What Its Like to Buy an Electric Vehicle

Local West Seattleite Andy Silber discusses his recent purchase of an EV:


I’ve joined the ranks of Electric Car drivers


For years I’ve been saying that when our Honda Civic died, we’d replace it with a Nissan Leaf.  Well, the Honda died and we just bought a Leaf. I thought I’d share our process.

Why a Leaf? There are lots of electric cars on the market. Several are just too expensive (e.g. the Tesla). Others are available only in states like California that have a mandate that require manufacturers sell a small number of electric cars. Those models are hard or impossible to find in states that don’t have a mandate (like Washington). That leaves basically the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt (which is a plug-in hybrid that burns gasoline when the batteries are empty). Though I like the Volt, it’s a bit more expensive and I liked the simplicity of a pure electric vehicle: no gas stations, oil changes, or tail pipe. The 85-mile range of the Leaf is sufficient for our daily driving and with charging stations becoming common, even longer trips are possible. For instance, Catherine wants to visit a farm in Sultan, over 50 miles away. Since there’s a level 3 charging station at the Sultan visitors center, it only takes 20 minutes of charging before heading home with a nearly full “tank”.

Why now? We considered being a one-car family, just our trusty 1996 Subaru wagon. I take the bus to work, we live 3 blocks from a rent-a-car office with great weekend rates, and there are Car2Go cars in our neighborhood. I’m sure we could have made it work. Heck, we know people who are car free, and they don’t live next to two bus routes like we do. When we went to test drive the Leaf, it was just to check it out, not buy one. After we drove the car and liked it, they shared the deal: $6,500 off of sticker from Nissan, an interest free loan worth over $2,000, $7,500 tax credit from the feds, and a sales tax exemption from Washington State worth over $2,000. They made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.

We could have waited a few months until the 2016 Leaf comes out, which will have a range of over 100 miles. We could have waited a few years until the Tesla 3 comes out, which I’m sure will be amazing and much cheaper than the current Tesla. If you think about it in the terms of disruptive technology, something new (e.g. electric cars) replaces what came before (e.g. internal combustion engines) not because it’s all around better, but because it’s good enough on most elements (e.g. range, safety, driving experience, purchases price) and better on a few elements that the previous solution hadn’t focused on (e.g. low greenhouse-gas emission, total cost of ownership). A small percentage of the population will start buying the new solution because they care about the previously ignored values, which will spur development until the new technology becomes the standard. For us, the Leaf is either good enough (e.g. on range) or better (e.g. greenness) across all fronts. So why wait? Also, Nissan’s generous rebates are designed to get the 2015 cars off the lot before the 2016 model shows up: I’d rather pay $6,500 less and not get next year’s model.

“The Secret of Change” Documentary Teaser

Just received a little note from our friends over at OWL Positive Broadcasting. SWS met with them as part of their journey down the west coast. Here is the teaser from their upcoming documentary “The Secret of Change”.

Hello Friends!

We have now finished filming, can you believe it!? Can’t believe how quickly the time has passed, seems like only yesterday we were staying with you guys in West Seattle. At the moment we’re in California staying with friends until we fly out to Mexico on Sunday, very exciting!
We’ve had an incredible journey filming with so many people and initiatives over the last few months and we have put together a very brief teaser (which you feature in) to give an idea of what is to come so I thought I’d share it with you.
I hope you enjoy it and please feel free to share with as many people, in as many ways as you please ;-).
We are beginning work on a crowd-funder as we speak and aim to have that completed by the end of the month so we’ll let you guys know when that launches.
With love and gratitude
Chris & Zoe

Guest Post: Andy Silber on Electric Cars

Electric Cars: Opportunity and Risk

Tesla Image

It’s been five years since I’ve written about electric cars. In those years the Leaf has replaced the Prius as the environmental car of choice and the Tesla Model S has won more automotive awards than Bryon Cranston has won Emmys. As I expected, electric cars are driving down the road towards the mainstream.

