Sometimes EVs Don't Meet Needs of Most Passionate Supporters

By · August 10, 2012

Bob Ostertag With Bike

Teacher and musician Bob Ostertag prefers real zero-emissions transportation, but he'll settle for a Chevy Volt.

Bob Ostertag wants badly to drive an electric car for one reason and one reason alone. "We just can't continue to use the internal combustion engine," said Ostertag, a musician and professor at the University of California Davis. Ostertag's musical roots date back to the 1970s New York experimental music scene, which he helped build alongside frequent collaborators John Zorn and Fred Frith. Today, he teaches a class in technocultural studies, integrating his background in music and media with climate science and the push to reduce global emissions. "I fall asleep thinking about climate science and wake up the next day thinking about it," he told me.

Recently, Ostertag set out to purchase his first EV, five years after getting rid of his gas-powered car and pledging not to drive again until he could do so in a zero emissions vehicle. For Bob, that meant a pretty big lifestyle commitment. "My commute takes about two hours by train and about an hour by car," he said. Partially in anticipation of buying a new EV, Ostertag outfitted his house with solar panels, hoping to cut grid-generated emissions out of his transportation footprint as well.

Since UC Davis is one of the nation's leaders in academic electric vehicle research, charging at work wouldn't be a problem―making the 73-mile commute from his San Francisco home theoretically doable in an EV. But when he set out to find a car, Bob ran into some trouble. After borrowing a Nissan LEAF from a friend, Bob realized the LEAF's range probably wouldn't be enough for his needs. Driving in Eco Mode at 50-mph speeds on the highway, Ostertag rolled into work with "zero charge left." Any unexpected stops or adverse range conditions threatened to leave him short of his destination―and his students waiting in the classroom.

Bob then set his sights on the Coda electric sedan, whose official range of 88 miles is closer to his needs. Unfortunately, he found the pre-production version of a Coda borrowed from the UC Davis fleet to be too noisy, and had an unpleasant experience with a salesman when he asked if there were any current Coda drivers he might contact to get their opinion of the car. As a new car company, Coda has yet to figure out how go the extra mile to convince prospective customers that their vehicles will live up to expectations.

The Solution, For Now

After briefly considering the Honda Fit EV (and deciding that its range still cut it too close), Bob "settled" for a Chevy Volt, due to its versatility and aggressive lease pricing. An avid kayaker and outdoorsman, Ostertag says he plans to use the car to get out of the city on weekends, but he can't bring himself to burn the two gallons of gasoline required to complete his daily commute in a Volt. Instead, he will stick to mass transit until his lease runs out and something better comes along.

Ostertag's experience parallels the dashed hopes of many would-be electric vehicle owners in the current market. Cars with 100-plus miles of range―like the Tesla Model S or forthcoming Rav4 EV―are beyond the budget of many drivers hoping to go electric. Cars like the Nissan LEAF, Mitsubishi i, or Honda Fit don't offer enough range to justify a price tag beyond $30,000, when those vehicles do meet all their needs.

For the time being, plug-in hybrids are helping to fill the immediate gap between the plug-in cars that hardcore environmentalists like Bob Ostertag would like to drive and the limitations of the current generation of EVs. Time will tell if plug-in hybrids will be the long-term solution, or if the price of pure electric zero-emission vehicles will drop, and its range will expand, fast enough to allow Bob's next car to run without a single drop of gasoline.

UPDATE: Bob contacted us to clarify that he is not actually a daily commuter, but rather teaches his classes two days a week, six months per year, which somewhat alters the circumstances described in the post. We apologize for the confusion.


· · 6 years ago

I applaud Bob for his commitment to commuting without gasoline. Giving up two hours a day is not a small sacrifice (although four hours on a train can be used in a way that two hours in a car cannot).

That said, I think too much emphasis is put on those for whom the current breed of EVs will not serve well. Pointing to a passionate fan only adds fuel to the fire (gorr will remind us any minute now that these cars are destined to be a failure...). Instead, you should be seeking out people for whom an EV WOULD work well, but maybe that individual doesn't realize. If we can convert people who are a good fit rather than point out those who aren't, this movement can gain even more momentum.

· · 6 years ago

You know, on first glance, I would say the hidden luxury in this story is living more than 70 miles from where one works. "work local" could just as easily be a slogan for environmentalists as "eat local" is for members of the food movement. But, since Professor Ostertag lives in SF, where there is a sophisticated public transit system and a lot of walkable neighborhoods, if you have the right sneakers and strong glutes, he might consider that to be his carbon offset. If he lived closer to work he might be able to commute on one charge but he'd have to use the car for every little thing - movies, shopping, etc. Anyway you cut it he's ahead.
But while his case: the professor with a job at a state school who commutes from the nearest city, is quite specific this article does highlight one of the big problems this country faces in terms of energy use and reforming our transportation system: sprawl. We have a sprawl that was built on distant farm land and the lie of cheap gas forever. So we not only have to come up with EVs, they need to accommodate years of bad choices in city planning and land management. Good luck to us.

