Are Electric Vehicles Ready for Prime Time?

Okay, so you are ready to do your part to reduce fossil fuel usage and you are considering an EV (Electric Vehicle). Several manufactures are marketing EV’s, but which one is right for you? Everyone has different driving styles and needs. How far can you go on a 100% EV? How reliable are they? Are there any savings? Some of these questions will be answered below to help you determine if this technology is ready for you.

There are three types of EV’s available. But, are they ready for prime time? You decide.

  1. Dedicated EV- Electric only
  2. Extended EV Electric with gasoline engine
  3. Plug-in hybrids

Dedicated EV is an electric only vehicle. There are four models available or expected out by 2012.

  1. Nissan Leaf is a four-door five-passenger hatch back pure battery electric vehicle. It has an expected range of 100 miles between charges, which Nissan says is sufficient for 90% of Americans. It takes eight hours or more to fully charge with a 220-volt outlet and longer with a 110-volt outlet. The starting price is estimated at $33,600. The warranty on the battery and related hardware is eight years or 100,000 miles. The estimated cost to replace the battery is $18,000. Expected availability is December 2010.
  2. Mini E Cooper is a two-door two-passenger pure battery electric vehicle. It has an expected range of 156 miles under ideal conditions. Most drivers get about 100 miles between charges. It takes approximately 3 hours to charge with a 240 volt 48 Amp outlet or 4.5 hours with a 32-amp outlet. If using a 110 volt 12 amp outlet it takes approximately 26.5 hours to charge. This is a two-passenger vehicle because the battery takes up the entire back seat. The regenerative braking takes a little getting used to, the system kicks in as soon as the driver lifts his foot off the accelerator pedal. This causes the vehicle to begin slowing before the brake pedal is applied. BMW is leasing these vehicles as part of a special program. They are developing a replacement based on the BMW 1 Series, which is due out in 2011.
  3. Ford Focus EV is a four-door sedan based on the redesigned 2012 Focus. The prototypes have a 23-kilowatt hour lithium-ion battery pack with an estimated range of 100 miles. Charge time is approximately 6 hours on a 220-volt charger.
  4. Tesla Roadster first started selling in 2008. It has a price tag of $111,000, it is a two-seater sports car. It is based on the Lotus Elise with a fiberglass body. This car is a rocket, it can accelerate from zero to 60 in under four seconds. It has a range of 245 miles with a massive 53-kilowatt-hour battery pack. Full charge takes 3.5 hours on a proprietary 240-Volt 70 amp charger. It has a very stiff and jarring ride with a very basic interior. It is awkward climbing into the cockpit because of the tall wide sill. The loud battery-cooling fans emit a constant roar behind you. Tesla is developing a lower cost $50,000+ model S sedan expected to be released in 2012.

Extended EV electric with gasoline engine

The Chevrolet Volt is the only model that falls within this category. It is a four-door four-passenger sedan. The Volt does not have a rear bench seat like most vehicles because of the T shaped battery pack. It has a range of 40 miles on electric power. GM states this is sufficient for 75% of commuters. Once the battery level drops below a certain level, a small gas engine kicks in to provide enough electric power to run the electric motor. The overall range is 300 miles before filling the gas tank or charging the batteries. GM says the Volt can run with never being plugged in. However, it will impact the fuel economy. Charge time for the Volt is four hours on 220 volt or eight to 10 hours on 110-volt outlets. The Volt charges faster than the dedicated electric vehicles because it has a smaller battery. The battery warranty for the Volt is the same as the Nissan leaf. The warranty on the battery and related hardware is eight years or 100,000 miles. The starting price for the Volt is $41,000. The replacement cost of the Lithium-ion battery is approximately $8000, which is $10,000 less than the Leaf. The electric motor produces 149 horse power and 273 pound-feet of torque. Those torque numbers are about the same as a V-6 engine.

Plug-in Hybrids

There are no manufactures producing plug-in Hybrids as of this writing. However, there are some aftermarket companies producing aftermarket add on batteries for the Toyota Prius. The extra cost of these add on batteries is approximately $11,000. This added battery boosts the gas mileage by approximately 50% for the first 35 miles. Once the battery is depleted, the Prius reverts back to its regular hybrid operation at which time the fuel economy drops slightly below that of a standard Prius because of the added battery weight. Toyota is field-testing the plug-in Prius for commercial use. There are no expected models for retail customers until 2012.

Some things to consider before purchasing an EV

What are your driving habits? What are the longest distances you will be traveling? When driving a pure electric vehicle; if the battery runs out completely with no charging stations available you will be stranded. With the long charge times, it will take some time to make the vehicle usable again. This is where the extended range Volt becomes more practical. Filling up the gas tank is faster than waiting for the battery to charge.

Using other electrical features like the Air Conditioning, Heating, Lights, Wind Shield Wipers and playing Music; engineers say this can consume approximately 50% of the battery power which will reduce the vehicles range.

Lithium-ion technology battery life is undetermined, however, the eight year 100,000 mile warranty on the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf do give some piece of mind.

Cost savings

An EV costs about.04 cents per-mile (depending on the electric rates in your area). You can compare that to a Toyota Corolla at 30 mpg paying $2.80 per gallon, the per-mile cost is.09 cents.

Government incentives

The first 200,000 EV buyers from each automaker are eligible for $7,500 federal tax credit. There are also some regional incentives; for instance, California will offer an additional $5000 tax credit for “zero emission” vehicles. Check your area for local incentives.

To conclude, there are four 100% electric vehicles available by 2012. One extended range vehicle, which could be zero emission if your driving range is within the available battery level. And there are the more common Hybrids, like the Prius which runs mostly on regular gas but with great mileage and with the future pilot of the Prius as a plug in, this vehicle will eventually fall within the extended range category.

