Only 2 are from Tesla — the new Roadster and the Cybertruck.
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.
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.
An Apple ‘AirTag’ Can Help You Locate Your Stolen Car
News media is full of reports about the increase in the theft of cars and trucks. This is not a problem for owners of internet-connected cars like Tesla, which you can follow on your app and even limit its speed (15 mph is good!), but what if your car is not connected that way and gets stolen?
Apple sells a $29 product called AirTag which you can hide in your vehicle. There’s no ongoing fee. If any GPS-connected smartphone is nearby, it uses that device to transmit its location. We have one hidden in Golden Real Estate’s truck, and I can use it to see where it is at any time.
Pictured here, the AirTag is about the size of a quarter and about as thick as 2 or 3 quarters. Put it under a seat or floor mat or any other place in your vehicle and know that if your vehicle is not where you left it, you’ll be able to tell police where to find it and perhaps nab the thief.
Our Electric Vehicle Roundup Is a Big Success
It’s still going on as I write this blog post, and won’t end until 5 pm or later. If you’re reading this now, come on down! This video shows our parking lot at Golden Real Estate, 17695 S. Golden Road, completely filled with electric cars and their owners talking to lots of people interested in knowing more about EVs. Here’s the video link: https://youtu.be/4vY2K6OZt0k.
When Will Your Car Need These Expensive Repairs?
Other than for a flat tire, you’ll almost never see an electric car on the side of the road awaiting a service vehicle or tow truck. That’s because an EV will never need any of the following expensive repairs — the parts simply don’t exist on an EV:
Muffler or stolen catalytic converter
Power steering pump
Power brakes pump
Engine work of any kind
There’s no “check engine” light because there’s no engine, so you won’t pay to “pull codes” and reset it. And no emissions testing. The electric motors in EVs, like those in other devices, are dependable, only failing if they are worked too hard, and the computers in Teslas (and presumably other EVs) don’t let that happen.
EVs have Battery Management Systems (BMS) which are critical to maintaining battery health and performance. In Teslas, there is a sealed coolant system which maintains the battery at its optimum performance temperature (70° F) year-round, including cooling it when it is being supercharged or when it sends a high level of power to the electric motor(s).
Lithium batteries, unlike lead acid batteries, do not fail abruptly, but rather degrade over time. The reason lead acid batteries fail abruptly, I’m told, is that they consume the lead when they are charged and discharged. Lithium ion batteries don’t consume the lithium. The rate of degradation has been estimated at 1% per year, so a battery with 300 miles of range might degrade to 270 miles of range in 10 years. That matches my experience.
As people wait for the purchase price of EVs to equal that of a gas-powered car — which has largely happened — they shouldn’t overlook the lower cost of fuel (3 to 4 cents per mile vs.10 cents and higher) and the dramatically lower cost of maintenance and repair. And fleet buyers won’t have to buy 12 EVs in order to always have 10 on the road because of how rarely EVs will be in the shop.
Golden Real Estate Wins Sustainability Award
Back in 2010, Golden Real Estate was awarded the “Sustainability Award for Business” from the City of Golden for the brokerage’s solar-powered office. Eleven years later, we have been awarded this recognition a second time because of how much further we have taken our passion for sustainability.
Back in 2010 we had a 5kW solar array on our roof — enough to power our office, but little else. We had a couple other features — sun tunnels to daylight our office reducing the need for artificial lighting, extra insulation to reduce the amount of natural gas needed to heat the office, and we accepted polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) for recycling.
Now, we have 2 ground-mounted solar arrays adding another 15kW of solar power, providing enough electricity to heat and cool our office with heat pumps and to power our five agent-owned Teslas as well as offering free EV charging to the general public. We had our gas meter removed in 2017 and now our Xcel Energy bill is $10 to $11 per month, which is the cost of being connected to the electric grid. We are now a “net zero energy” facility — and we’re taking two truckloads of Styrofoam to a reprocessing center in Denver every month.
