CategoriesGear

One Year With an Electric Car

I’ve now driven more than one year with an electric car. I want to share a few thoughts about what I’ve learned for people who are thinking about giving up their gas cars. I think you’ll be in for some surprises.

I live in the U.S., so some of this will vary according to where you live.

Using The Carpool Lane is Awesome, But …

One of the perks of driving an EV in Arizona is that you can use the carpool lane if you have the right license plate (you have to ask for it). The speeds in the carpool — or HOV Lane, if you like the bureaucratic version — stay a lot more consistent. When everyone slows down for whatever reason, the carpool lane mostly keeps humming.

There’s just one problem: Many people think the carpool lane is really the Drive as Fast as You Want Lane. This creates some dangerous situations. And many of these people don’t have the plates and are alone in their car and thus shouldn’t even be in the carpool lane anyway. I’m usually driving 70 in a 65, which is speeding. But these people don’t think I’m speeding enough. Things being what they are, they get away with driving 85mph+. Which is ridiculously stupid: It’s dangerous, obviously, and it turns their gas mileage to shit. And does it save much time? No, because they’ll still get stuck at traffic lights on surface streets.

You Don’t Need Charging Stations

For the first six months or so, I relied on charging at charging stations like ChargePoint, Blink, Volta and others. I favored the free ones, which are fairly plentiful (Blink is a huge rip off). I covered this adequately in an earlier post, so I recommend reading that post for more information, including my recent project to install a 240-volt line at my house.

Driving a Gas-Powered Car Will Suck

Sometimes, I have to drive my wife’s 2017 Subaru Forester. And boy, does it suck. Before getting my EV, I actually liked it.

But when I get into my EV and push the button, there’s no noise or vibration. There’s also no heat pouring off of it after I drive 20 miles. That noise, vibration and heat is inefficiency.

After a few months driving an EV, you’ll be disgusted by the lurching transmission shifts, the noise, the vibration and the slow acceleration.

I know car enthusiasts will argue this point with me. But here’s the thing: I’ve driven gasmobiles far more than they’ve driven electric cars. They have no frame of reference. They have never driven an electric car for months and gone back to their clunky gas jalopies.

Your Electric Car Will Save You Time

Think of all the time you’ve spent at gas stations and getting oil changes. Those days are over. It’s awesome to wake up or leave your desk in the evening to a "full tank."

Getting your juice will be as quick as plugging a cell phone into a wall. It’s weirdly liberating.

After one year of driving an electric car, all this time adds up.

You Can Do Anything You Want in an Electric Car

The top-of-the-line electric cars are getting around 300 miles per charge. The lesser ones get 150, but can re-charge to 80 percent pretty quickly. In the middle, you have some that are getting about 230 miles. That compares to my dear departed Subaru Forester, which got about 350 miles per tank.

one year with an electric vehicle
Great. She likes the Tesla Model X. Expensive taste …

But here’s the thing: How often do you drive that far? And how far do you ever drive without stopping to eat, drink or use a toilet?

My bet is about 100 miles or so. So the difference in miles traveled per tank or per charge is insignificant. The arguments against electric car range are for trips that constitute the tiniest portion of trips taken. Electric cars can more than handle your average daily commute, and many of the newer ones are great for road trips.

Still Good Reasons Not to Get an Electric Car

There are two things preventing most people from getting an electric car:

First is form factor. Americans love SUVs. And the only readily available electric SUV right now is the Tesla Model X. The Model Y will mark the beginning of the end of the gas engine, but it’s still a few years away. Toyota had a huge head start with its RAV4 EV collaboration with Tesla, and they squandered it in favor of hybrids and hydrogen fuel cells. Pair that with their deceptively advertised "self-charging hybrids," and you have a brand in decline. The other electric cars are sedans and smallish wagons. Nissan is clearly milking gas engines for all their worth while paying lip service to electric vehicles with the compromised LEAF. If they were serious, they’d already offer an electric version of the Murano (with active thermal management to preserve the batteries).

