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Established car manufacturer Volvo to join the upstart EV producers in selling EVs online only

Established car manufacturer Volvo to join the upstart EV producers in selling EVs online only
A serious entry into the mid-range SUV market

In a surprising move, Volvo announced that it will transition its sales offerings entirely to electrics by 2030 (no ICEs or hybrids after that date), and that it will sell the electrics online only. This online-sales only announcement is a surprise because Volvo has an established car dealer network (though the nearest to the Four Corners is Corley’s Volvo Cars in Albuquerque) and a majority of states prohibit non-dealership sales of new cars. My source is an AP wire report Mar 2, 2021 by Matt Ott (accessed from Greenwire – eenews.com – which is unfortunately behind a paywall).

Volvo did promise that dealerships “…will remain a crucial part of the customer experience and will continue to be responsible for a variety of important services such as selling, preparing, delivering, and servicing cars. However, a Four Corner’s buyer would be inclined to take purchase locally, and seek service locally, rather than have to return a potentially disabled car to Albuquerque for routine service.

The prevailing business model for car sales is that new cars are sold with minimal profit in exchange for creating a captive audience of owners beholden, or at least greatly encouraged, to use the dealership for highly lucrative service. This business model is under threat from EVs, both because so many upstarts (Tesla, Rivian, etc.) are not following the plan, and EVs themselves need very little servicing.

In response to previous economic threats to dealerships, several states, including Colorado and New Mexico, have restrictions or total bans on the non-dealer sales of new cars. Colorado recently amended its laws to allow several additional manufacturers to permit in-state sales of cars without dealers (Tesla has a dealership in Denver and is therefore exempt). Volvo’s plan may run afoul of the dealership-protection laws in some states.

In addition to shaking up the business relationship between manufacturers and dealerships, Volvo’s push into EVs is startling in its ambition. Volvo has stated that it expects 50% of global sales to be fully electric by 2025 (US sales of pure electrics are about 2% now; about 100,000 of Volvo’s global sales of about 600,000 vehicles per year are in the US). Volvo’s first entry into the all-electric field, the XC-40 Recharge (crossover SUV) is currently held up in ports of entry, as an essential software update is needed before they can be sold to the public. That hiccup aside, Volvo is getting good technical reviews for their EVs.

Although Volvo’s timeline for the phase-out of ICE (internal combustion engine) cars is among the most aggressive of the major manufacturers, others are not far behind. BMW expects 50% of its global sales to be all-electric vehicles by 2030 (versus 2025 for Volvo). BMW has not announced a date for completing the phase-out of ICEs; they expect to sell hybrids for some time. GM is more aggressive for the end of the phase-out of ICEs (2035), but GM expresses it more as an aspiration than a commitment. Jaguar, on the other hand, has promised the earliest phase-out (2025), but of course, if you could afford a Jaguar, why would you settle for anything less than an electric.

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Durango, CO Driver Corrals a New Pony: Ford’s Mustang Mach-E

By Guinn Unger

Giddy up! Zero to sixty in the “mid five second” range. 255 HP, also known as 190 kW.

In January of 2020 I received information from Ford that I could order a Mustang Mach-E.  I just needed to put down a fully refundable deposit of $500.  So I did.  I had been waiting for an all-electric SUV of at least medium size, and having something with at least a little bit of Mustang heritage looked good!  (I have owned several Mustangs in the past.)

In July of 2020 I was asked to put down an additional $500 to confirm my order.  (I actually gave the local dealership $1000 and Ford refunded my original $500 deposit.)

I ordered the Mach-E with all-wheel-drive which is important since I live in a part of SW Colorado where we get a good amount of snow each year.  I also ordered the standard range battery since it was not my intention to take road trips in the Mach-E.  It would be used mostly for local driving.  And of course, I ordered the Rapid Red color!

210 miles for standard range AWD, 75.7 kW battery. Extended range model with AWD gets 270 miles, 98.8 kW battery.

I have to say it was not easy to get information about the car directly from Ford or my local dealership.  They could have done a much better job of having contacts that knew something!

I was finally told the car would be built the week of December 14, 2020, but they did not give any indication of when I might actually receive it.  It showed up at the dealership on February 6, 2021, and my experience with the dealership during the actual sale (strangely enough) was actually quite good.  Durango Motors gave me a fair trade-in, and we closed the deal.