· Wood Foss (not verified) · 6 years ago

Bravo to Mr. Ostertag!!! I congratulate the commitment to green living.

I agree with Brian. There is a very specific group who would benefit economically from current Electric Vehicles. Commutors are the perfect customers. The one way range needs to be 60 miles or less. The total mileage needs to be 15,000 + per year. Under those circumstances you will pay for the car, in gasoline savings, over the lifetime of its use. This is an economic issue. Currently the autos are too expensive for the average person. They will opt for a gasser simply based on the pocket book.

Finally, the environmental issue. I am with Mr. Ostertag, but it takes a significant commitment to go this route. I am afraid most Americans don't want to make that commitment. And the political process simply is not pushing us into that commitment. It is like gun control, we will live with 20+ mass shootings per year and we will live with the hottest July and the hottest 12 months over the past year ever recorded. And the political candidates will not even mention it......

· · 6 years ago

I don't think it's fair to say that most Americans are unwilling to make a commitment to the environment. The median income for Americans 25 and older is just above 30 grand a year. Even with federal and state incentives, the premium to buy an electric car would be about 25% the median earner's annual pre-tax income. Still, Americans are largely happy with these incentive programs which funnel their tax dollars essentially to the well-heeled. People do what they can.

· Bret (not verified) · 6 years ago

That is one long commute, but it's pretty common in California. Not everyone lives close to work or has the luxury of charging their EV at work. Most people aren't willing to move or change jobs just to drive an EV.

In order for EV sales to really take off, beyond the environmentally conscious and the early adopters, they need to meet people's needs affordably. Most people won't pay $37K for a Leaf, when a Versa only costs $15K. Few people can afford to drive a Tesla.

A bright future for EVs is definitely coming. But, they still have a ways to go in range and affordability, before they will become adopted by the masses.

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 6 years ago

I thought that my two electric cars would meet all my needs. Now I find I don't ride my bicycle as much as I used to and I've gained 20 lbs. Yikes. Maybe I need one of those exerciser belt things built into the seat... Shouldn't take more than 10 or 20 miles of range away... hehe. Seriously, very nice article Zach.

· · 6 years ago

I recommend a volt even if sometime it take gas or to move closer to work.

· · 6 years ago

Bill, thank you for the kind words.

Brian, I couldn't agree more (though I think it's also worth pointing out what is currently lacking, if for no other reason than to spur the industry to meet these needs.) If you know anyone whose positive experiences are interesting and worth telling please send us a tip! We're always on the lookout for anything that might help broaden the conversation and give underreported insight into the EV experience.

TrasKY, I think you hit it on the head. To me, most of our transportation problems can be traced back to dysfunctional urban planning and the tragic effects of "white flight"/ suburbanization. For decades this, combined with "limitless" cheap gasoline, helped our auto industry thrive. Unfortunately I think we now face a major transportation crisis not just resulting in emissions and oil wars, but also in the formation of a growing underclass of people who can't afford to live in the cities they work in and are criminally underserved by public transportation. For them, electric cars (or even hybrids) aren't going to be a solution for the foreseeable future.

· Dan Hollands (not verified) · 6 years ago

I have always thought the putting the emphasis on markets in spread out cities was a mistake. I bought a Focus EV and live in Rochester NY - a relatively compact city. Luckily a local Ford dealer made the effort to be a certified Ford EV dealer so I received my Focus EV in mid June and so far have over 2000 miles on it. I don't ever expect to come close to exceeding the 75 mile range in one day though I do frequently make a 50 mile round trip to go sailing. I love my EV - it is perfect for my situation.

· Ray Gordon (not verified) · 6 years ago

He simply has'nt looked at all of the models available. The original RAV4-EV from the early 00's will do the trip if the battery pack is still in good condition, and the NEW '12 RAV4EV re-release (scheduled to sell at $50K, BEFORE the $10K tax rebate), will do 100-120 MPC (Miles-Per-Charge), also, the Think C!ty will get nearly 100 MPC, and are available at around $35K.
The point, however, about living closer to one's work is valid; but an EV can do this trip.
Even a Converted EV could do this trip, but would run about as much as the RAV.

· George Parrott (not verified) · 6 years ago

I just cannot imagine a "true environmentalist" choosing to live 2 HOURS from where they must work. This is totally nonsensical to me. Even using "mass transit" to make this kind of commute on a regular basis is almost "anti-environmentalist" to the core. Why not move to Davis or even West Sacramento (where houses are half the price) and be able to commute to UCD via a Leaf....or even a bike?

YIKES! For 28 years I commuted to CSUS via running, biking or walking since I always found a way to live less than 7 miles from campus. My wife uses our Leaf for her 14 mile commute from West Sacramento to the main campus of UCD, where there are EVSE points on both sides of her campus building (Tupper Hall).

