First Chevrolet Volts Heading to California Dealers

By dancurranjr On December 15th, 2010

General Motors’ Chevrolet division is shipping 160 of its Volt electric cars to dealers in California, Texas, Washington, D.C., and New York this week.

The first of the Volts, which combine an all-electric motor with a small gasoline engine, left the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant on Monday. The Volt was tested earlier this year when Chevrolet shipped 15 so-called “pre-production” models to people who drove them for 90 days under typical daily commute conditions.

General Motors is trying hard to move first into what will soon be a crowded market. Electric cars of various types are scheduled to hit the market with increasing frequency over the next two years.

Several hybrid models from Honda and Toyota, including the popular Prius hybrid from Toyota, are already on the market.

Locally, Tesla Motors  makes a pricey sportscar that is all electric, but its $109,000 price tag puts it out of reach of ordinary drivers. Those who want to haul groceries or drive their kids to soccer practice in a Tesla still have a long wait: it will be 2012 or so before the Palo Alto company’s Model S sedan goes on sale.

Tesla, led by CEO Elon Musk, has been on a steep learning curve. It has sold fewer than 2,000 cars total, a number that’s practically a rounding error for one of the big carmakers. But it has partnered with Toyota to gain expertise on mass producing cars.

Toyota and Tesla plan to revamp part of the shuttered NUMMI plant in Fremont to make their cars.

Nissan also started delivering some of its Leaf electric cars in California this week — Olivier Chalouhi of Redwood City got the first one, though he had to get it via a dealer in Petaluma. Chalouhi works at Fanhattan, a television technology business he himself started.

A second round of Nissan Leafs is due to hit dealership lots Dec. 20, according to the company. Nissan Leaf cars are coming first to markets in California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Tennessee.

GM says the Volt can go up to 379 miles without recharging or refueling. It combines both the electric motor (for the first 40 miles or so) and then adds power from the gasoline motor as the battery runs low.

Tesla aficionados will no doubt pooh-pooh this reliance on a gas motor, as Tesla’s cars promise to be pure electric. In its marketing, Chevy has played up on the “safety concerns” of drivers who fear being stranded when an electric motor runs out of juice. The company tells Volt shoppers they need have “little concern of being stranded by a depleted battery.”

Dealers in California and the other markets started taking orders for the 2011 Volt in late summer. The car costs about $41,000, but is eligible for some tax credits that cut that to around $33,500.

SOURCE: San Francisco Business Times

Cost & CO2 Calculator Helps Choose Electric, Diesel or Hybrid Car

By dancurranjr On November 30th, 2010

As the Environmental Protection Agency struggles with how to accurately label passenger vehicles for fuel economy and greenhouse-gas emissions, a new online cost and CO2 emissions calculator launched today to help fill the void.

“Electrics, hybrids, plug-ins, all these alternative powertrain cars are a hot topic these days, but there’s not a good way to look at the bottom line of what it costs to own one of these,” said Jon Lal, founder of BeFrugal.com, a frugal-living website that offers tools to help consumers save money, including its new calculator.

The calculator allows consumers to first determine which type of alternative-drivetrain vehicle best suits their driving needs based on what state they live in, how many city and highway miles they drive, how many road trips they take each year (and at what distance) and fuel costs in their state, whether it be electricity, gas or diesel.

Using its database of 64 vehicles (four electric, eight diesel, 13 hybrid and 39 popular gas-powered cars) the calculator then allows users to make side-by-side comparisons using EPA miles-per-gallon data, manufacturers’ suggested retail prices and other factors.

Electric car operating costs are translated into an mpg equivalent, or MPGe, using individual states’ electricity costs as calculated by the U.S. Department of Energy. Electric cars’ upstream carbon dioxide emissions are also calculated using DOE data on the electricity source for each state.

According to BeFrugal.com, Washington, Idaho, Kentucky, West Virginia and Arkansas are the states with the lowest electricity rates, making electric cars most economical on a cost-per-mile basis. Vermont, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and New Hampshire are the best states in terms of electric cars’ lowest upstream CO2 emissions per kilowatt-hour.

The top two states for electric cars’ lowest operating costs and greenhouse-gas emissions: Idaho and Washington.

California ranks sixth in lowest CO2 emissions, at 0.3 tons per kilowatt-hour (versus 0.001 for Vermont). The state ranks 45th in terms of electricity cost at 15.5 cents per kilowatt-hour (versus 8.3 cents for Washington).

SOURCE: LA Times