Street Fighting Against Climate Change in a Tesla Model 3

So I have a big announcement to make. And you’ll have to excuse my enthusiasm because this has all been a rather heady experience. But I listened to your feedback and took delivery of a Tesla Model 3 SR+ this past Thursday. If you want to take a look at my new clean energy monster, then feast your eyes below:

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(My new Model 3 SR+ — which I’m calling Clean KITT after Knightrider from the 1980s series.)

It’s a big deal for me for a number of reasons. First, the Model 3 is the most significant vehicle purchase I’ve ever made in terms of cost. Paying 39,500 dollars for a car is something I would have never even dreamed of doing just a decade ago. But when it comes to driving a capable, long-range electric vehicle your prices are going to range from around 36,000 dollars to 40,000 dollars even for the most affordable options. I expect to recoup a decent amount of this cost, though. And I’ll be talking about how in a future blog post.

Comparing the capabilities of other EVs in this price range — such as the Leaf Long Range, the Chevy Bolt, the Hyundai Kona, and the Kia Niro — it became more and more apparent that the Tesla Model 3 was a non-pareil. Here is a vehicle that competes directly with the Mercedes C class and the BMW 3 series on luxury and muscularity. One with a similar all-electric range (240 miles from a 59.5 kW battery pack) and with a similar price, but one that features much faster charging, a far better and more expansive charging network, and integrated electronics intended to maximize its sustainability potential (more on this later as well).

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(Supercharging at the Woodbridge station in Northern Virginia this weekend.)

The disparity became even more apparent after my test-drive on Thursday at the Montgomery Mall Tesla Sales Center followed up by this weekend’s 230 mile round trip journey from Gaithersburg, MD to King George VA and back — including two Supercharger stops in which the Tesla refueled at 50-70 kW and 90-120 kW rates. The kind of fast charging that other vehicle brand EVs only dream of having widespread access to.

Second, this vehicle is really something to be proud of. It’s going to help me cut my driving-based carbon emissions by about 2/3. That’s going to drop my personal emissions by about 2 tons per year. It’s going to enable me to share about another 4 tons per year of carbon cuts through rideshare. And it’s going to let me do it in a very stylish and attractive way. In such a way that will really help me to make the clean energy transition look very, very appealing.

(Introducing Clean KITT!)

Third, my Tesla purchase will be an investment in an all-clean-energy company with an integrated plan to fight climate change. The dollars I sent to Tesla will in turn be spent building massive battery and EV factories, producing solar panels, and sending out more carbon-cutting vehicles and products all over the world. In other words, my actions at home and on the street will help to form part of a global transformation action as well (Planning to buy a Tesla? Click here for 1,000 free Supercharger miles).

In the coming week, I’m heading out on the rideshare circuit in this Tesla through Uber (I’ll be blogging more about how to earn money for a Tesla through rideshare later, but if you want to jump the gun and start now, please help this blog and use my referral code: ROBERTF30288UE).

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(Clean KITT takes on the fossil fueled dinosaurs through rideshare this week!)

So, until next time, I’m off to streetfight against climate change in Tesla Model 3. And if I’m going to go to the increasingly heat-blasted concrete to fight against the biggest challenge ever to face humankind as just little ol’ me, I’m glad that the ally in my corner is this amazing clean machine.

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Hot March, Melting Sea Ice, Record High CO2, and a Weak El Nino 

Good afternoon everyone. It’s April 15 of 2019. And it’s high time I provided another update on the present global climate state.

(Indicators explained.)

Yes, I’ve been off this cart for a bit due to my personal climate action that I’m calling extreme clean. And I’ve got to say that this action is in solidarity with the tens of thousands of young people who continue to demonstrate for a more responsible political response to climate change around the world.

Action of all kinds is very important. But political action is where the rubber is really going to meet the solar and wind powered EV road of the future. It’s what’s going to help us navigate a necessarily fast clean energy transition away from the carbon spewing fuels of the present. And the fossil fueled politicians like Trump are going to have to be kicked out for that to happen.

(Human forced climate change loads the dice for stronger storms like Idai which devastated parts of Africa during March of 2019. Image source: NASA Worldview.)

