fun to let other people crank it up and witness their surprise when they realize how quiet it is and how nice an affordable hybrid can be.

  • Rbryan

    I have been driving plug-in hybrid conversions for over 3 years, as a 2 plug-in car family. It’s also my business; A converted pickup, a Prius with Enginer kit, and now prepping a Plug-in Supply kit for a 2nd Prius. I started with and still love two things; the silent ride and not using gas! And now I have added a third thing, Using my Prius as an emergency generator. I call it the Plug-Out Prius…

  • B. Becker

    I drive an all-electric Nissan LEAF for 90% of my driving. Some people think that such a car costs way too much money ($35,000). What they fail to realize is the lifetime savings by going electric. I traded in a 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser turbo. It cost $25,000 fully equipped when new. I compared the two using off peak night time rates for electricity of $.05 per kWh and $3.86 per gallon of gas. Over an 8 year 100,000 mile life of each vehicle, the LEAF was $7,000 cheaper to drive and that does not count the $7,500 subsidy that currently is in effect. With the subsidy it is over $14,000 cheaper to drive.

    People then complain about having to buy a new battery for as much as $10,000 after 100,000 miles (which is the warranty period on the battery). The PT Cruiser was worth $3,400 when traded in after 8 years. Any ICE car costing $35,000 would have a similar depreciation. Extrapolating from the PT Cruiser experience would mean a trade in value of $4,760. Thus, the choice becomes would I rather buy another ICE vehicle for $30,240 ($35,000 – $4,760) or a new battery for $10,000? There are electric motors that are still running after decades of use.

    People criticize EVs because of range. The LEAF satisfies 90% of my driving needs, for the other 10% I have an ICE vehicle. EVs have a niche for urban environments where air quality is a concern. I mention to doubters that would you criticize a Chevy Corvette because you can’t carry a 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood? Or would you criticize a pick up truck because it can’t go from zero to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds?

    Modern EVs make sense.

    • Monty

      $10,000 for a new battery?!?!?! Geez, Louise!! And don’t even get me started on PT Cruisers. Some people deserve everything they set themselves up for. Seriously, $10,000 for a battery, damn! Now I’m having serious doubts about spending $40,000 on a pretend car when I could have had a real car for the same price…a real, nice real car.

      • Paul Scott

        Careful Monty, the $10 was a number he pulled out of the air. It is expected that the LEAF battery replacement will be in the neighborhood of $4-55K, not $10K.

        As for your snide comment about the “… pretend car when I could have had a real car… “, you clearly haven’t driven either the Volt or LEAF. If you had, you’d know that both of these are great cars that can easily compete with BMWs, but without the noise, pollution, foreign energy and high maintenance costs.

        I really wish those of you who doubt the claims of EV enthusiasts would at least try the cars out before spewing venom on these environmental sites. You only make yourself look foolish to those of us who actually drive the cars.

  • Dan

    My wife and I share a 2007 Toyota Prius as our only car and we are very happy with it. We average 40-60 mpg (most of the time about 45 mpg) and have used it rather heavily for short trips and long trips. We live in PA, so wintertime presents us with inclement weather. This is the source of our only disappointment with the vehicle. It has traction control, which causes the wheels to stop spinning whenever it senses slippage. Well, put me on an icy incline in my Prius, and I will be in trouble, especially if I have to come to a stop, because I won’t be able to get moving up the hill again. Sometimes I just need the wheels to spin a few revolutions in order to get traction, and I need my car to trust me. In most vehicles with traction control, the feature can be turned off. Not in the Prius; there is no button for this. Supposedly there is a diagnostic setting to disable it that can be achieved through a complicated series of actions, but it resets when the car is turned off and back on. Even with this complaint, I am happy with the car. I want my next car to be fully electric, and hope that the infrastructure catches up with the technology soon.

  • We bought a Chevy Volt since we live on a nice little planet that is being overheated by CO2. It costs 2 cents a mile to drive and most of that power comes from our rooftop solar panels. What a surprise that the Volt turned out to be so much fun to drive! You can’t beat electric from 0-30–i.e. every time you have to stop/start. If we had two cars, the second would be all-electric, and we would add more solar panels to our roof.

