another step

Our family has taken another step in reducing our carbon footprint. We replaced our 2005 Honda Odyssey with a new Chrysler Pacifica hybrid. Having had a minivan in the family since E was an infant thirty-two years ago, we like their versatility for transporting people and cargo. We wanted to keep that utility but cut back on emissions.

As it turns out, the Pacifica is the only plug-in hybrid minivan on the market. It has a full gasoline-powered engine plus enough battery to travel thirty-ish miles. That means that most days, we can run on battery power but have the flexibility to go on long trips without having to plan on stopping at a rapid charging station as we would have to do with our Chevy Bolt.

As it turns out, in order to get the most advanced safety features, we wound up having to get a lot of other bells and whistles, too.  I admit that I am having a bit of trouble adjusting to nearly everything happening by touch screen. Sometimes, buttons and knobs are easier!

It is nice to not have to go to a gas station very often and I appreciate that we have so drastically reduced our transportation greenhouse gas emissions. For those of us who live in places without much mass transit, transportation is one of the most difficult areas to achieve reductions, so I am grateful to have gone mostly electric, especially as most of our electricity comes from our solar panels.

It’s fun to go green!
Pacifica hybrid

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Bolt update

Because we have recently completed National Drive Electric Week, I thought I would update you on our experiences with our 2017 Chevy Bolt.

We still love it!

I wish I could have shown it off at our local Drive Electric event, but it did not fit into our schedule.

Over these last six months, we have learned a lot about electric driving. Air temperature has a big effect on range. When the weather was warm this summer, our projected range with a full charge was 280-300 miles (450-482 km) rather than the listed 238 (383 km). During the winter, though, our range may only be in the 160s.

The type of driving also has a big impact on the range. Unlike gasoline-powered vehicles, electric vehicles are more efficient in stop-and-go driving because the energy from slowing, braking, and travelling downslope is used to send charge back to the battery. Yesterday, I drove almost fifteen miles while only having my projected range decrease by two miles because I was driving around town.

The Bolt has a screen that shows how various factors affect mileage in real time. It is a bit of a game to see how much different routes, speeds, etc. affect our kilowatt per mile ratio. In a mixed highway/city session, we get about 4.8 m/kwh, while on an exclusively in-town run, we average about 6 m/kwh. This is much cheaper than running a car on gasoline, especially because maintenance costs on EVs are also much lower. It is even cheaper for us because most of our electricity comes from our solar panels, rather than being purchased from a utility.

My favorite driving mode is L mode, which allows most driving to happen with just the accelerator pedal. It reminds me of using the swell pedal on the organ! L mode makes greater use of regenerative braking without needing to touch the brake pedal, which brings in the use of the disc brakes.

The only real problem we have had is that one of our forward cameras stopped functioning, which meant that we were without pedestrian detection and other safety features for a while as our dealer had to order the parts needed. This wasn’t too great a hardship, given that we had never had these kinds of features on prior cars so we were used to driving without them. Still, it was nice to have them back after the repair.

While we had planned to install a home charging station, we haven’t gotten around to it yet. Given that we usually keep the Bolt within the county and that we have an upgraded home electrical service, it hasn’t been a problem charging slowly with our regular household current, but we will eventually get a home charging station so that we can do a full battery charge overnight. We plan to get a station that plugs into a 220 outlet rather than one that is hardwired.

We are also slowly getting more public charging stations. In August, shortly before L had to return to London, we took ABC to Recreation Park in Binghamton to ride the carousel. We were surprised to see two charging stations in the parking lot. I pulled into a slot and got a few kilowatt-hours in while we rode the carousel. It turned out that the chargers had just been installed. It was fun to see the media coverage, knowing that I had already availed myself of the service.

It has also been fun telling people about our EV and giving people rides. One of B’s co-workers, who has an approximately 120-mile (193 km) daily commute, decided to buy a Bolt from our dealership after talking to B about our experience. We had been the first Bolt sold there and he was the third. We are hoping that the sales of the Bolt and other EVs will expand so that the public charging network will grow, especially rapid chargers that will make it easier to take electric cars on long trips.