While the cost, range, and quality of electric cars has improved dramatically, the way those cars are charged has remained relatively unchanged.  Sure Tesla has installed a network of fast chargers that in twenty minutes can add sufficient charge that road trips are now possible and many businesses have installed charging stations in their parking lots, but most electric cars are still changed at home overnight.  The driver gets home, plugs in the car and in the morning the car is ready for another day of driving. Depending on your system and how far you’ve driven, charging may take from two to ten hours. Currently, the electric grid treats an electric car just like a blender.

As electric cars become mainstream, there will be a new rush hour on the grid right after the rush hour on the roads: millions of cars plugging in around 6 p.m., drawing power at the same time as stoves and heaters and TVs are firing up. This is a challenge not just to produce the electricity, but also to distribute it to all of those garages. If we don’t deal with this intelligently, then we might see a gridlock of electrons (i.e. brown-outs).

Light Pole

But this challenge is also an opportunity to make the grid better. The electric grid needs to be sized for peak demand. The rest of the day, those resources are underused. Creating  off-peak demand helps the utility.

Very few drivers need their car charged up as soon as possible, but just want it ready for their daily commute by the next morning. How do we build a system that does the bulk of the changing when the grid has underused capacity (i.e. the middle of the night)? There are several approaches, each with advantages and disadvantages:

  • Time-of-day metering, where the retail price of electricity drops during the time of day when the wholesale price of electricity is low and the grid is operating at much less than capacity (e.g. 11 pm to 8 am). This is fairly straightforward to implement, but is inflexible to events (e.g. a transformer goes down). This only requires advanced power meters and chargers that know what time it is and what time they should start charging.
  • Real time pricing, where the utility can set the price based on the current situation and sends a message that appliances (e.g. car chargers) can respond to (e.g. delaying charging). This requires a much smarter system (i.e. the Smart Grid), but allows the utility to manage challenges like a substation fire or high wind-production during a time of low demand.
  • Build a system that can handle increased peak loads; more generators, wires, transformers, poles… This is almost certainly the most expensive and dirtiest way to meet the challenge.

Currently in Seattle, we’re not doing any of these things. The cost of electricity is the same at 6p.m. as it is at 2 a.m. and the chargers that people are installing in their garages don’t know what time it is, much less the cost of electricity at that moment. I expect electric car growth to follow a hockey-stick pattern, which is common for new technology adoption (think smart phones): sales will grow linearly and moderately for a few years, then the next time that gasoline prices hit $5.00 a gallon, electric car sales will explode. Are we building the electric network that can handle this opportunity?

The Village Green Nursery Is COOL

RoseWhere else can you go learn about homemade rose tea or fragrant rose syrups in West Seattle on a Saturday and go for “A Wild Edible Walk and Talk” on Sunday? Well there might be a couple of other places, but this one looks fun too! An excerpt from their Rose Blog Blast reads:

“Do you remember being in your grandmothers gardens when the most fragrant roses were in bloom?

Fragrance takes us back to a time in the past, where scent has been locked into memory. We may not even realize the memory exists until we smell something to jog the memory. My aunt Edna used to grow the most amazing roses. Her house was always filled with amazing food and flower scents.

When I moved here, the roses were not at all something I was looking forward to working with. I’ve since come to truly LOVE roses!

The term ‘Old roses’ does not refer to roses that were in the garden when you moved into your house….’old roses’ actually refers to antique varieties that came over with early settlers from China, Europe and the Far East. We’re talking old. These are cutting from the original plants, also called ‘own root roses’ meaning they are grown from cuttings from the parent plant, here on the property.”

Sounds fuN! Check out the Rose Events each Saturday in June from 1-3pm and the Wild Edible Walk and Talk on Sunday June 7th 11-12pm.


WS Land Use Committee Meeting

West Seattle Land Use Committee -WSLuc
At this meeting as the Person of Interest we will have Paul Haury of the NERDS – Paul and his group have many notches under their belt from experiences with DPD along the Avalon Way Corridor.