Second is cost. Brand-new EVs are still a bit more expensive. The brands that still qualify for the federal tax credit definitely lessen that burden. But in most cases, car buyers have to front the cost and get their money back in April when tax return season rolls around (I wonder how that skews the electric car sales data -- if I were buying a new qualifying vehicle, I’d wait until December for sure). Still, cost will decline as battery cost dives. Which it’s done consistently in recent years.

Even One EV in Your Household Helps

Since getting my EV, my wife drives a lot less. Her work commute is pretty short, and I handle all the weekend driving. We’ll use her Subaru for long trips; my early-generation EV isn’t suited for the long distances and off-roading.

But one year with an electric car has cut down on our collective gas use. And I don’t see any way that there will be another gas-powered vehicle in our house in the future. They’re just inferior. Even ignoring any concern for pollution, they’re more fun to drive and way less maintenance-intensive.

People Have No Idea About Electric Vehicles

After one year with an electric car, I constantly field the same questions. Let me recap them with some quick answers.

I hear Teslas don’t really work.

In what way? I don’t drive a Tesla, but it is the gold standard in EVs. The software is ridiculously advanced. They are also extremely efficient if you measure them by kilowatt-hours to the mile. Used correctly, the Autopilot feature is mind-blowing.

And no, they don’t catch on fire more than gas vehicles. But a Tesla on fire is considered newsworthy. A gas-powered car? It doesn’t get any press. Ask yourself why.

Electric vehicles use "rare earth" minerals/pollute more because of how they’re built/are powered by coal.

There’s a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists that debunks this all. It’s long, but well worth reading.

Global warming is a hoax.

OK. Let’s say it is. Forget global warming or climate change or whatever you want to call it. Think locally. What will happen if you have fewer tailpipes spewing emissions? How will that affect your local air quality? What if your streets become quieter because you don’t have a bunch of diesel trucks roaring? Does that sound bad in any way? What if you have fewer people going into a gas station and loading up on sugary snacks while paying for their gas? What if there are fewer tanker trucks on the roads bringing gas into your neighborhoods? What exactly sounds bad it this scenario?

Guayaki yerba mate chevy bolt
The Guayaki brand of yerba mate has its branding people cruising the streets in this Chevy Bolt. The driver loves it.

I just like the sound of an engine.

Surely there has to be better ways to get attention. I really don’t understand the fixation on noise. My EV makes enough noise to warn a pedestrian -- the sound is like listening to a taxiing jet fighter (but from a long distance).

Now, I know a lot of Americans don’t like to walk. But if you’re one of those people who walk, what would you think of a lot less engine noise? It sounds pretty nice.

Money is Behind the Anti-EV Rhetoric

The electric vehicle is upsetting a lot of corporate gravy trains. Dealerships won’t make as much money on maintenance. Oil companies will face falling demand for gasoline and diesel. And even convenience stores, like I mentioned: They’ll have fewer people making impulse buys while they put gas in their cars.

This is a huge shift. There’s still money to be made and jobs to be had with electric cars. They’re just going to be different. This happened before when we shifted from horses to electric cars. Not as many people need someone to shoe their horses? Hello, auto mechanic. This shift isn’t a problem: It’s an opportunity.

I can’t wait for a new generation of EV modders and mechanics to rise. It will be pretty cool to see how they innovate with a new platform!

Of course, the status quo doesn’t see it that way. They’d rather use their money to squash innovation. Just look at Chevrolet’s EV-1 debacle, and how they deliberately compromised the Bolt EV.

Wrapping Up One Year With an Electric Car

There’s just no going back for me. The smooth acceleration, low maintenance and cheap energy make me pity the poor gas engine. Its days are nearly over.

CategoriesFitness

The Best Workouts in Scottsdale

There is no shortage of ways to burn calories and all of them claim to be the best, so I set out to find the best workouts in Scottsdale. I believe that it’s smart to switch your routine now and then, too.