At present, fossil fuel burning has really put us in a tough spot. That is the subject of today’s writing. Where we are today according to some major climate indicators — atmospheric CO2 (the primary greenhouse gas driving climate change), global surface temperature, Arctic sea ice, and the near term ENSO climate variability factor.

Atmospheric CO2 likely to hit between 413 and 415 ppm in May (monthly average)

For the first factor, atmospheric CO2 during recent days has risen to between 411 and 416 parts per million. This level is likely higher than at any time in at least the last 5 million years and is probably closer to ranges seen during the Middle Miocene around 15 million years ago. That’s pretty bad — implying about 2-3 C or more of global warming over the long term if those values aren’t somehow brought down.

(Present atmospheric CO2 levels are ranging between 411 and 416 parts per million on a daily basis at the Mauna Loa Observatory. These are the highest levels seen in at least 5 million years, possibly more. Image source: NOAA.)

Of course, due to the present pace of fossil fuel burning, atmospheric CO2 just keeps rising. Which is why a clean energy transition to get us to net zero and net negative carbon emissions is so, so important for our future.

CO2 isn’t the only greenhouse gas related to human activity. But according to agencies like NASA, it is the most important. Adding in other greenhouse gasses like Methane, NOx, and various other manufactured chemicals that trap heat, you end up with an atmospheric CO2 equivalent of approximately 497 ppm during 2019 (extrapolated from NOAA’s greenhouse gas index). This is a bit of a scary number for me as it implies that the top end indicator of all greenhouse gasses combined is about to move outside the Middle Miocene context soon.

Going back to the only slightly less scary CO2 figure, it appears likely that this primary greenhouse gas will top out at around 413 to 415 parts per million monthly average values during May of 2019. This indicator for annual peak values puts the present climate state increasingly out of the range of Pliocene past climates that many scientists are now researching as a corollary for present day climate impacts — at least on a greenhouse gas forcing basis.

March of 2019 was third hottest on record

It takes many decades and centuries for climates to balance out in response to a particular forcing. So present atmospheric warming driven by the greenhouse gasses mentioned above lag behind the initial global forcing. For this reason, on an annual basis, global temperatures are presently ranging between 1 and 1.2 degrees Celsius above 1880s averages as they continue to climb higher.

(The globe substantially heated up again during March — as seen in the above map provided by NASA. Image source: NASA GISS.)

These present departures roughly compare to temperatures during the Eemian climate epoch of about 120,000 years ago in which readings were 1 to 2 C warmer than 1880s averages. So we’re not yet in the Pliocene with regards to temperatures (2-3 C), but what we get long-term is probably the Miocene (3-4 C) if present greenhouse gas values remain stable. And we head for even more warming (4 C+) if we keep burning fossil fuels.

It’s in this rising temperature context that we are now experiencing more rapidly melting glaciers, ramping sea level rise, increasingly intense storms, wildfires and droughts, rising damage to corals, worsening heatwaves, more extinction pressure on plants and animals, and declining ocean health. It’s also worth pointing out that present temperatures are just a passing milestone on the way up if we keep burning fossil fuels and don’t learn how to pull down that excess atmospheric carbon.

(This graph of zonal temperature anomalies since 1880 is a visual representation of warming across the globe. These zones show various latitudes and their anomaly values vs mid 20th century averages over time. The long term warming trend is quite clear. Image source: NASA.)

According to NASA GISS, March of 2019 set its own benchmark as the third hottest such month on record. Temperatures for the month hit around 1.33 C above 1880s averages (1.11 C above NASA’s 20th Century baseline). This is pretty amazingly warm.

It was in this environment that the globe experienced a hyper-charged cyclone striking Africa, extensive damage due to flooding in the Central U.S., and recent very severe storms from the U.S. south through New England.

Arctic Sea Ice at Record Low for Recent Days

All this added heat has had its own impact on the Arctic where sea ice during recent days has plunged into new record low territory. According to information provided by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Arctic sea ice yesterday measured just 13.518 million square kilometers. The lowest on record for today.

(Graph of Arctic sea ice measures for January through May of 2003 to present compared to the 1981 to 2010 average [gray line]. The orange line dipping below the pack is the measure for 2019. These are record lows for this time of year. Image source: NSIDC.)

That’s about 300,000 square kilometers below the previous record low set in 2017 and about 1.4 million square kilometers below the 1981 to 2010 average. A period in which major sea ice melt was already ongoing.

