A journey of a thousand miles…

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

August 3rd, 2012, five years and ten days ago, I took that first real step, into the life I’m enjoying today.

this morning, I was going through some old emails and found a reminder of how my electric vehicle journey began. It all started with me reaching out to Jerry Reynolds of Car Pro Radio Networks to ask advice. He had given me great advice before, so I was going back to the well.

Here’s my email to him:

Email #1Jerry’s reply:email #2(Note: The GM Jerry mentioned, Eric Bryant, was the guy who commented, 14 months later, that I should be working at Classic Chevrolet! Hank, my current manager, hired me a few days after Eric’s comment was made, even though I had no car sales experience.)

My update to Jerry:email #3

Not knowing anything about blogging, I started blogging almost immediately, because of my love for my new car. (Be nice!)

His final reply:These days, I am a recognized EV and hybrid sales expert at Classic Chevrolet and working alongside another great EVangelist, Tim Stewart, in a building dedicated to EV and hybrid vehicle sales and education, that we’ve nicknamed “Electric Avenue.”

On the day Electric Avenue opened, Jerry interviewed me about it.

And it all started with the single step of asking advice about a car…

Time is fleeting.

A lot of my friends, whom I hold in high regard, are silent on social media, or so it seems. It is well past time that we spoke, in a unified voice, against white supremacy, Nazi flags/regalia/salutes, nighttime torch marches meant to intimidate, violence against others due to race/religion/sexual orientation/ethnicity.

If you refuse to believe that one political party courted the alt-right, in order to win elections (or at least held their noses/comments so as to not alienate those voters), let down your guard for just a moment and listen to your heart. We all make mistakes. We are all human.

If you have forgotten a candidate who did not renounce endorsements by racist, terrorist organizations, while deflecting media inquiries about the lack of renunciation, let down your guard for just a moment and listen to your heart. We all make mistakes. We are all human.

If you are a proud Southerner (as I am), but have been swayed by arguments that the monuments & flags of the defeated Confederacy are your heritage and have not been twisted for the purposes of being racist and used for intimidation, let down your guard for just a moment and listen to your heart. We all make mistakes. We are all human.

Real Americans, join hands!We all make mistakes, out of anger, me included. However, we are approaching a moment from which our country will be unable to turn back. America will become that country that gave way to dark forces, which the world WILL rise to defeat, after much noble sacrifice. Generations of Americans, decades, if not centuries from now, will have to hang their heads in shame, when discussions of the coming war arise.

I implore you to let go and search your soul, without blaming yourself, to find the good person I know you to be. Then speak up against the hatred and violence, AND all politicians that are complicit. American politics is not a game, like football. Sometimes, it’s okay for your team to lose, if it makes the country better and your children safer.

It was the silence of very good people and an anger and frustration that had been building for decades, that caused a good country to lose its way, just 80 years ago. An extremist minority there, thought they were justified, in their anger and hatred and lit a fuse that devastated a generation worldwide. They thought their country to be invincible and it almost was. If only their good people had risen up to say, “No! This is wrong! The demagogue speaking now, does NOT speak for me!” then perhaps history would have been different.

It is easier to put out a torch than a forest fire.

We need your good voice, before it is too late.

Using the right tool and the 1% car

The Right Tool

The Right Tool

My office phone at the dealership rolls over to my iPhone, after two rings. In commissioned sales, a missed call is missed income and a tragedy at bill-paying time!

This morning, as I was getting ready to jump in the shower, my phone rang. The caller said she wasn’t sure why she’d been transferred to me, but she was interested in the Volt. Just to make sure I understood, I said, “Is the first letter of the car bravo or victor?” I always want to make sure we’re discussing the same vehicle. She affirmed that is was victor for Volt.

She said she had one question, “If I get a Volt, does the dealership have a charger, on site, I can use to recharge my car?”

I responded, “Yes, we do, but you won’t want to use it.”

“Why is that?” she asked.