Seats five. 59.5 cubic feet cargo space behind the front row. 29 cubic feet behind the rear seats. 4.8 cubic feet in the frunk.

Now that I have had the car for a month, I have to say I am very pleased!!  Here are some things I really like about the car:

  • It’s plug-in electric!!  I don’t have to buy gas, and I’m not putting nearly as much carbon into the air.
  • It drives great.  Acceleration is dramatic, and the handling is very close to what I have experienced with “real” Mustangs.
  • It’s great in the snow.  I put winter (Nokian) tires on it immediately, and I have driven in fairly deep snow twice.  The car has super traction in the snow.
  • There’s lot of room inside.  With the rear seats down, I can carry quite a bit.  With them up, there’s still plenty of room.  And of course there’s the frunk (front trunk).
  • I like (not love) the styling.  Lots of Mustang hints and styling that stands out.
  • The displays are excellent. There is one directly in front of the driver and a much bigger screen in the center.  Just about everything the driver needs to see is on the screen directly ahead, so you don’t have to look away from the road.
  • The car comes with a portable charger which you can plug into a 120-volt or 240-volt outlet.  (Charging with 120 volts is pretty slow, but it was all I had until I got the 240 outlet installed.)
  • Ford EV’s still qualify for the $7500 federal tax credit, and Colorado has a state income tax credit for EV’s.
  • The Mach-E is quite well built.  The suspension is tight, the doors fit perfectly, and the wind and road noise is very low.
  • There are lots of very nice features, too many to cover here.
Select model has 115 kW DC Fast charge capability, all other models have 150 kW DC fast charge capability.

There are a few things I’m not crazy about:

  • Ford only supplies one key fob and expects you to use your phone as a key.  It took me several days to get my Android phone working as a key.  This has been a common complaint on the web.
  • Support at Ford and the dealership is still pretty spotty.  They could have handled this much better.
  • There’s a pretty steep learning curve if you want to use all the features.  I’m also not sure if I will ever have the courage to let the car parallel park itself!
  • The FordPass app, at least for Android, takes quite a while to learn.  It would be very nice if you had a way to group the things you commonly do in one place instead of constantly searching for them.

Overall, I am very excited about my Mach-E and I am really glad I bought it.

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But I’ve heard that EVs don’t do as well in cold weather…

But I’ve heard that EVs don’t do as well in cold weather…
Chevy Bolt on a cold Canadian ski trip

They don’t, but neither does your internal combustion engine (ICE) car, and no one whines about their ICE car in the winter (if it starts). All vehicles lose some efficiency when they are cold, but alert reader Richard Grossman pointed out a recent article (link: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/11022021/inside-clean-energy-norway-electric-vehicles/) on Norway’s adoption of EVs: 56% of new car sales, compared to 2% in the United States. This fact was highlighted in a recent Superbowl ad for Chevrolet, but remember this: the top FIVE countries for EVs sales are all near the Arctic Circle:

  1. Norway 56%
  2. Iceland 23%
  3. Netherlands 15%
  4. Sweden 11%
  5. Finland 7%

The linked article explores the reasons for Norway’s rapid adoption of EVs, which include celebrity endorsements, an early and rapid government-funded build-out of charging stations, and tax breaks that provide purchase price parity between regular cars and EVs. If you are interested in EV policy incentives, be sure to check out the lively article by Dan Gearino in the link above.

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On Buying a Tesla in New Mexico

By Mitchell Chapman

Tesla sells directly to customers via their website, rather than via a franchise dealership network.  For this reason they’re not allowed to operate directly in New Mexico.  As a result, for New Mexicans the Tesla purchase process involves a little risk and uncertainty.

I live in New Mexico, and I recently bought a Model 3.  Here’s how everything played out for me.  I hope this information helps any others who may be thinking about buying a Tesla.

Day 1: In late August, 2020, I created a Tesla account and paid the $100 to start the purchase process.  I opted for the least expensive long-range Model 3 available.  The website said to expect delivery in 3 to 5 weeks.

Within a couple of hours I was contacted by my assigned “Inside Delivery Specialist”.  Right off the bat he explained that, since I lived more than 220 miles from the nearest delivery center in Longmont, CO, my Model 3 would be delivered via a Carrier Direct delivery.

