Category Archives: Plug In Hybrid Electric Vehicles

The Rise Of The Stealth Plug-In (aka, The Day Plug-In Vehicles Went Mainstream)

Originally published on CleanTechnica

It hit me for the first time on the highway driving into the middle of a tornado of traffic in the heart of Los Angeles. Cars cluttered the highway in no intelligible pattern, aimed in every direction except with the flow of traffic, the glare of brake lights turning the masses of metal into a blurred mess that felt more like hell than a highway.

To make the mess more manageable — I’ve convinced my kids that counting plug-in cars on the highway is a game. In Southern California, it’s actually quite entertaining since there’s a sufficient quantity of them to keep us on our toes while still not so common as to overwhelm us … but that’s starting to change.

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“Count the Plugins”

Early trips down to my in-laws house (some 78 miles away and 1.5 to 4 hours away, depending on traffic) used to net game-winning scores in the teens … just a handful of years ago. Then we hit a milestone at 50 last year, which we were extremely proud of … then, on our recent trip, we hit 68, but we knew there were more out there that we just couldn’t identify.

We would catch the occasional Mercedes B-Class Electric, a Ford C-Max Energi or Ford Fusion Energi, and even the occasional Fiat 500e, but we knew tons were slipping by unnoticed. We could feel them near us, almost teasing us as they zoomed by unnoticed. Even the new Chevy Volt looks a bit mainstream, and the new Bolt has been wrapped in an urban camouflage so well done that it looks like a gasmobile.

I know, I know … it’s just a game Kyle, calm down. But it’s not. This is a critical point in the journey towards electrifying transportation … the point where plug-in vehicles go mainstream. This is the point where my former co-worker, who’s now driving 2 hours each way to work, started with a Prius but then upgraded to a Volt … because it just makes sense. This is the point where people are switching to the technology en masse because it’s simply better on just about every level.

This is huge, folks.

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The Will of the Masses

When my wife and I bought our first electric car (for her), my only request was that she would pick an electric car … or at least a plug-in hybrid. There were ~12 EVs to choose from, but only a handful that really met our criteria. We still had our half-gasmobile Prius hybrid for longer trips, so it just needed to get her to work and back for a daily average of no more than 30 miles — well within the range of most ~84 mile range EVs.

After spending several hours looking over pictures of cars and specs online, we narrowed it down to the BMW i3 and the Mercedes B-Class ED (now called the B250e). She eventually went with the B-Class because it didn’t look like an electric vehicle. The i3 stands out like a natural gas–fired power plant operating in the middle of a field of solar panels, and the Nissan LEAF isn’t much better (though, that may be changing soon).

The experience of purchasing the B-Class opened my eyes to the fact that not everyone will drive an EV just because it’s better, safer, and cheaper to operate — some people most people just want a “normal” looking car.

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You Guys Rock!

More than anything, I just wanted to take a minute to celebrate this moment because it wouldn’t have happened without you. You care about electric cars, are passionate about them, and are probably going to be a resource for friends and neighbors as they first discover electric cars (have you heard of this Tesla thing? …yeah, Chris, I’m talking about you). You will help them consider their first plug-in vehicle purchase and help with running the numbers (Brian ended up in a white Volt if you were wondering) or try to figure out if solar really is a good deal or if it’s a scam (Melissa was put off by the flood of door-to-door solar salesmen but eventually signed with Vivint).

It is the passion and the wisdom of individual people being passed along and shared like a glass of cold orange juice on a warm summer afternoon that brought this transformation to life. So, I just wanted to say thanks … and congratulations.

Thanks for being ambassadors for clean technology in your world, to your friends, and to your family.

I have a confession to make, though. It didn’t happen on any particular day. But it did happen. It is happening. And I’m going to kick some serious butt on our next round of “count the plug-ins” because I can see the plug-ins no matter how much camouflage they put on to trick those mainstream buyers that have no idea how long those of us who have been in the know have been waiting for this moment.

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