We Just Took Delivery of the F-150 Lightning Electric Pickup

Regular readers know me as a committed Tesla fan, currently owning both a 2015 Model S and a 2017 Model X. But I was drawn to make a reservation for the F-150 Lightning as soon as it was announced, and last week a real estate client and I took delivery as co-buyers of a carbonite gray Lightning Lariat model.

My reservation number was still several months out, but the sales manager was able to secure this vehicle from an inventory vehicle shipped to him by Ford.  We didn’t get to choose any finishes, including color or an extended range battery, but we liked it enough that we bought it.

Initially, the Lightning was promoted with a base price under $40,000, which understandably attracted hundreds of thousands of reservations. But that was a mirage, much like the $35,000 base price for the Tesla Model 3 when it was introduced.

Today, the base price for the Lightning is $51,974, and our Lariat model came with a $74,474 price tag, plus a $5,000 dealer mark-up, which we had to accept. The base model doesn’t have two driver assistance features I’m used to on my Teslas and which I can’t live without adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping.

So, how do I like our Lightning Lariat? After putting a couple hundred miles on it, I can say that I love it. What surprised me most of all was that the ride at highway speed and on rough pavement was better and quieter than in either of my Teslas.

I love that the Lightning offers a “one-pedal” driving mode, in which you not only have strong regenerative braking, but it brings you to a complete stop, greatly reducing the need to use the brake pedal.

I appreciate the great Apple Play integration for my iPhone. Tesla’s iPhone integration is terrible – unimproved despite my complaints since my first Tesla purchase in 2014.

At first, I didn’t like the lane-keeping feature because, unlike with Tesla, you can’t change lane by using the turn signal. But I came to love it because it’s always on, such that when I do change lanes, it locks onto the new lane without asking.

Although I would have little use for it, I like that the Lightning has numerous USB and 120V outlets in the front trunk, the cargo bed and inside the cab, plus a 240V outlet in the cargo bed. One feature I’d make great use of is the large work surface that is created when you retract the shift lever and unfold the console cushion. (Photos from Ford.com)

My client loves the Lightning, too, so I am letting him buy me out and take sole ownership.

What’s the Cost of Converting a Home from Natural Gas to All-Electric?

In recent columns, I have promoted the idea of eliminating natural gas and converting one’s home to all-electric, using heat pumps for heating & cooling and installing a heat pump water heater. I have also promoted induction cooktops as an alternative to gas or standard electric cooktops.

One reader asked me to provide information on the cost of making the conversion to all-electric, so I have done some research and can also speak from personal experience.

First, I asked Bill Lucas-Brown of Helio Home Inc., who installed the heat pump mini-split system at Golden Real Estate’s former office on South Golden Road as well as in our storefront in downtown Golden.

I asked Bill for a rough estimate of the cost of making a typical 2,000 sq. ft. home all-electric, and he responded with the following numbers and comments.

Note that rebates and tax incentives are available from the state, feds, utilities, and local municipalities that typically range from 15 to 30 percent off total cost. The following are costs without those rebates.  Click here to view Helio Home’s web page about the rebates and tax credits available under the Inflation Reduction Act.

  • Air source heat pump for heating and cooling your home, $22,000
  • Heat pump water heater, $4,000 
  • Insulation and air sealing work to improve efficiency, $5,000
  • Ventilation system for indoor air quality, $4,000
  • 10kW solar system PV, $30,000
  • Electric panel upgrade, if needed, $4,000
  • Electric vehicle charger, $1,500

That said, Helio Home’s average job is around $50,000. With rebates, figure $35,000 to $43,000. You can get a proposal on the company’s website www.heliohome.io.

Sadly, there are few vendors who are experienced and competent in heat pumps for heating and cooling homes. Heat pump water heaters are less of a challenge, because they are sold by Lowe’s and Home Depot, and you just need a plumber to install them and an electrician to pull a 240-Volt circuit to it. I bought a 50-gallon heat pump water heater in 2021 for $1,200 (on sale – prices are higher now) and was able to do the electrical work myself because of a nearby 240V circuit that was no longer in use. The self-employed plumber I used charged just $500, and I got a $400 rebate from Xcel Energy, so the cost was less than the figure quoted above. The federal rebate taking effect in January under the IRA makes such a purchase almost free.

You may find it more practical to leave your gas forced air furnace in place and install a ductless mini-split system. A compressor (similar to an A/C compressor) is installed outside your home, and two coolant lines are run to wall-mounted units in different rooms of your house. This works best in a one-story home. These same wall units provide both heating and cooling, because that’s how heat pumps work — they are like an air conditioner that works in two directions, moving heat out of your home in the summer and into your home in the winter. As the name suggests, they don’t create heat, they move heat, and they do it more efficiently than baseboard electric heating or heating generated by burning natural gas (or propane).

Instead of wall-mounted mini-splits, you can install a ceiling-mounted “cassette” which functions the same way. That’s what Helio Home installed in our downtown storefront, and it works just as well. (Come by our office and I’ll show it to you.) I have also seen a wall-mounted cassette which has a picture frame on it. When the heat pump is operating, the picture moves out a couple inches from the wall to allow the movement of air.