I owned a Chevrolet Volt, and I’d already received a provisional trade-in price from the website.  To finalize that price I needed to report the Volt’s mileage and to upload several photos of the car, together with a photo of the current odometer reading.  There was no loan on the Volt, so I also needed to upload a scan of the title.

While waiting out the 3 to 5 weeks, I contacted my bank to verify that Tesla’s preferred payment method – electronic transfer – would be acceptable to them.  I also contacted my insurance company to set up coverage for the new vehicle.  They explained that they could email proof of insurance as soon as I had a VIN for the Tesla.

If you’ve followed Tesla’s activities over the past few years, you know they’ve had issues with initial build quality.  This adds an element of risk for buyers in New Mexico.  In particular, when I made my purchase the state had only two Tesla mobile service technicians.  Any major quality issues would require taking the car to Longmont, Colorado for service.

Fortunately, a kind soul had posted a Model 3 [delivery inspection checklist] (https://github.com/mykeln/teslaprep).  I downloaded a copy and began familiarizing myself with the most common issues.

The checklist said paint flaws were the only issues for which buyers should refuse delivery.  Most problems could be fixed by a mobile service technician.

Tesla’s website has a series of tutorial videos explaining how to use the vehicle.  Teslas aren’t hard to drive, but their human-machine interfaces differ from most other cars.  Door handles, keys, procedure for “shifting” – almost everything is different.  What’s more, with carrier direct delivery nobody will be available to provide an introduction to the vehicle.  So I took some time to watch all of the videos.

Day 24: About three weeks after I placed my order, my delivery specialist emailed.  He had a VIN for the Tesla.  It was time to fill out the motor vehicle purchase agreement, upload proof of insurance to my Tesla account, and make final payment. 

I contacted my insurance agent, who emailed a temporary auto identification card.  Then I logged in to the Tesla website, uploaded the completed documents, and set up the wire transfer.

Day 27: A couple of days later, on a Saturday, a trade in packet arrived via Fedex.  The packet contained a notice saying that it needed to be completed and returned within 48 hours.

The instructions said to sign only the yellow highlighted areas on the forms: Odometer Disclosure Statement for Title Transfers, Trade-In Annex, Vehicle/Vessel Transfer and Reassignment Forms, State of California DMV Statement of Facts.

The Odometer Disclosure Statement in particular worried me.  It requested the same sort of info I’d provided at the start of the trade-in process, weeks before.  I started wondering whether, in addition to signing the highlighted fields, I was supposed to fill in an updated odometer reading.  The alternative, to leave so much information about the Volt blank, seemed akin to handing someone a signed, blank check. It was a Saturday, but I emailed my delivery specialist.

He got me sorted out.  He confirmed that I just needed to sign my name in several places.  I also needed to sign over the title to the Volt. I uploaded scans of all of the signed forms so he could review them.  He confirmed that everything was in order, and gave the OK to take them to Fedex. The delivery specialist also let me know that he was seeing an estimated delivery of day 36.  I should expect a call to schedule trade-in and delivery once the carrier had arrived in New Mexico.

This was, surprisingly, an emotional day.  The Volt was not quite four years old, and it was in great shape.  I felt wasteful for giving up a car before using it up, as I had done with every other vehicle I’d owned.  On top of that, even if the new car had a serious flaw that forced me to reject delivery, the Volt was gone.  There was no going back now.

Day 31: At the end of the following week I got a text message and a phone call, both from an unknown number, asking to meet the following morning at the Santa Fe CarMax.  I made one more pass over the inspection checklist.

Day 32: The next morning at 7:10AM, an hour before our appointment, a follow-up text arrived.  The carrier driver was at CarMax, ready whenever I could get there.  He added: “Also I think you have a return unit. I’m not picking that up.  It’s going on a different truck.” This was news to me.  My delivery specialist had always said I’d be handing over the Volt and taking the Model 3 at the same time.  I told the driver that I needed time to find someone who a) was awake and b) could come with me to drive the Volt back home.

He quickly coordinated with his dispatcher.  “Bring the return unit if you can.”