Sea ice melt doesn’t have a significant direct impact on sea level rise. You need land ice melt and ocean thermal expansion for that. But sea ice is a big ocean based heat reflector that helps to keep the Arctic environment stable and to prevent the world’s waters from sucking up an even greater amount of warming than they already do. That heat reflector is in decline and it’s one of the reasons why the Arctic is warming up at a faster rate than the rest of the globe.

(Early season sea ice melt is progressing through the Bering and Chukchi seas as overall Arctic sea ice extent hits record daily lows for this time of year. Image source: NASA Worldview.)

Major media appears to have recently had a bit of an epiphany about sea ice as recent reports from sources such as PBS note startling losses for the Bering region during 2019. It’s worth noting that individual seas tend to experience higher rates of ice variance. But the trend for the overall Arctic, which is the combination of all its incorporated seas, is one of consistent decadal sea ice decline.

Weak El Nino Means Uncertain Challenge to 2016 Record

While the world is heating up overall and experiencing many of the changes noted above, a shorter term variability feature of global temperature is the ENSO cycle. This periodic warming and cooling of Pacific Ocean surface waters relative to the globe sets down the rough markers of 3-5 year global temperature variability. During the Pacific cool phase, or La Nina, the global surface tends to cool off a bit. During the Pacific warm phase or El Nino, the global surface tends to warm.

This is not to be confused with total global heat gain — which is still occuring on a practically constant basis as oceans warm and glaciers melt in addition to atmospheric warming. It’s just a major factor in what we tend to see over the shorter term at the Earth’s surface.

(Present warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific indicate a weak El Nino. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

For 2019, we are again tipping into the warmer side of this natural variability based trend. And combining that with the larger influence of human-forced warming, it appears that the dice are loaded for a challenge to the new record hot surface temperatures set in 2016.

But not so fast! 2019’s El Nino — or Pacific Ocean surface warming event — is, according to NOAA, likely to be rather weak. This compares to the Super El Nino event of 2016. So the swing toward warm side will tend to be relatively weaker. As a result, it’s less certain that 2019 will beat 2016 as hottest on record. And overall, it’s more likely that 2019 will place in the top 3 as 1st, 2nd or 3rd hottest (You may want to ask Dr Gavin Schmidt over at NASA GISS to see what he thinks. He’s been putting out some pretty accurate predictions over the past few years.).

So far, according to NASA GISS, December, January and February of climate year 2019 came in as 3rd hottest. With the weak El Nino ramping up, it does appear that March, April, May could heat up as well. We shall see!

Living in a rapidly warming world

Looking at all of these shorter term indicators, it’s easy to miss the bigger context. That being — we are living in a world in which atmospheric greenhouse gasses are rapidly increasing. These gasses, in turn, are causing the world to rapidly warm resulting in surprising changes and increasing damage. And it’s in this context that climate action on the part of individuals, businesses and governments becomes all the more necessary.

Best EV Charging Options for Rideshare and Personal Use?

In this more difficult present life, we confront the problems caused by human-forced climate change on a daily basis. And over the past week, midwest flooding resulting in more than a billion dollars in damages with multiple communities disrupted is just the most recent example.

It’s the same kind of persistent extreme weather pattern that many scientists warned was likely to emerge as the Earth warmed into the present range of around 1-1.2 C above 1880s averages. And it’s just one aspect of a crisis brought about by fossil fuel burning that we are all presently called to fight.

(According to NASA, February of 2019 was the third hottest such month in the 139 year climate record. Global temperatures ranging around 1.14 C above average are presently tipping the scale toward more extreme climate change related events. This situation keeps getting worse if we continue to burn fossil fuels. Image source: NASA.)

My personal project in response to this crisis at present is to transition to clean transportation and to share it with others through rideshare technology. And last week many of you helped me to make a first step toward that response. Thank you! The votes are in and most of you appear to favor the Tesla Model 3 vs Nissan Leaf Long Range, the Chevy Bolt, and the Hyundai Kona/Kia Niro (see the results of last week’s poll here).

Before I make my final choice, I’d like to take a look at one last criteria — available charging infrastructure. For my part, I’ve got an added challenge. I do not presently have the ability to charge at home. So I need to be able to access a public or work charging station in order to charge my clean ride. I think a good number of people are probably in the same situation.