  • I’d been waiting to buy a modern production EV for years when I first heard of the Nissan LEAF. I immediately signed up on the waiting list to get one. I’d owned a home converted VW Rabbit EV before, and looked forward to owning and driving an EV with more range and more advanced electric drive and battery technology. It was months after getting on Nissan’s reservation list before I had a chance to test drive the car. One short test drive and I knew I had made an excellent choice. I’ve been driving the LEAF for 9 months now, nearly 6000 miles and I love it. Five months into owning the LEAF, I sold my old gas car and am committed to drive 100% electric. I love not having to buy gasoline and saving hundred of dollars each year. Finding locations to charge my LEAF has not been an issue so far. The number of public charging stations in my area keeps growing and most of them are Free. I have a 240v charging station at home which is really convenient. I anticipate the batteries will last 8-10 years before they loose significant capacity, at which time, I expect to have a choice of a higher capacity battery. I’ve joined a San Francisco Bay Area Nissan LEAF Fan Club, called the SF Bayleafs. We have monthly gatherings to share ideas, tips and advocate for more EV charging infrastructure. First time drivers/riders often comment about how quiet and smooth the ride in a LEAF feels. For me, an EV like the Nissan LEAF is a practical, every day vehicle. I wouldn’t trade it for the fanciest gas-powered sports or luxury car. No Sir !

  • JeffU

    I really enjoy my extremely fun to drive Chevy Volt. I still look forward to driving my Volt every day.
    The Volt gives you a unique driving experience combined with great comfort and luxury that no other car today has.

    The Volt is by far the most misunderstood car ever made. It’s a highly advanced car.

  • JeffU

    I really enjoy my extremely fun to drive Chevy Volt. I still look forward to driving my Volt every day.
    The Volt gives you a unique driving experience combined with great comfort and luxury that no other car today has.

    The Volt is by far the most misunderstood car ever made. It’s a highly advanced car.

    It’s an electric car but it also has a generator that will seamlessly and quietly provide extra power for the battery once it is low. You can drive a combined 380 miles on electricity first and then gas generated electricity.

    The Volt allows you to drive on only electricity, if you keep it recharged. Simply and quickly plug it in at home or work. No more going to the gas station. What a waste of time.

    I have used only 23 gallons of gasoline in 13 months since I got the Volt, driving 13,500 miles.

    That’s 566 MPG. Easy to do if your drive cycle is mostly less than 40 miles between charges.

    My electricity cost about $60 a month to drive that much. Way cheaper than gas will ever be.

    The real story is that some 9000 Volt drivers are reducing their dependance on oil NOW. Not in the future.

    For 40 years every President has been asking to find a way to get Americans to kick their oil addiction.
    Volt Owners are DOING this now in a big way.
    In 2011 some 7600 Volts nation wide drove 20 million miles. 15 million of those miles were on electricity only.
    So Volts drive 75% on electricity in the real world. That saved 34,000 barrels of oil. The more Americans that drive Volts, the less oil we will need. Oil will become cheaper for jet fuel and the like. Cheaper airline tickets!

    Driving on electricity is wonderful as all electricity is domestically made. Usually locally made. So when you buy electricity instead of gasoline you are keeping your money here in America, stimulating our economy.
    Not foreign countries.
    We spend $400B on foreign oil and it goes to people who do bad things with that money.

    In California we use only 12% coal to generate electricity so most of our electricity is pretty clean. but as the electric grid gets cleaner, all electric cars get cleaner. You can do that with gasoline cars. They get dirtier as they age. But you can also charge you Volt from your homes solar array and pay nothing.

    All it takes is a test drive and you will know. Till then, you don’t know anything about this car.


    • Jay Turner

      I considered the Volt, but when I went to test drive one, I couldn’t get my fat behind into the car. The other issue that I have with the Volt is that my commute is 48-miles round trip with no charging at work, so I wouldn’t be able to go pure electric with the Volt. Since I already have a 35-mile-EV-range plug-in Prius, the advantage of the Volt was too small. Of course, for your typical commuter the Volt is great. I see them on the road here all the time.

