If you’re in the market for an electric car one of the biggest decisions to make after you’ve decided to buy a plug-in vehicle is which one to choose.
For one family in California, however the choice was far easier: Get one of each.
And with good reason. Ten years ago marketing strategist and communicator Felix Kramer founded the CalCars initiative, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit group made up of everyone from entrepreneurs, engineers, environmentalists and consumers.
Charging socket on 2007 Toyota Prius plug-in conversion
Its goal for the past decade? To work on public policy and technology development, using consumer demands to help encourage the uptake and commercialization of plug-in vehicles.
During that time, and well before Toyota expressed an interest in providing a plug-in version of its popular Prius hybrid, CalCar members designed, tested and built the very first converted plug-in Prius to belong to a non-technical consumer.
The year was 2006. The car’s owner? Felix Kramer.
Since then, hundreds of Prius owners worldwide have followed CalCars lead, converting their own Prius to plug-in hybrids and illustrating a real and viable demand for plug-in vehicles. In fact, this author’s own plug-in Prius conversion would never have happened without the CalCars initiative.
Alongside the enthusiastic home-converters, a whole new industry sprung up offering professional conversion to anyone with enough money to do so.
With such an impressive resume in the world of plug-in vehicles it was almost a foregone conclusion that one of the new plug-in vehicles now on the market would make it to Felix’s driveway.
2011 Chevrolet Volt test drive, Michigan, October 2010
The 2011 Chevrolet Volt was first to arrive on December 22 last year. A little over a month later, the family’s 2011 Nissan LEAF arrived.
While Felix Kramer and his family are not the only people to order both a 2011 Nissan LEAF and 2011 Chevrolet Volt, they are the first customers to receive both vehicles.
“I’ve felt like we’ve taken a time machine to the future”, writes Kramer in an email message to the calcars.org mailing list. “I thought’d I’d be ready for this moment. But now that it’s really here, it’s far better than I ever imagined”
Felix Kramer and His Volt
Since taking ownership of the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, Kramer and his wife Rochelle Lefkowitz have driven a total of 2,281 miles. In that time, their Volt has averaged only 68.1 MPG in fuel economy, but this down to two long-distance trips of around 240 miles each where the Volt was not charged during the trip.
The 2011 Nissan LEAF was driven 164 miles in its first four days with the family. But Kramer tells us that his family are already preferring the LEAF as their main vehicle, thanks to its rear view camera and larger range per charge.Kramer also comments that the EPA ratings which caused controversy last year could even be bettered in the real world.
“The Leaf is Reassuringly predictable: With 80-100 miles of juice, most of the time, we don’t think about range; we just drive around and charge it at night”.
As for all-electric Volt range? Kramer speaks positively of the plug-in hybrid: “Many of our bay Area trips in the Volt have exceeded the car’s typical 35-40 mile all-electric range -- and we’ve used our portable charging connector at a destination only once”
Don’t confuse Kramer’s verdict with overly-rosy enthusiast's praise. Kramer and his family have talked of several areas of disappointment with both cars, including the way in which both cars communicate their state-of-charge to the user.
Also taking criticism were both car’s smartphone applications, which Kramer commented “need major overhauls and quicker refresh”
Kramer has promised to keep us updated with his experiences over the coming months, including a more in-depth comparison between his entire plug-in fleet.
Do you have more than one plug-in vehicle? What do you have, and what prompted your choices? Don’t forget to tell us in the Comments below.