(A video walk-through of clean vehicle charging options for climate change response.)

For the work piece, I work at home. So no dice. But luckily for me the sweetie (my wife — Cat) works at the Humane Society of the U.S. which does provide a work charging station. Use of that charging station during her work hours alone would enable me to charge the Tesla for both rideshare and personal use through a level 2 charger (240 outlet and J1772). To practically use this I would probably have to rotate use of my ICE — giving me about 2/3 clean ride coverage. That’s doable, but not ideal. A more perfect method would be to purchase two electric vehicles and rotate those through Cat’s work charger. But, at present, we don’t have the funds for such an endeavor.

As a result, I’m going to have to access public charging infrastructure to fill the gap if I want to maximize my clean riding time. Thankfully, there’s an app called Plugshare which provides a great deal of information about charging infrastructure across the U.S. and around the world. If you’re interested in getting an EV but are anxious about charging — I encourage you to check it out. Very helpful!

According to Plugshare, here in Gaithersburg, there’s a huge number of public chargers. Many of these are nearby.

(My home community of Gaithersburg supports numerous electric vehicle charging stations. Level 2 chargers are shown in green and fast chargers are shown in orange [not origin ;)]. Image source: Plugshare.)

If you look at the above image you’ll see a map of the Gaithersburg area covered in green and orange images. The green images indicate level 2 charging stations which are capable of providing between 15-30 miles worth of vehicle range per hour. The orange images indicate fast chargers which are capable of near full recharge in between 35 minutes to one hour and fifteen minutes. Thankfully, my home location in Gaithersburg is within 1-2 blocks of three level 2 charging stations. Two of these stations cost around 45 cents per kilowatt — which is comparable to present gas prices. Not ideal, but decent in a pinch. One of these stations is free.

So, already, looking at both Plugshare and work options, I have potential access to two free charging stations and two pay stations in rather convenient locations. Pretty cool. Now for the next step — fast charging. And here is where we start to differentiate between electric vehicles. For this evaluation, we will compare between Tesla Model 3 and all the rest. The reason? Chiefly that Tesla has its own massive national network of Superchargers.

The rest — Bolt, Leaf, Kona, Niro — are presently beholden to 50 kW charging in my area. This is due to internal vehicle fast charging ability and due to rated chargers nearby. Networks like CHAdeMO, EVgo, and Charge America, provide 5 such fast chargers within five miles of my home location. Pretty wide coverage and much better options than I’d originally anticipated. But not the same as…

(The Tesla Supercharger network of 12,888 chargers at 1,441 stations across North America provides a major, high tech support for clean energy drivers. Image source: Tesla.)

For Tesla we have the nearby Rio Supercharger which provides up to 120 kW charging at 12 stalls. Such chargers are about 1.5 to 2.5 times faster than the other fast chargers. And soon these chargers will be upgraded to the version 3 — which is rated at 250 kW. It’s worth noting that I couldn’t use this Supercharging station while ridesharing. However, fair use would let me Supercharge my clean energy vehicle 1-2 times per week here at the going rate of 28 to 32 cents per kilowatt. About 40 percent less than gas. Impressive, most impressive!

It’s worth noting that different vehicles are charged by different plugs. And, in total there are at least five plugs available. So any electric vehicle will probably need adapters to access the wider EV charging network. In general, though, most non Tesla vehicles can access non Tesla fast chargers without an adaptor. With an adaptor, Teslas can access both Superchargers and Fast Chargers while non Teslas cannot access the vast Supercharger network.

Overall, there are good charging options in my area. But the most potentially versatile EV for charging, among Bolt, Leaf, Model 3, Kona and Niro is again the Model 3. So it looks like we have a front-runner here.

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Thanks for joining me again! I hope this most recent blog was helpful and informative to you. If it was, please share widely! In addition, if you are interested in participating in clean rideshare to help fight climate change please consider using my Uber referral code ROBERTF3028UE. For the next blog, I’ll be making a big announcement. Hope to see you then!

 

Which Clean Energy Vehicle is Best for Rideshare?

