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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Q5: 'On the road again' — electric cars in our midst

  • Mark Higley, Leavenworth, is a professional musician and has recently purchased an electric car.
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  • Mark Higley, Leavenworth, is a professional musician and has recently purchased an electric car.
    1. Mark can you tell us about your electric car, why you decided to purchase it and why you would encourage others to consider buying one?
    I have a Nissan Leaf 100-percent electric car. It can travel around 100 miles in town and 70 miles on the highway. It has a top speed of 93 mph. It has all the navigation, no-hands voice recognition for your cell phone, heated seats and steering wheel and most any other technology you would find in a high-end luxury car.
    It is faster than most gas cars because of the immediate torque from the electric motor. It uses no oil, has no transmission to fix, no muffler or exhaust system, no alternator and the brake regeneration means you get energy back when you brake but there is little brake wear for less or no expensive brake jobs. I decided to lease the vehicle. The monthly lease payment I negotiated is $178 and less than what I was paying for in gas so it was an easy decision.
    Since most charging stations are free it is possible for me to drive at no cost to me at all. When I do charge at home I pay less than two dollars to "fill up." 9/11 was also a big reason for getting the car. I feel I am supporting terrorists by using oil. I wanted to stop doing that or at least stop doing it as much. I would encourage anyone that would like to cut their gasoline costs and stave terrorists to take a test drive.
    2. Electric cars were popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s and declined due to cheaper gasoline vehicles. They made a comeback in the 1970s during the energy crisis, but died out again. Do you think the U.S. is now on track to make electric cars and hybrids a permanent fixture and why?
    The electric cars of the 1800s could not compete in price with gas cars. The battery technology and the infrastructure was not in place. In the 1970s you had the same problems. Over the past 10 years the battery technology has made huge advancements.
    More charging stations are popping up everywhere. We even have a charging station at Westar on Second street in Leavenworth. On Thursday I drove from Leavenworth to Topeka and back home. I stopped and had breakfast in Lawrence and they had a charging station so I charged while I ate (charged for free I might add), caught up on some emails and headed to Topeka. I visited a friend in Topeka and charged at the Nissan Dealer there (for free again) and drove home.
    Total cost of the trip to me was the $1.47 I used to charge up my car at my house the night before. You couldn't do that in the 1800s or in the 1970s, in fact that type of trip has only been possible in the past few years. Next time you drive around town, count the number of Prius cars you see. Although a Prius is not totally electric, people are becoming more and more comfortable using electric drive trains in their cars. It just makes more sense.
    Page 2 of 3 - 3. Is it true that electric motors enable cars to have strong and smooth acceleration and do you think there is a general misconception that these vehicles lack the power and reliability of gas-propelled vehicles?
    Totally electric cars (not hybrids like the Prius) are faster and have way more power and "zip" than a gas car.
    The power is like a light switch. Turn it on and it's instant. I love driving my car in Overland Park because I can get in and out of traffic so easily and getting on the highway from an on-ramp in an electric car is so much easier because of the immediate torque.
    Electric cars have different modes so you can slow down the response if you don't want to use the vehicle that way. Gas cars have a series of events that have to happen before they "take off."
    Electric cars do not. As to reliability, there are far fewer moving parts in an electric car than in a gas car which means far fewer things to go wrong and far fewer trips to the mechanic.
    There have been issues with the Leaf losing some range in very hot places like Arizona desert. I believe Nissan needs to add a cooling system for the batteries like the Volt and the Tesla.
    That's one of the reasons I leased my Nissan Leaf rather than buying one. I know these cars are going to get better in the next two years and the low lease payment makes the car essentially free for me to drive while I wait. As with any new car there will be problems.
    Type in "recall" on google and any car company name and you will get a list a mile long. It's cars in general not just electric ones.
    The Leaf has been out for two years and no one I know in this area that has one has had any problems.
    4. About how many miles can your electric car travel before needing another charge? Are there many charging stations in the Kansas City area and is there one in Leavenworth?
    There are more than 50 charging stations in Kansas City. Most are free to the public.
    Many Walgreens have them as well as all Nissan dealers.
    Many are located by restaurants and movie theatres so you have something to do while your car is charging. We have a charging station here in Leavenworth at Westar on Second street.
    "Your mileage will vary." An electric car mileage is opposite to an gas car. Gas cars do better on the highway whereas electrics do better in the city.
    Stop-and-go driving activates the regenerative braking so you can actually charge your car as you are driving.
    Page 3 of 3 - On the highway wind resistance, speed, heater and AC all become factors in energy use.
    In town I can get as much as 100 miles on one charge.
    On the highway at 65 mph I get about 65 miles on a charge.
    Places like Kansas City, Lawrence, Atchison, St. Joe, Topeka are all within my range. I will need to charge in Topeka once I get there but it's doable. Can I drive to California in the car? No.
    That's not what it's for just like you can't mow your lawn with a Ford 150 truck.
    If I needed to drive a long distance I would just begrudgingly take the gas car.
    5. For those of us who know the frustration of running out of gas, what happens if someone overestimates the amount of electric charge left in a vehicle and is stranded on a highway at 2 in the morning?
    Nissan includes roadside assistance with the car.
    If you did run out of charge they will pick up your car and take it to your home.
    The car has gauges and multiple warning systems to tell you when you are getting low on charge.
    Two years ago in the dead of winter the alternator in my Durango quit working and I was stranded on the highway at midnight.
    The tow service picked up my Durango and took me home.
    It would be no different in an electric car except an electric car doesn't have an alternator to go bad.
    — Rimsie McConiga
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