Tuesday, December 11, 2012

So, what do you think is the best bang for your buck?

Is what a friend asked me today. I answered the Tesla model S 60 Kw if you have 59,000 to spend! Then I told him the Nissan Leaf. So I dropped off my kid from school and went on the weekly grocery store run (my turn)... and I started thinking....
My three brain cells came up with a few different scenarios but I realized it really is all up to the person buying, which in itself showed me why the green car market is all over the place. So I took a step back and analyzed the situation. Now bare with me... these are just my opinions and observations... but like I tell my wife constantly... "honey you know I am always right."  
Lets start by breaking this up into three categories:

1. All electric
2. Hybrid plugin
3. Hybrid

For this exercise I will remove #3 from the equation. Why? cause I think electricity is the future of transportation, and the plugins unlike the regular hybrids do have their gas engines but this is where the comparison stops because the Plugins still use electricity for more than 50% of their driving. Now I will have to  say thanks to the Prius, and Insight (lets not forget the original 2 door Honda Insight... I predict that this car will become a collectors item in the future.. heck I even want one!) that laid the path to where we are... but I really only consider these cars extreme gas savers. Either case they are good gas   sipping cars, but I think we have moved past that and Toyota and Honda should look into giving their hybrids much more electric range (above 20 miles per charge please) than they currently have. I go deeper into this further down the article.
The great thing is that these Plugin Hybrids can give one great all electric milage with use of very little fuel. Example: Jay Leno has driven (His Chevy Volt) around 11,000 miles with the original tank of gas! that is pretty awesome. Lastly, I will also remove the compliance cars, like Fiat 500e, Honda Fit E, Chevy Spark EV, etc. since you can only get them in one maybe two states. I am also taking out the two seat cars, since I am relating to families of 5 (that is what I have and my friend that posed the question).


So lets start with 'I just want to buy all electric'. Here we have a few cars:

(click on the name of the car to take you to their site)

1. Tesla Model S $52,000 - $96,000
                  A. 45 kw (150 miles per charge)
                  B. 60 Kw (230 miles per charge, EPA 208 miles)
                  C. 85 Kw (300 miles per charge, EPA 265 miles) Record to date is 432 miles per charge.

2. Nissan Leaf $36,050 and up.
                  A. 2012 model EPA 73 miles per charge
                  B. 2013 model EPA 83 miles per charge (estimated, in dealers March 2013)

3. Ford Focus EV $39,995 and up.
                  A. 2013 EPA 76 miles per charge

4. Mitsubishi i $30,825 and up.
                  A. 2013 EPA 62 miles per charge

 5. Coda Sedan $38,145 and up.
                  A. 2012 EPA 88 miles per charge  

I have been fortunate enough to sit in all these car except the Coda. Let me start by saying that I am glad the world is starting to see the potential in electric cars... unfortunately the price is still up there. I am hoping that eventually with volume the battery cost, thus the car cost, will diminish, but that is all in the future. Lets talk about today.
First, you all know how I feel about the Tesla. If she where a human we would have little Tesla's shocking each other in the backyard. But would you consider the Tesla 'best bang for your buck'? As my old Mercedes mechanic from Albania used to say... insert heavy accent here "Yes and No..." Thanks that cleared it up!

I believe that 'Yes' it is if you compare it to the other cars in its class. On fuel burn alone you are saving thousands! Then factor in the very low maintenance... and you begin to see why BMW, Mercedes, Audi, etc. are looking in the rear view mirror for the Tesla Model S fast approaching.
As for 'is it best bang for your buck' for the average person... No. Sadly no official word on leasing so you are going to have to fork up some serious cash even for the entry level.

I will skip ahead (yeah I kind off gave it away here) to the Mitsubishi i. Soooo I saw this car at the auto show.... first impressions... Citroen 2CV electric golf cart. Sorry folks but for 30K it's a no go for me, even with a great lease. It did not feel, nor look like a 'real' car. This is where I have to jump in and say to all manufactures out there... there is no need to make it look like an 'electric' car... everyone 'understands' what a car should look like. It is okay to give it your tweaks like the Leaf, but lets not go so overboard that it turns people away cause it is just too different.

Coda... oh... Coda. Backed up by Mr. Buffet himself yet only able to achieve a 2 star crash rating. This  electric car is as blah as it gets... now I know what I said above.... but Coda took this to the extreme! Even if it was a gas car it would be Blah and at $38,145 I want a little bit of bling! Sorry Mr. Buffet this car might make you cash, especially in China... but it is competing against some much better looking cars here in the US. For me 10 miles more range than my competitors is not enough to justify putting down the same amount of cash.    