More than 1 billion… That’s how many carbon spewing internal combustion engine vehicles presently operate on the road today. Approximately 2.6 billion — that’s how many tons of carbon the use of this ground transport spews into the atmosphere each year (see also).

We’re Well Behind the 8-Ball on Climate Change — So What to Do?

Simply transforming this system to electrified transport would remove roughly half of these heat-trapping emissions. Emissions that are, even now, worsening our weather, melting our glaciers, warming our world, displacing hundreds of thousands of people, and threatening the emergence of a Hothouse Earth. And 90 percent or more of vehicle based carbon emission could be removed by linking electric vehicles to clean energy generation sources like wind and solar.

hothouse earth

(Tipping into a hothouse Earth state will happen if we keep burning fossil fuels. Individual and group action is now needed to prevent this catastrophe. Image source: The Potsdam Institute.)

Doing this would provide a big step forward in addressing the climate crisis. It would help to peak carbon emissions early on a global scale. It would provide the needed energy storage production for transforming the larger energy system. And it would prove to the world that we do not need to sacrifice quality of life or life-saving technologies in order to clean up our act.

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Welcome to the second installment of Extreme Clean — my personal journey to cut my carbon emissions to zero and to multiply my clean energy footprint by sharing it with others. I hope you will join me in this much-needed endeavor.

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From the standpoint of a single individual in a massive system that presently injects mountains of heat-trapping carbon into the atmosphere each year, the question needs to be asked — what can I do to speed up the clean energy transition process? In such a large world, how can the actions of a single individual matter? And how can I multiply my impact?

Choosing a Clean Energy Vehicle to Meet My Needs

For my part, and for the first phase, I have decided to purchase a clean energy vehicle. But I’m not just going to buy one and keep it for myself. I’m going to rideshare it through the Uber app. Thus multiplying my clean energy impact. I’m already living a veg-vegan lifestyle. My wife, two cats, and I already live in a relatively modest abode. But this is not enough. Not nearly enough. So step one is cleaning up my transport and sharing it with others.

Swallow Falls

(Cat and I hiking at Swallow Falls in 2018. For clean energy to work, it needs to provide for families like mine. We’re going to see if it’s possible to do that and more.)

In order to do this, I’ve go to make a choice. I’ve got to pick a clean energy vehicle that meets my transportation needs. This includes driving my wife to her work at the Humane Society of the U.S. about a mile away. It includes a vehicle capable of making the trek to the mountains where we enjoy hiking and camping. It includes one that is able to make the annual family reunion trip to Murrell’s Inlet some 500 miles away. One that can make the seasonal treks to my parents and grandparents in Virginia Beach — which is about 250 miles from my abode in Gaithersburg, MD. And if I rideshare it, I’m going to need something capable of consistently driving 100 to 200 miles per day on a 4-5+ day a week basis.

In other words, what I need is an affordable advanced clean energy vehicle. And for my purpose, for this blog post, I’ll be evaluating the capabilities of these vehicles before making a choice in a future installment. This first evaluation will look directly at the vehicles themselves. In particular, I’m interested in their range, their features, their price,  their level of efficiency, and their charging speed. In a second blog, I’ll be looking at another key feature — the availability of the charging infrastructure that supports them. This is crucial for me — as I presently live in a condo with no home charging capability. So I’ll need access to nearby local charging stations and fast charging stations. But, for now, I’ll be looking simply at vehicles themselves.

Five Highly Capable Clean Energy Vehicles on Offer

Luckily, at this point in time, there are now numerous affordable, advanced clean energy vehicles on offer. Even just last year, this was not the case. But, for the U.S. market, the number of clean energy vehicles that roughly meet my stated needs is about five. Last year, it might have been 1 — the Chevy Bolt. Arguably, the Tesla Model 3 also met my needs in 2018. But, on price (at around 50,000 dollars and up), it was then unattainable.

No more. The 2019 Model 3 Standard and Standard + are now within reach as well.

In 2019, Nissan is also offering a longer range version of its global best-seller — the Nissan Leaf. In 2018, the longest range a Leaf could achieve was approximately 150 miles. For my needs, this was a bit too short-legged. But the new Leaf + now boasts more than 200 miles of all-electric range. So we can add it to our list.

Rounding out the final two we have that Hyundai Kona Electric and the Kia Niro Electric. Both offer 200+ miles of range and prices in the mid 30s before some still substantial incentives.