I explained by asking, “Do you want to stay at a Chevy dealership 4-1/2 hours every day?” I explained how far you can go, on a single charge, and the time it takes to refill a depleted battery pack. I added that the Volt comes with its own charger that can be plugged in at your home for exactly that purpose. She asked, “Can it be plugged into any ‘normal’ outlet?” I explained that it plugs into a 110V outlet, just like an iPhone. The circuit would have to meet a minimum amperage, but basically, yes. She seemed very surprised. I went on to say that most Volt owners only recharge at work or at home, due to the time it takes to charge. I explained that there are apps for smartphones that locate public chargers, and some chargers are free to use, but that the Volt’s backup gasoline engine allows owners a degree of freedom that purely electric vehicles do not have.

At this point, she said she is an apartment dweller and doesn’t have an outlet near her parking spot. She asked if she could run an extension cord from her apartment to her car. I explained why that isn’t a good idea. I also mentioned that the Bolt EV is a better choice for apartment dwellers, because the average driver would only have to charge one a week or so. The Bolt EV also supports DC Fast Charging, which means the weekly “fill up” would take only about 2-1/2 hours. She was aware of the Bolt EV, but said her budget was only $14K, so she was looking for a used Volt.

I passed along something one of my managers once told me, “You don’t ever have to plug the Volt in. It can be run, exclusively, on the gasoline engine and would result in about 37 MPG. Then I told her that in her situation, I would recommend a “normal” hybrid, like the Malibu, Prius, etc. Since those vehicles don’t get plugged in, but get impressive gas mileage, they are also a good choice for an apartment resident and can be acquired, on the used market, within her budget. She thanked me and ended the conversation.

It amazes me, after 79 months of Volt availability, that people are unaware of basic things like charge time or that the Volt comes with its own charge cord, just like a smartphone. THIS is a failing I put at GM’s doorstep.

The 1% Car

I’ve been thinking about writing this for a while and the previous narrative seemed to make this time appropriate.

I’ve spoken with people who LOVED the Volt test drive. They needed the efficiency and could live with the limited seating capacity. However, they started asking about three-row crossovers, like the Traverse or SUVs, like the Tahoe. When I asked why, their response usually went something like this:

“Once a year, we have family come down to visit us and we need a vehicle that has the capacity to handle that.”

I am floored by this approach to car buying! The customer is deciding on the best vehicle, based on how it will be used 1% or 2% of the time! My response is usually along these lines:

  • You (the client) loved the silence and the acceleration of the Volt and know you’ll be giving this up, in the crossovers and SUVs, right?
  • Let’s look at the economics: The Traverse and Volt are in the same price range, but only the Volt gives you the $7,500 tax credit.
  • The Crossover/SUV gets 19 miles per gallon but the Volt gets the dollar equivalent of at least 80 MPG (conservatively)
  • Driving the crossover 15K miles per year, results in a fuel cost of $1,776 per year. (15,000 miles ÷ 19 MPG X $2.25 per gallon)
  • The Volt would have a fuel cost (electricity) of $640 per year, to travel the same distance. Assumptions: 11¢ per kWh, 20% charging loss, 0.31 kWh per mile, 41.1 miles per day: a VERY conservative estimate. (15,000 miles X 0.31 kWh ÷ 80% X 11¢)Rental rates
  • The resulting savings, of driving the Volt year round, just in fuel/electricity is $1,136 per year. This figure does not include at least three oil changes for the crossover/SUV per year or the convenience of refueling at home.
  • The image, to the right, was just pulled today, for rentals the week of Christmas 2017, in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Just the fuel savings would rent one or two SUVs for the week!
  • Why not rent a really nice SUV, for the one week per year that the family visits, and thoroughly enjoy the driving experience the rest of the time?

July 2017 Sales Numbers

Bolt EV Take-OffJuly 2017 plug-in vehicle sales were mostly down with a couple up slightly, and the Chevy Bolt EV jumping up 20%, as it continues it’s rollout across the U.S. The image to the left shows the adoption curves of the plug-in vehicles I track, including the original Prius (non-plug-in). As can be seen, the Bolt EV has outperformed them all, over the first eight months of availability, even though it is still not available in all states yet!

For the last three years, July has been a pretty good month for me. This July was pretty good as well, mainly due to my Bolt EV customers’ orders beginning to arrive. My final Bolt EV sale of the month is an interesting story. The daughter of the dealership’s owner gets a new demo vehicle, about every six months. She could pretty much have any vehicle here, but her last two choices had been Volts (fully loaded Premiers). In July, she decided to purchase a vehicle: The Bolt EV. Stay tuned. I hope to have a video interview with her soon.

