By Chris Jennewein
As world oil prices plunged toward $40 a barrel last month, this editor took a very different kind of plunge — into a electric car.
With gas prices coming down and expected to remain so, it seemed counter-intuitive not to choose the latest hybrid, or even an efficient new gasoline-only car. After all, saving money at the pump has long been touted as a key reason for going electric.
But for me it was all about time.
The 5-10 minutes spent looking for a gas station and then pumping add up. An electric car takes just seconds to plug in at home every night. Servicing a gas-powered car sucks up a half day or more every 5,000 miles, while there’s essentially nothing to service on an electric, though an annual checkup and tire rotation are recommended.
Then there’s the chance to park at a convenient charging point in front of a public building, saving a few minutes of time when I’m late for a meeting. And, most significantly, I can use the soon-to-be completed HOV lane on Interstate 805, allowing me to get to an event downtown without spending an hour driving.
There is one big drawback, of course — range anxiety. But it turns out that most of my trips are from home to my shared office downtown, or to a press conference, with a round trip of 30 to 50 miles, well within the car’s 78-mile range on a full charge. When I need to go to Los Angeles, I can borrow my wife’s hybrid.
All this is great, but according to conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, I’m a coward — a “wuss” — for passing up an all-American gas guzzler this time.
“The internal combustion engine means more to freedom, liberty, economic advancement than any electric car ever will! The electric car is the product of cowards. The electric car is the product of people who are afraid to go outside and live,” he said in a 2012 radio show titled “Electric Cars and the Wussification of America.”
The car I leased is actually an all-American product — a Ford Focus Electric built on the same production line in Wayne, MI, as the gas-powered versions. It is quiet and smooth riding with exceptional pickup thanks to the physics of electric motors. Henry Ford would be proud.
I think of myself not as a coward, but as a pioneer. After all, this is San Diego, a center of innovation, not of backward-looking nostalgia.
San Diego ranks among the top five metro areas in electric-car registrations, thanks to open-minded residents, the help of the Center for Sustainable Energy and the State of California’s encouragement. Our utility, San Diego Gas & Electric, provides special rates for electric-vehicle owners, and much of the power comes from renewable resources, ensuring that the energy going into an electric car is clean.
So I’m saving time, using clean energy and staying on the cutting edge of technology. And it’s fun to out-accelerate a gas-guzzling, V-8-powered SUV.
Chris Jennewein is editor and publisher of Times of San Diego. His previous car was a Honda Civic Hybrid.
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