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Driving Electric

It was a little less than five years ago when I was in the market for a new car. To be honest, I was desperate to get a new car. It was a cold December morning when my Nissan Sentra, with over 250,000 miles on it, started to ‘choke’ and I saw the check engine and an over-heating warning light come on. “I don’t have time for this, not today,” I said out loud to myself. I made it to work, worked a few hours, and then took the rest of the day off to research my options. After a quick trip to a mechanic, I was told that my engine block had cracked, was leaking coolant, and that I would need a new engine. I don’t remember the price quoted to me, but I do remember having a sinking feeling in my stomach when I heard it. I was told I had about two to three days of driving before the engine would no longer hold any coolant. So, that afternoon I spent hours online looking at repairs and weighing my options for a new car.

It was then that I remembered two of my close friends each had purchased electric Chevy Volts and had both raved about its performance, lack of upkeep, and price. I spoke with both friends that afternoon and started doing research. Thoughts running through my head at the time were, “I don’t want to be limited on how far I can go when I run out of electricity,” “I am not sure the battery technology is at a point to where I can drive more than 10 miles without charging,” “What happens if I’m in an accident, does the lithium ion battery explode like you see on YouTube clips?” “What happens if I am away from home and run out of electricity, do I have the car towed, or do I lug an extension cord around with me and ask to plug into someone’s outlet for six hours so I can make it home?” and finally “Sure I will save on gas, but my electric bill is going to soar.”

After reading Consumer Reports, researching details, and watching a few YouTube videos with happy owners addressing a lot of my initial worries, I became more open to the idea of getting an electric car. Let’s face it, my friends have always lovingly told me I was a ‘hippy’ born in the wrong generation, and that I was a tree hugger, in the best way possible, of course. They possibly say this because I once did make my own solar panel array and wired it to old car batteries. I built a decorative, protective wooden box around the batteries that sat inconspicuously in a corner on my porch with a large pot of flowers on top of it. I ran wiring from the box, inside the home and connected it to an inverter outlet that sat on a shelf inside the house. Each day I would charge my laptop, cell phones, Fitbit, and other batteries that powered my remotes and flashlights. It wouldn’t run a refrigerator, or even a microwave, but it was a way for me to reduce my carbon footprint, and during a few power outages it was enough to power a desk lamp and heating blanket in the winter.

Two days later, I arrived at the dealership that had two Volts in the color I wanted.  After about five hours of showing me how to operate the basics of the car, negotiating a lower price, and fending off a barrage of unnecessary add-ons, I drove off the lot in my new electric car. I pulled into my garage, and immediately opened the trunk where the dealer had put the charging cord and plugged in my car to a regular wall outlet. That’s it; in a few hours I would have a full charge and could drive 65 miles round-trip. The price of the car was within $2,000 of a regular gas-powered car of similar size. There are federal and state tax breaks when you buy ‘alternative fuel’ cars, and I received $7,500 off my taxes the next year. This made the car $5,500 cheaper than its gas equivalent.  

The next morning, I woke up and went to check on my new car still plugged in from the night before. The light in the dashboard was a solid green, meaning it was fully charged. I unplugged the car, put the cord back in the trunk, and took off to get some coffee, with my reusable coffee mug of course. Upon arrival to the coffee shop, I took my manual inside, received my coffee, and read the rest of the manual. After being fully rested and caffeinated, I got back in the car and went to take it on a ‘joyride’ – to test it on the highway.  What I noticed the most was the lack of noise from the car. With an electric motor, all I heard was a soft “hum” that became slightly louder, the faster I made the car go.