  • Jay Turner

    I’ve driven a plug-in Prius with an A123Systems battery pack since 2008, and it’s been a great car, with a long-term average of 66mpg (total miles, including vacations, divided by total gallons).

    Two weeks ago I test drove a Leaf and found that it was comfortable (my main concern, since I’m 300+ pounds big), so I pulled the money out of my IRA and bought it. The 100 mile range is perfect for my commute and allows me to make fairly big side-trips on the way home from work for shopping and appointments. I have only driven my Prius since then just to put gas in it and make sure it stays in good condition.

    I try to act consistently with my values. I’m asthmatic and so clean air vehicles are an urgent priority for me. If I want my neighbors to buy clean air cars, I have to do it first, to set the example.

    Of course, electric cars don’t cover 100% of my travel needs. If I give up my Prius, I’ll have to rent a car from time to time, for the longer trips. For households with more than one car, having at least one of them an electric is common sense. Keep the old clunker for the occasional family vacation, but day-to-day drive the electric one.

  • Bill Amsbary

    We’ve had a Nissan Leaf since May 2011. We love it. People are impressed with the smooth and quiet ride. Have over 8000 miles. I have a 10 mile round trip commute to work. I charge it in my garage at night with an Aerovironment charging station. We’ve taken it to LA and Pasadena multiple times. You can usually find a charging station nearby to ease any range anxiety. If you drive reasonable speeds (60mph on freeway) without AC/heat, you can manage close to 100 miles. You can park free at airports. Carpool lane stickers a plus. I think most people in SoCal can function with an EV. It does require planning and good driving habits. I read somewhere that even if all the electricity came from coal, a Leaf is still 25% more carbon friendly than a similar size gasoline-powered vehicle. Most electricity in California comes from natural gas, so it’s a no brainer. Reducing reliance on foreign oil was also a major factor in wanting an EV. I support carrots and sticks to get people to adopt EVs. I will get another EV after my Leaf lease expires. Maybe a Ford Focus EV (buy American!)

  • Brian

    The worst part of owning a conventional car is having to stop at the gas station and knowing that I’m just burning money every time I use the pump. Can’t wait to make the switch.

  • maureen walker

    In 2005 I bought a 2002 Toyota Highlander with less than 40K on the clock. It exactly suited my life-style, which included then muddy building sites, accumulation of “stuff” from local auction fun, bags of compost and trees for planting.
    Although it was not quite a “gas-guzzler” I later reviewed the choice and considered something more overtly “green”. However, I realized that whoever I sold my Highlander to would certainly rack up the miles much faster than I. When it comes down to it, it’s the amount of gunge one actually puts into the air that counts.
    I still own the same car. After these seven years, the odometer still reads less than 70K….. proving the point. I’ll probably keep it till I die and consider this a positive contribution to the environment.
    SO! …. how about a piece of divergent thinking that says all gaz-guzzlers should be bequeathed to the aging population, which is likely to have them guzzling at an ALMOST acceptable rate?

    • Thanks for your take on this Maureen. We all have to figure out the solution that works best for us. Given your low mileage versus the average driver, your choice makes sense.

      For the typical driver, however, upgrading your mpg (or going electric) early will usually make a real contribution.

  • Mike Martin

    I have owned my Nissan LEAF for 9 months now, over 8000 miles. It’s a super car. Fun to drive, very zippy, plenty of room for my tall 6’5″ self, my wife and my two teenagers. It has nice modern technologies built in, has a distinctive look, and is super quiet. I plug it in at home, and have plenty of range for my daily commute plus some extra driving.

    The cost for the electricity I use to drive, if I convert and compare to $4/gallon (typical gas price in California), is averaging nearly 200 miles per gallon equivalent! That’s impressive!

    We also installed solar panels on our roof a couple years ago. We are generating a good bit more electricity than the LEAF uses, so I could claim that we’re driving only on sunlight. That’s super green. But even our public utility has a high percentage of its electricity from renewable sources. Electricity will only get cleaner as more efficient plants and new ways to use renewables come on-line, so electric vehicles will get cleaner with age.