If I wait until 2020, there will probably be more electric vehicles on offer that meet my needs. But at this time strong government incentives are now available for early adopters. In addition the purpose, for me, is to help provide a climate saving impact. To send a signal to markets demanding clean energy now. So acting sooner rather than later is very helpful to support this goal.

Evaluating the Cars

What follows is a pretty deep dive into the features and capabilities of these five vehicles. So hold onto your hats! The information is about to get dense!

Chevy Bolt

(Achieving a mass market debut in 2018, the Chevy Bolt is a highly capable, affordable electric vehicle featuring 238 miles of range and a number of highly attractive options. Image source: Chevy.)

Digging deeper into the individual cars on range, we find that the Chevy Bolt presently boasts an EPA range of 238 miles. This compares favorably to the Tesla Model 3 Standard at 220 miles of EPA range. However, the similarly priced Model 3 Standard + edges the Bolt out at 240 miles. Nissan Leaf Long Range is very close but lags a little at 226 miles. It is also worth noting that the Nissan is the only vehicle on offer with a passive cooling system. In the past, this has had negative impacts on battery life — which means that there’s a bit higher risk that the Leaf’s range could degrade more rapidly over time. Depending on local climate and use, my mileage may very. But this is a concern given the big swings in temperature the D.C. area has recently experienced. Moving over to the Hyundai Kona Electric, we get a bit of a break-out with 258 miles of range. This is pretty impressive and is one of the features that makes the Kona a pretty attractive offering to me. Finally, the Kia Niro matches the Standard + version of the Model 3 with 240 miles of electric range.

To me, this is all very impressive and roughly matches what only versions of Tesla’s Model S and X could do on range just a few years ago — but for around 75,000 to 90,000 dollars. Of course, none of these vehicles are as luxurious as the S or X. But the longer legs makes them all far, far more attractive to potential EV buyers — further shrinking the range gap with the ICE.

Looking at features, I’m going to provide a rough overview of the various aspects of each car. This is by no means fully comprehensive, but it does give a rough overview. Chevy Bolt is a relatively roomy sub-compact with 94 cubic feet of interior space and 17 cubic feet of storage. It has five seats, but might be a crunch for some larger folks in ride-share. Like most sub compacts, it can expand its cargo capacity by lowering the rear seats. The base Chevy Bolt comes with a rear camera and a 10.2 inch digital touch screen. Like many electric vehicles, Bolt has a lot of zip with 200 horsepower. Pretty surprising to pack so much torque into a sub-compact body design. Autonomous and more advanced AI features are available on the 41,000 dollar version. But the base version is, well, pretty basic in this respect. In addition, a number of people have complained about the seat comfort of the Bolt. An issue that, hopefully, Chevy is working to address.

Model 3 Standard

(At 35,000 dollars base price, the Model 3 Standard is Tesla’s fulfillment of its promise to provide an affordable mass market electric vehicle. And it’s a real thing of both beauty and clean energy aspirational achievement. Image source: Tesla.)

Features for the Model 3 Standard and Standard + are a bit more luxurious and muscular than the Bolt. The interior for the Model 3 is 97 cubic feet. However, storage is less than the Bolt at a still respectable 15 cubic feet including the front and rear trunks. Seating for the standard version is cloth, but the Standard + boasts vegan leather (faux leather) along with front heated seats. Basic level of autonomy including collision warning is standard for the vehicle. However, full autopilot is a 7,000 dollar upgrade (and out of reach for me). The central screen is 15 inches and includes most control options for the vehicle. Doors and windows both open at the push of a button from the inside (no levers). And outside entry is controlled either by fob or cell phone. Even the Standard Model 3 features sport car performance at 130 mph top speed and 5.6 second 0-60 acceleration. With the Standard + improving to 140 mph and 5.3 second acceleration. Overall, the feel of the Model 3 is that of a pretty awesome clean machine featuring minimalist styling, impressive design, decent AI capability, and powerful road performance. In terms of overall features, it’s a step beyond the competition, putting it in a class all its own.