I drove down to CarMax.  It was easy to find the delivery truck: its trailer was stacked with several Tesla models.  A pearl white Model 3 was parked in front of it.

photo by M. Chapman

I greeted the driver and started looking over the car. The delivery checklist had been created for customers who were taking delivery at Tesla delivery centers, and who could therefore have most problems resolved before driving away.  This was a different situation, so I focused my attention on the paint.

Everything looked good.  The panel gaps were consistent.  The paint had no flaws.  (I did eventually discover a small missing chip on a door hinge, visible only when the door was opened.  I could fix this on my own.)  I had lucked out.

However, there was one problem.  I couldn’t find the temporary tag.  I asked the driver, who shrugged apologetically and said Tesla had not given him any temporary tags.  He said that everyone else on his route had just climbed into their cars and driven off.

Okay  …   I gave the driver the keys to the Volt, climbed into the Model 3, adjusted the seat and mirrors, and started the drive home.

A year earlier, returning from a trip to Yellowstone, I’d stopped at the Tesla showroom in Denver.  At the time I was just window shopping, so I was surprised when the showroom staff offered to let me take a solo test drive of a Model 3.  I remember my impressions: this rear-wheel drive Model 3 had a slightly harder ride than the Volt, significantly more road noise, and a fair bit more power.

Now, driving home in an all-wheel drive Model 3, I got a much different and more pleasant impression.  The ride was firmer than the Volt’s, but the cornering and handling were noticeably better.  This Model 3 was no louder than the Volt, and in fact it seemed a bit quieter.  And it had a lot more power.

Given the price difference between the Model 3 and the Volt, one should hope the Model 3 would come across as a nicer car – a *much* nicer car.  All the same, I was both relieved and pleased.

I’d penciled in an extra section on my delivery checklist.  It listed items related to the trade-in.  The absence of a temporary tag had distracted me from these items.  As a result, I made it almost halfway home before remembering that I had meant to remove the license plate from the Volt.

I headed back to CarMax.  Alas, when I got there the carrier was long gone.  But the Volt was there, looking forlorn at the back of the carrier truck lot.  I got my plate, and felt another pang of guilt for “discarding” what had been a really good car.

Now I had a Model 3, but I couldn’t drive it anywhere.  A web search revealed that “no temporary tag” was a common problem.  The solution was to ask the delivery specialist to email a PDF of the temporary tag.

It was a Saturday, again, but I gave it a try.  My specialist called back and said he’d contacted the “shipping team”.  They would be sending the tag.

Day 36: A couple of days passed with no tag in sight.  I emailed again.  The delivery specialist said he’d contacted the shipping team again, and that he would let me know as soon as he had more information.

Day 38: When I made my purchase, Tesla had a seven days / 1000 miles, no questions asked return policy.  I thought this period began as soon as a customer took delivery.  Now four of those days were gone.

I couldn’t get a response from my delivery specialist.  I decided to try the Tesla advisor who had contacted me at the start of this process, when I’d first requested a trade-in quote.

As luck would have it, this was (September 30th:) the end of the quarter.  I got an immediate auto-reply saying the advisor was out of the office, assisting with deliveries.  The message also recommended to call the Tesla store for quicker assistance, and it provided a phone number.  I called.

Once I reached a human, he assured me that the return period wouldn’t start until the temporary tag was shipped.  He said that, since I was buying in a state where Tesla was not permitted to operate (or words to that effect), the tag would be included in the registration packet.  Tesla was supposed to send that within 7 to 10 business days of my purchase.

This didn’t match anything I had read about the experiences of other Tesla buyers.  Neither did it match what my delivery specialist had told me.

Happily, I didn’t have long to stew.  Within the hour I received an email from “Lone Tree Order Suport”.  It was the Tesla Advisor, sending a PDF of the temporary tag.  Finally, I could start driving the car.

No problems manifested during the 7 day period.  The car was (and is) great.

Day 57: Given the temporary tag mix-up, it should have been no surprise that the registration packet was late.  I waited until after the 7 to 10 business days had elapsed, then contacted my delivery specialist again.  Even though he was on vacation he responded, saying that the “DMV team” was still processing my registration documents.

The packet did eventually arrive, via FedEx, after 15 business days.  This left one last task: registering the car and paying the vehicle excise tax.

Day 61: I reached the Santa Fe MVD Express about 25 minutes before it opened.  A line of customers, spaced six feet apart, already extended halfway around the building.  About 50 minutes after I got in line, I was inside the building.