And now we are left to the two possible 'Best bang for your buck (electric)" The Nissan Leaf and the Ford Focus EV. Ford offers slightly greater range (76 vs 73 of the Leaf) and more power (107 Kw motor vs 80 Kw of the Leaf). It is also a bit more efficient, but it is also close to $4000 more dollars! Heck everyone likes quick acceleration but for 4K more... I don't think so. One thing though... I think it is a much better looking car. Leaf looks bulky compared to the 'lets go' stance of the Ford. That said Ford quality is much much better than previous years which is a good thing, and as for Nissan quality it has always been great. If you want to justify buying American then the Ford might be for you, but remember that the 2013 Nissan Leaf will be made in Tennessee by Americans (sure profit goes overseas) but jobs stay here.
Throw in 3K down $219 per month for 3 years on the Leaf, and you got yourself a deal. Also note that they will most likely lower the 2012 price dramatically when the 2013's come out. I have heard off leasing for the 2012 models down to $139 per month!
So as you have guessed by now, in my opinion the Nissan Leaf is the 'Best bang for your buck (electric)'   

Hybrid plugin

Now lets say you do around 75% of your driving under 40 miles, 15% 50 to 90 miles and 10% over 100 miles. Well, here you have to go Hybrid plugin (Again even though Tesla can accomplish this range, I will not include it because of price) Here we have a nice lot to choose from, but I am bothered by something... I am a strong believer that you either walk in or stay out... but for the love of Pete don't hover in the door frame letting out the A/C! What I mean is why in the hell is the plug in range on some of these cars so low. It is so low on some (Ford Fusion Hybrid (not plugin) only does 1 mile electric) that it baffles my mind why they even went there in the first place!

Anyway, like I was saying...  there are a few other plugin Hybrids on the market, example the 11 mile (Toyota Prius) or 13 mile (Honda Accord) range electric only... Well, these do not count in my book as plugin. Just cause you have a plug does not justify putting you in the same ring as the 20+ miles electric range plug ins out there. I will have to say that they do show some impressive mpge numbers.

So I am going to push the miles traveled electric to a minimum of 20. Why cause it just chaps my hide when car manufactures are spending tons of money on testing the water... it might be cold folks but don't be chicken and just jump in! If I was not in a better mood I might push that number up to 30! But we will leave it at 20.
So now that I have set my parameters we have the following:

(click on the name of the car to take you to their site)

1. Ford C-Max Energi $33,745
                 A. EPA 21 miles electric, 100 mpge 

2. Ford Fusion Energi $40,345 Estimate
                 A. EPA 20 miles electric, 100 mpge (estimate) *

3. Chevy Volt $39,935
                 A. EPA 38 miles electric, 98 mpge

4. Fisker Karma $96,900
                 A. EPA 50 miles electric, 54mpge

Again, even though it is the sexiest of all the 'green' cars out there the Fisker Karma is waaaay out of the price range. What a beautiful car.

So now we move to the Ford C-Max Energi. This little car looks like a really good contender, especially with the $3750 tax rebate. Do I like it? Yes. Would I buy one? Yes, but only if I wanted a smaller hatchback. But remember this is me we are talking about! So I rather go all electric with the Nissan Leaf and save about 2 grand (for the charger at my house) and never use gas again! Now, I know Nissan Leaf owners will kill me for this, but if Ford stop listening to the suits they would make that sucker go 40 miles per charge, and now you have a potential Leaf killer.

I digress... Now we have the last two of the bunch The Volt and the Fusion Energi.... Here is how Ford Fusion Energy and Volt stack up. First we have size, Volt has only four seats and a samller hatch back than the Fusion. The Fusion has five seats and it is a midsize car. Again someone call Chevy and tell them they are missing the fifth seat! Man I just want to strangle the person that made this huge mistake. If the Volt was a five seat car, I can guaranty they would be selling many more of them... The reasoning behind that decision really confuses me. But hey! If you are single, or married with up to two kids (max) you are just fine! But as always my family of five does not fit, and neither does my friends.

Range... Volt is at 38 miles electric, Fusion is estimated at 20 miles electric. Now 20 miles is an estimate.  Fusion is on the fence until the real numbers come in. I have also heard 15 miles electric, but if the 100 mpge comes in true then I would venture to guess around 20 miles electric range. If they can hit that number then I would be happy, not ecstatic... especially with that huge trunk... come on ford! Why can't you bring it up to 30 miles electric... let me tell you I would seriously (as in top of my list) look at this car if I was in the market for a Hybrid plugin.

Price... Close to $40,000 for both But and this is a big But... Volt gets $7,500 tax rebate, the Fusion $3,750. So the Volt will cost you $32,500 and the Fusion Energi $36,250 or roughly a $3,750 difference. So is a bigger car with one extra seat worth 3K more than the Volt. If you have a family of five like mua... then that is a big yes!

So what is the 'best bang for your buck' in the Hybrid plugin cars?

If size does not matter the Ford C-Max Energi wins. If size does matter then the Fusion beats out the Volt cause of the fifth seat, and its just a bigger, more comfortable car (well built I might add). If you don't need that fifth seat then the Volt wins hands down.

It really comes down to who you are, how you drive, and how big is your family. One thing that I have to mention... We all have to add one extra cost that every one of these cars should have... the 240 plug you need to instal in the garage. Here you are looking at around $2000. You could be lucky though and already have a 240 in the garage (same plug that washer and dryer run from). Here is a link to the HomeDepot chargers. Lastly, you could keep it a 110 but then it will take a very, very long time to charge. Either way get out there and make your next car a green one. Key here is that your choice will really make a difference in the world, sure... a small one... but they add up.

Happy motoring, and please don't text and drive.

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