Much of my exercise regimen orbits around being better at mountain and road biking. My goal is to be light but powerful, more soccer player than swole bro. (Most male cyclists look like praying mantises, and I don’t dig that look. I also don’t find it functional, and I love being able to try whatever sport I want.) I like learning stuff that I can use during my home workouts. Even though I can and do train independently by myself, I like training with other people, too.

best workouts in Scottsdale
Not the goal. Nope.

OK, onto the list. WARNING: Everyone gets a grade. You might think my grade is too low — and that’s fine. I’m evaluating based on my own preferences and biases, which lean more toward actual real weights and creative use of bodyweight. If it’s an A for you and a C- for me, that might just mean we have different goals and requirements. This is an evolving effort that I plan to update. If you have a suggestion, throw it my way in the comments.

TruHIT Reigns for Current Best Workouts in Scottsdale

I took my first TruHIT class back in September. The equipment in the studio mirrors a lot of what I have at home: kettlebells, Olympic bars (which are rarely used in class), medicine balls, box jumps and jump ropes. Truhitt also has a few things I don’t, such as TRX rigs, rowing machines, dumbbells and stretchy bands.

The TruHIT staff combines this all in some creative ways. Different days throughout the week focus on different goals, such as legs, upper body and general conditioning. Personally, I opt for the leg days. Leg muscles and glutes are your biggest muscles, and they burn a lot of calories.

During my time there, I’ve found that that variety is pretty good. The staff is friendly and helpful, and the other participants are also a good bunch. There’s a lot of mutual encouragement, but not in the showy, bro-y, over-the-top way you might see at other gyms. You can borrow quite a bit for your home workouts, and I also like the scale/scanner thing in front that helps track your weight, metabolic age, body fat percentage and other data points.

best workouts in scottsdale
Good for tracking your progress

Is there any room for improvement? I find the TRX exercises involving stretchy bands kind of meh. Some of the exercise variations can be a bit much. A bit of simplifying and streamlining could reduce the "am I doing this right?" factor. I wouldn’t mind some specific classes for more technical movements like squats and deadlifts.

Overall, though, I find TruHIT to be the place to beat for the Best Workouts in Scottsdale title. A drop-in class is $15, and you can also go for monthly unlimited classes or get passes for a certain number of classes. Also good to know: They have a kids area where the staff will keep an eye on your little people for $5.

Grade: B+

Eat the Frog For Odd Hours

This studio is pretty interesting. They provide a heart-rate monitor for you, and you can see your status in real time on the monitors. Also noteworthy: Eat the Frog has other classes that don’t have instructors. You do your workout based on what’s on the monitors. That gives them some interesting flexibility with their hours.

Eat the Frog involves some quality time with a rowing machine. (This photo wasn’t taken at Eat the Frog.)

I did a drop-in class that focused on core movements. It started off with a warm-up on the rowing machines, where the instructor encouraged us to hit certain heart-rate target zones.

I’m not a huge fan of core-focused classes. It’s a relatively small muscle group, and I’m really into compound movements. Eat the Frog does not seem at all suited to people who dig basic but hard movements like squats, deadlifts and pullups.

That said, my core did get a good workout. And I never object to time on a rowing machine. That’s a quality way to get stronger and leaner.

Ultimately, Eat the Frog is not for me. It’s not a bad workout, but I don’t see it building power the way I’d like. I also do find a lot of the exercises a bit gimmicky being the back-to-basics guy I am. Packages range from $80-$150 a month. They also have a "punch card" sort of setup, but I didn’t get pricing for it.

Grade: C+

Fitwall: A Bit Funky

I’m always up for something a bit oddball in my quest to find the best workouts in Scottsdale. So I gave Fitwall a shot. I went during one of their leg days. The sessions revolve around a slatted metal wall where might do leg exercises or ersatz pullups.

best workouts in Scottsdale
A look inside the Fitwall facility.

Sigh. Man. Fake pullups. I get it. Pullups are hard — damn hard. Most people can’t do ‘em. But this wall idea does absolutely zero to get anyone close to a pullup. There is no substitute for a real pullup bar and struggling like crazy to do just one, single, solitary pushup.

