• Feb 2nd 2011 at 11:56AM
  • 32
While some celebrities (Alyssa Milano) and everyday working folks have plans to buy both a Chevrolet Volt and a Nissan Leaf, our friend Felix Kramer and his wife have done everyone one better by being (as far as we know), the first family with three plug-in vehilces: a Leaf, a Volt and Kramer's long-time converted plug-in Prius. The short version of what this means: "I've felt like we've taken a time machine to the future."

Continuing his on-going efforts to promote plug-in driving, Kramer has written a detailed write-up about the three cars (focusing mostly on the new arrivals) over at his CalCars site. Here are some highlights:

Each car offers subtle clues about its fundamental character. The Volt puts a whole car between the front left electric door and the rear right gasoline door. Inside, the button to flip open the electric door stands out while I have to work to reach the gas-door release, giving the message, "You're not going to be using this very often." The Leaf's charging ports are under a giant door right in the center of the car's nose: "There's nothing going on in here but electricity."


We all know both cars will get better soon. All carmakers will learn from each other. (The savvy ones aren't relying on their customer service operations, but have budgeted for large teams to track down and analyze the tens of thousands of comments and suggestions strewn around online.) The automakers can quickly update some software features. One reason we leased the Volt instead of buying it is our expectation for future hardware improvements in Version 2. The Volt's big challenge is making the car a five-seater.

With sales of these industry-changing vehicles just starting to take off, expect lots more people to experience the same thrill that the Kramers have been able to already.

[Source: CalCars]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      So in total, with two long road trips included in over 2000 miles of driving, his Volt has averaged 68.1 MPG. In local driving, he's averaged 114.1 MPG. His buddy, driving locally, is at 205 MPG.
      To all those harping about the Volt's gas mode mileage, please remember that "your mileage will vary" really, really matters here. I bet there are folks who will work to get their Volts over 300 MPG or more lifetime average, and others who will never crack three figures. Before you buy this car you need to think long and hard about how you are going to use it.
      That said, having driven that grade to Tahoe, I'm actually shocked he got as good as 38 MPG. That's a wicked climb.
        • 4 Years Ago
        When you include the electric miles, MPG will get inflated. Without reporting kWh consumption, the MPG number is a hoax.
        • 4 Years Ago
        That's like saying I get 234 MPG on ethanol without mentioning 90% of the energy came from gasoline (E10 gas).
        Chriz the Cool
        • 4 Years Ago
        Whats a Seawolf?
        • 4 Years Ago
        No one said these mpg figures represented efficiency. They are useful for calculating about how much gas you might use. So they're not a hoax, you're just misinterpreting them.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Usb, probably everyone on this forum understands that these cars use electricity. However, buying and using less oil is an important goal of these cars, and that was what I was discussing. Yes, energy will still be consumed (and costs acquired) in the form of electricity, but MPG is just that, the amount of miles you drive while using a gallon of gas. MPG is not a measure of energy consumed. That is an entirely different metric, and one I didn't use, thus my statement of the MPG is entirely correct. I wasn't discussing total energy use or cost, just MPG. If a reader doesn't understand that plug ins use electricity then they need to be educated, but I'm not going to do it while discussing MPG.
      • 4 Years Ago
      To reduce their impact, they should consider selling the plug-in-prius to someone who will use it daily. I can't imagine any circumstance where owning more than one electric car per person makes any sense. It certainly is a mixed message from an environmental aspect.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'm of mixed opinion here. Anything to increase demand for EV's will only spur more of them coming down the pipeline next year.
        • 4 Years Ago
        They might have a teenager in the house.
        • 4 Years Ago
        1. The converted Prius and the Volt are Long range (Leaf is not)
        meaning there may be times they both need a long range vehicle.
        2. see Doug's comment.
        3. The converted Prius may still have "sentimental" value since that was one of the very first Prius' to get converted.

        • 4 Years Ago
        The total environmental impact of an electric vehicle is likely to be a lot less than a petrol car.
        The impact of the build is perhaps similar, as the large battery may be approximately offset by the much greater complexity of the ICE motor, exhaust system and so on, all complicated parts sometimes needing exotic materials.
        The obvious saving is on the petrol over the vehicle's lifetime, but also important is the much reduced maintenance and consequent low need for replacement parts.
        Smith electric put maintenance on their trucks as saving perhaps 75% or so, which all means less parts other than consumables like tyres.
        This means that the lifetime of electric vehicles should be almost indefinite, with the bodywork or perhaps suspension as the likeliest to eventually cause their scrapping.
        Having one car in then family is fine for those who do not need to sometimes go to multiple destinations at the same time, and in the case of electric vehicles rarely need more range.
        It is not really fair though to imagine that every family can simply have one car, or compare the environmental impact as though the second car did not give any extra utility.
        Having two cars which last twice as long is not a bad substitute for reducing impact to fairly comparable levels to only running one though.
        • 4 Years Ago
        He can drive one while the other charges!
        • 4 Years Ago
        I don't know if electric cars are more or less environmentally costly to build. Likely the Volt has a larger environmental footprint to manufacture than it's gas cousin the Cruse. But electric cars are more expensive, so they certainly represent a higher opportunity cost. Buying a car not getting utility from it is never an environmentally sound choice. I premised my comment that reducing their impact may be desirable for them. I'm guessing that it is. I could be wrong.

