I Love My Electric Minivan

I am a self-professed ecogeek. I’m always trying to find ways to make things in my life more eco-friendly. I’ve even blogged about this topic in the past.

But when we had kids, I found myself longing for a bigger car. I mean, how can you not want the extra room a minivan can offer when you are towing 2 kids and all their things? Many a night was spent browsing websites drooling over all the space and functionality of these cars.

And then I’d get to the MPG section and instantly be turned off. No matter how awesome the car was, I just couldn’t justify buying one because their fuel economy was so terrible. How could I give up my electric car, or my Prius, for something which gets a ⅓ of the MPG?

Enter the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

It’s my perfect family car:

  • It’s a minivan
  • It’s an electric vehicle
  • It’s also a hybrid gasoline vehicle (so there’s no range anxiety)

Why Chrysler Got It Right

If you’ve ever driven an electric car you know they’re fun to drive. Unlike hybrids, electric cars have a lot of torque, which means they accelerate quickly when you push the pedal. But a lot of people are afraid of electric cars because they worry about two things: range and refueling time.

So Chrysler did something incredibly smart; they created an electric car with a backup hybrid engine. They knew that right now the electric battery is limited in its range and charging time. If Chrysler had decided to make an all electric minivan, they would have had to settle for a limited number of miles per charge. My guess is it would have been in the 75-100 mile range. They knew this wouldn’t cut it for a family car.

Sure, 75-100 miles is fine if you are driving around town, but what if you want to go on a road trip, or travel to see Grandpa and Grandma? My parents and in-laws live 78 and 149 miles away. There’s no way that we could feasibly drive there with that kind of range.

But what if the car has a backup hybrid engine (that gets a combined 33 mpg) which allows you to travel for an extra 400+ miles? Well, then you can go about your day without worrying about if you have enough charge to go about your business.

Electric + Gas Backup = The Perfect Gateway Car

In my opinion, this is the perfect way to introduce people to the electric car experience. Show people how much more convenient electric cars are without having to worry about range and refilling time and they will never want to go back to a pure gas engine again.

No More Gas Stations*

Who likes going to the gas station?? Not me. I hate the smell of gasoline. Is there anything worse than forgetting to fill up the car the night before when you’re already late?? With an electric car this becomes a thing of the past. You just plug in when you get home, and unplug when you leave in the morning. And if you are like most people, you rarely travel more than 33 miles in a day.

For me that’s certainly true. I can go months without having to refill my gas tank. In fact, if we don’t go on any road trips, the only time I refill my tank is in the winter time. More on that in a bit… I can’t overstate how awesome this is. Just drive, plug in, unplug, and drive. Once more people see how convenient this is they will be sold on the electric car.

No More Oil Changes*

No moving parts = no oil needed to lubricate the parts. Electric cars don’t need oil changes. I didn’t realize this until we bought our Nissan Leaf. The only thing I ever needed to do was get my tires rotated and have my electric battery checked every so often. That’s it.

Now, with the Pacifica Hybrid you still have to get the occasional oil change, but not nearly as often. And the more you use your electric motor instead of the gas engine, the less often you need to change the oil.

**Stupid Winter**

Like all cars, fuel efficiency for electric cars decrease during the winter time. Our Leaf saw a 10-20% decrease in total range during extremely cold days. If we turned on the heat then we saw an additional drop in range, usually about 10 miles or so.

With the Pacifica Hybrid, the gas engine works to take the strain away from the electric engine. Cold weather causes the engine to run to help power the heater. It will turn off after the electric battery warms up, but if you crank the heat, or drive aggressively, it will kick in again. I’m sure as the technology for electric batteries improve this will become a worry of the past. But for now, this is an acceptable trade-off.

Aren’t Electric Cars Expensive?

Right now electric cars are initially more expensive than gas cars. But there are several factors that are in play that make electric cars actually cheaper in the long run.

  • A $7500 federal tax rebate
  • Electricity rates vary less than gas prices
  • Replacing the cost of gas with an increase in electricity use is cheaper than current gas prices

How Much Did It Add To Your Utility Bill?

Here’s an actual report from a typical month of driving at my house. We use MG&E’s time of use service for our electricity, which means we get cheaper rates for using electricity at certain times of the day. By charging our car at night, when the rates are cheaper, we wind up saving a significant amount of money on both our utility bill and our fuel expenses.

Aiding in the ease of use, all electric cars and charging stations have the ability to charge on a schedule. In fact, our ChargePoint charging station even connects with MG&E’s time of use schedule and will only charge when the rates are cheapest (unless we override the schedule). So I don’t have to think about when to actually charge the car. I just plug it in and let the car and charger take care of that for me.

Do You Need A Special Charging Station?

No. You don’t need to buy a charging station to fully take advantage of your electric car.

When we had our Nissan Leaf we just used a standard outlet to charge the car overnight. This was more than enough time to fully charge the car.

We did buy a charging station for the Pacifica, but that’s because we knew we loved electric cars, and wanted to take advantage of the extra convenience of charging the car even quicker.

Go Electric, You Won’t Regret It!

So if you’re in the market for a new car, and specifically are looking for a minivan, do yourself a favor and check out the Pacifica Hybrid. I guarantee you won’t regret it. And, PRO TIP, if you’re still hesitant about electric cars, lease it. You not only won’t have to worry about being stuck with the car, but you’ll get the $7500 tax credit applied to your lease payment, which will significantly decrease the amount of money you have to pay per month.

Dan was born and raised in New Berlin, WI. He is married to the most amazing woman, Dawn, and has two children, Joe (born September 2014) and Nora (born April 2017). Dan has a background in Psychology (BA from UW-La Crosse) and Nursing (BSN from UW-Oshkosh). He is currently staying at home full-time. He enjoys cooking, biking, running, and yoga. He is also an avid coffee aficionado and hopes to one day be able to roast his own coffee beans.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Dan.

    Please email me at [email protected].

    To seed our hyper-religious community for the Secular Parenting panel we are hosting at the public library on January 16, we want to submit an edited version of your blog post about secular parenting.

    Lots may have happened in your life since you wrote that blog – I know you now have 2 kids, and who knows, you may have returned to the religion of your families-of-origin.

    But THAT blog is perfect to seed our community with a real life story of how you as secular parents struggled with how to parent without religion and eventually found resources to assist you to create a secular parenting plan.

    I am a writer and editor as you are . . . so I edited the piece to fit within our local paper’s parameters, and updated it to children since you now have 2. if you like the edit, let me know if you’re OK with us submitting it the Holland Sentinel SOON to be published the week of January 7.

    We live in a Christian-dominant community and launched our secular community group 6 months ago. We are hosting the Secular Parenting panel to reach out to young secular couples in our community.

    I am a Humanist, too! Please email ASAP with your YAY or NAY.

    Patricia

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