But who, in a reasonable world, would opt for 2 hours or more each way via "mass transit" to get to work and then still call themselves an "environmentalist?" Amazing to me.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Range--this is my big issue with my current ride, the Nissan Leaf. My commute is about 48-50 miles round trip. I drive surface streets all the way. The freeway tends to eat more power as does the climate controls. Since I live near the beach in Calif, the weather is good enough to drive with the air off most of the year. But our mornings can be quite cold in winter and I wish the heater didn't use so much juice. Overall, I love the car. I'm saving about 150.00 a month on fuel alone and it is fun to drive.

· Mr23 (not verified) · 6 years ago

What percentage of the driver population are in this environmentalist's class? 0.000001%?
I agree that articles should cover people who would benefit from the leading edge vehicles, not people beyond the range of the vehicles, and normalcy.
By the way, the stated percentage allows for one other similar environmentalist long distance commuter in the US.

· · 6 years ago

The solution is simple: move. Sound's like Bob's got a nice steady gig at UC Davis and could have found a house closer to work years ago. It's not as if he's getting up each morning from his trailer in Mississippi to make that 73 mile drive to the only available minimum wage slaughter house job in the '82 Yugo, while dropping the kids off at daycare on the way.

If his San Francisco house is financially upside down, I could understand a reluctance to put it on the market. But, if he's able to pick and choose between just about any of the current mainstream-priced new EVs, I'm going to guess credit and cash is good all the way around.

Some were rubbed the wrong way a few weeks ago with the story of the New Jersey couple who didn't know how to accurately gauge charges for freeway trips in their BMW ActiveE . . .

This story irks me in a similar way to those who found that one pointless. Sorry, Zach. But I have little empathy for Bob's "conflicted situation."

· Claudine Jones (not verified) · 6 years ago

My son and I made the choice back in 1998 to go all Electric: first with the GM EV1, then with the RAV4 EV. We shared both cars and also drove my old Civic wagon. He has since moved out & gotten a Fit; we sold the Civic. I've still got the RAV4, and while its range has gradually diminished, it still gets more than 80 miles per charge. It has been a virtual work horse for me: hauling rocks & bags of cement; taking me to work in the rain once in a while, although I confess I did most of my commuting (14 miles rt) with an electric bike or took BART. I have PV at home & my electric bill at its worst (with continuous charging) topped out at $30-$40/month. What can I say? Now that I'm retired I've spent my time ferrying my grandson to pre-school & picking him up when his parents need it; going on field trips with him to the Tilden Park steam trains. Making trips to Costco or going to the movies or taking my mom to the doctor. In other words, for the last 14 years, I have not visited a gas station more than a dozen or so times. EVs apparently were made for me.

· Chris Y (not verified) · 6 years ago

What he needs is an old-school RAV4-EV. :-) I drive a 2011 Leaf, my wife drives a 2002 RAV4-EV (currently around 85K miles on the odometer, no maintenance other than tires and brakes.)

A couple of weekends back both my wife and I drove our EVs separately to Ontario and back from Pasadena on the same day. Round trip ~ 70 miles, no easy charging at our destination. I had to drive hyper-carefully (in Eco mode doing no more than 60) in my Leaf sweating the range the whole time while my wife was bombing along at 65 and not a care in the world. I came back with the Leaf flashing all the warning bells, she was just in the yellow.

The next day we all went together in the RAV4-EV and I drove... at 65 and not a range qualm in the world. So yeah, I love my Leaf, but a 10 year old RAV4-EV gets better range.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

so why not to use NiMH batteries in current EV? They prove to be better - vide RAV4EV vs LEAF.... Is there still patent problem?
Maybe NiMH are better than Lithium? Last longer....

· · 6 years ago

At present I also still look for the right EV. The Volt has only 38 miles when I would need 75 miles. In more this better battery needs to be more compact so as to allow a full size backseat. They must also make a station wagon version so I can load the extra stuff of my new twins. It is very pragmatic and according to my present needs but that is not what I can find right now.

· EvDriver (not verified) · 6 years ago

So he wants an electric car so he can add to the traffic congestion? 75 miles each way is why we clearly need cheaper electric cars and cheaper batteries and not better public transit and better designed cities and people who value there time more then to choose to live 75 miles away from where they work.
Even the lowest cost used car is going to have a per mile cost of around 20 cents per mile, 150 miles per day and 200 trips per year is $6,000 but the cost of a new car starts at $0.50 per mile or $15,000 per year in driving costs just to get to work!?!?!

· · 6 years ago

He could have leased an ActiveE like I did. He lives in one of the accepted markets and it would have certainly had no problem with his range requirements as it was EPA rated at 94mpc and you can do much better than that if you drive conservatively. I can usually do 100 miles with little effort and even if I drive 80mph on the highway all the time I'll still get well into the 80's. The lease was $2,250 down and $499/month for 24 months. Maybe he applied but didn't get one though, as there were about four times more applications than cars available for the California markets.