As for an EV charger, the biggest variable is the cost of bringing a 240V circuit to your garage, which depends on the distance between the garage and your breaker panel. I spent less that $300 for that, again from a self-employed electrician.

Tesla vehicles have the charger built into the car, so you only need a 240V outlet (similar to the outlet for your clothes dryer) to plug the provided cord into. Don’t buy the Tesla Wall Connector — it’s totally unnecessary for home use. Just use the charging cord with a 240V head.

Other EVs may require you to purchase a Level 2 charging station, which I did when I had a Chevy Volt. By googling “Level 2 EV chargers,” I found prices as low as $200 (Home Depot, 16 amp model), and several under $500. So your real cost depends on what your electrician charges.  Here’s an idea: If you have an electric dryer outlet available close to your garage, you could adapt that circuit for your EV at minimal cost.

Another use of natural gas that you’re probably using is for cooking and grilling. You’ll really love induction cooking if you try it, because it is so much faster. Buy a countertop unit for under $100 and play with it. For grilling, we love the George Foreman electric grill we purchased for $100.

Above all, pay attention to the tax credits and rebates that take effect on Jan. 1, 2023, under the Inflation Reduction Act. They make going all-electric more realistic.

Electric Vehicle Expo at the Taj Mahal

For those who missed it, there was a “Drive Clean Summit & Expo” at the Jeffco Government Center on October 12th. The display of electric vehicles in the parking lot included the following:

An electric street sweeper:

A Bluebird electric school bus:

An electric shuttle bus:

An electric work truck:

A Ford eTransit van:

A Nikola electric semi:

A Lightning Motor electric van (made in Colorado):

A Motiv electric step-van:

A Moser propane-powered self-contained mobile Level 3 charging station prototype:

Looked at Correctly, It Costs No More to Build (or Buy) a Sustainable Home

“Conventional wisdom” says that it costs more to build a solar powered, highly sustainable or net zero energy home, but that’s not really true if you look at the issue a little differently.

As you surely know, such improvements reduce the operating cost of a home. Solar panels, for example, can virtually eliminate your electrical bill, if your system is sized correctly. They can even provide free fuel for your cars — if they are powered by electricity.

Super insulating your home can reduce the cost of heating it, whether by natural gas or electricity (using a heat pump system). Ditto for installing triple-pane Alpen windows and doors.

If you go all-electric, you not only save on the natural gas or propane you consume, you can have your gas meter removed, saving on the base cost of being connected to the gas distribution network. As a commercial customer, Golden Real Estate, saves over $600 per year from having removed our gas meter, since that’s what Xcel Energy charges before a business uses a single cubic foot of natural gas.  The savings is lower for residential customers.

So, yes, it may cost more to go all-electric, but the return on investment is substantial over a pretty short period of time.

But consider the following. Whether you build or buy a home with these cost saving features, and whether or not you pay a premium for them, you will likely be financing your home with a mortgage.

Let’s say, conservatively, that you pay an extra $50,000 or even $100,000 for those features, and it adds that amount to the principal of your mortgage. Your monthly savings from those solar panels or that heat pump system or those Alpen windows and extra insulation will be far in excess of the increased monthly payment for your mortgage.

And if you make those improvements in a home you already own, you can take out a Home Equity Line of Credit (or HELOC) to pay for them, and the monthly payments will again be less than your monthly savings.

Looked at it this way, does it make any sense at all to build a home powered by fossil fuels, that is not solar powered or that has “normal” insulation and have higher monthly cost of ownership, starting from day one?  Of course not.

You can apply the same reasoning to the purchase of an electric car. You could go with the conventional wisdom that electric cars are more expensive and you should wait until the price comes down, but that thinking substantially misrepresents the cost of ownership.

I haven’t purchased gasoline for my electric cars since 2014, during which time I have saved tens of thousands of dollars on gasoline as well as on repairs on components that don’t exist on an EV, such as transmission, engine, fuel pumps, water pumps, timing belts and so much more.

And I have never had a catalytic converter stolen — or lost any sleep after reading about the epidemic of such thefts in my city.

Forgetting for the moment that there are indeed EVs which cost no more than their gasoline-powered equivalents, even if you paid $10,000 more for an EV than you might for a gas powered car, the cost of financing that difference is far less than what you’ll save on fuel and repairs.

If I have changed your thinking about making your home (or transportation) more sustainable, here’s what you can do.  First, attend this year’s Metro Denver Green Homes Tour on October 1st. You’ll be able to visit a dozen or so homes whose owners have taken steps to make their homes more energy efficient or even net zero energy. You’ll also visit a home builder who is building net zero energy homes. If you can’t visit some of these homes in person, you can view the narrated video tours which I have created for most of them.

(You can also — right now — take video tours of 16 homes that were on this tour in previous years!)

You can register for the tour — and see those videos — at www. NewEnergyColorado.com.

