Sunday, August 17, 2014

Comparing ALL Available Electric Car Options

It's been said, but I'll say it again ... Electric cars are the future. We will soon look back at our internal-combusting, oil-leaking, carbon-polluting cars and trucks as dinosaurs, that never quite made sense, but had a long solid run, till their time was up.

If you are in the market for a new car, it only makes sense to consider an all-electric car as one of your options today. While Tesla and its superb Model S has been taking most of the limelight in the media, other cars manufacturers have been silently adding all-electric vehicles to the market that are worth exploring if you are seriously considering buying in the near future.

However ... finding all the information in one place is a real challenge!

For starters I couldn't find a convenient list of all-electric vehicles for a buyer to consider! I finally figured that the best way to make my own list was to review the California Air Resources Board's website that offers an HOV lane sticker to electric and hybrid electric cars. For more about that read my previous post.
To my surprise I got a total of 13 vehicles ranging from minicompacts to SUVs. Here's the full list ...

As of August 2014 these are the electric vehicles in the US market:
  1. Tesla Model S (85kWh & 60kWh)
  2. BYD e6
  3. Toyota RAV4 EV
  4. Fiat 500e
  5. Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive
  6. Nissan Leaf
  7. Chevrolet Spark EV
  8. Honda Fit EV
  9. BMW i3 BEV
  10. Ford Focus Electric
  11. Smart fortwo electric drive coupe
  12. Mitsubishi i-MiEV
  13. Scion iQ EV
I then went to the U.S. DOE's website by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that allows you to compare vehicles side-by-side to get more information about them ... But wait ... They only allow you to compare 4 vehicles at a time! And to make life interesting, they broke the information out into 4 tabs!!! Why don't they just allow us to compare all the vehicles we want, with all the information on one page?!! Browsers scroll in both directions, you know!

Anyway ... I took down the three most relevant pieces of information from the EPA website for each vehicle: Miles on a charge, Time to charge and EPA Fuel economy in MPGe. Then I headed over to True Car (my new favourite website to price a car) and Kelly Blue Book to get a rough estimate of what I might pay for each one. I priced them as I would like to buy them, so the prices are NOT for the base stripped-down version, nor are they the decked-out, all options MSRP price. They are somewhere in-between. All that research ended in the graphic below.

I arranged the vehicles in the order of the most important thing I consider in buying an electric car ... The range. i.e. How far can I go on a full charge? If I am seriously considering electric as an option against gas, range is pretty much the most important issue for me. A low range means I have limited options of what I can do with the car. If weekend trips out of town are not an option, that limits the usability of the car - which is serious problem. In fact with most electric cars in a 80 mile range, they tend to become one-task vehicles i.e. commute back and forth to work every day! I don't know about you, but I need a car to do a bit more for me than a single task. That pretty much limited my options to the Tesla or the RAV4 (the BYD e6 is intriguing ... it's from a Chinese company that, from my limited googling I found is not really available in the US yet, but coming soon ... maybe).

If you are willing to look beyond the range issue (or if 80ish miles on a single charge works for you, perhaps you have a charging station at your workplace!) then the options become more interesting. The second thing I would consider is time taken to charge the battery fully. With a 240 Volt charger (which most people will need to install in their garage) time to recharge range from 3.5 hours (Mercedes-Benz B-Class and Ford Focus Electric) to 12 hours (Tesla Model S 85kWh). The Tesla obviously takes longer because it has the biggest battery in any electric vehicle on the list.

Next the EPA mileage in miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) is of course an important consideration and I was expecting to find all of them to be somewhat similar. But they are not! They range from the best of 124 MPGe (BMW i3 BEV) to as low as 63 MPGe (BYD e6).

I added some additional color formatting in the graphic above, for EPA Fuel Economy, Time to Charge Battery and Price. Considering all of this, the Fiat 500e really stood out of the lot. It's got an EPA estimated 116 MPGe, which is close to the top, with a range of 87 that's also highest from among the 80ish range vehicles, and the time to charge the battery was only 4 hours. That's half the time it takes for a Nissan Leaf or a Chevy Spark to change at 8 hours each! The other ones that caught my attention were Honda Fit EV and the BMW i3 BEV - both had excellent mileage and could be charged in 4 hours. Both are slightly pricier, but also roomier than the Fiat 500e.