Agenda for WSLUC – Wednesday April 29 Meeting
 – 6pm Southwest Library on 35th Ave SW:

  • 6pm – Introductions and follow up on our Land Use 101 mini-seminar by Deb Barker and Cindi Barker
  • 6:30pm – Person of Interest – Paul Haury
  • 7:00 – Looking Forward – Discussion and Planning for helping to leverage the various West Seattle Land Use Action Groups efforts – MISSION STATEMENT!
Hot topics right now are
  • the CVS Pharmacy at the Fauntleroy Triangle
  • the NERDS ongoing battle with DPD about Avalon
  • —- we need to gather hot button projects from all of West Seattle
Tod Rodman

West Seattle Land Use Committee -WSLuc

Earth Week Barbeque and Fun


Celebrate Earth Week with your neighbors at the West Seattle Tool Library!

Save the Date, Sunday, April 19th from noon to 4pm for fun and food.

Activities for the whole family include,

    Healthy local foods BBQ, including veggies, burgers, brats, and delicious side dishes-Kids seed start and worm farming-Free garden tool sharpening and wheel barrow repairs-Free DIYBIKES.org bicycle repair clinics-Bio Char demonstrations-West Seattle Tool Library membership discounts-and for the current members, LATE TOOL RETURN AMNESTY!

Indoors or Outdoors at the Youngstown Cultural and Arts Center, 4408 Delridge Way SW.

Recommended donations $10 individual or $20 Family family-bbq-md

Start Earth Week off by celebrating the success of the West Seattle Tool Library on Sunday April 19th from noon to 4pm. The West Seattle Tool Library is a project of Sustainable West Seattle and provides tools for DIY projects as well as for community organizations working toward an earth friendly society.

Local Businesses Combat Seattle’s Leftover Paint Problem

Second Use Building Materials and NOVO Painting are teaming up to combat the issue of used paint in Seattle. Without a paint stewardship program, Washington residents are forced to dry leftover latex paint with kitty litter or paint hardener and toss it in the landfill.

In effort to divert leftover latex paint from the landfill and get it into the hands of people that need it, Second Use and NOVO Painting are hosting a Used Paint Drive on March 28th from 10-4 at the Second Use Store in SODO.

There is no cost for individuals to drop off leftover paint, but there are the following requirements:

Paint must be in good, reusable condition. Second Use reserves the right to turn away unsatisfactory paint
Paint must be free of any solid matter
Paint must be latex
Paint will only be accepted between 10-4 on March 28th.
This is a one-time event, and paint donations outside of those hours will be refused.
In an effort to allow the most households to participate, we cannot accept quantities exceeding 25 gallons
Individuals or community groups interested in free used paint can contact maryanne@seconduse.com to receive more information about paint distribution.

Please help our community responsibly dispose of their paint by sharing this event.  Do not hesitate to contact us for additional information.

Meaningful Movies this Saturday

Saturday March 7th
West Seattle Meaningful Movies brings to you        Pay 2 Play
Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes 

A film by John Wellington Ennis 

Trailer: http://www.pay2play.tv

Pay 2 Play lays out a compelling case against corporate personhood.” L.A. Times 
This humorous and provocative film connects the dots of Big Money in our ever-challenging election process. A layperson’s guidebook to taking back our democracy. Featuring Robert Reich, Van Jones, Marianne Williamson, Noam Chomsky, and many more.
6:30 doors open for snacks and social time
7:00 movie, followed by optional discussion
6400 Sylvan Way SWSeattle 98126
Bus numbers 21 and 128
NO CHARGE, but donations gratefully received.
Help us minimize waste—bring your own mug.

Vision Zero a refreshing thought

Mayor Ed Murray inspired us all this week when he unveiled his Vision Zero traffic initiative. The plan is to eliminate all traffic fatalities which is a lofty goal indeed but there could be other refreshing results. The main component of the plan is to lower speed limits throughout the city which would lessen the impact in the case of an accident as well as provide a greater reaction time to avoid accidents. These lower speed limits drastically increase the chance of survival, especially for vulnerable users such as pedestrians and cyclists but will only increase the daily travel time by mere seconds and minutes. This slower pace may also be what our community needs at this time. The way our society has been moving ever faster through life is an ill that many of us bear. A slower pace may do us some good as described by Cecil Andrews in her book “Slow is Beautiful” . The slower pace also has the potential for reducing individual transportation carbon emissions. Let’s embrace this idea.