I mentioned last month that the 2018 Volt was about to go into production. Production has started and my first two 2018 Volts have been built! More on that in a later post…

July 2017 EV Sales NumbersHere are the July 2017 sales figures, compared to the previous month:

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 13% (1,518 vs. 1,745)
  • Chevy Bolt EV: UP 20% (1,971 vs. 1,642)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 15% (1,283 vs. 1,506)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 2% (1,645 vs. 1,619)
  • Tesla Model S: DOWN 39% (1,425 vs. 2,350) **estimated
  • Tesla Model X: DOWN 25% (1,650 vs. 2,200) **estimated
  • BMW i3: UP 6% (601 vs. 567)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 1% (703 vs. 707)
  • Ford C-Max Energy: DOWN 10% (844 vs. 936)
  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric: DOWN 26% (43 vs. 58)

In July, the average price of gasoline was about the same as the previous month, $2.27. It bottomed out on the 4th of July, at $2.22, but rose 11 cents per gallon over the rest of the month, ending at $2.33.

My Sales By MonthAs I mentioned earlier, July 2017 marked my first Bolt EV sales. In the graph above, the largest bar for June and July is red, representing a tie for best July ever and the best June I have ever had. But notice its size, compared to all the other red bars for 2017. Things are getting better???

Vehicle Sales By ModelMy July sales were comprised of six Bolt EVs, three Malibus (still no, not hybrids), and a Volt . As in June, I did not sell a single Silverado pickup, so the Volt continues to be my most popular vehicle, but the Bolt EV has already surpassed my career sales of four other vehicles: the City Express van, Sonic, Spark and Trax.

Plug-in sales, compared to the same month a year ago, were mixed.

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 37% (1,518 vs. 2,406) **2017 model year ended, awaiting 2018?
  • Chevy Bolt EV: (was not available in July 2016)
  • Nissan Leaf: UP 21% (1,283 vs. 1,063)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 41,025% (1,645 vs. 4) **previous generation Prius plug-in, dying out last July
  • Tesla Model S: DOWN 34% (1,425 vs. 2,150)
  • Tesla Model X: UP 120% (1,650 vs. 750)
  • BMW i3: DOWN 59% (601 vs. 1,479)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 48% (703 vs. 1,341)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: UP 12% (844 vs. 755)
  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric: (was not available in July 2016)

Click baiting EV fans

Recently, there was a headline on several sites (even some that specialize in EV news) that GM’s Orion Township facility, where the Chevy Bolt EV is manufactured, was on an extended vacation shutdown, due to poor Bolt EV sales. Of course, as reported earlier, 8,171 Bolt EV’s have been sold, in it’s first 6+ months of availability and it still is not available nation-wide yet! That is better than any other vehicle I currently track, including the original Toyota Prius! Here’s how they rank, in their first 7 months of availability:

  • Bolt EV – 8,171
  • Prius (original) – 6,401
  • Prius Plug-in – 6,082
  • BMW i3 – 5,079
  • C-Max Energi – 3,951
  • Leaf – 3,894
  • Volt – 3,071
  • Model S – 2,650
  • Model X – 2,614
  • Fusion Energi – 2,591

Admittedly, the market has matured and expectations are higher. Some of these vehicles were manufactured, more or less, by hand and not in a mass production mode. The concept of a hybrid or electric vehicle isn’t as new or strange as when the more venerable of these vehicles debuted. But the Bolt EV isn’t even available nationally yet and it’s death knell is already being sounded?!?!?

I used to work for Apple, while Steve Jobs was still alive. I got to experience this from the inside, regarding the iPhone. Remember the iPhone “Antenna-gate scandal?” No? That’s because it was what came to be know an “click bait.” For those unaware of the term, click-bait is a bold headline, meant to convince the person seeing it to click on the link, to read the article. The reason for this, is to sell ads. The user, clicks on the link and the website hosting the story gets paid pennies for the ads that are presented alongside the article. Those pennies can add up to big money and did, whenever the “scandle” was Apple-related. Both Apple fan boys (of which I consider myself a member) and Apple haters would jump on the link to see the “news.” (I’d use the term “fake news,” had it not become so disreputable, recently…)

Well, EV and plug-in hybrid fans are at least as rabid as Apple fans. I often direct people, considering one of these fabulous vehicles, to the Facebook pages that have sprouted up for them. Nothing sells an EV like someone who owns one! Those same EV fans, just like the Apple fans before them, pounce on the click-bait articles, generating revenue for the sites posting the questionable articles and then repost them on Facebook to debate their veracity, whether through fear or indignation. This just fuels the fire and rewards the people posting the questionable articles, in the first place, reinforcing their crappy journalism by rewarding it.

