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The Peninsula and Electric Cars

Part one of two parts describing the state of green cars on the Peninsula.

With our addiction to technology and our love of all things green, it’s no surprise that the Peninsula is a hotbed of activity for electric vehicles.

The in North America to purchase Nissan’s all-electric LEAF was actually an engineer who resides on the Peninsula.

Electric vehicles, or EVs, may not be the end-all environmental solution to climate change and air pollution; they only burn as clean as the driver’s sources of electricity. Luckily, the Peninsula has a much cleaner than many parts of the country that rely heavily on coal, a major contributor of greenhouse gases. And our energy mix will only get cleaner as the state mandates utilities to increase their renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

If you’re interested in going electric, you have many local options: the Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt or even Honda and Toyota’s upcoming plug-in hybrids. But you’re going to have to be patient. On the Peninsula, the demand for EVs is high. But the supply? It hasn’t caught up yet.

Nissan LEAF

Nissan has only released its all-electric car, the LEAF, in one city and six states, including California. Priced at $33,720 before the $7,500 federal tax credit, the hatchback can drive between 62 miles and 138 miles, depending on driving conditions, before its lithium-ion battery needs a charge, the company says.

For both the LEAF and the Chevy Volt, demand far exceeds supply, according to Brendan Dolan, community director at Redwood City’s Boardwalk Auto Center that sells both cars.

The dealership has delivered 110 LEAFs since January, making it the country’s No. 1 LEAF dealership, and there are about 350 people on the waiting list, Dolan said. Want to test drive the LEAF? To deal with energy shortages after Japan’s nuclear crisis, Dolan said, Nissan is putting all its resources towards building cars for sale—not demonstration—so Boardwalk can’t offer you a test drive at this time.

If you want to get on the waiting list for the LEAF, Nissan’s website says that it is only taking reservations from customers who were registered on their website before April 20. Dolan recommends that you make an account on Nissan’s website and then the company will notify you when you can order the car. During the online reservation process, you will choose which local dealer from whom you’ll purchase the car (there are Nissan dealers in Millbrae, Colma and Redwood City).

Chevy Volt

The Chevy Volt is a plug-in hybrid EV. It runs on an electric battery for about 25 miles to 50 miles, depending on driving conditions. When the battery runs out of juice, the car switches to a hybrid gas-electric engine, then operating essentially like a Prius or Honda Civic hybrid. The Volt starts at $41,000 before the $7,500 federal tax credit.

To order a Volt, you’ll have to get on a waiting list by contacting a Chevy dealer directly (local Chevy dealers are located in Colma, Burlingame and Redwood City). It’s almost more difficult to buy a Volt than a LEAF, Dolan says. Chevy made the car available nationally, and dealers only receive a set amount of Volts based on the automaker’s complicated formula.

Since January, Boardwalk Auto Center has sold about 30 Volts to customers who had pre-ordered the cars; there are currently about 150 people on their Volt waiting list. The dealership currently has Volts available to test drive.

Charging At Home

If you purchase either the Volt or the LEAF, you’ll also need to install a home charger. The charging unit and installation typically cost $1,500 to $3,000, depending on your home’s electrical system, and qualifies for an additional federal tax credit, Dolan said.

Stay tuned for the second part of this article on electric vehicles, coming in two weeks, where I’ll cover the Peninsula’s growing infrastructure of EV charging stations and Toyota’s and Honda’s 2012 plug-in cars. Can’t wait to buy a new EV?  I’ll also let you know how to convert your Prius into a plug-in hybrid.

Alexis Petru lives in San Bruno and is a staff writer for the national environmental website Earth911.com. Her column appears biweekly on Saturdays.

Related Topics: , , and Are you thinking about purchasing a Nissan LEAF or Chevy Volt?

Tim Chafee June 11, 2011 at 02:22 PM
LOL. There is no such thing as green energy or green cars. Everything , for example, requires the use of the "greenhouse gas" known as Carbon Dioxide (cO2), to produce these wonders of technology. As for the cars themselves , how would one explain away the comment made by some auto manufacturer who says he would like to see another dollar add in taxes to a gallon of fuel in order to coerce everyone into electric cars. This should tell anybody that car companies are building junk that few want. Green Energy is another horse laugh. Energy conservation is a wonderful in concept. But the practicality is that those who benefit from PG&E rebates are few compared to those who cannot afford the increase on their electric bill , because electric companies are not selling enough electricity. All this regulation crap is centered around Snake Oil Politics and soon we all will be subjugates of those who claim to be the smartest among us.
Benoit June 11, 2011 at 04:28 PM
Car and transportation is climbing the "energy lader" as our society moves forward. Cleaner transportation IS one of the solution to keep our way of living while trying to ease the pressure we put on climate change and other environmental issues. There are other solutions: conservation (drive less by using public transportation, walking, biking...) and redesign our cities to be able to live where we work. Join our group Burlingame Citizen Environment Council if you want to learn, discuss and be part of the upcoming change in our community!

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