I feel the earth move under my feet… but it’s not an earthquake. The earth is shaking because I did something a few days ago that I haven’t done since 1975. It was in early 1975 that I last purchased a brand new car. In 1975 I lived in Melbourne Florida and I still had the car I owned when I graduated from high school in 1971. It was a beautiful 1966 Chevrolet Impala convertible.
This isn’t a picture of MY Impala, but it looked just like it.
However, it did need some work. If I remember correctly it needed brakes (badly) and the engine was using oil and it smoked a bit. I did not mistreat this car in spite of it’s muscle-car image, but cars in those days didn’t last as long as they do now. I know it didn’t have 100,000 miles on the odometer. The previous year the price of a gallon of gas went from 32¢ to over $1.00, and that Impala was not a fuel efficient car. It had a 396 cubic inch engine (6.5 liters in today’s talk) and got less than 10 miles per gallon in the city, about 11 or 12 mpg on the highway. I was just a poor boy trying to make ends meet and many times in 1973-1975 I spent my only day off waiting in line to purchase gas. Toyota, Mazda, Honda, and a few other Japanese car makers had begun flooding the US with small, fuel efficient cars, and the US automakers began cranking out their first small, fuel efficient sub compacts. Ford had their infamous Pinto, Dodge had their Colt (a rebranded Mitsubishi), AMC had the Gremlin and Chevrolet had the Vega. I remember that the Ford Pinto had it’s gas tank strategically located just behind the differential, and when they got rear-ended, it drove the gas tank into the differential, rupturing the tank resulting in a fire.
If you are unaware of the story of exploding Pintos, click the above picture, but my aim isn’t to besmirch the reputation of the Pinto (besides, it’s already besmirched), I’m just letting you know the compact car market in 1975.
So, after giving it a great deal of amount of thought, I decided to trade the Impala for a brand new 1975 Chevrolet Vega.
Again, this is not a picture of MY ’75 Vega, but mine looked just like this.
In 1975, not all cars had air-conditioning, and neither did my new Vega. As far as quality goes, my Vega wasn’t a bad car. There had been warping problems with the aluminum block/head on the earlier Vega models, but by 1975 they had been resolved and the 4 cylinder engine was actually a workhorse. Even though Chevrolet killed the Vega in 1977, this engine would go on to power the Chevette for many years to come. When I bought this car I actually lived in Indian Harbor Beach Florida, just 2 blocks from the ocean and that salt water mist/haze from the ocean covered my car all the time, thus 6 months after I bought this car, rust has already broken out around the windshield trim and on the fenders.
Again, not MY Vega…
The Chevrolet dealer where I purchased the Vega was Jim Rathman Chevrolet on US 1 in Melbourne. Today that dealership is Rosner Chevrolet, but the owner at the time was former 1960 Indy 500 winner, Jim Rathman. Rathman restored my Impala, and at some point in the future I was in Cocoa Beach Florida during the Orange Jubilee and guess who’s Impala was in the Jubilee parade being driven by Jim Rathman’s son? By that time my Vega was probably in a scarp yard rusting away what little sheet metal was left.
It was probably 1980 or so when I sold that Vega and I couldn’t believe how much it had depreciated. I paid just over $3,000 for that car and the minute I drove it off the lot it’s value was less than $2500. I swore I would never again buy a brand new car, and until 2 weeks ago I held true to that promise.
Now the economics of my relationship with my wife is such that, because she drives to Greenwood every day for work she gets the new car and hands down her car to me. As of 2 weeks ago I was driving a 2004 Ford Explorer with 280,000 miles on the odometer. But those of you who know me know that I have been looking at a plug-in electric for several years. Someone I worked with at Cummins Fuel Systems in 2015 had a Nissan Leaf and it fascinated me. I’ve been looking at them ever since. I’ve mainly focused on the Nissan Leaf because they have been around since 2011 and there were a few of them floating around in the used car world (very few) and their price dropped significantly every year. I am in a place where I can actually afford a car payment and began looking for a used Leaf in earnest a couple weeks ago. But the Chevy Bolt caught my eye and I filled out a new car buyer’s questionnaire on the Sam’s Club web site and within 24 hours I was inundated with Chevy dealers emailing me with quotes. I’ll skip the rest of the details except to say that Brandley Chevrolet offered me an incredible deal (in addition to what was left of the federal & state tax rebates for purchasing an electric vehicle, plus GM’s dealer incentives) with decent financing and a payment I could afford so I drove up to take a look. I returned to Columbus with a brand new 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV. I didn’t trade in the Explorer, so I had to go back to Franklin the next day to pick it up.
