Saturday, November 12, 2022

I Have Bought My Last Gallon of Gas

A month or so ago we bought a Chevy Bolt EUV. It replaces a Subaru Forester.

We liked the Bolt because it has a more traditional design aesthetic, with lots of physical knobs and buttons for the heating and air conditioning, instead of putting everything on screens like so many other electric vehicles. (The other manufacturers do that because it's cheaper, not better.)

The Bolt is basically a regular car, costing half as much as a Tesla Model Y, at about $33K instead of $67K. It has all the bells and whistles: heated steering wheel, heated and cooled seats, cameras all around the vehicle, a rear-view mirror that can display a panoramic view out the back (useful if you've got something big in the hatch), etc.

The Bolt has a range of about 250 miles on a full charge, but that of course depends on the kind of driving you're doing, and how you drive. If you're on a freeway going 75 mph, it will get less because of the all the wind resistance, just like a gas car's mileage plummets at high speeds.

If you're driving on city streets at 25-35 mph with stops for street lights and stop signs, you'll get a lot of regeneration, especially if you use one-pedal driving, and you'll get much better mileage. We've been getting about 4 miles per kilowatt-hour, roughly what the stated range is.

The thing Tesla drivers always crow about is the acceleration. The Model Y can go from 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds. Wow. So impressive. And useless.

The Bolt's 0-60 is 6.8 seconds. The motor doesn't strain at all -- you press the accelerator and the car goes immediately, without any hesitation or straining. 

My Forester's 0-60 was something like 9 seconds, and there was a long pause when you gunned it, then the motor started to strain, and then it would start going. A Toyota Prius takes 10 or 11 seconds. Tesla's acceleration is just a gimmick and not at all necessary in the real world.

The Bolt has one-pedal driving. With it off the car acts like a regular gas powered car. That is, when you put it into drive or reverse, you start to creep forward and you use the brake to maneuver out of the garage or a parking spot. 

When you turn one-pedal driving on you move only when you press the accelerator. If you take your foot off you immediately start to decelerate, as if you were pressing the brake. But that's not what's happening: the motor takes the kinetic energy from the wheels and recharges the battery, like an electric dynamo.

The deceleration is quite aggressive, and there is a learning curve to figure out exactly how it will respond. Of course, you can always use the brake if the car is not stopping as fast as you need. And you can turn off one-pedal driving at any time. I always do that when I'm pulling into the garage.

The Bolt has "Supercruise" option, which allows it to do limited self-driving on a freeways that have been mapped out. We did not get it. The whole self-driving car thing is a scam. If you don't want to pay attention while you're driving, you should take a plane, train, bus or taxi. It's that simple. 

There's too much weird stuff happening on the roads, especially local roads, for you to put your life in the hands of the programmers who are at the mercy of an idiot like Elon Musk, who makes outlandish claims about the efficacy of "full self driving," constantly changes his mind, and pushes his workers to meet impossible deadlines and then sends updates to the car's software in the dead of night.

Tesla's chaotic development process results in a recall almost once a month. As we've seen from Musk's purchase of Twitter, his management style is to try out dozens of things, make lots of stupid mistakes, blow up lots of rockets, crash lots of cars, and eventually he thinks he'll figure it out. I don't want to participate in Musk's eternal electric car beta test, thank you very much.

Chevy originally had serious problems with the batteries, which were manufactured by LG, and recalled all Bolts to replace them. LG owned up to the problems and paid $1.9 billion of the $2 billion cost of the recall.

Chevy has sold enough Bolts to meet the limit on federal electric vehicle rebates, so they lowered the price by about that amount, and offered rebates to buyers who had paid the higher price. 

When we built our house about four years ago we put two NEMA 240-volt outlets in the garage, planning to eventually get electric cars. We have 12 kW of solar panels on our roof, and on a good day we generate 70 kWh. The Bolt's battery capacity is coincidentally 65 kWh, so we an basically fuel our car for free on a sunny day. The battery can be charged with the Chevy-supplied level 2 charger from empty to full in about seven or eight hours.

When you buy a Bolt, Chevy will either pay to get your garage wired with with a NEMA outlet, or give you a $500 credit for EVGo charging stations.

The average person only drives 40 miles a day, so the 250-mile range is plenty. The longest trip we usually make is to my mom's house, 80 miles away. We just make sure that we have a full charge the night before and don't have to worry about it.

My wife still has a plug-in hybrid, which gets about 25 miles on a charge, which means she's gotten like 1,000 to 1,500 miles per tank of gas, because so many trips can be run on a battery alone. So I get it when people are worried about getting stranded if their car runs out of juice. A lot of people don't have a garage to plug their car into, so they can't rely on an electric car alone.

But there are millions of American families just like ours, who have two or three cars, with garages, who could easily get an EV as their second car. They don't need some expensive and fancy Tesla with nutso acceleration and instant charging, they just need a car that they can drive to work, pick up the kids, get the groceries, and then recharge overnight.

Chevrolet's Bolt EVs are real cars for real people, not gimmicky and expensive toys. Elon Musk has become the "world's richest man" on the strength of Tesla, but the stock valuation of that company is wildly out of line with the reality of its true value. Chevrolet, for all its faults, is doing a better job at making EVs accessible to the average American than Musk is, and they're not making themselves look like idiots on Twitter every day of the week.

My nightmare is that someone will hack Tesla's network and turn all those cars into expensive bricks, or worse, hack the full self-driving mode and crash thousands of cars all at once. Given Musk's totally haphazard approach to software development, it is all too possible.