Lynn Timmons Edwards
October 21, 2017
There is a difference between wanting to be good and being good; wanting to do the right thing and affording to always do the right thing. As an aging Baby Boomer, I still want to change the world for the better. But I am also a creature of comfort who could be described as frugal bordering on “cheap” when it comes to spending money on big ticket items like automobiles.
My husband who is my soul mate and right there on the frugal train beside me says we are “value shoppers”. We have been married around twenty years and have owned only a few cars during that time. We always buy slightly used, trying to get the lowest miles and fanciest features for the lowest price.
I have wanted to go green and buy a hybrid or electric car (EV) for about a decade. To me, lowering the C2 emissions is a no brainer right up there with recycling. But every time we car shopped, EVs and Hybrids were thousands of dollars more expensive than gas engine cars. We just couldn’t balance the environmental value with our own value conscience pocketbook. My husband was a stay at home dad and now has a modest social security and I am a retired public servant. We are not cheap with a million bucks in the bank. We need to be careful so we can support our retirement lifestyle.
Fast forward to 2017. Our 2005 Kia Sedona van that has served us well since our now 27 year old son was in middle school is getting more expensive to maintain than it is worth. We need another, newer car. Once again I say, “let’s go EV or hybrid”. Suddenly going green is not only affordable, it is a steal. As much as my husband drools over the Tesla, that car is still a pipe dream for us. So we turn our attention to the Nissan Leaf. Because battery technology is growing exponentially, the three year old Leafs coming off lease can be purchased for under $10,000. I am talking about a Leaf with leather, Bose sound and all the bells and whistles which retailed for $35,000 in 2013. We make a deal with a dealer who is in town for the Barrett Jackson Auction for $9,000 and my husband drives him to the airport. We did have to pay a door tax to the state when we registered the car, but still all in all we have essentially a new EV with a 75 mile range. For our lifestyle that works perfectly and we still have the van for longer distances.
Did I mention the van has to go? So we realize that we need a hybrid for those occasions when we want to take a road trip but have become enamored with the plug-in feature of EVs. Enter the Ford CMAX Plug-in. We found a 2013 with 12,000 miles on the lot at Camelback Ford in Phoenix languishing for lack of buyer attention. The sticker said $19,000. We offered them $14,000 which they took so they could record the sale before the month close-out. It also retailed in the mid-thirties three years ago and has every bell and whistle that was available at the time.
Charging the cars in Phoenix is very easy. In addition to using a 110 outlet in our garage over night, there are free charging stations available at the Nissan and Ford dealerships as well as various retail outlets. You can also register your credit card with Charge Point. While we have never paid for a charge, we have that option as some stations about town do have a fee. Also, the Arizona Electric Car Association has a Plug Share program.
Part of our retirement lifestyle is the privilege to live in Flagstaff, Arizona half of the year. Our first visit this spring was to the Nissan Dealership in Flagstaff only to find out that “no, they don’t have a high speed Leaf charger”. In fact they don’t even sell Leafs. It was the same story from Babbitt Ford. We looked around to see if there were any charging stations in public spaces. In Phoenix you can find them at public libraries as well as on commercial property. I have always thought of Flagstaff as a Green City: dark skies, extensive bicycle paths, etc. But to my surprise there were very few charging stations that were not designated for Teslas which use a different apparatus that will not work on a Leaf or CMAX Plug-In. We live in a condo in Flagstaff, so charging at home was out.
I contacted the Mayor and Council to express my concerns about this lack of EV Infrastructure. I received a few responses back all of which said, “you make a good point; we will have staff look into it”. That was four months ago and I have not heard anything since.
What are we waiting for Flagstaff? Some make the argument that the batteries don’t do well in the cold. Most people suffer from range anxiety. But take a look at your lifestyle and see how many miles you really do have to drive without the time to “recharge”. There are plenty of folks who don’t make long commutes every day to work including retirees and students.
Let’s talk about the EV Pipeline. Science reporter Robert Ferris published an interview with Berstein Financial on CNBC.com this summer titled Four Reasons Electric Cars are Poised to Completely Take Over. He cites international government support, improving cost economics, technological development and increasing acceptance. My husband and I were in the Netherlands in May and hailed a taxi that just happened to be a Tesla. The driver told us that all taxis coming on line are required to be EVs by 2020. China, the world’s largest market for automobiles is driving companies like GM and Ford to ramp up their production of electric vehicles. According to Auto News (August 2017) Ford will introduce 13 electrified vehicles in the next five years. Many are plug-in versions of SUV Hybrids and sedans. According to the article by Robert Ferris, The UK will ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars starting in 2040 with France to follow. Tesla prices are still out of reach for many but coming down. Its new Model 3 has a battery range of 220 miles and retails at about $35,000. The new Chevy Bolt also racks a 200 mile plus battery range and retails in the same ballpark as the Tesla Model 3. That all spells a pipeline of more affordable used EVs with longer range in the next five years.
So, where is our infrastructure Flagstaff? What leadership is our City ready to demonstrate? Will charging stations and EV incentives have a prominent place in the Flagstaff Sustainability Plan being crafted over the next year? A retired City Planner scoffed at my crusade recently. He believes the world is dominated by oil and corporations and I am tilting at windmills. But oil companies are getting on board. Shell just formed a partnership with Allegro to install high speed chargers at their gas stations, rolling out the first in England and the Netherlands by the end of this year.
So, I say to the City leadership, install a few high speed charging stations, offer incentives for employees to drive EVs and require new city vehicles to be hybrid or electric. If you want specifics, install two high speed charging stations in the Handicapped parking lot between San Francisco and Leroux, south of Aspen, one at the Library and one at City Hall. And I say to the dealerships, install chargers and start selling EVs. I say to my fellow citizens, especially two car families; buy one EV and see how it works for you. Call your elected officials and encourage them to support EV infrastructure. I say to apartment and condo management companies, install a high speed charging station and see if it gets used. Let’s surprise ourselves and my friend the skeptic and get ahead of the automobile revolution which is coming. Remember when there were no personal computers and phones had cords and hung on walls?