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After wrestling the keys from my wife this morning (she had a great time in the car yesterday, see Day 3) I decided this would be the day of No Compromises!
To stay as fair as possible I offered to drive my wife into work to see how a No Compromise driving experience coupled with carpooling could work for us. Also, I knew I had to run a few errands during the day and that I might need to charge the car at some point. Especially in the No Compromise mode.
So, in the spirit of the day, I switched the Volt to Sport mode. From what I've read about this feature, it remaps the go pedal so that the drive-train reacts more quickly to pedal input. So it feels faster because the car is taking your pedal inputs and not smoothing them out as much. Sport mode is nice! It feels like you are in a race car, you can hear the tires grabbing at the pavement, but never really breaking lose, even with traction control turned off.
I drove like how I used to drive my old sporty Honda four banger with a 5-speed manual. I wasn't rude, but I got in and out of traffic smoothly and nobody looked at me like I was that slow guy in the fast lane in an EV. I drove as inefficiently as the traffic would allow. Just a guestimate, I probably used 20 to 30% more energy on the day because of that. But it was No Compromise. I didn't feel guilty at all. Shooting onto the freeway from the on ramp, no guilt! Making sure I made it to my errands on time, no guilt!
I think I may have to clarify when I say guilt. I feel guilty when I'm in my little 4 cylinder car and I jam the gas pedal into the floor to see $$$ going out of the tailpipe along with other unsavory emissions. The guilt is the hurt on my pocket and the fact that my own needs are contributing to a polluted environment. Not so with the Volt. Because it uses electricity from home, as long as I am using electricity in the car, I'm not causing any additional emissions.
Lets put some more rumors to rest. Electricity is fairly clean, not 100% clean from all sources since some sources use wind and solar and others use coal. From your local utility, unless you pay extra for "green energy," they can sometimes be as high as 80% coal sourced which is one of the main reasons some resist electrification of the automobile. They say, it's just moving the emissions from one tailpipe to a bigger one.
This is partially true. Here is why, first it is much easier to control the emissions of one tailpipe compared to millions. Second, most utilities are starting to purchase more power from alternative and renewable sources. Third, many homeowners are beginning to install solar panels on their homes, selling the power back to the grid. Fourth, and most importantly, gasoline is very very cost heavy in terms of production.
What do I mean by cost heavy? Let's examine the life cycle of crude oil and gasoline. A company has to drill to find the well using either electricity or fossil fuel or both. The company has to extract the crude oil from the ground then has to transport the crude oil to refineries, sometimes thousands of miles away, on large freighters that run usually on diesel fuel. Then the crude has to be refined or distilled into its various useful and non-useful components like gasoline, diesel, kerosene (jet fuel), lubricating oils, etc., usually with electricity as the fuel powering that process. Then the refined components have to be transported to market, usually in diesel powered trains and/or truck tankers. (to the skeptics, I do realize the U.S. sources its oil from many places, including primarily Canada and then the Middle East followed by South America and the transportation varies with the source. Pipelines from Canada, freighters from other places. This example is to put into perspective how much energy is put into a gallon of gasoline and the emissions associated with the life-cycle).
I've read that to refine a gallon of gasoline, this doesn't include transportation, drilling or anything else, it takes roughly 25kw of energy. One gallon can get an average car made in 2011 about 30 miles (RITA). It takes roughly 7.5kw to travel the same distance in the Volt.
So 25kw gas car vs 7.5kw electric Volt to travel 30 miles and this is not including the additional emissions of burning the gasoline. So claims that an electric vehicle somehow produces the same or more emissions than a gasoline car is ridiculous and shortsighted.
Additionally, any one of a number of ways can make your electricity cleaner. Start with your utility. They usually offer a "green" choice. This runs at a higher rate but they use the difference in cost to source more green energy, making your grid cleaner. Another would be to personally invest in solar or wind power. Many companies make small wind turbines in the shape of a cylinder that look a bit more aesthetic than a typical bladed rotor design. We have 300 days of sunshine a year in SoCal, why not use it?
As for the No Compromise experience, it was great and guilt free! I didn't even miss that I didn't have the roar of an engine beneath me. It was replaced by this awesome futuristic turbine kind of sound that hearkens to Isaac Asimov's The Robot Series.
References and Resources:
Chevrolet.com: Volt information from Chevrolet
GM-Volt.com: Volt and EV related blog
The Future is Electric: GM blog related to the Volt and EV in general
EV World: dedicated EV blog and resource