Again, this is not my 2020 Chevy Bolt EX, but mine’s just like it.
I’ve had this car for almost a month now and so far I love it. By far, this is my favorite car I’ve ever owned, a distinction that used to belong to my 1969 Olds Cutlass Convertible, I brought this car home and the next day Terry & I took a trip to Louisville, which was about 160 miles round trip. General Motors claims that the range on this plug-in electric is about 260 miles so I had plenty of power left when I got home. I believe that the range of plug-in electrics is it’s biggest limitation so when I bought it, I thought this would be my car for driving to work or around central Indiana and if we wanted to take a trip we would drive Terry’s Ford Edge. But After further driving and research, I’ve determined that there isn’t much of a range limitation at all. With the vast number of quick-charges available around the country, there really isn’t anywhere I can’t go. If I wanted to drive Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark to watch a baseball game, no problem. It’s about 180 miles round trip from my house to the ball park (about 90 miles each way). That’s well within the range of my car, with about 70 miles left over. But if I wanted to spend a little more time in Cincy, there are a half-dozen fast charges located within walking distance of Great American Ballpark (GABP), so I could plug it in and top off the battery during the game for about $5. How about Wrigley Field? Not to worry… it’s 233 miles from my house to Wrigley Field so getting there shouldn’t be a problem, but if I were battling a strong headwind and if I used the air conditioning the entire trip, I would probably want to stop in Lafayette for lunch or a snack, and connect to a DC fast charger near I 65 in Lafayette.
These DC chargers will charge a fully discharged Chevy Bolt in about an hour, so my Bolt would take about 30 minutes to fully recharge. Once I’m at Wrigley Field there are several Electric Vehicle charging stations within walking distance of the ballpark, so I could plug it in to fully charge during the ballgame. Or if I decide to stay overnite and take in a museum or another ballgame, no problem. Most hotels in the area has EV chargers located on premises. The total charge for this trip would be less than $25 using public chargers… with the DC charger in Lafayette being the most expensive at about $7-$8 for a fast charge.
How about thinking even bigger… After watching a couple of YouTube videos about Bolt EV owners taking their car on long trips (one of them was from Vancouver to Los Angeles, just over 2,000 miles,) I decided to research a trip to Daytona Beach, where my family usually spends Thanksgiving. But a problem. There are DC fast charges located strategically along I-65, I-24, I-75, I-10 and I-95 so no matter how I decided to drive to Daytona, I could always find a DC charger which would recharge my car in about 30-45 minutes. Just enough time to grab lunch or dinner. If I drove my EV I estimate I could make the trip for about $100 in charge fees, or less if the chargers were complimentary such as at Hotels. I would estimate that about 20% of Walmart Supercenters have EV chargers, especially in the south and west, and nearly every Chevrolet/GM dealer has a DC fast charger available for use.
Taking a long trip in an EV would require some planning, but it could easily be done and with the proliferation of charge stations, nearly doubling in number ever year) the future is only going to be easier for long distance travel.
Let me explain the chargers, there are 3 different kinds of chargers for the Chevy Bolt EV, Tesla, Nissan Leaf, and other plug-in electrics. The Level 1 charger is a 110 volt charger that plugs into any 110 volt electrical outlet. It is a trickle charger and takes nearly 30 hours to charge a fully depleted battery. For my normal driving that would have been enough, but sometimes I need it charged faster so after a week I bought a 220 volt Level 2 charger from Amazon. It cost less than $300 and required extra wiring to install, since it uses 220 volts. The Level 2 charger will charge a fully depleted battery in about 8 hours.
This is the charger I purchased from Amazon.
I have found that in my normal routine, including at least one trip of 30-40 miles every 3 days, I have to charge it every 3 days for about 4 hours. I have an app on my phone to monitor charging, and if someone disconnects it while it’s charging, the vehicle’s alarm system goes off and I get a call/text on my phone. I can also turn on the heat/AC/heated seats and heated steering wheel using my phone.
So after one month all I can say is I love this car. It’s fun to drive and very, very cheap to operate. The weakness of this car will be spending winter in Indiana, which reduces battery life considerably, and if it’s extremely cold (below 10 degrees) GM recommends I keep the charger plugged in regardless of whether it needs charged, to keep the batteries warm without using energy from the batteries. I’ll try to update this next January after experiencing those conditions, but as of today, I can’t say anything bad about this vehicle… and every time I pass Circle K or other convenience stores, the only time I stop is if I want a Polar Pop. And as gas prices have gone crazy, the more I enjoy passing those gas pumps. I’m not exactly Mr. Green, but I also feel like I’m doing something responsible, driving a vehicle with zero emissions is a bonus!