With the press of the pedal my car bolted along the highway. It gained speed so fast, I could feel the tires struggling to keep a grip on the pavement. This car had some serious power. It was true what I had read, electric cars have instant torque compared to a gas engine car which requires a buildup of power before reaching the speeds of my new electric car. It was at this time, when I remembered that the Chevy Volt was a unique electric car, in that it also had a gas-powered generator built into it. In fact, my car runs on both gas and electric, but was still considered by the EPA and federal government to be an all-electric vehicle. This is because unlike other hybrid cars, the gas generator did not actually propel the car at any time.  Instead, it ran a small gas motor that generated electricity to supply the car, when it was running low on electric. Brilliant! Right there, this relieved any concerns I had about taking the car past a 65-mile radius from home.

After driving and loving every aspect of my electric car for almost five years now, I highly recommend this car and others like it. My electric bill did increase by $5 to $10 a month, and this is if I drained the battery and I plugged it in every night. And let’s face it, $10 a month buys about 3 gallons of gas for a regular car. How far can your car go on $10 worth of gas? I have since discovered that there are charging stations all over the Denver metro area, and a lot of them are free. Yes, FREE! They are considered a level two charger, which means they charge faster than if I plug my car in at home. Each time I go to the gym, I plug it in and gain about 10 to 15 miles per hour.  Talk about an incentive to keep your workout routine going past New Year’s.

On average I fill the seven-gallon fuel tank about three times a year. That means that 87% of my driving is on 100% electricity, but there are times when I go to Greeley, and I even take the car to visit family in St. Louis, that requires the gas generator to turn on (automatically and seamlessly while the car is driving), which does use fuel. However, the amount of fuel the car consumes is much less because the fuel is only being used to run a generator and not actually propel the car. I only need an oil change once a year and because the generator only runs for short periods of time, the ‘engine’ requires far less maintenance. All in all, I will never go back to an all-gas vehicle. I have sacrificed nothing by purchasing this vehicle, and I have saved a lot of time by little need for maintenance. It has all of the performance (actually more), agility, and capability as my last car, but has saved me thousands of dollars in gas.

In addition to saving a lot of money on fuel, I am proud that I am reducing my carbon footprint by significantly reducing the amount of pollution from my car. I often have impromptu conversations with people who approach me after seeing my car parked in the parking lot, or even while sitting at a red light. Yep, it has happened three times, where people in cars next to me signal to roll down the windows and ask me about my car. Two of the three even asked me to pull over to the side of the road so we could talk more, which I gladly did. One last item I want to share with you is that when you go electric, there are a large number of apps for your car that you can download for free. They help provide stats on my vehicle, tell me if tire pressure is low, if there is a problem with the electronics, and I can even monitor every aspect of my car while charging it. The most useful app I use is called ChargePoint and it shows me where all charging stations are around me. I can filter stations by the price they charge (like I said earlier, I go for the free ones), and it even shows me if the station is being used, or if there is an outlet available. This is how I can confidently tell you that according to my app which monitors all charging, and fuel I have put into the car over the last five-ish years, I have saved $2,726 on fuel alone.1 Include three to four less oil changes per year and far less time spent on maintenance, and the best part, I NEVER, have to have an emissions test because the car is considered all electric, and this number easily more than doubles.

Long story short, seriously consider an electric vehicle or even hybrid electric the next time you need a car. Now some companies even have electric sports cars, and SUVs. You sacrifice nothing in performance and you gain a lot more convenience, and for those of us in Colorado who like to go to the mountains, you will pass the majority of the gas guzzling cars and trucks going up the hills with no extra effort. By going electric, not only do you save money, you help to drastically reduce air pollution in your city, help keep our water and air clean with many less oil changes, save time and stress from hours of oil changes, maintenance, emissions testing, fueling up your vehicle, and you get to politely smile and wave to your friends and coworkers who stopped at the gas station, as you continue your all electric joyride.


1.The math: 37,068 total miles of which 32,362 were 100% electric. Average 30 miles per gallon of gas for a regular car, and that saved me 1,078 gallons of gas, at an average of $3 per gallon which equals $3236 in saved fuel cost.  Subtract an average of $10 per month of electricity for the 51 months I have had the car, which leaves you with a net savings of $2,726.