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editors-blog-entry3The first official consumer Chevy Volts have rolled off the assembly line and the Nissan LEAF is scheduled to arrive very soon on U.S. dealer lots with many additional mainstream production plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and pure electric vehicles (EVs) arriving within the next year in the U.S.

We eventually want to own one PHEV, like a Volt, which runs on pure electricity for between 25 and 50 miles before a gasoline engine kicks in, and one pure electric vehicle, such as a LEAF, which runs on electricity only, with a range of somewhere between 70 and 120 miles, depending on a number of factors.

We’re going get the pure EV first – most likely, either a LEAF or a Ford Focus Electric. Then, in a couple of years, the PHEV.

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Here’s why we’ll be replacing one of our old, high-mileage gasoline cars – a 1992 Acura Integra with 150,000 miles on it that I bought new nearly two decades ago and a 1994 Toyota Camry with 270,000 miles on it – first with an EV, and then later be replacing the remaining gas car with a PHEV:

  • Sun Miles®. A pure EV allows us to totally ditch gasoline in favor of pure solar-charged driving. A PHEV, even one like the Volt, which can go up to 50 miles on electricity alone, doesn’t offer this possibility. While 90 percent of our driving involves daily trips of less than 50 miles roundtrip, we do make the occasional 60, 70, 80, or 90 mile roundtrip. With a pure EV, all of these miles will be electric – and they’ll all be Sun Miles®: Miles driven by an electric vehicle (EV) or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) whose batteries have been charged using solar energy and/or using electricity from kWh credits amassed via solar offset generation.
  • Cost. The Nissan LEAF (about $25k after a $7,500 Federal tax credit) is about $8,000 cheaper than the Volt (about $33k after the tax credit). That’s substantially less. Yes, the Volt has no range limit. But range anxiety is a complete non-issue for us. We’re a two-car family. In the short term, our pure EV will be a commuter/local trips car and we’ll use our remaining gas car for those rare longer trips we make. When we add the PHEV later, it will become the vehicle we use for those occasional longer trips – unless, of course, in the two or three years we use to save up money for the PHEV, battery technology leapfrogs and we no longer need a PHEV (see below).
  • Maintenance. I haven’t seen any direct comparative analyses yet – please point me and others to this if you’ve seen one — but I’m guessing maintenance costs for an EV will be considerably lower than those for a PHEV. Why? An EV is much less complex than a PHEV and more complexity typically means higher maintenance costs.
  • Battery technology advancement. We’ll probably wait two to three years between buying a pure EV and adding a PHEV – and it’s looking like we won’t have a pure EV in our driveway until the Fall of 2011 at the earliest. Battery technology could advance substantially by 2013 or 2014 – perhaps to the point where affordable electrics offer ranges of 300 miles or more. Add quick EV charging to the equation and the need for gasoline – and PHEVs – essentially disappears, at least for folks like us, who really, really want to leave oil, and, especially, Big Oil, behind. No, I’m not saying pure EVs with 300 plus miles of range at an affordable price will be available in 2013 or 2014, but it is possible. This possibility also points us toward buying a pure EV first and a PHEV second.

One EV + one PHEV not for everyone
I’m not suggesting our path to kicking our oil habit is a path everyone could, or would, follow – although it is worth noting that more than half of U.S. households have two or more cars.

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Nor am I suggesting that two-or-more-car households are a good thing – though given the dominance of modern society’s individual vehicle model of transportation, it’s very difficult for a four-member family to get away from. Personally, I prefer commuting by bike as often as I can.

But, for us – and I know for a fact there are others out there like us; they’ve contacted me privately – an EV plus PHEV household in which both the EV and PHEV are PV powered makes environmental and economic sense.

Additionally, going with a pure EV first and adding a PHEV later makes sense for us given our particular situation and our specific priorities, the most important of these being our desire to drive a 100-percent solar-charged vehicle as soon as possible.

What are your EV/PHEV plans – and your rationale for them?

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