        If both people need often need long range, then perhaps the Nissan Leaf is a poor choice for them, and they could sell that if reducing environmental impact is a concern of theirs. Or if a third car is desired for long range travel, but is only used occasionally, a gas powered third car (hybrid or not) would be a more environmentally sound choice. Heresy, I know.

        Letting a teen drive the Prius is a good option too.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Thanks for all the interesting comments! We'll be looking at those 0-30 acceleration times, etc.

      As for having three cars, it's worse than that. Until December 22, my family had the 2004 Prius (converted 2006) with 98K miles on it, including many pilgrimages up and down the West Coast to show it, give rides to celebrities and opinion-leaders and a flight (!) to Washington DC in 2006 (links from http://www.calcars.org/photos.html ). And we had a 2007 Camry with 22K miles on it.

      Then we got the Volt, and January 24 the Leaf. Now we (agonizingly) have four. I think we have a buyer for the Camry. And even though, as 19.Dan said, we're sentimental about the Prius, it's so much better to drive a real mass-produced plug-in car. We're seeing if we can find an institution or museum to take it, and if not, we'll soon sell it to someone who wants a plug-in Prius now instead of in 2012.
      Then we'll be back to two cars. If we relocate to a place near good mass-transit and car-sharing, we'd love to get down to one.

      One more point, on the cost to build cars: most vehicles' "embedded energy" is about 15% of the total used over their lifetime. But as cars get more efficient, that number will increase! This is an argument for our "Big Fix" campaign http://www.calcars.org/ice-conversions.html to help companies create an industry converting internal combustion vehicles to EV and PHEV, rather than crush them.
      -- Felix Kramer, Founder, CalCars.org
        • 4 Years Ago
        Thanks for the update Felix, and keep us informed about quotidian life with plug ins. A lot of us here are just a teensy bit jealous of you!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Congrats and thanks Felix for continuing to spread the plug-in EV awareness message :)
      • 4 Years Ago
      From the link given above:
      'We started each of the four drives with a full battery (boosting our average), then had major uphill drives (reducing MPG). The combined 43.2MPG is about what a second- or third-generation Prius gets on that route. (We expect the Gen2 Volt will improve its long-distance "charge-depleted" driving performance, which wasn't the top priority in GM's four-year push to meet the Volt's promised delivery date.) This proves a PHEV's best selling point: this one car can drive all-electric most of the time at its base location, then go any distance worry-free with good fuel economy, and again drive entirely electrically at its destination.'

      Fair enough.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It's not even atkinson cycle engine, which is a pretty obvious move for a range extender!
        If you bumped the engine up to a 2L Atkinson cycle engine, you could let it do more of the work on the highway, which should give you ~45mpg in CS mode. Therefore not need as much battery capacity or offer 20, 30 or 40 mile EV ranges.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Having a better range extender will not alter the battery needed for CD mode. The range extender is off in CD mode, so its performance is not important.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Kudos to the Kramer household, long-time plug-in electric advocates and pioneers, but not the first three plug-in family. Chad Schwitters got there first: http://www.pluginamerica.org/drivers-seat/welcome-aboard-chad

      My wife and I only have two plug-ins, but there are no tailpipes involved. Not everyone can get by without a gas engine, but we don't even think in MPG any more. I do occasionally find myself in the odd position of driving a pure electric vehicle to the gas station to fill the can for our chainsaw.
      • 4 Years Ago
      We just returned from our first "road trip" with our new Volt. We completed about 325 miles from our last full charge, so the first 37 were full EV, and after that it was all on the ICE, and we averaged 41 mpg over all those "gas miles."

      We are still at a "lifetime average" mpg of 115 mpg, since most of our earlier 2 weeks of Volt driving was virtually ALL in full EV mode.

      And it will be several weeks before we again journey beyond the 37-41 mile EV range we have been regularly getting, so our lifetime average will get back towards 200 mpg.

      Towards the end of this month OUR Nissan LEAF arrives and that will also cut into some of our middle distance ICE activity of the Volt...giving us a "family mpg" that will see VERY little fuel use recorded.