· · 6 years ago

@George Parrot and others: George you say "I just cannot imagine a "true environmentalist" choosing to live 2 HOURS from where they must work. " Why are so many so willing to pass judgement on others? For what it's worth, when when an avant-garde composer/musician gets a gig at a university this is a really big deal but it likely wasn't something he counted on and is likely not the only thing that he does. Many of the activities of an artist/performer/film maker/journalist probably are best served by him living in San Francisco. That said, i don't really fell like his or anyone's circumstances require justification or explanation and don't understand the holier than thou need to pass judgement, especially on someone as cool (in the truest sense of the word) and progressive as Prof. Ostertag, who has devoted his life to pushing the envelope in so many areas of our national life and culture. My electricity comes from coal. Should I move to a different state or sit in the dark? Are these the only environmentally responsible decisions available to me?

· EVlvr (not verified) · 6 years ago

I agree that Ostertag deserves no sympathy for putting himself into a "yes, but" situation of his own design. Either move closer to work, or place an order for a Tesla S. BTW, taking the train uses oil, too.

· EVlvr (not verified) · 6 years ago

And another thought - driving the Volt back and forth between SF-UCD is a great opportunity to be an example to other motorists. The more often cars like the Leaf and Volt are seen driving on the roads, the better the chances are that others will jump on the green bandwagon. Straighten out your priorities, Ostertag - drop the selfish desires for personal purity and be a real world example of somebody who has made an honorable choice.

· Dan Baker (not verified) · 6 years ago

People are overlooking the DIY all- electric EV. Recent development of LiFePO4 (large format prismatic cells) are safe, affordable, and can support a 'reasonable' self-conversion of a car to have a 100 mile range for under $20k in parts and batteries... the ultimate recycle of a 5 to 10 year old car that can go another 10 years emission 'free' depending on how clean your power is. If you don't want to tackle the job yourself, there are a significant number of small local shops or individuals that can do it for you. My Did-It-Myself conversion has been my all-electric daily driver for 3 years now...

· EVlvr (not verified) · 6 years ago

@Dan, your DIY EV Swift is really cool! But putting in 131 hours working on it before it was ready to hit the road??? Yikes....

· Dan Baker (not verified) · 6 years ago

EVIvr, well I would say it took closer to 150 hours before it was 'done' with belly pan and stuff like that. But, that was the first one I did.... I think if I do the same make model again I can do it in less than 100 hours.... so say roughly $2000 or $3000 in labor at a 'living wage.' I don't think thats a lot; and actually was a lot of fun, but I love tinkering in garage anyway. To make it a business, you'd have to add the cost, but as a Hobby, labor is free. ;)

· William Korthof (not verified) · 6 years ago

Take everything with a grain of salt. My all-electric Toyota RAV4 EV just turned 10 years old last month, and continues to run great with over 160,000 miles. The 1990's technology in the car works day in, day out, impressing everyone who sees it. I easily get 90-100 miles of range or more most of the time, which is great for battery technology that came out in the 1990's and got poo-pooed by car companies, car critics, and more importantly the oil companies. By plugging in at my destinations during the day, it's easy to drive 200 miles or more in a day, and that's a lot. True, the current crop of plug in cars are mostly being offered with less range, but they are still adequate for many people---and for more range, there's nothing stopping car companies from offering 150 miles or batteries.

· · 6 years ago

@EV1vr How you could read this profile and come to the conclusion that the good professor was looking for your sympathy or needs to "straighten out" his "priorities" is beyond me. This was a really well-written profile of a great guy, a committed progressive and forward thinking person who has devoted his life to creating music and advancing the common discourse and decide that this was a person who needed to be chided and corrected is beyond me? "Drop the selfish desires for personal purity and be a real world example of somebody who has made an honorable choice." Screw you! Until you are completely off the grid and grow all your own food in a compost made of your own turd and watered from rain barrels you built yourself you should probably just shut up.

· EVlvr (not verified) · 6 years ago

@TrasKY, we do not live in a black/white world where either/or rules the day, so take your lecture and stuff it up your rear. Perhaps my comment was harsh in a personal way (e.g.'selfish desires), but I stand by my point - take the Volt out on I-80 and be a shining example of what the tons of other drivers choking up the highways should consider driving. His car is a symbol - so show it off in the hopes that it will inspire others to follow his decision.

While the prof is entitled to write me off on a personal level, hopefully his ego is robust enough to get where I am coming from.

· · 6 years ago

@EV1vr How can you write "drop the selfish desires for personal purity and be a real world example of somebody who has made an honorable choice." and then tell anyone to drop the lectures or say make the statement that we don't live in a black and white world? First, if there was any message from my "lecture' ( I thought of it as more of a rant) besides not to sit in judgement of someone else life, it was that we don't live in a black and white world.

So, since you bring it up, where are you coming from? What is the point of your harangue?

· · 6 years ago

I don't think anyone here is passing judgment on Bob as an unsavory person or attacking his professional pursuits as meaningless, trasKY. My wife and son are professional performing Classical musicians. In my Jazz radio days, I presented the same sort of interesting and forward-looking sort of music over the airwaves that Bob and his collaborators pursue. I can certainly appreciate what he does for a living. Bob could also be, incidentally, an accountant, carpet installer or pharmacist and still be considered a decent and interesting human being in my book.

