PLUG OK license plate
Just Published: "Charged Up & Ready to Roll" from Plug In America
Feb 24, 2012 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
Want more? Become a subscriber to CalCars-News:

Plug In America's third annual consumer guide to plug-in cars is now out in print and digital media. You're sure to discover treasures in this 64-page glossy magazine-style publication -- table of contents and press release follow. Plus, as a teaser, we include Felix Kramer's chapter describing his thoughts and experience on the Volt, the Leaf, the campaign, and the industry.

A GREAT RESOURCE: Bigger and better this year, it's ideal for EV advocates and for potential buyers of the cars coming to market. It's now priced at only $5 -- so buy a few and give them away! Take them to your local car dealer and sell them a few to give to likely customers. Promote bulk orders! All at­yTJfMo .

Join Plug In America and get a free digital copy to download (20MB): carry it around on your tablet, ebook, or ultrabook so you can whip it out anytime....

In addition to the table of contents described in the press release that follows, it's notable that eight major automakers are among the 21 advertisers. And we promise that the five pages of resources will introduce you to info sources you've never seen before -- up-to-date, including smartphone apps to download and Twitter handles to follow.)


Plug In America, which has led the nation's effort to speed adoption of plug-in vehicles since 2005, has released its third annual consumer handbook, "Charged Up & Ready to Roll: The Definitive Guide to Plug-in Electric Vehicles." A full table of contents is below and full access to the Guide is available for media by contacting Zan Dubin Scott .

Print copies of the Guide are available for $5 plus shipping on Plug In America's website:­yTJfMo . Digital copies are free with a Plug In America membership ($25 or more).

Says Plug In America president Chad Schwitters: "Plug In America's 2012 version of "Charged Up and Ready to Roll," tells you, often in first-hand accounts from owners, how to determine fuel savings, what cars are available, incentives, charging -- everything you need to become another plug-in owner wondering why everybody doesn't drive one of these."


  • 5 Welcome by Dan Davids
  • 6 The Big Pushback by Chris Paine: The director of "Who Killed the Electric Car?" and "Revenge of the Electric Car" speaks out on the state of the industry.
  • 8 Reflecting on Success by Felix Kramer: EV driver and advocate Felix Kramer offers his thoughts on the industry and where this year might take us. [SEE TEXT BELOW]
  • 12 2012 EV Lineup: More EVs will hit the road this year. We give you the highlights.
  • 20 Cutting Through Social Media Noise by Remy Tennant: Why social media is good for EVs and what consumers should watch out for.
  • 24 Inside Garage 2.0: Luscious Garage redefines your friendly neighborhood auto shop.
  • 27 Get Your Charge: These ideas will have you headed in the right charging direction.
  • 29 Curing Range Anxiety by Paul Scott: Popular ways to improve your driving so you can extend your range.
  • 30 Your New Electric Bill by Tom Moloughney: Calculate the impact of your EV on your electricity bill.
  • 34 A Vet for Green Jobs by Catherine Pickavet: Back from Iraq, Retired Marine Sergeant Jarom Vahai gets vets working to get us off oil.
  • 36 From Active to Green Duty by Tim Goodrich: The true cost of filling up with gas and what one veteran chose to do about it.
  • 40 What's Up With Norway? by Leif Richard Bones Egge: Two decades of effort pay off as an electric car outsells its gasoline competition.
  • 44 E-Trikes for the Masses: by Shannon Arvizu, PhD: A new global EV movement is dedicated to building an electric future in places like the Philippines.
  • 54 National Plug In Day by Catherine Pickavet: Thousands descended on sites throughout the country last fall to celebrate electric cars.


  • 46 Roadster Rules by Brian Town
  • 48 My LEAF's First 15K by Jim Hamilton
  • 49 High-tech Money Savings by Andrew and Amy Sinclair
  • 50 Canadian Conversion by Andrew Bell
  • 51 A Volt That Fits by Jules Mitchell
  • 52 The 200K Runner by Jeff Finn
  • 55 Electric Cowboys by Harlan Flagg
  • 38 Incentives
  • 57 Glossary
  • 59 Resources

Plug In America is leading the nation's plug-in vehicle movement. The nonprofit organization works to accelerate the shift to plug-in vehicles powered by clean, affordable, domestic electricity to reduce our nation's dependence on petroleum and improve the global environment. We drive electric. You can, too.