    The only thing the LEAF can’t do is longer road trips (it’s range is 80-100 miles). For those times, our other car is a 2nd gen Prius. Also a great car which can take us on car vacations when we need to go somewhere further. But I have to say, simply plugging in at night and never stopping for gas at a gas station for my normal life is truly great.

    • Angelo Festa

      To Mr. Turner,
      I couldn’t agree more with your assesment. Though, I believe I’ve gone one step further. I sold my Prius, which I had been driving for 11 years. Thus, my divorce from Big Oil became permanent. Since last April, when I took possession of my Leaf, I have not been inconvenienced once. Always in the back of my mind, is the back up plan of a Prius rental. 99.9% of my driving falls within the range parameters of the Leaf. People’s fear based on “range anxiety” is about as useful as non existent WMDs duing the Iraq war. To get over this unreasonable anxiety is fairly simple. Objectively analyse your daily driving routine. It’s amazing how short most average car trips are. I’m hopeful that facts will rule over fantasy, especially when gas hits $5/gallon.

  • I enjoy my electric car on many levels, especially the lack of engine noise, pollution, and gas guzzling ALWAYS. My friends enjoy the roomy back seat.

  • I am the original owner of a 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid with manual transmission. When I took delivery of the car in May of ’03 it had 700 miles on it as it was moved around among dealers who used it as a bargaining chip with one another. To this day I can’t understand that.

    I love it because I have an average MPG of 50, according to the on-dash readout, which may be off a bit since Honda has been found negligent in mileage accuracy.

    Compared to other cars I have driven I would fill up once a week after 230 to 250 miles. With the Civic I fill up after 520 miles. On one occasion I drove on a tank of gas as far as I dared and once I could not stand the anxiety any longer I filled up 8 miles shy of 700.

  • I lucked into a second-hand 2001 Prius that I’m still driving. I suppose I should love it because it contributes less CO2 to the atmosphere than the old Corolla, but what I really like is the combination of a comfortable interior with a short turning radius. I can hang a uey almost anywhere, park almost anywhere. But I do tend to leave it at home and take Bay Area Rapid Transit when I go to San Francisco, or downtown Oakland, so I don’t have to worry about parking at all.

  • Steven Bissell

    I don’t ‘love’ my 3rd Gen Prius, but I’m really happy with it. I think it is the best designed car I’ve ever owned (I bought my first car in 1963) although far from the most fun (I had a Nissan Pathfinder all tricked out for a drive to Panama and back) it is a pleasure to drive and I really get a kick out of being able to use the full electrical mode from time to time. Today is a bonus as it snowed and this sucker has better traction than 4x4s! The only drawbacks on these are repairs; if something goes wrong it is more or less a dealer or nothing. Not many mechanics can (or are willing) to work on them. But since nothing ever goes wrong it’s not a big deal. This is my 2nd one and the biggest problem I’ve ever had was a flat tire.

  • Abigail

    I love my electric car because it keeps my immediate neighborhood free of smog by shifting electricity generation coal emissions into the next state. My electric car is the perfect NIMBY accessory! I don’t want any of those ugly windmills or unsightly solar panels blemishing my view, either. I sometimes wish the electric car wasn’t so ugly but it does attract attention to me and I really, really like that. Oh, and the salesman didn’t tell me but I found out the car doesn’t operate for free just because it doesn’t use gasoline — I should show you my electric bill, it is through the roof! I think it might be more expensive to drive than the old family truckster. Someone also told me the batteries will eventually need replacing and they will cost a small fortune so I’m not looking forward to that but maybe that person was wrong. I don’t know how many it takes but how expensive can a few batteries be?

    • Marc

      Abigail – If you truly owned and drove an Electric Vehicle, I doubt you’d be so cynical. You and your skeptical friends will no doubt continue to spread more FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) about EV’s but as gas prices rise, and the costs in health, war and environmental destruction go up, even the skepticswill come around. The tide is on our side. Some day, I hope it is soon EVs will DOMINATE !!!