What rubs me the wrong way about the story is that Bob is being presented as some sort of ”hardcore environmentalist." As George correctly points out, someone who chooses to make a 73 mile daily commute, yet desperately wishes to own a pure EV, but hasn’t considered moving even 20 miles closer to work to make that a reality probably shouldn’t have the “hardcore environmentalist” moniker applied to them. Perhaps “concerned about the environment” or “wishing to be more environmentally conscious” would be a bit more of an accurate description here.

· · 6 years ago

I apologize for not clarifying this with Bob at the time of our interview, but I just wanted to let you all know that he's not actually a daily commuter as I reported. He notified me that he actually just has to make it to Davis two days per week, six months per year. The man has solar panels and swore off driving ICEs forever before EVs were even reintroduced to the market---I think his environmental credentials are pretty solid.

· EVlvr (not verified) · 6 years ago

Trasky, here's my point -

Inspiring others by example is worthier than not.

Drive the Volt back and forth on I-80 and be a visible inspiration to the many, many other drivers on the road to replace their car with a plug-in.

Taking the train still burns oil and wastes his special opportunity to be that inspiration to other drivers on the freeway. And wherever he goes in Davis.

Disagree? Got a problem with that?

· Darren Overby (not verified) · 6 years ago

The fact that my 11 year old RAV4-EV with the original batteries still gets 100 mile per charge leads me to believe that Li-ion batteries may not necessarily be the best choice for cars. Perhaps we should consider patent busting the hold Chevron has on NiMH in the name of public policy. It's like eminent domain for patents. The patent system was meant to foster inovation but if corporations can just sit on a patent and not license it to anyone, this is not innovation.

· · 6 years ago

EV1vr, no problem with that. In fact, inspired by this story I am starting to look at a Volt lease. I just got off the phone with a friend who happens to be an electrician to talk about what it would take to get a 220 outlet outside my house.

Reading Zach's update, though, I think we can put to rest the notion that Bob is not a "true environmentalist." Can we let that idea go?

One of the things I like about this piece, unusual in this forum, is that it is a human interest story on a policy/techi wonk website. It's a nice profile on a cool guy which gives one personal version of something that a lot of us might be feeling. Namely, I think a lot of us expected 2012 to be THE year, the watershed moment when all our EV dreams were going to be met but the reality is it's just the beginning of a long slog.

· smithjim1961 (not verified) · 6 years ago

@ TrasKY

I'm also seriously thinking about leasing a Volt but I don't think level 2 charging is a necessity. Level 1 charging takes 11 hours to charge a fully depleted Volt battery. My present car stays parked in my garage or driveway at LEAST 11 hours per day. Don't most people sleep 8 hours per day? Surely, a person who spends less than 11 hours per day at home is a very rare person. If I happen to have an unusual day where I must do a lot of driving and there's no time for charging I will not be in a bind because the Volt has a range extender.

· · 6 years ago

smithjim1961: If you are seriously considering a volt and are seriously considering charging it on 120v all the time you should run out and get a 2012 volt before they are all gone. The 2013 Volt will default to 8amp charging instead of what it has been charging at which is 12 amps. So it will now take 16 hours to charge instead of 10-11 hours. You can set it to charge at 12 amps, but the setting doesn't hold, meaning you have to set it every time you charge and you have to navigate through 4 screens to get to the setting screen to do so. Just a 'FYI' if you really are considering getting one.

· · 6 years ago

Thanks for the info, Tom. I got a little lesson tonight in tandem circuit breakers and using them to clear space in a box for a double pull circuit. Now I know that if I am getting the 2013 Volt I need to budget that in.

· smithjim1961 (not verified) · 6 years ago

Thanks for the info,Tom.

· · 6 years ago

TrasKY, the fact that the 2013 volt draws 33% less electricity in default mode may mean you don't need a dedicated circuit run to the garage for it. An 8 amp draw is really nothing and your existing circuit can probably handle it with no problem, but I have no idea what you have going on in your garage. I think it's a good idea anyway to run a new circuit for EV charging especially if you have an older home. The line will be used every day and under a constant load. Personally I want a new wire from my panel to the EVSE or outlet for this just to be safe.

· Al Blunt (not verified) · 6 years ago

Amen to Bob. As I'm in a similar situation in that my commute round trip mainly by highway is 76 miles. And the slight inclines really zap the batteries relatively quick just going around 50 mph. Where I live the posted speed is 55 and just doing that is tough to achieve my commute. The real troubling part is that I purchased this vehicle knowing that I could charge-up at an available Nissan dealer in which is located in between my commute, and on the vehicles car charging stations map it was listed as an available site. Boy was I wrong, because when I called and asked them if I needed a 1 hour charge and would i be able to charge up, and that my car was a Nissan leaf they told me no. That's right. So those of you thinking that you can perhaps extend your adventures because these stations appear on the map better think twice and call ahead. And yes I know that it states to call the stations first. But, please understand this is a dealership that sells the vehicle and has a charging station, and no it wasn't an issue of its availability .
So just imagine yourself taking that drive, and being responsible you pull up that map for available stations within your range and you call and they tell you it's available, just not for the general public including Nissan leaf owners. Oh yeah, and another one within my commuting range that I called ahead too and asked was G.E. and the results were the same no access to the general Ev consumer just for employees in which access is gated and secured. So good luck with this as I can't wait for my lease to be over.