CHAPTER BY FELIX KRAMER: "Reflecting on Success"


One year ago, the Nissan LEAF and the Chevrolet Volt reached dealer showrooms. How did this near-miracle come about? How good are the cars? And what's next for electric vehicles?

Beginning in 1996, after an entire century when cars meant oil, automakers sold and leased several thousand EVs. Chris Paine's movie "Who Killed the Electric Car?" tells why they never made it into production. These cars inspired an unprecedented campaign. The Electric Auto Association, Plug In America, the California Cars Initiative, and other groups enlisted allies of every flavor and helped spark the transformation of the auto industry. Paine's sequel, "Revenge of the Electric Car," as well as the book "Plug-In Hybrids, The Cars That Will Recharge America" by Sherry Boschert, tells that success story.

Being a part of this type of success in a grass-roots campaign feels great and fuels aspirations to change the world. But if EVs remain only a niche option in a sea of gas guzzlers, we'll have won the battle but lost the war. Until we get many tens of millions of EVs on the roads, their impact on oil use and climate change will be minimal.

These extraordinary cars won't automatically win in the marketplace. That's where the early owners and drivers come in. Their experiences and stories can help shape future products and markets. They can inspire new buyers, bolster pro-EV public policies, correct misconceptions, and give carmakers invaluable ideas for features and priorities.

My family's choice

I'll never forget December 22, 2010. That day, Andy Frank, the inventor of the modern plug-in hybrid (PHEV), Ron Gremban,'s technology lead, and I were among the first to pick up our Chevy Volts. (Mine was the ninth off the line.)

CAPTION: Ron Gremban and Felix Kramer of along with Dr. Andy Frank, the "father of the plug-in hybrid," celebrated the arrival of their Volts and the achievement of their hopes for mass-market plug-in hybrids at Novato Chevrolet on December 22, 2010. They're holding the GM cable that connects the car to any household outlet. (Photo Credit:

Without the promise of this PHEV, which the company calls an extended range electric vehicle (EREV), industry observers say GM would never have received the federal support that helped it survive and revive. Chevy ads tout the benefits of its "best of both worlds" car: "Electric when you want it. Gas when you need it." That means 35+ miles EV range with full performance, then 300+ miles at 37+ MPG as a hybrid on gasoline.

On January 24, 2011, I picked up our Nissan LEAF. This one's easier to explain: a pure EV that gets 70+ miles at highway speeds. My family (wife Rochelle Lefkowitz and mostly-East Coast son Josh) became one of the first households with both a Volt and a LEAF. Which do we prefer? Rochelle will tell you that's like asking parents which of their children they love best.

The way we use them in the San Francisco Bay Area is telling. We both work at home (offsetting our electric use with rooftop photovoltaics). Because the LEAF is a bit more efficient, with a longer EV range, it's usually first out of the driveway for local trips. After 10 months, our LEAF has logged 5,000 miles. As a two-car family, the much-hyped range anxiety is a non-issue. For tens of millions of households that can easily plug in every night at home, the EV, which was initially considered the second car, is quickly becoming the preferred car -- the first out of the garage. Ours is one of those households.

We drive the Volt when we go out separately or when crossing the Bay for an 85-mile round trip if we know we won't be able to plug in before returning. Five thousand of our 13,000 miles so far have come from 10 round trips to Lake Tahoe. The key takeaway: Prospective EV customers will select vehicle types and desired EV ranges based on their driving patterns and access to plugs where they go.

The EV driving experience

The Tesla Roadster should have ended the caricature of EVs as flimsy, underpowered golf carts, but the myth still permeates our culture. That's why our first reactions (shared by many when we showed the cars) started with a "duh" moment: "These are real cars!" They feel solid, rock-steady, and powerful. Months later, we still haven't gotten over the novelty of driving a plug-in vehicle after decades of ICEs -- especially when we drive by a gas station.

Both cars are triumphs of automotive engineering and design. Electric motors offer full torque instantly, so they offer the pep of a sports car, as well as excellent handling due to the batteries' low centers of gravity. And now we notice the noise of the tires and other cars idling because they're blissfully quiet. Every day, our growing freedom from the fossil fuel economy and from volatile oil prices cheers us as we push the start button.