MVD Express had long since established procedures for reducing COVID transmission risk.  They took my registration documents and my phone number and told me I could wait in my car.  Within 1.5 hours of my arrival, everything was done.

Conclusion: The Tesla purchase process is ever changing.  For example, I’ve recently read that Carrier Direct delivery is no longer free, and that it now costs $750.  Still, if you’re a New Mexico resident who is interested in buying a Tesla, I hope this story has been of some help.

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A Colorado driver’s plug-in hybrid experience

A Colorado driver’s plug-in hybrid experience
photo courtesy of Honda

By Richard Grossman

Our plug-in hybrid Prius was hit by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel on June 7th, 2019. My wife had a serious fracture but I was more fortunate with only minor injuries. The Prius, which saved our lives, was demolished. We wanted to replace it with another EV before the federal reimbursement for EVs decreased at the end of June. We had installed PV panels on the roof of our carport, had a level 2 charger and didn’t want to become reliant on fossil fuels any more than we could help. However, we travel to Denver to visit family, so range is a problem. The options were to replace the Prius with a Tesla (too expensive!) or get another plug-in hybrid (PHEV).

Fortunately, I had already done a bit of research and knew where to look. The Prius Prime didn’t appeal because of its limited EV range and overly complex appearance. After talking with local dealerships and finding that the Prius was the only option available in Durango, I looked down in Farmington. The Mitsubishi Outlander was a real option—it has 4WD and is the most popular PHEV world-wide [Ed. Note: all-electric range of 22 miles]. A test drive reinforced what I had already read, that it was not up to modern standards of finish. Furthermore, I was concerned that its safety rating wasn’t top notch.

The Honda Clarity was another possibility. It had the bells and whistles that make it safer, was comfortable and was available on the lot. It did not have any safety rating yet, but its first cousin, the Honda Accord, had excellent ratings; that was good enough for me. It also had a safety feature I hadn’t heard of before—an air bag for the driver that is under the dashboard that might have prevented my wife’s injury, had the Prius had one. She was driving in the accident, and had downward force on her left knee that broke the top of her two leg bones into several fragments.

The second test drive turned up a problem that I had read about in reviews of the Clarity. The vehicle refused to function on the battery, although it worked well as a hybrid. What was the point of a PHEV if it wouldn’t run on the battery! I negotiated a good price that included an extended service contract (just in case) and drove it home.

On the way back from Farmington I played with the controls that govern the source of the motive power. I had read that holding down a button for a few seconds will cause the engine to charge the traction battery. When I used that, a white line appeared on the panel showing the battery charge level—and I realized that the battery had been totally discharged!

After learning how to use this computer with wheels attached, I have been very pleased with the Clarity. Most of my trips at first were back and forth to the hospital or rehab unit where my wife spent way too much time. I clocked the battery-only as driving almost 60 miles. [Ed. Note; the EPA rating for pure-electric range on this vehicle is 48 miles, very similar to the 53 mile rating on late-model Volts, a comparable PHEV that is no longer made.] The first tank of gas, filled at the dealership, propelled me 715 miles to the gallon! Of course, that was because I kept the battery well charged at home. Since then we have taken longer trips—to Denver and Grand Junction—and had very good mileage and comfortable rides. I discovered that it is possible to carry 8-foot fluorescent bulbs in it, and that the trunk will hold a lot of stuff. It is the only vehicle that we have ever owned with a trunk in back; our first vehicle was a VW bug, but its trunk was in the front.

I hope Melloy Honda in Farmington has sold other Clarities. I have told them I’m pleased with ours—and I also suggested that they fill the battery as well as the gas tank in the future! [Ed. Note; I too have arranged to test drive a PHEV, only to discover upon arrival at the dealership that the car’s battery has not been charged, A dealer can always charge up using the 110 V cord that comes with the car, even if they don’t have a conventional (Level II) charger, but apparently many can’t be bothered. Consider requesting a charge in advance of arriving at a dealer to test drive a PHEV.]

Kelley Blue Book’s (KBB.com) awarded the Honda Clarity their 2020 Best Buy for BEV/PHEV cars, in recognition of the model’s class-leading all-electric range, seating for five, and safety features.

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