During the session at Fitwall, I also used resistance bands and some light dumbbells. I would’ve happily traded them for heavier ones and doing fewer reps. But in all honesty, I am probably not the Fitwall model user. I see this as a workout for people who don’t really have much background in exercise. They’ll burn some calories and tone up a bit. I could also see a serious competitive bodybuilder using some of these exercises to hit smaller muscle groups. (Talk about use cases at opposite ends of the spectrum!)

There are some group exercise classes that seem to involve actual weights, but those take place in a different room. The pricing structure is a bit opaque: The website says they have plans from $7 a class. This morning, they tried to lure me in via text with an offer for $29 for two weeks.

I passed on the offer. I don’t see myself getting what I need out of Fitwall. It’s too gimmicky and focused mainly on proprietary equipment. People newer to training won’t really get enough out of it to independently build their own fitness routine. Unfortunately, I think that’s the goal of many fitness studios. That’s not a knock on the staff members, who were uniformly welcoming and helpful.

Grade: C-

Sweating at Hot Yoga University

I’ve already written a full review of Hot Yoga University. I’ve been going there a long time, and they’ve actually gotten better over time. They now have these HotFIIT and IronSculpt classes, and they are pretty serious stuff. The IronSculpt classes even use some dumbbells. They’re light, but you’ll definitely feel the burn after a few rounds.

best workouts in scottsdale
Hot Yoga University is the yoga studio we all need.

That said, I consider Hot Yoga classes more of a supplement for me. Others with different goals might be fine relying on these as their go-to workouts (even though some yoga folks probably get upset at those of us who think of yoga as a workout).

As for Hot Yoga University itself, it’s reasonably priced ($10 drop-in classes can’t be beat!) and considerably more friendly than many other yoga studios. Some people might be seeking more muscle mass and explosive power. Hot Yoga University can’t provide that alone, but it is absolutely great stuff for those who have other weightlifting routines in their fitness routine.

Grade: B

Categoriesfeatured

Papago Plaza is “Dilapidated.” And That Was the Plan.

Papago Plaza in Scottsdale is all but abandoned these days. And don’t think for a second that’s not by design.

The exodus of businesses from this once-cool throwback plaza pretty much started with the closing of Papago Brewing. It was the major anchor, a role never fulfilled by a huge nightclub space that constantly changed names and had a bad reputation.

And now, we’re getting news headlines like "’Dilapidated’ Scottsdale Papago Plaza Set For Major Redevelopment."

papago plaza

Right. As if Papago Plaza is getting redeveloped because it’s dilapidated. It’s dilapidated because its owners wanted to make it such as eyesore that residents and the city would be completely OK with whatever they wanted to do.

Of course, that is likely to be a generic bloc of anonymous buildings. A hotel. A "high-end" cluster of apartments because why not?

What Should Happen to Papago Plaza

Well, the owners let it fall into disrepair. At this point, there’s probably no way to save it.

And Papago Plaza’s looks have always polarized people. I love it. It has sense of place and character, unlike most of the shopping plazas sprouting up. If they’re going to redevelop it, why not design it with some nods to the original?

papago plaza

Also, I’m concerned about the rush to slap the "high end" label on everything. Is it not possible to make it fit in with the South Scottsdale character? That means a little less sizzle, a lot more steak. This neighborhood is relatively affordable, with some families that have lived in the area since the 1950s. North Scottsdale has its glitz. Why not keep things here more affordable and accessible?

Who wants condos that will sell for $500,000? We already have those up the road at 68th Street and McDowell.

Bring Back Some of the Papago Plaza Past

Just about five years ago, Papago Plaza was home to one of the state’s pioneering craft beer hangouts. It would be great to have it back. It had a hot yoga studio, a small gym, a Korean restaurant, a tailor. In short, some rather nice stuff. These all seem like they would fit into a future development.

papago plaza

I simply doubt developers care enough about maintaining the local character or doing right by residents. It’s all about what they can build now. What happens 20 years from now when we’re stuck with a generic-yet-dated plaza? I mean, Papago Plaza has a dated look to it -- but its late 1960s Arizona vibe is at least distinct.