Is the EV ready for prime time? Your driving habits and needs will tell. How far do you drive daily, can you plugin at work? Are most of your driving needs around town? This is where the greatest benefits will be realized. What part of the country do you live in? Will an EV work in your environment? Parts of the country with extreme heat or cold will require more battery usage to heat or cool the vehicle, which will reduce the range. Will this reduce your cost savings?

With government incentives, the cost of one of these EV’s can be reduced to a more acceptable range, keeping the cost closer to a conventional gas vehicle. There are also reduce maintenance costs with an EV, no oil changes and the electric motors are mostly maintenance free.

Electric Vehicle Kits – Build Your Own Electric Car

With rising fuel costs, more and more people and are looking for alternatives. One such alternative that is gaining popularity, especially with the do-it yourself types, are the electric vehicle kits. Anyone familiar with automobiles can now use these kits to convert traditional gas powered vehicles to one powered by electric current.

However, converting a traditional Gas powered vehicle into an electric vehicle can be a very daunting task. Only those who are the very mechanically minded should try this. To convert the vehicle will require extensive modifications to nearly all-mechanical parts of the car. Everything from the engine to the radiator, heater and air-conditioning, to the gauges on the panel. On top of that, the electric cars have to be recharged on a regular basis, which means having to purchase or use the services of recharging station. Solar power could be another potential source of power for the electric vehicle.

Can any car be converted into an electric vehicle?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Not all cars can be converted into an electric vehicle. However, and the most common electric vehicle kit seems to be the Chevy S-10 pick up kit. For examples to follow just do a search online for Chevy S-10 pickup Electric conversions.
Other cars that are good candidates for conversion are the Chevy Geo, especially from 1989 to 1999. These cars are good potential candidates for an electric vehicle kit conversion. Cars similar to the Chevy Geo Metro, such as the Chevy Sprint, Pontiac Firefly and the Suzuki Swift are also ideal for conversions too.

Are there downsides to using an electric vehicle kit?

Going back a few years, many people associated electric powered vehicles with slowness and a lack of power. But as usual, thanks to technology, significant advances in the electric vehicle have changed all that. With these electric vehicle kits some cars can reach top speeds of between 70 and 75 mph. nonetheless, converting to electric power still has its drawbacks.

The biggest drawback it is of course the need for recharging the batteries. As an example, the Chevy Geo Metro kit must be recharged every 20 to 40 miles, depending on driving habits and battery quality. For city driving, this would be ideal. However, for lengthy commutes on the highway, this would not be ideal.

The Chevy S-10 with an electric vehicle kit installed will run a little longer on a single charge. On a single charge, the S-10 should last between 40 and 60 miles. Again this depends upon the driving habits as well as the size and quality of batteries. Some S-10 models can be equipped with solar powered panels which would in reduced in the need for charging, at least when driving during daylight hours.

Converting vehicles with electric vehicle kits is not a cheap affair. Most conversion kits seem to cost between $8000 to $10,000. And this does not even include professional installation as well as the cost of the batteries, not to mention access to or the purchase of a charging station.

Quite frankly, with the cost involved of using an electric vehicle kit, it probably wouldn’t be very practical for the average consumer, especially if they do a lot of highway driving. However, that being said, it probably would be ideal for a back yard mechanic who loves to tinker with cars and has a few bucks to throw around and wants to impress his beer-drinking buddies.

In Today’s Economy, Reconditioned Automotive Tools Are the Way to Go

The expense of automotive tools can drill through your wallet quickly. Whether you are looking to buy for an automotive shop or your home garage, spend less and get more by going with reconditioned automotive tools.

What are reconditioned automotive tools? These are tools that have been returned to the manufacturer for repair.

Sometimes a tool may have a defect, or in some cases the user may have damaged the tool and returned it. The manufacturer repairs the tool and then resells it as a “reconditioned” tool at a substantial discount, often as much as 30-60% off the typical retail price. These reconditioned tools, sometimes labeled as “refurbished tools,” often include a factory warranty.

So where can you find these reconditioned automotive tools? Sometimes the retail stores themselves will stock them. The retail store may send a tool back to the manufacturer, and if the manufacturer inspects it or makes a repair, the reconditioned tool may be returned to the retail store. The store will clearly mark the tool as reconditioned or refurbished and should include a warranty. Be sure to check for a warranty on a reconditioned tool. And if you don’t see one, ask. Typically, the warranties on reconditioned automotive tools won’t match the warranty on new tools, but will still provide you with enough coverage to ensure you get to try and test the reconditioned tool.

Another good source for reconditioned tools can be online sellers. There are numerous online sites selling tools, and many sell not only new tools, but reconditioned tools. If you shop smart, you can often get free shipping if you spend a required minimum on tools, and in many cases you do not have to pay sales tax. Do a search for “reconditioned automotive tools” and enjoy shopping and comparing prices for refurbished tools from the comfort of a desk chair, and save a lot of money too!

Besides reconditioned tools, you may want to also look at used automotive tools. You can find individuals selling tools in the newspaper ads, at estate and garage sales, at “going out of business” sales, and online auction sites such as eBay. Just remember that while you may enjoy substantial savings, these used automotive tools will not carry any kind of warranty. So inspect them in person if you can, or in the case of online auctions, be careful who you buy from.

The economy is difficult today, but we still need the right tools to get the job done, whether it’s working on our own cars or building up the automotive tool inventory in a business. Whether you are looking for a hydraulic jack, a torque wrench, or even a grease gun, take some time to look for reconditioned automotive tools first and enjoy top-notch tools at a bargain price with the security of a manufacturer’s warranty. In today’s tough economy, that only makes sense.