In the real world of wanting to be the first to scoop the rest of the world, this probably cannot be helped. It’s not a new phenomenon…

Remember when?

The Bolt EV “news” was rebutted by a person who actually works at the plant. They said that the vacation/shutdown was extended to retool the line to produce more Bolt EVs at the detriment of Chevy Sonic production. The Sonic, for those unaware of it, is a very low-priced, small four-door sedan, which isn’t selling well, during these times of low cost gasoline.

Another recent “news story,” that I deem as click bait, include the UAW being in talks with GM about ending the production of “6 passenger cars.” The reason stated for this is that, with people buying large trucks and SUVs instead of cars, UAW members working at plants that produce cars are being financially hurt by extended vacations, lack of overtime, etc.

One of the offshoots of the above-mentioned UAW/GM story, is that it is predicted that the Chevy Volt would be a victim of this in 2020.

I’m a major fan of the Chevy Volt. We have had five of them so far, in our household. You’re probably aware of that.

I was not perturbed by the story at all, for a several reasons:

  • The American public has an incredibly short memory, when it come to vehicles. Every time gas prices go down, we forget the struggle of high gas prices/gasoline shortages. Demand is a pendulum. Americans go back and forth, between small, fuel-efficient vehicles and large, not-so-efficient SUVs (remember Hummers?). All it takes is a war in an oil-rich area or for the effects of climate change to become apparent and the pendulum will swing back.
  • Every day, I get to see people drive a Bolt EV or Volt for the first time. I see them light up over the acceleration, the silence and how inexpensive they are to operate, even when considering how cheap gas is.
  • I interact daily online, with owners of EVs and plug-in hybrids and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that 99% of these people will never, ever go back to an exclusively gasoline-powered vehicle. I call this the “stickiness” of EVs. It’s sort of like the Hotel California, in that (paraphrasing) “you can check out any time you like, but you won’t ever leave.
  • Finally, it was the 2020 prediction of the Volt’s demise. I’m completely cool with that. In 2020, the Volt will be ten years old. Advances in battery technology, as well as the expected roll-out of faster charging infrastructure, makes me hope it’s true. There should be no reason for plug-in hybrids to exist, after 2020! Some other incarnation of the Volt, one that’s fully electric, should bring about the retirement of this wonderful GM creation. (Personally, I’m hoping for a fully-electric, two-seat convertible roadster…that I can afford)

So, don’t fret. Someone once said there’s a tipping point coming that most people, pundits included, don’t foresee.

The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.

It is done

I have been trying hard to make it an entire year without buying gasoline. By “trying hard,” I don’t mean babying my Volt. Those that know me, know that I’ve had it to top speed numerous times and accelerate hard every time I take off from a stop. In other words, I drive it like I stole it.

The last time I bought gasoline was August 10, 2016. Yesterday, my 2017 Volt announced it was entering “fuel maintenance mode.” Fuel maintenance mode runs the internal combustion engine to take the gas tank to below 50% full. It will keep doing this, until the gas in the tank is diluted by adding new gasoline.

Today marked my 350th day or 50th week of not buying gasoline. I got in my Volt this morning and drove to work. When I stopped, at work, the drive summary display came up. Out of the approximately 15 miles I drove, 14.5 were on gasoline and the rest were electric. My MPG on gas was 46, better than the stated 42 MPG on the window sticker. However, the numbers told me some bad news. There was no way I was going to make it another two weeks without buying gasoline. The tank was going to be run to empty within six more round-trip commutes.

So, I drove to a Shell gas station, near work, and filled the gas tank. I realize I could have just put in three gallons, but my goal is to go as long as possible without having to go to a gas station. To do that, I have to start with a full tank.

And so it begins again… See you next year, Shell Oil! Maybe on the way home I’ll play a little Jackson Browne…