· · 6 years ago

@Al Blunt,
I, too, have about a 78 mile roundtrip daily commute. I fully agree that it can't be reasonably done in a Leaf without charging somewhere in the middle.
Is there a 120v outlet where you work that you could use? I'd recommend you offer to pay about $1 per day or some other estimate for the electricity cost if you get pushback. You'll still save a bundle on your commuting costs..
Would your employer be willing to install a charging station?
Would you be willing to pay for a charging station at work? I would recommend that the easiest and perhaps cheapest sell would be for you to purchase a charging station and see if you can convince your employer to install it at their facility at their cost since they'll have to control the installation. You may even be able to convince an EV proponent organization (,,, etc) to let you donate the charging station to them and then have them give it to your employer with an agreement that all employees and visitors can use it. That would allow you to deduct the cost of the charger from your taxes.
Just suggestions.

· Al Blunt (not verified) · 6 years ago

Hi ex-EV 1 driver valid points and yes I do have a 240v charge station within 1 block from where I work and I'm able to use it on a regular basis. I knew of that charging station being installed prior to my purchase. However; I certainly don't expect to have priority use of it all the time.
Also the other charging stations were alternatives in the event that someone else was using the one near my job. So I was baffled as to why a Nissan dealer selling/ having an available charging station was off limits to the Nissan consumer and this dealer is part way between my travels to and from work. Also as G.E. is involved with the EV info structure and showing up on my map and plug as public charging stations available; to me that's very misleading to anyone with said vehicle as to what charging facilities are available as a support. To me Nissan inc needs to have all independent dealers that sell this vehicle and have charging facilities showing on said map on board for those that have purchased this vehicle.
As far as G.E. is concerned, if theirs isn't available for the general public it shouldn't be listed on the map

· Al Blunt (not verified) · 6 years ago

Oh and EX-v1 driver believe it or not my employer already has an 220/240v, 30 amp 3 prong outlet outside, the problem is that it's on the side of our building in the grass about 75 feet away from being able to get near enough to it. Also it's the Post-office where I'm no one special so just the thought of me using it, if the outlet was close enough would cause an outrage by my fellow co-workers. But again great ideas that I'd better jot down thanks again

· · 6 years ago

Al, I agree the smartphone apps can be misleading. They do allow you to post comments and reviews for individual sites though to you can post a warning to others that the site isn't available to the public. Not the best thing, but we can all try to make others aware of the good sites and the bad ones.

I agree Nissan dealers should allow anyone with a LEAF to charge, I think it would be good business to lat any plug in use the charger, even other makes because I think it fosters good will and personally I would patronize a dealer that allowed anyone to charge if I was looking at a Nissan. If they sell just one car a year because of this *friendly* practice they would more than cover the electric expense. However don't blame Nissan, the they have no power to order the dealers to allow charging, the franchise laws are very strict in the US and Nissan cannot make the independently owner dealers to do things like this. Perhaps if a few people that live in the area wrote the owner of the dealership and told them they would no longer consider shopping at his dealership because of this decision than maybe they would change policy.

The Nissan dealer near me lets me charge my BMW ActiveE on their charger as long as they aren't using it or any LEAF's need to charge. I am last in line, but so far any time I wanted to plug in nobody was using it so I did just that.

· Al Blunt (not verified) · 6 years ago

Tom I hear you. The problem I'm having is that these aren't my phone apps these items 1. Are part of the Nissan maps in my car.
2. Are verified from
So as I've mentioned not to be selfish imagine you're driving along within range and you figure you need to stop off somewhere and you're ok because on that map is a gang of stations surrounding you, so you feel comfortable doing so. Now, respectfully so you call during this journey because this Nissan dealership is within range only to be told tough luck not available to you leaf owner sorry. Now tell me how confident would you feel taking this vehicle out in its let's say grey area knowing that on that map you're surrounded by alleged charging stations. Not very comforting I'd supposed. And yes I know that Nissan covered themselves in the manual with this, but like I've said if these dealers selling the vehicle,dont allow your access then they don't belong on the leafs charging stations map, because too me that's very deceitful. And if you didn't have range anxiety then you sure will if that ever happens too you in which to you and others I certainly hope not peace!!!

· · 6 years ago

I do agree AL, not comforting at all and Nissan should definitely ask the dealers if they allow LEAF's to charge or not and note that or remove the station from the NAV map.