Nissan Leaf + features include a unique customizeable display panel — which is pretty cool. Standard also includes automatic breaking — a basic autonomous capability. Like many EVs, the 226 mile/62 KwH battery is pretty muscular providing 214 horsepower and quite a bit of torque. Top speed is limited to 98 mph and 0-60 time is about 7 seconds. Central screen is a bit small for the class at 8 inches. Another compact model, the Leaf does boast a rather large storage area at 23.6 cubic feet. Hatchback design allows for good optimization of space. Other standard provisions include a heated steering wheel — nice for cold mornings.

Nissan Leaf Long Range

(Nissan has already sold more than 400,000 all-electric Leafs globally. Its new 226 mile range offering is bound to extend the legacy of this clean energy vehicle brand through seriously expanded capability. Image source: Nissan.)

Hyundai Kona Electric comes standard with another relatively beefy 201 hp electric motor. The vehicle is equipped with a relatively small 7 inch central display screen. Autonomous features include forward and side collision avoidance. A crossover/compact SUV, the vehicle looks really attractive both outside and inside. It sits higher than Bolt, Model 3, and Leaf — which likely provides some additional interior comfort. Overall cargo space is a decent 19.2 cubic feet. Seating for five might be a bit tight in back for larger riders — a repeating theme for the class of new, affordable electrics. Overall, a very attractive vehicle with notably high review ratings.

Kia Niro Electric rounds out our list with another 201 hp motor. It’s worth noting that the basic design is shared with the Kona, so a number of vehicle aspects will be similar. Kia Niro’s body, however, is roomier than Kona — with more space for those five passengers and 19. 4 cubic feet of storage. It is worth noting that Niro is still not yet available in the U.S. — so details are a bit less specific than the other options above. If the vehicle is not available in Maryland by mid April, it may opt itself out of the running for me. In general, there have been some issues with U.S. availability for the Kona as well — which appears to be limited to around a 20,000 vehicle per year global production rate. This compares to Bolt which will likely hit above 30,000, Leaf at around 100,000ish for 2019, and Model 3 at 250,000 to 300,000 (estimated figures).

Price comparisons are pretty comparable between these various high-performance, lower cost EVs. Chevy Bolt starts at $36,500 while the Tesla Model 3 Standard and Standard + start at $35,000 and $37,500 respectively. The longer range Nissan Leaf starts at $37,445. Kona shows a starting price of $36,500 — at the same point as the shorter range Bolt. Meanwhile it’s suggested that Niro will start at $37,500. Model 3 and Bolt have both lost the full $7,500 dollar tax credit, however. So at present that incentive is bumped down to $3,750 dollars. In addition, Maryland offers its own $3,000 dollar subsidy for electric vehicle purchases — which applies to all of the above models. Other features related to price include reported generous rebates on Bolt by Chevy as well as very attractive financing offers by Tesla (3.75 percent) and Bolt (zero percent for some qualifying buyers). Adding money to the ledger could include hidden costs like Tesla’s 1,200 dollar destination fee. All vehicles would be subject to sales taxes for their regions.

Kona Electric

(Kona Electric is a beautiful, highly capable 258 mile range EV crossover. But can Hyundai produce enough to meet expanding global EV demand and will it reach all markets in the U.S. during 2019? Image source: Hyundai.)

Not included in the price is the likely savings over time for lower maintenance and fuel costs. For regular drivers, this is pretty substantial — amounting to $1,000 dollars in savings per year or more. For higher usage drivers involved in rideshare, this savings is likely in the range of $3,000 per year when including reduced fuel costs, reduced wear and tear on brakes, no need for an oil change (I’ve changed my oil once per month on the Hyundai!), and overall return due to more simple design. These savings may be somewhat offset by rarer parts for EVs and potential longer periods in the shop as the maintenance infrastructure for EVs is somewhat smaller than for ICEs at present. In addition, use of aluminum to lighten the frames for Tesla vehicles may also add to body costs as aluminum work tends to be a specialized skill. Reports are, however, that Model 3 was simply designed for ease of use, manufacture and repair. We shall see if these claims hold out.

Efficiency is one factor where electric vehicles are head and shoulders above their ICE counterparts. Electric engines, in general are about 3 times as efficient as internal combustion engines. So far less energy is wasted overall. This is one reason why even EVs plugged into standard grids get far better fuel economy ratings and emit far, far less carbon than their ICE counterparts. EPA rated efficiency numbers for all the above vehicles are quite extraordinary. But it is an interesting metric to compare and determine which vehicle(s) stand out and which lag a bit. In the end, those with the highest efficiency will produce the lowest carbon footprints in use when plugged into the grid — which is important to me.