Thanks to “net metering,” the electric grid functions like a battery, receiving our excess energy during sunny days and giving it back to us when we need it. We like to consider our office an example that other businesses can aspire to, and we are grateful for this week’s recognition by Golden. Click on the following 2-minute YouTube video tour of our net zero office:
Electric Cars Are Your Best Cold Weather Choice
It’s that time of year when I like to remind readers about the advantages of EVs in snow and cold weather. Here’s what you need to know.
1) No warming up is needed. Just put the car in Drive and go! Also, the cabin will be warm within 1/2 mile because it doesn’t require an engine to warm up first. In my Tesla I can turn on the heat with my phone app a few minutes earlier so the cabin, steering wheel and seat are all warm when I get in the car. Also, when I park the car for brief periods (such as when shopping), I can leave the heater on so it’s warm when I return, .
2) Your car will never break down, stranding you in a freezing car on the side of the road. The only time you see an EV on the side of the road is if there’s a flat tire or an accident. Stuck in a snow drift? The heater will keep you warm as long as you need, consuming only 3-5 miles of range per hour — and no carbon monoxide!
3) Because of its low center of gravity and its typical 50/50 front/back weight distribution, an EV handles snow-covered roads really well. My all-wheel-drive Teslas handle much better than my AWD 2009 Lexus RX 400h did in snow, aided by its standard traction control and stability control.
4) Used EVs are your best buy. Older AWD Tesla Model S’s can be bought, undamaged and running like new, starting around $40,000. And older Tesla Models S and X come with transferrable lifetime free supercharging coast-to-coast when purchased privately instead of from Tesla.
5) There are still federal and state tax credits and various rebates to be had. For a full list, visit www.electricforall.org/rebates-incentives.
Here’s Why the Public Will Not Accept Driverless Cars
I have written before about why I think driverless cars should never be allowed, but this time I’m going to suggest why the public — you — would likely reject the idea.
During the transition to a driverless car, you’ll get to experience, as I already do, some of the features required for a car to drive itself. Those features include traffic-aware cruise control and lane management dependent on multiple cameras, radar and numerous sensors. I have been using those features on my Tesla for quite a while.
The first thing to recognize is that a self-driving car will always err on the side of caution. Here are just three examples: Let’s say you’re driving a city street with parked cars but no line between the travel lane and the parking lane. Every now and then your car will mistake a parked car for a stopped car and simply stop.
Or you’ll be driving along and a car coming the other direction with make a left turn in front of you. Erring on the side of caution, your car will abruptly apply the brakes even though it’s clear to you that braking was not needed.
Or you’re driving on a road with no bike lane, but there’s a cyclist cruising along at 10 mph and no room to pass without crossing the yellow line, which your car won’t do. You car slows to 10 mph.
My Tesla knows the speed limit on all roads based on GPS information, but 1) sometimes the GPS information is wrong, and 2) sometimes there’s a lower speed limit in effect for school zones or construction. Your self-driving car will plow through those areas, totally oblivious!
Wildlife poses a special problem. As a human, you know to slow down if an unpredictable deer is next to the roadway. You driverless car doesn’t have that judgment.
Think of all the times you depended on exchanging eye contact or body language with another driver to know whether to yield or not yield. Think about two lanes merging into one, or about another car being driven erratically. Think about going off road. Think about anything other than driving on a dedicated highway with other driverless cars.
Think about seeing someone in distress on the side of the road or within sight of you. Think about witnessing an accident. Your car will want to leave the scene of the accident rather than stop.
Think of when the painted lanes have disappeared due to wear and only a human could figure out where to go. Or lines that have not been removed completely when new lines were painted.
In Golden, where Hwy 6 crosses Colfax Avenue, it’s not a 90-degree intersection. If I’m in the left lane traveling west through that intersection, my Tesla consistently misinterprets the dashed guide lines for the left-turn lane next to me and swerves into eastbound traffic thinking that it’s a left curve. Fortunately, I have my hand on the wheel and make the immediate correction.
I hope by now you have gotten the impression that self-driving software can not anticipate every conceivable (or inconceivable) situation and could lead a driverless car into desparate situations.