As far as PlugShare, you can definitely leave a message about the site to warn others not to go there if it's not available to the public. If we all make these notes, it will be a service to everyone. This is all so new, there are bound to be things like this that needs to be improved.

I don't feel confident at all traveling to the limits of my range unless I've been to the site and previously used the charger to know it is available and works, and even then I could pull up and find it in use. I'm not disagreeing with what you have said on any account.

I really don't get why a dealership wouldn't allow an EV to charge, especially a car that is the same brand as the dealership. So short sighted.

· Al Blunt (not verified) · 6 years ago

Tom thank you and please I would like the EV cars to be successful ; as I've committed myself under the belief that said public charging stations were available via the NAV map. But now that i found out that's not true I feel that the only way the vehicle stands a chance of being around is for by some miracle that Nissan ups the battery capacity to no less than 200 miles per charge. Because I believe the sales aren't going to get any better. Again thanks for your support.

· Opp Chg (not verified) · 6 years ago

Zach: In a comment 2 days ago you wrote: " If you know anyone whose positive experiences are interesting and worth telling please send us a tip! We're always on the lookout for anything that might help broaden the conversation and give underreported insight into the EV experience." I think the person you should interview for the counterpoint piece should be me (or someone just like me). I own a Chevy Volt, commute 70 miles round trip each day, and live in hilly rural New England. But I generally operate as if i am drivibg an EV and not an EREV. Despite my long commute and georaphic location, to date I have driven 5410 miles, with 5,135 being battery-electric (or 95%). I chose the Volt because its battery electric range fits with my lifestyle (but still tests the limits of the vehicle) and also because after extensive research I felt Chevy had best done its due dilegence to combine market analysis with great R&D. Also, Due to family concerns, any range-anxiety producing BEV was not suitable for me - but as you can see from my statistics, when I do use gas it's typically single digit mileage. The second interesting part to my story is that I live in a rather rural area, with only two level 2 charging stations with 25 miles of my house (10 and 13 miles respectively) At 25-30 miles in various directions there are perhaps a half dozen more but that's it. So I rely on and am a proponent for Level 1 charging. I am creating a network of sorts in my community and surrounding ones, combined with a campaign of promotion and education of the benefits of Level 1 charging to both consumer and service provider (mall, restaurant, supermarket, town, you name it...) If my story seems worth of this counterpoint let me know how to contact you. Or perhaps there are many others with similar or even more interesting. Happy just to have it posted related to this article.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

I think the solution for Bob Ostertag is to MOVE CLOSER TO HIS JOB!!! Long commutes is another real problem in this country! Too much urban sprawl and not enough people living close to their jobs which is causing our cities decay along with other issues! If he was truly an environmentalist he would live local!

· · 6 years ago

Hey, anonymous, why don't you read through the posts and the correction to the article that states that this commute is 2 times a week, 6 months a year instead of making ill-informed anonymous attacks? When a man with solar panels on his house who gave up his car 5 years ago spends money to get a Volt to drive two dozen times a year, I think he is beyond the reach of your criticism. Consider that as a composer, his job might be mostly in the city. Consider that he may have a spouse or partner who works in San Francisco. Until your farts spin windmills that power your house and your own sense of self-satisfaction KEEP YOUR SHOUTED CHIDES TO YOURSELF.

· · 6 years ago

@Opp Chg - Please use our feedback form to get in contact. It's here:

Choose "story tip" from the dropdown. Thanks.

· George Parrott (not verified) · 6 years ago

For future Volt adopters: Level 2 charging at home is something I strongly recommend. Many of us are served by utility companies that offer "special EV charging rates" for usually something like midnight to 7 am.

A fully depleted Volt will NOT completely recharge in that 7 hour window on 110v/Level 1 charging, but it is no problem at Level 2. In my area, served by PG&E, the "off peak EV rate" is about 75% less than normal charging/power cost! Getting your full charge at these lowest "off peak EV rates" is highly cost-effective.

I am not sure how much is left in the DOE grant funding, if any, but 9 urban areas had funding for FREE LEVEL 2 chargers associated with getting a Volt (and others had such funds associated with Leaf personal use). Our Coulomb Charger was installed totally free with this Volt grant program, and we are able to use it with both our Volt and Leaf! With a 5.5 kW solar PV system and TOU billing and "off peak EV charge rates," we have ZERO annual electric costs for our house AND charging both our Volt and Leaf!

· Opp Chg (not verified) · 6 years ago

I respectfully disagree with George Parrott's conclusions and strong recommendation of Level 2 charging at home for Volt adopters. I argue that most, perhaps as much as 90% only need L1 at home *AND* work. Here's why:

The Volt is not a vehicle whose intended purpose for most drivers was to be fully depleted on a daily or regular basis. Though it does not harm the vehicle, if you are using it in this way frequently, your actual overall gas mileage and efficiency may be higher in a Prius or PIP (which I still do not endorse) or one of the other 50+ mpg plug in hybrids on the way. Just saying if you drive under 40 miles a day (or under 80 with opp chg as I do) then the Volt is great for you, otherwise maybe not and Level 2 charging at home won't fix that issue.