Kia Niro Electric

(Kia Niro Electric is another beautiful and highly capable affordable EV crossover. Will it release in time and in large enough numbers to have an impact on the U.S. market, much less make it available as a viable choice for me? Image source: Kia.)

EPA testing shows that the Chevy Bolt comes in at 119 mpge fuel efficiency. This is an amazing rating approximately four times better than my present Hyundai. But the Tesla Model 3 Standard and Standard + leap ahead with a 134 mpge rating. This is amazing considering that the vehicles have a rather high curb weight. But Tesla’s newer batteries appear to be breaking ground in a number of respects. Nissan Leaf long range lags both Bolt and Model 3 at a still impressive 112 mile per gallon equivalent. Kona follows at 120 mpge efficiency — which is also pretty strong. Finally, Niro rounds out the pack at 112 mpge. Overall, very impressive but with Tesla coming in as a clear leader.

Last but not least, we finally come to the important metric of charging speed. Typically, most of these vehicles can recharge at a rate of around 15 to 30 miles per hour of range through level 2 charging stations or the same capability charger at a home garage. However, in a pinch, all of these vehicles possess some form of fast charging capability — enabling charging rates of 150 miles per hour or more. For rideshare, this is important due to the fact that I might find myself relatively far afield and need to return home while still a 100 or more miles out. In addition, since I’m going to be using my vehicle for long trips, rate of charge will be a major factor in determining how long it takes for me to get to a distant destination.

Starting with the Chevy Bolt we find that this EV supports up to 50 kW rates for fast charging. What this means is that the Bolt can go from a low level of charge to a near full level of charge in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Nissan Leaf also is capable of recharging at 50 kW per hour rates and produces comparable recharge times during fast charge. True to trend, Kona and Niro also both charge at 50 kW per hour rates. And this rounds out the rest of the pack.

Pretty decent, but nowhere near as fast as the Tesla Model 3 using a Supercharger. Present Superchargers can provide between 72 kW and 120 kW of charge at most locations. For Model 3 Standard, these can provide a near full level of charge within between 40 minutes and an hour. A new version 3 supercharger rated at 250 kW is being introduced in California during early 2019. The Model 3 is equipped to handle this level of charging — which could cut near complete charging times down to 20-30 minutes or less. However, it will take a few years for these ultra-fast chargers to trickle through Tesla’s vast Supercharger network. It is worth noting that the Supercharger Network is presently closed to rideshare drivers. However, a Tesla representative recently noted that fair use of the network was typically considered to be once or twice per week. So on the rare occasion that I’m stranded far from home while ridesharing, I can simply turn off the Uber app, drive to the nearest Supercharger, get enough charge to return home, then link up with a local level 2 charger for the remainder (more on charging networks in another blog). So still useful in a pinch.

Final Thoughts

At this point, I’m 2900 words into the report and what I can say is that I’m very impressed with all the electric vehicles on offer. If you’d have told me 5 years ago that five very attractive EVs with this price range and capability would be available in 2019, I would have hoped you were right, but I might have doubted your conclusion. In addition, I’d like to add that there is a lot to consider when buying an EV for extreme clean energy use. Far more than I had initially thought. The details in this report are pretty extensive and, for me, quite a lot to digest.

At this point, I’m still evaluating which vehicle to choose. And I’d like to ask you for your help and opinions — so please feel free to post them below! I’ve also added a twitter survey at the start for feedback.

For our next blog, we’ll be looking at the ability of various charging networks to meet my stated needs. The availability of chargers is a big deal for me given the fact that I live in a Condo, don’t have a personal garage, and don’t have a charging station presently in my parking lot. So, yeah, access to various chargers nearby is going to be pretty key.

As ever, thank you all for joining me. I hope you have found this evaluation helpful. I also hope that some of you will decide to take the leap and rideshare in a clean energy vehicle. If you do, please help this blog by using my Uber referral code: ROBERTF3028UE. And if you have found this blog helpful and informative, please share widely! Warmest regards and, until next time, ciao!

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