And the development attorney quoted in the article had this to say about why he thinks the redevelopment needs housing: "If this is too much retail, and we’ve seen vacancy time and time again in this shopping center, what can we do to breathe new life into this corner, and yet make some retail appropriate and successful?”

Again, the vacancies were by design. Ask anyone who was a tenant at Papago Plaza in the last 15 years what it was like getting the owners to upgrade and repair. That’s the sort of landlord that chases tenants out. And their intent was clearly to sell it for redevelopment.

Categoriesfeatured

Chevron and its Push Against Electric Cars

Chevron is using retirees to scare people away from electric vehicles. That’s according to a story in The Arizona Republic. You should read the story.

But just to catch you up for this blog post, it goes like this:

  • One California lobbyist for Chevron
  • A bunch of retired oil industry execs who live in Arizona
  • Writing form letters to "to Arizona Corporation Commissioners not to require electric companies here to build electric-car charging stations."

Here are a few thoughts about Chevron’s incompetent effort to stop a major shift in transportation.

They’re Using Retirees. Of Course.

People who like technology often use the initialsm FUD when they talk about people who fear change. That stands for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Who better to FUD things up than oil industry retirees?

chevron electric cars
There are certain people who can’t handle how the world is changing.

Look, I don’t want to be ageist about this. But why should retirees have the biggest voice in this conversation? This is the same demographic that kept saddling Maricopa County with Joe Arpaio as sherrif, which pretty much says it all.

An Attack on EV “Subsidies”

Of course the retirees attacked the $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles. The reporter (good on him, by the way) directly asked one of the retirees about oil industry subsidies. The person denied knowledge of what kind of money his long-time employer received from the federal government. Either the person didn’t actually work for Chevron, or he knew about government subsidies for the industry. That means he was lying.

Let’s answer the question ourselves, then. According to The Guardian, oil companies receive about $20 billion from the US government in subsidies. That’s in just one year. One year.

The electric vehicle tax credit is nothing next to that. I’m not the guy to crunch these numbers, but what would gas cost if they had the same level of subsidies as electric vehicles? The answer is "a lot more. A lot."

Chevron Retirees Say Electric Vehicles are Too Expensive

This connects back to the subsidy point. But it’s clear, also, that none of these people involved with the Chevron electric cars effort have any clue. Used electric vehicles are widely available.

I’ve seen some as low as $12,000. It’s possible to get an extremely capable electric car for less than $20,000. And it’s funny how people will spend $50,000 on a pickup and be perfectly fine with it. But a brand-new $30,000 EV like the 2019 LEAF? Too expensive.

2018 Nissan LEAF

Keep in mind that electric vehicles are a technology in their infancy. What do you think the average horse owner said when rich people in the late 1800s/early 1900s started rattling around in cars? "Too expensive -- playthings for the rich," right?

That sounds familiar. And it won’t age well in regard to electric vehicle adoption.. Battery technology, the most-expensive part of an electric car, is plummeting in price. Parity with gas engines is coming. And quickly.

The Chevron Electric Cars Gambit is Stupid, Anyway

People who don’t actually drive electric vehicles think charging stations are the be-all end-all for EV drivers. Wrong.

All we really need is a 120-volt outlet at home and at work. That’s because EVs come with charging devices of their own. The device is called an EVSE (not a charger, which is actually built into the car itself). An EVSE is designed to plug into a 240-volt outlet ton provide what is called Level 2 charging, which usually gets you 10-18 miles of charge per hour.

chevron electric cars
A close-up look at an EVSE plug. With the right adaptor, this can charge an electric car from a 110-volt outlet.

But EV drivers can use an adaptor to plug their EVSE right into 120-volt outlets and get 3-6 miles of charge per hour. That’s more than enough for the typical commute. And next time you’re in a parking garage, take a look around. You’ll notice at 120-volt outlets are more common than you’ve ever realized.

That said, it’s nice to have a 240-volt outlet at home on its own dedicated circuit. But it’s a nice to have, not a necessity.

And this all means one thing: The oil industry can’t even organize its opposition to do anything that’s remotely relevant.