Point is, 75% the car's range *IS* recovered in 7 hours or less on Level 1 charging. So for most Volt owners a regular outlet is adequate.

As far as the "off peak" rate, the minor savings for the couple hours one might go outside these lines does not justify the very expensive ($800-$2000) cost of a home L2 station. I also was not aware of any of peak rates at much as 75% off (more like 25% off aren't they?) and where I live as in many places, there is no off peak discount.

For some real world examples: I commute 35 miles each way my to work. Volt charges on L1 while I sleep, from ~6:30 pm when I get home. Typically it is done by 1 or 2 am. Even if all the way drained, would be done well before 7 am. At the office, also using L1, I'm always fully charged before leaving for the day. In fact, it used be fulling charge around 2:30 pm, but I decided to set delayed charging to finish at 5 pm (usually overestimates and finishes at 4:45ish) Reason being I like the idea of the TMS (battery cooling system) running during the hottest part of the day.

Finally, I believe there is a place and time for most L2 charging - that is public places where parked for 1 to 4 hours. Malls, restaurants, grocery, "downtown areas", etc. Personally I think it was wasteful for DOE funding to be allowed for individuals, many of whom did not really need home L2, and these chargers will typically only be used for 1 or two vehicles, where as if the funding was used on public infrastructure there would have been a much greater benefit for Volts, Leafs, etc, whatever Gen 2 models will come because "we" built it.

· Mr23 (not verified) · 6 years ago

Mr Korthof and Mr Overby, thank you for writing in regarding your RAV4EVs. I was unaware that after 10 years of service your EVs are still going strong with little dropoff in range. Had that option been available to me in MN I would have opted for it instead of my now 10 year old Prius. I can't complain as the Prius has been reliable and of lowest service cost of all my other current and previous vehicles, but I have always wanted the pure EV.

· · 6 years ago

@Al Blunt,
It is interesting to note that there is an existing 240v outlet. That means that it shouldn't be too expensive to run wiring. This, perhaps, opens up the possibility of you paying to install a charger. This would probably be cheaper for you than buying a new car since the charger cost would probably be cheaper than the depreciation lost by replacing your Leaf, especially, if you could 'donate' the installation. If you installed a meter on the charging station and ensured that you paid for the electricity, that should assuage the 'outrage' of your fellow co-workers.
An alternative plan that may or may not work would be to try to bring a charging station service provider such as Coulomb/Chargepoint into the picture. They might be able to convince the Post Office to install a charger, given that you'd be using it and it could be used by Post Office customers. The only down side I see to them doing it is that their "smart" chargers are a whole lot more expensive than dumb ones so someone has to pay a lot more for their usage to recover the added upfront and connectivity costs.
If the Post Office isn't willing, is there a city or commercial parking lot in a retail area nearby that could benefit from having a public charger by drawing in potential customers? Perhaps the city would be more open than the Post Office, given that the USPS is facing such a financial crisis today.
I just can't help but feel there may be a solution that would work out better for you than giving up your Leaf at lease end. You do a lot of driving so you'll have to pay a premium if you don't buy out your lease and it seems like that money could be better spent building out infrastructure to make the Leaf work better for you.

· Opp Chg (not verified) · 6 years ago

Two words: Opportunity charge. Bob would have done fine with the Leaf for the 2 day a week, 73 mile commute, see below for real world proof. Just combine the EV movement with the "slow food". Here's how it works. Your EV needs to charge. You need to eat. In the morning get up a bit earlier than usual, skip breakfast, and drive your EV at least the distance it would charge in ~1 hour on Level 2 (that 12 to 15 miles depending on various factors) Then stop at the next L2 station on your route, charge and eat at the nearest walking distance good cheap Bfast place (Panera?). Some planning may be required, perhaps only the first time you try this. Mobile apps like Plugshare and Recargo make it easier. An hour or so later (I did say slow food) on your merry way, with plenty of range to spare. In the evening return commute, rinse and repeat. If its only once or twice a week it shouldn't be a big deal to do, but not recommended for daily one way commute of 70+ miles.

Does this sound like a lot of extra effort and trouble or a fun adventure and challenge? If the former, perhaps an EV is not right for you at this time. But try it and you might find it actually *improves* both your commuting and dining experiences!

This is not some theory, I have done it in a Volt (with supposedly 25+ miles less EV range than the Leaf). 71 miles each way for a total of over 140 miles. My breakfast charge was 1:24 long, but I got some extra work emails done and arrived in the city with 8 battery miles to spare. Mapquest "Shortest Route" option helps too!

· Jazz Zangeres (not verified) · 6 years ago

Where I live (Groningen, The Netherlands, Europe) EV's are not very common yet. This discussion is a very interesting read and gives me a nice idea about where we're heading. Because The Netherlands is such a small country, many people have their work location within 20 or 30 miles. So actually it is a shame that so few people overhere use EV's. [embarassed]

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