And if I have changed your thinking about the cost of buying or owning an electric vehicle, plan on coming to the Electric Vehicle Roundup (mentioned below) which occurs the same day, October 1st, as the Metro Denver Green Homes Tour.  If that date doesn’t work for you, there are many other EV roundups in October around Colorado. Find those other events online at www.DriveElectricWeek.org.

Here’s More Info on Incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act

John Horst of the National Renewable Energy Lab read last week’s blog post about the Inflation Reduction Act’s impact on the building sector and provided some valuable additional information.

For starters, he made me aware of the White House website, which has a listing of tax credits and grants under the IRA which pertain specifically to each state. Click here to view the IRA tax credits and grants that apply to Colorado. It’s a two-page PDF with paragraphs about those financial incentives plus job creation, manufacturing, cleaner air, rural opportunities and “resilient communities.”

One new incentive that hasn’t gotten a lot of coverage is the $4,000 upfront discount on the purchase of used electric cars and trucks. In the past, there was no incentive for purchasing a used EV, and the $7,500 incentive for a new EV came only as a tax credit on the following year’s tax return.

Making both incentives an “upfront discount” will make both incentives much more attractive and useful to car buyers and will accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles.

John also provided a link to a list of 59 state and federal tax credits (both personal and corporate), loan programs, grant programs, rebate programs, sales tax incentives, regulatory policies, energy standards and more — each with its own link for further information. (The above link gives the information for Zip Code 80401, but you can select a different ZIP Code anywhere in the country on that website.)

Some Reasons We’ll Never Have Self-Driving Cars

When will Elon Musk and others stop talking about “full self-driving,” meaning no driver attention required? I write from the perspective of having used Tesla’s Autopilot features myself for several years. Full self-driving will never happen because the public won’t accept the following:

Speed bumps, potholes, critters you don’t want to hit, or simply rough pavement will never be recognized and avoided. (The car stays centered between the painted lines.)

Full self-driving, like Autopilot, utilizes GPS data about speed limits, which is often out-of-date and doesn’t reflect temporary reductions such as construction and school zones. (On I-70’s central project and on McIntyre Street there are still places where my Tesla wants to slow down to 35 mph in places based on old data.)

On city streets where no painted lines separate the moving lane from parked cars, Autopilot often brakes for a parked car, mistaking it for a stopped car in the moving lane.

Among other issues, a self-driving car will never cross the yellow line on a narrow lane to safely pass a bicycle.

Big Gathering of Classic Cars Converted to EVs This Saturday, Aug. 13, at Red Rocks

Long before there were production EVs like the Nissan Leaf or the Tesla Model S, automotive hobbyists all over the country were playing around with converting gas-powered cars and trucks to electric vehicles, initially with lead acid batteries but more recently with lithium ion batteries obtained from a wrecked EV or from a battery manufacturer.

This Saturday, August 13th, several of those converted classics will be on display at La Vida Volta! — an EV expo sponsored in part by Xcel Energy and CDOT. The free, family-friendly event runs from 10 to 3 in the lower North lot at Red Rocks.

The day before there will be a first-of-its-kind “Educational Conference for Performance EV Conversions” at the nearby Origin Hotel Red Rocks. That event is sold out, but you’re welcome to attend the car show on Saturday.

The conference and the Saturday car show are produced by a venture with the clever name of Ohm on the Range. (If you’re not familiar with the word ohm, which rhymes with home, it is a measure of electrical resistance.)

Speakers at that conference include men and women who have converted the following cars from gas-powered drive trains to electric drive trains: a 1999 Jeep Wrangler, a 1980 Subaru Brat, a 1982 Scrambler, a 1965 Mustang, a 1972 Plymouth Satellite, and a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser. Those and many other EV conversions will be on display at Saturday’s event.

Converting a gas-powered car to an EV is often done by taking the drive train from a wrecked Tesla, Nissan Leaf or other EV. Alternatively, DIY hobbyists can purchase new electric components from aftermarket companies with names like Electric GT, reVolt Systems and Netgain Motors. Saturday’s expo will also feature some of the newest OEM offerings from Lucid, Rivian, Polestar, Ford, Kia, Nissan and Chevrolet.

We’ve had one or two EV conversions show up for the EV Roundups which we sponsor each April and October. This event dedicated solely to conversions should be fun!

Realtor Magazine Promotes Electric Vehicles in a 4-Page Article  

The summer 2022 edition of Realtor Magazine focuses on sustainability, and one of its articles is titled “Learning to Love EVs.” Click here to read the article online.

The article encourages NAR’s one million members to make their next car electric, but omits one selling point I take advantage of every April — I deduct over $10,000 for business mileage even though the cost of charging is near zero thanks to an abundance of free charging stations. Even if pay for the electricity — whether at home or at Tesla Supercharger or a DC Fast Charging station — the cost of the electricity is so much lower per mile than the cost of a gas-powered car, that the standard IRS deduction per business mile traveled becomes a nice source of tax-free income for Realtors or any other person who uses their personal car for business.