From Model-T to Model S

 

Imagine if it was possible to drive a car without worrying about polluting the atmosphere, and what you were contributing to climate change. Imagine a country without gas stations, and without dependence on fossil fuels. Imagine more American jobs.

 

Anyone who has made a commitment to living in an environmentally responsible manner has confronted the difficulty of everyday choices. As one of the first design professionals to embrace green design in the 1980s, I’ve seen huge changes in the building industry, and in the marketplace for sustainable goods and services. As a passionate environmentalist, I’m heartened by the number of manufacturers who are responding to the demands of their customers by making better, greener products available.

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I first wrote about electric cars in October, 2012. After highlighting a number of cars available at that time (the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf, the Mitsubishi i-MIEV), I ended with a promise: that my next car would be an electric one.

 

I’ve kept that promise. I’m now the owner of a new Tesla Model S. I made that choice for a few good reasons, most of them outlined in the first paragraph of this post. Like other writers on this topic have said, I never would have spent this much for a car without Tesla’s advanced technology. I’ve driven a Toyota Prius for some time, and appreciate that hybrid car for what it offers. My new Tesla takes electric technology to the next level.

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Here are a few things I considered in making my decision:

1. Zero Emissions and no fossil fuels: This car is 100% free of pollutants, and frees us from dependence on foreign oil sources.

2. Quick recharging capability: A Tesla can be 50% recharged in 20 minutes, and 80% recharged in 40 minutes. If you’re driving a long distance, you can recharge at a supercharger station in the amount of time it takes to grab a cup of coffee and take a comfort break. And with its extensive range (up to 300 miles), most recharging happens overnight. Other electric cars can take hours to charge.

3. It’s Extremely Safe: With all the weight in the floor where the batteries are, the car’s center of gravity is very low, making it safer than many other vehicles.

4. It’s Recyclable: The car’s battery and motor use no rare earth minerals, and the car frame and body are recyclable aluminum. The battery pack is recyclable, too: One of the criticisms of electric vehicles  is that a battery pack, once exhausted, becomes waste. But there is a growing aftermarket for these batteries in static energy storage application. That will only grow in the months and years to come.

5. It’s Made in America: The Tesla Model S is made in Fremont, California, at a defunct plant once operated as a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors. At the time of my first post on electric cars, Tesla had 3,000 employees. Today, that number has grown to almost 6,000. I like knowing I’m supporting American jobs.

Other Options:

Other than the Tesla, you might consider the Chevrolet Volt, the Smart ForTwo Electric, the Nissan Leaf, or the Mitsubishi i-MIEV.

 

It’s true that charging your car on the electric grid means that the environmental cost is transferred to the utility company. But battery powered cars are more efficient at converting energy into transportation. My Model S can travel almost 300 miles on a single charge of its battery, which equates to less than three gallons of gas.

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We may not have perfect solutions to all our automobile-based problems yet, but supporting new technology is one way to ensure that someone is working on the issues.

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Driving Down Electric Avenue

 

Imagine a perfect world, or a world close to perfect:  one without noxious CO2 emissions and a rapidly declining ozone layer caused by millions of gas-guzzling vehicles crowding the streets of the world.   The possibility is closer than ever, when automakers plan to have as  many as 30 different electric cars driving down U.S. avenues by 2015!  (Although visionaries have always planned for electric cars, as seen in the 1905 version, above!)

Unlike hybrid cars, which are still powered by a battery and a gasoline engine, electric cars today are powered exclusively by electricity.  What’s changed?  Battery technology has improved, meaning that batteries stay charged for longer distances, and auto makers are better able to respond to consumer demand.

Electric cars reduce our dependency on foreign oil.  Drivers of EV’s (Electric Vehicles) charge their cars at home, never go to gas stations, and never have to schedule oil changes or emission tests.  Some, like the Chevrolet Volt, retain their hybrid status, giving drivers the option of using gas for longer journeys.  With an MSRP of $31,645., the Volt is typical of the new brand of affordable EVs, very different from the six figure Tesla.   (Even they have a new Model S rolling out this fall, with prices beginning at $49,999.)

Today, you can buy a Chevrolet Volt, a Nissan Leaf, or a Mitsubishi i-MIEV, all for under $50,000.  There’s also a $7,500. federal tax credit available Take a look:

 

Chevrolet Volt owners only go to the gas station once a month, according to the manufacturer.  Launched in 2011, new models have an extended range and the option of electricity or gas.  MSRP:  $31,645.

 

There are already 36,000 Nissan Leafs on the road,  With no tailpipe and no emissions and no gas station fill ups, the starting MSRP of $35,200. has become affordable to more environmentally-minded consumers.

 

The Mitsubishi i-MIEV claims to be the most affordable electric car available.  The starting MSRP of $29,975. gets you a car with a markedly different appearance:  the company says it’s their “eco-status symbol,” designed to get people thinking about creating a different world.

Charging your car on the electric grid means that the environmental cost is transferred to the utility company rather than OPEC oil dealers.  Although that’s still not a perfect solution, it maintains a stronger local economy in our own country, rather than paying for high priced oil.  At a cost to operate of 2 cents per mile, versus a gasoline powered cost of 9 cents a mile, and no emissions, it clearly seems as if we should support the new technology.  The more electric cars we purchase, the faster the solutions will be developed.

The future belongs to us and to the decisions we make about how to live.  I believe in the Power of One to make a difference in the world.  My next car?  I’m not sure which I’ll buy, but it’s going to be electric.