Can EVs get even better?

As good as these magnificent machines are already, they're still first generation. Their school report cards would read, "needs improvement." Nissan sold almost 20,000 LEAFs worldwide in its first year, while Chevy delivered nearly 9,000 Volts in North America. Second-year sales will more than double, and as production volumes ramp up, the cars will evolve.

They've emerged from an auto industry with a mindset shaped by a century of internal combustion engine technology. Their shortcomings show up most in what Silicon Valley calls "usability." Way more than ICEs, EVs are computers on wheels. They're about as far along as the early Macintosh or Windows 3.0.

It takes time and retooling to change machines. Eventually, the Volt will get an optimized ICE, raising its MPG as a hybrid. The LEAF will get higher amperage (faster) 240V charging and, we hope, backseat headrests that don't block the rear-view mirror. We expect other hardware refinements.

Software can be updated more easily. Owners and drivers have been giving feedback directly to carmakers and publicly at,,, and dozens of other forums. It's an unfortunate measure of their misplaced self-confidence that after 11 months, neither GM nor Nissan had delivered a software upgrade to address obvious shortcomings. My top examples: Both vehicles lack numerical state-of-charge information; Chevy dropped the ball with frustrating links between the radio/volume/display controls; and the LEAF failed to include an automatic reset to show miles driven since the last full charge.

It's an interactive world. Will automakers come to appreciate the contributions of their drivers as sources of information and as promoters of their vehicles? For EVs to reach high market-penetration levels, the transformation now under way in the design, engineering, and production departments calls for a parallel evolution in consumer research, marketing and corporate planning. Companies that devote more attention and resources to their users' experiences will get a great return on that investment.

What could undermine success?

Every EV's higher first costs are now partly offset by a federal tax credit of $2,500-$7,500 (depending on battery capacity). This applies to the first 200,000 EVs built by each manufacturer, so credits will be available for years. This is no gift: It eases the burden of the higher cost of a vehicle that provides broad social benefits, which could help boost volume, thus decreasing prices. Plug-in advocates and drivers may be called on to defend federal (and other state) incentives against efforts to defund them.

Public confusion may begin to dissipate now that GM and Nissan, which initially criticized each others' cars, have realized that the real competition of the LEAF and Volt is the ICE. Now GM is developing EVs and Nissan will produce a plug-in hybrid EV. And though EVs have received top safety ratings, publicity about any accidents could threaten their image as reliable.

CAPTION: Joshua Kramer, Felix Kramer, and Rochelle Lefkowitz in front of their Redwood City, CA, home with their Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF. Their personal fleet also includes a folding bicycle and an adult tricycle. (Photo Credit:

Will your next car plug in?

This year will see more than a dozen new EVs in production, so you can shop now. Plan ahead; waiting lists may remain long. Start with a visit to a showroom and take one for a test drive. Consider connecting with one of the lucky thousands already driving one: Their enthusiasm is based on real-life experience. Find them through an EV dealer or an Electric Auto Association chapter. Try an EV from a car-rental company, car-sharing service, or peer- to-peer car-rental service. ( has numerous plug-in cars available, for example.)

A few SUVs are coming, but you may have to wait longer for a larger EV. Vans and trucks are still a ways off; one-off conversions are expensive, and the companies planning to retrofit pick-ups to EVs will first cater to fleets, not individual consumers. Several automakers are delaying bringing any four-wheel drive EVs to the U.S. for years, thereby forgoing a receptive market.

Don't wait on the sidelines

If you jump in now, the current crop of vehicles is already so good, you won't regret your purchase. If you can afford it, buy sooner with the thought that you might trade up. Low-maintenance EVs will have high resale values, little affected by the much lower cost eight or more years from now if it's necessary to replace batteries. Tempted to wait? There's no better time than now to take the plunge. Like computers and cameras, each EV generation will improve. Don't miss out on years of EV benefits.

Felix Kramer, a San Francisco Bay Area cleantech entrepreneur and advocate, founded The California Cars Initiative ( in 2002.

Copyright 2003-12 California Cars Initiative | Site Map