  • John Weishampel

    I own a 2010 Prius. I love the 500 mile range on a tank of gas (~10 gallons). I don’t think of it as any status symbol, just a smart choice. It works well for my family of four. Most of my driving is to soccer practices and games. I have >60,000 miles on it.

    I am disappointed about the fact that Prius really doesn’t have any competitors. I may consider the plug-in hybrid version in a few years. If my son needs a car at college, he will get the 2010 hand-me-down.

  • M. Rodman

    I traded in my Hummer (beautiful canary yellow) for the little blue peddle car. Not to save oil, there’s plenty of that. Rather, to use up as much of our rare earth metals as rapidly as possible. I don’t want the Chinese hoarding the rare earths and I am willing to put up with a tiny lethargic toy car if I can get my share of those finite resources. Plus, I attract almost as much attention in my peddle car as I did in my Hummer. It makes me feel almost as smart and important. Almost.

    • Brian

      M. Rodman. You’ll never get those 12 minutes back it took you to come up with this cleverness.

    • Marc

      Another thinly disguised sarcastic piece from the Dark (Anti-EV, Anti-common-sense) Side. I hope UCS deletes them from this blog !!!

    • B. Becker

      Gasoline is not an element. It cannot be recycled. Lead is an element and it can be recycled. 94% of all lead acid batteries are recycled. The same goes for Lithium. It is an element. It cannot be broken down further. Li-ion batteries will be recycled just as lead acid batteries are.

      • Great comment. Both true and such a great example of applying the fundamentals of science to address an important issue.

        Nobody wants more pollution from electric cars and recycling will help make that a reality. We’ve got to keep an eye out to make sure it happens, but battery packs are valuable commodities, so economics alone will drive recycling. It will drive reuse too. When a pack dies, many, or even most, of the cells are still quite viable either as part of reconditioned pack for a car, as storage for the electric grid, or as backup power for things like server farms and hospitals.

  • Lynn Laumann

    I am a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists and I work for an environmental engineering company that performs contract work for the EPA and Department of Energy. I have owned my Nissan LEAF for 6 months, driven 3300 miles, and I absolutely love it.

    First, I will start with what I don’t like. The A-columns on either side of the front windshield are wide, which reduces peripheral visibility and sometimes obscures pedestrians who are stepping from the curb into the crosswalk. I have read that other new cars – like the Prius – suffer the same problem with the A column. However, the benefit of a strong A column is crash safety in a rollover.

    Second, of course, is the limited 75-100 mile range. I anticipate a future when battery technology advances to a point where EV range can compete with the range of current gas-powered cars, around 350 miles. Battery technology MUST be the focus of a new “Manhattan Project” or “Apollo Program” – an all out creative scientific assault on the laws of physics that are preventing such a product currently.

    Overall, I really enjoy the Nissan LEAF. It is a good looking, sporty car. It is practially silent when driving so that I can really enjoy my favorite music. The acceleration is quick and smooth, and it is really fun to drive. The low center of gravity helps in cornering, and I have to admit that my tires squeal more than occasionally.

    Besides these benefits, it is very cheap to drive. My girlfriend and I love to drive along the San Diego scenic coastline on weekends – just for the fun of it. We can roll down the windows and hear the surf and the birds. We visit the local harbor seal and sea lion colony. It is inexpensive and a very green way to see the coast and the wildlife.

    Beyond the aesthetic benefits of an EV, there is the finite oil supply that is being distributed to an ever-growing and ever more sophisticated world population. I can’t wait to watch how that all plays out; of course I am now mostly an observer. I feel like “Peak Oil” problem will have much less of an effect on my life now that I have an EV.

    America is engaged in expensive foreign wars to protect our access to dwindling oil supplies. We are changing the chemistry of the atmosphere with petroleum-burning activity to the point where our climate is changing. We are all responsible for changing our culture to improve our environment.

    There are often many pedestrians in my local area, as it is a popular coastal tourist destination. People often ask about my LEAF. They are curious about electric cars but often their opinions are often shaped by misinformation. I try to counter that as much as I can. I have encouraged my best friend to buy a Nissan LEAF. Just one more and we will have a Tree-o. Oh that one just kills me!


    Lynn Laumann