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.

“This Changes Everything” Movie Screening 11/7

On Saturday, November 7
 
West Seattle Meaningful Movies presents
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING
A new film directed by Avi Lewis and inspired by Naomi Klein’s bestseller
This Changes Everything—Capitalism vs. the Climate
90 minutes
What if confronting the climate crisis is the best chance we’ll ever get to build a better world?
By featuring seven communities on the front lines, this movie connects the carbon in the air with the economic system that put it there. It shows how we can seize the climate crisis to transform our failed economic system into something radically better.
6:30  doors open for snacks and social time
7:00 movie (come early to be sure to get a good seat)
6400 Sylvan Way SW, Seattle 98126
Bus numbers 21 and 128
NO CHARGE, but donations gratefully received.
Help us minimize waste—bring your own mug.

“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?

Solar in Washington Needs Your Support

Sign this petition to keep WA solar incentives going! Details below.

West Seattle Rooftop Solar
West Seattle Rooftop Solar

Those greenies in the know have heard about Washington State’s solar incentives. If you haven’t, check out the DSIRE database for the scoop.

In short:

Above the 30% Federal Income Tax Credit which everyone gets…

Washingtonians pay no sales tax on photovoltaic (electric) solar installations. 

Washingtonians are paid, by the utility company, an incentive of $0.15-$0.54 for every kilowatt-hour their solar energy system produces. 

Plus, each kilowatt-hour you produce is one you don’t have to buy.

SO MANY PEOPLE have gone solar since these state incentives were instituted in 2006, that utility companies are slated to hit the legislative maximums and REDUCE THE INCENTIVES. 

If this happens, solar is going to get very expensive in a hurry because the Federal Income Tax Credit (30% of purchase price) is set to expire in 2016 if its not extended.

With both of these incentives gone, we could see solar prices increase dramatically next year. We can’t afford to let this happen.

If you want to keep solar a viable option for our local grid as well as keep the local solar economy vibrant, please follow this link to sign a letter to your WA legislators and let them know. 

Lets keep solar booming!

 

West Seattle Habitat Improvement Grants

Sustainable West Seattle has been the recipient of two grants to improve wildlife habitat and water quality, solicited by the Puget Creek Watershed Alliance for ecological restoration in the Puget Ridge neighborhood near South Seattle College.
The first $20,000 grant from King County Wastewater Treatment Division focuses on “Lawn Transformations” to reduce stormwater runoff by improving the soil’s sponge and filtering capabilities. Titled “Clear the Air and Shrink Your Lawn,” this grant intends to reduce lawn mowing that comprises 5% of this nation’s air pollution. By eradicating grass, amending soils, and planting native species, it is hoped these mostly evergreen plants will better intercept winter rains and shade out weeds. Eight properties have had grass removed and plants installed, including a portion of lawn at Sanislo Elementary School. Also, the grant assisted the installation of one backyard rain garden that manages roof and street runoff.
The second $5,500 grant from King County Flood Control District is intended to restore native plant communities on properties with backyard natural areas in the Puget Creek watershed. This grant pays for invasive tree and knotweed removal, and to plant native evergreen trees that will reduce stormwater runoff and create shade conditions for replanting native diversity in the future. Invasive trees include European hawthorn, English laurel, and holly, a plant that is doubling its numbers every six years and is projected to be the dominant species in urban forests within three decades if we do nothing to stop its spread (for information: http://seedrain.org/).
Chosen grant participants will be supported by the restoration contractor, Garden Cycles, to remove invasive plant infestations and assist with planting and plant care.  Garden Cycles’ primary transportation is by bicycle with trailer (http://gardencycles.com/).
Look at the transformation!
BEFORE
BEFORE
AFTER
AFTER

New EcoARTs Classes At Youngstown Cultural Arts Center!

NatureC LogoMoasic

Have you ever wanted to take a painting, mosaic, or paper making class? Now you can! Unleash your creative side in classes that explore the intersection of art and nature.  Nature Consortium’s affordable new EcoARTs classes for beginning-level students begin on September 14th. Classes are taught by professional artists and no prior arts experience is necessary. Register today! Take one class, a whole series, or mix and match. Art supplies included. Open to students of all ages.

Learn more and Register at: www.naturec.org/ecoarts-program/

Dates: September 14 – November 30

Class Sessions:  Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays at 4pm – 5:30pm  or  6pm – 7:30pm

Mondays: Painting, Instructor: Aramis Hamer
Tuesdays: Mosaic, Instructor: Yeggy Michael
Wednesdays: Paper Making, Instructor: Carrie Ziegler

Cost: $25 per class. Supplies included.

M. Powell Swims the Duwamish to Raise Environmental Awareness

Did you know that over 600,000 pink salmon will make the journey up the Green/Duwamish River to spawn this year? This year, Mark Powell is swimming with them. From the crystal clear headwaters of the Green River to the polluted output of the Duwamish River at Puget Sound, Mark Powell of Washington Environmental Council is swimming the river to tell the story of the threats and opportunities facing the watershed and the Sound. Come face-to-face with salmon and frogs…Mark carries a GoPro and makes underwater videos of his swim! View more at SwimDuwamish.org and see cool underwater pictures at Instagram.com/SwimDuwamish. Here is a preview to get you started:

What an excellent way to take action and bring awareness to the issues that face our area. Thank you Mark and the folks at W.E.C. for doing such great work.

SwimDuwamish-6 SwimDuwamish-5 SwimDuwamish-4 SwimDuwamish-3 SwimDuwamish-2