By David Lowe
(member of Temple Israel in Boston, board member of Massachusetts Climate Action Network)

It is Independence Day as I write my draft of this blog entry. Happy 4th! I’m celebrating a bit more independence from fossil fuels this summer. Yesterday, I sold my 2012 Subaru Impreza Sport. I’m giving up down-shifting my 5-speed gasoline engine for the thrill of regenerative braking.

Two weeks ago, we put down $2,900 on a Chevy Volt lease, partially pre-negotiated by Mass Energy Consumer’s Alliance, creators of the Drive Green program. By the time we are back from vacation, we should have our $2,500 incentive check from the Commonwealth.

Why not buy? Cash flow is our main reason. And because battery life is eight years and technology is changing quickly, I’d rather use the auto company’s credit than put our own money in. Great leasing rates are available now because of low interest rates, good credit, and a federal incentive. (While there are funds still in the pot, electric and plug-in hybrid cars earn a $7,500 tax credit to the buyer or the leasing company.)

The Volt is zippy at all speeds and goes 53 miles on electric power before switching to a gas-electric drive system that is more efficient than direct drive gas engines that must be able to operate at variable speeds and power demands. The main job of the Volt’s 1500 cc 149 HP gas engine is to make electricity for the two 90% efficient electric drive motors to go another 367 miles with drained batteries. Slowing down also charges the batteries. The result is fuel economy equivalent to well over 100 miles per gallon equivalent (eMPG). With 100% local wind generated electricity at home, our around-town driving will be ~100% fossil fuel free!

The Volt provides double the electric range of any competitor’s electric hybrid. My Subaru needed a 2000 cc engine displacement to deliver the amount of power I might call upon from stop light to highway.

Here is how it made great sense to us to make this change now.

  • Very little money down and great monthly rates on the three-year lease (as little as $121/mo. after tax per June rates; check the Drive Green web site for July rates.*
  • I’m getting $9,800 now for the five-year-old Subaru, about double our full 36-month lease cost.
  • By comparison, when my lease is up in three years, an eight-year old Subaru with an additional 30,000 miles (our lease mileage allowance), would be worth $5,000-6,000, per its condition (Edmunds.com).
  • The $4,000-5000 devaluation matches our total lease payments over the 36-month term not including repair and higher maintenance costs on an older car. I just put $700 into the Subaru, for example. Operating the Volt will be cheaper (30,000 miles/106mpg assuming best possible fuel economy = ~283 gallons × $2.50/gal. = $708 over three years, if we average shorter trips as planned). The Subaru, in comparison would burn at least 909 gallons to go the same 30,000 miles (at 33 MPG – best possible highway mileage) saving at least 600 gallons of carbon emissions and $1500.

Meanwhile, I have a brand new electric hybrid vehicle and new cash in hand.

Why a Volt plug-in hybrid instead of the new high-range Bolt all-electric? Mainly cost, but that’s a personal decision. We were excited about the Bolt upon test-driving it. The Volt drive was quite similar. We liked the Bolt’s back seat and storage better. And the range on the Bolt is an impressive and very utilitarian 239 miles, but to go further than this requires a scheduled stop at a fast charger station on route. That didn’t deter us either. There will be more charging stations and there are apps to map them on a trip. Most of our trips will be less than 50 miles, a few in the 70-100 range. The deciding factors for us were the Volt’s lower monthly cost and the extra cost for a home charging station needed for the Bolt.

The Bolt will charge with a 110v. outlet, but it will take 53 hours!  With a 220v. installation, the Bolt charges overnight, the Volt in 4.5 hours. It is an investment we will likely make at some point, in order to charge the Volt in half the usual overnight duration with 110v and with a mind toward future electric cars. But we didn’t want that extra $600-$1000 expense right now.

This was in part a personal action we could take in the shadow of Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords. It also fulfills our GreenShield Pledge at Temple Israel. Feel free to share this account.

Enjoy your test drive!

* You can check out rates offered each month by the Drive Green Program  at https://www.massenergy.org/drivegreen.  There are other brands of electrics and plug-in hybrids and comparison charts there. We also got heat leather seats and mirrors for $148 after tax/mo.

by David Lowe--No longer the climate activist who drives to meetings in a (33 mpg or worse) gasoline car!
 

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