If you prefer seeing the graphic above sorted by Price, Time to charge or EPA mileage, click the images below:

My final note is that if you are not in a rush to buy your new electric car, and can wait a couple of years ... I would suggest waiting. The consumer choices in electric cars are expanding rapidly and things will get a lot more interesting when Tesla releases its Model X (Crossover SUV) in 2015 and its Model 3 (cheaper version of Model S) which is expected in 2017. The Model X is expected to be about 10% more expensive than the Model S (per my local Tesla dealer), and is a rare combination of utility, aesthetics, range and environmental stewardship! Specs for the Model 3 are not yet out, but they are aiming for a mid $30,000 car with the same range as the stellar Model S!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

California HOV Lane Access Green Stickers - When Will They Run Out?

Update March 28th 2015:

Thanks to a number of readers who requested for an update on this blog, I am updating the graph below to represent the new green sticker limit of 70,000. The new numbers show that green stickers will reach their allotted limit around June 10th 2015. 

However! Note that I predicted that the previous limit of 55,000 stickers will be reached by Nov 14th 2015 ... in reality there was a significant up-tick close in on the limit (see graph below) and they reached 55,000 stickers on Sept 23rd 2014 ... a whole month and a half ahead of the predicted date. 

So learning from history, we can expect another up-tick right around beginning of April. So if you want to play it safe, get your vehicle in early April.


The question on everyone's mind trying to buy a plug-in hybrid electric car (PHEV) in California seems to be ... will I get the coveted GREEN HOV lane access sticker before the quota runs out!

A friend of mine was on the fence about buying a Plug-in Hybrid Prius and was not sure if he will get the Green sticker in time before they all run out. The California ARB website, publishes how many of the Green stickers have seen issued. Their last published number was 60,537 as of Feb 26th 2015. You can calculate how many are left from the current quota of 70,000 total green stickers. So 9,463 left as of Feb 26th 2015.

The problem is they don't show us how many stickers they have been issuing in the past, so there is no sense of the trend or rate at which stickers are issued ... or when they will run out!

I decided to use the Internet Archive and their handy Wayback Machine search function to look up previous versions of the same ARB webpage to make a trend for myself. See chart below.

From the Internet Archive, I got three earlier versions of the ARB website that showed the number of green HOV stickers issued at three previous dates, and the current one makes the 4 data points on the graph.

On 02/26/2015 : 60,537 Green HOV stickers issues     (Updated 3/28/15)
On 01/06/2015 : 56,571 Green HOV stickers issues     (Updated 3/28/15)
On 09/23/2014 : 55,000 Green HOV stickers issues     (Updated 3/28/15)
On 07/21/2014 : 44,903 Green HOV stickers issues
On 05/09/2014 : 40,000 Green HOV stickers issues
On 03/21/2014 : 36,737 Green HOV stickers issues
On 11/08/2013 : 24,452 Green HOV stickers issues

Plotting a straight line across these data points, I get a linear trendline. The slope of the line indicates that about 71 stickers are issued every day. So that's the rate at which green stickers are getting issued. This number also gives you the rate at which Californians are buying plug-in hybrid electric cars ... which I'm sure is a useful number for some policy advocate somewhere in Sacramento!

If the same trend continues, the current limit of 70,000 green stickers will run out on June 10th 2015. Now, we can potentially expect an up-tick on the graph as we get closer to finishing up the 70,000 sticker quota (as we see close the the earlier limit of 55,000 in Sept 2014), so in reality they may run out a faster than this straight line trend predicts, perhaps early April.

How to apply for a HOV Lane sticker:

Here's a nice video from the makers to Chevy Volt about the steps you need to get your Green HOV Lane sticker.

GREEN vs WHITE HOV Lane Sticker

The main difference between a GREEN and WHITE HOV Lane sticker is:

GREEN stickers are basically for the for "Transitional-Zero Emission Vehicles," otherwise known as range-extended electric cars or plug-in hybrids (like Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Chevy Volt, Ford Fusion Energi etc.), and are issued on a first-come-first-serve basis. There is a limit to the total number of green stickers that California will issue, which is currently set at 70,000 total. That's it... if you are the 70,001st applicant, your car will not have the Green HOV lane access sticker! (unless, ofcourse another California assembly bill passes to increase the limit, as it did in July 2014, which raised the limit)

WHITE stickers are for all electric / alternate fuel vehicles (like Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, Fiat 500e etc.), and are unlimited.

  • Both stickers are valid through January 1, 2019. 
  • You will need a license plate issued by DMV before you can apply for a sticker. For a new car, that can take 7 to 10 days (in my experience)
  • The California ARB website is an excellent resource that lists all current car models that qualify for an HOV Lane sticker.

Hope this helps your buying decision for a more efficient car! 
Please leave me a comment / share if this helped you.