      I would note also that both our house and Felix's home are fully solar panel equipped so charging our EVs simply draws from power we have already contributed to the "grid."
      • 4 Years Ago
      Well, I have 4. A Ford Ranger EV, a converted Ford Festiva, an electric scooter, and an electric bike (I also had an electric Razor scooter, but sold it). I also know a couple people that have 3 (or more) electric cars (mostly conversions). So I would say, not the first.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I have a converted Prius, E-scooter, and an E-Bike also... but I dont count the scooter or bike as vehicles. They are a form of transportation... but not cars.

        I would say I have one converted Prius vs. his converted Prius + his Leaf + his Volt.
        Apples to apples.
      • 4 Years Ago
      What a puff piece!
        • 8 Months Ago
        OK, it takes all kinds I guess. I don't have a problem with it if it's what you like. I like things a little more concrete. I question if it's that large a part of the audience that's into puff. I guess they need filler.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Human interest stories are one of the basic journalism tenets.

        You can criticize it as being "puff", but for a large part of the audience it's pleasing to read about the human connection to the cars we share an interest in.
      • 4 Years Ago
      From a Kramer post on the Volt forum:
      'Most reports show the Volt at 0-60 around 9, the Leaf around 10. I’d love to see timings for –30, which is more relevant more of the time. I live 60 miles from Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, where I’ve been to the (green car) Michelin Challenge Bibendum. If anyone wants to arrange a trial, we’ll bring the cars!'

      I reckon a lot of people here would like to see that drag race!
        • 4 Years Ago
        You're in luck, Edmunds has those numbers:

        Volt (EV / range extender on) / Leaf
        0-30: 3.4 / 3.6 / 3.4
        0-45: 5.8 / 5.8 / 6.0
        0-60: 9.2 / 9.0 / 10.0
        0-75: 14.1 / 13.2 / 16.0
        1/4 mi: 16.8@81.5 / 16.6@85.5 / 17.3@77.8
        0-60*: 8.8 / 8.6 / 9.6

        * 0-60 w/1ft rollout

        None of these specs are surprising given that the Volt has about a 20% power / weight ratio advantage on the Leaf.

        If Nissan can get 100 kW of power in the next gen Leaf while maintaining the same weight performance should be the same. I suspect that Nissan played it very conservatively with the specs to keep things easy on the battery.

        • 4 Years Ago
        Here are some test results from Motor Trend. Interestingly, the Chevy Volt is not as great at 0-30 as I would have thought - just about on par with a typical 4-cylinder sedan today (Couldn't find full Leaf times). And it really starts running out of steam (electrons?) over 70 mph when in electric-only mode. Still, the Volts numbers are more than enough for me to stop sending my hard earned money overseas!

        Chevy Volt
        (first number is electric only, second is electric/gas combo)

        0-30 3.0; 3.2
        0-40 4.5; 4.6
        0-50 6.4; 6.4
        0-60 8.8; 8.7
        0-70 16.0; 14.5
        0-80 21.3; 18.3
        0-90 29.8; 23.0

        4 Cylinder, 190 HP, Honda Accord:

        0-30 3.2 sec
        0-40 4.6
        0-50 6.4
        0-60 8.6
        0-70 11.1
        0-80 14.7
        0-90 18.9

        V-6 Honda Accord

        0-30 2.4 sec
        0-40 3.5
        0-50 4.9
        0-60 6.5
        0-70 8.4
        0-80 11.2
        0-90 13.9

        V6, 312 HP Camaro (18/29 mpg):

        0-30 2.2
        0-40 3.2
        0-50 4.6
        0-60 6.1
        0-70 7.7
        0-80 9.9

        For a near 'super car' for the masses:

        Subaru WRX STI

        0-30 1.4
        0-40 2.5
        0-50 3.5
        0-60 5.0
        0-70 6.7
        0-80 8.6
        0-90 11.2

        • 4 Years Ago
        In a post by Boomer, he said that the Feb edition of Road and Track came up with these figures:
        ............LEAF Volt
        0-10mph:..0.7 sec 0.8 sec
        0-20:.....1.8 ..1.9
        0-30:.....3.0 ..3.1
        0-40:.....4.6 ..4.6
        0-50:.....6.7.. 6.4
        0-60:.....9.4 ..8.8
        0-70:.....13.1 ..11.7
        0-80:.....17.8 ..15.6
        0-90:.....24.7 ..20.6
        0-100:.....NA ..28.1

        1/4 mile: 17.2 ..16.8

      • 4 Years Ago
      Well it would be nice to have that kind of money.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It is a lot of money, no doubt, but both these cars together still cost less then a lot of the BMW, Mercedes, and Cadillac SUVs and sedans you see every other jackass in the Bay Area driving to work. Expensive, but comparatively money well spent I think.
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