This will also make it easier to sell more EVs, which will be better for air quality and climate protection for everyone. As battery prices continue to come down, EVs will soon be priced similarly to gas vehicles without subsidies while being cheaper to run and maintain. Several European countries already have plans to phase out gasoline/diesel only vehicles; perhaps, one day, the United States will follow suit.

good deed of the day

I’m sure most of us try to do good deeds every day, just as a matter of course, but I had an unusual opportunity present itself today.

I was taking my dad to the store and, as we parked in the (slightly sloped) parking lot, a loaded shopping cart was slowly making its way downhill with no person accompanying it.

I quickly pulled into a parking space, hopped out of the car, and grabbed the cart before it made its way to the edge of the lot.

A new mom had transferred her child from the shopping cart to her minvan, and the cart had rolled away without her noticing it. I was glad that I was able to catch it before it hit anything and return her purchases to her unharmed.

This particular good deed may be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence! But who knows?
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jjj-2017

 

Fourteen years

In July 2002, we bought a 2003 silver Toyota Corolla.

It’s been a good car and we drove it. A lot. Over 134,000 miles.

Last week, we had it at the dealership and found out that the gas tank is corroding. It’s not leaking yet, but will soon. The cost of the repair is expensive enough that we have decided to retire the car.

We have decided to donate the car to charity. We have begun to make the arrangements and will probably be able to turn over the car by the end of the week.

Daughter T has graciously given us permission to use the car she inherited from Grandma as a second car for now, so we are holding off on getting a replacement.

My dream is to replace it with a fully electric, plug-in vehicle. I am very interested in the Chevy Bolt, which will appear late this year or early next.  We’ll have to see if we like it when it becomes available to test-drive and what it would take for us to install a charging station at our home.

Meanwhile, we say good-bye to our car of fourteen years, longer than we have ever owned a car. Thanks for your service and for getting us safely and economically from there to there. Many, many, many times over.

Honolulu driving

I do drive on a regular basis on town, small city, and highways routes. Generally when we travel, B does most of the driving, but for this trip to Honolulu, because I was staying for the duration of the trip and B had to leave after two weeks to go back to work, we rented the car in my name. (We did wind up adding B as a second driver when I got sick, so I got a few days reprieve from driving.)

Driving here has been an adventure! Back home, it helps to hop on the highway. Here the highway, the H1, tends to be very slow and congested a lot of the time, so we only use it if we are going somewhere at an obscure time of day – or if we are going to/from the airport. It makes me chuckle every time I see an interstate sign – because the H1 can’t go to another state! It can’t even go to another island.

The bigger challenge is driving the Honolulu streets. It dawned on me that Honolulu is the largest city in which I have ever driven. I am not used to being on a two lane road that suddenly morphs into a one-way street with five lanes. Well, I’m also not used to needing five lanes in one direction! Many of the main streets are named for members of the Hawai’i royalty, so there are lots of streets that begin with K and have four or five syllables. You need more than a quick glance to read the street signs, which is hard to do while keeping an eye on five lanes of traffic and the county buses.

Fortunately, E is good at warning me which lane to get into in plenty of time and, by now, I’ve learned some of the common routes I am driving like between E’s apartment and her work.

I guess things were getting a bit too routine, because on Sunday the maintenance light and the low tire pressure light on the Honda Fit I’d rented both went on. The maintenance looked like just an oil change, but the low tire pressure was a concern. I was afraid I might have a bead leak. This morning, after bringing E to work, I went to the car rental agency in Waikiki, as I really did not want to trek to the one near the airport. They offered to swap for another car, so now I have a spiffy Toyota Corolla.

I drive a 2003 Corolla at home, but this new one is much more deluxe. And confusing. It took me a minute just to figure out how to get it out of park. There is a touchscreen! And a back-up camera! I do appreciate the back-up camera, but it is a bit disorienting to use when you are not accustomed to it. I’ll probably get used to it just in time to turn the car in next week.

Until then, I’ll keep driving extra-carefully here in Honolulu.