How our plug-in electric car changed our life

2015 Nissan Leaf - Our electric car changed our life.

We were surprised at how our two-year-old Nissan Leaf all-electric car changed our life.

When Rebecca and I got our 2015 Nissan Leaf in late May, 2017, we thought the biggest change in our life would be that we’d never visit a gas station again.

Surprise! The most important change was something we didn’t expect at all.

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Clean-energy quick-charging stations: How Michigan should use its share of the VW settlement.

Michigan’s electric grid is becoming progressively cleaner as the state invests in efficiency and in solar and wind potential, resources the state already possesses, as we reduce our dependence on out-of-state fossil fuels such as coal and gas. As Michigan considers how to support clean transportation with its share of the $2 billion set aside for electric car charging from the $18 billion VW settlement, it will be to our advantage to capitalize on our ever greener infrastructure that we already have and add more clean-energy quick-charging stations. Here are my thoughts.

– Ben BrownRead more

To do my part in fighting the threat to our planet, I guard against my own rationalizations, and I make sure I repay what I owe to the Earth. So can you. Here’s how.

What I Owe the Earth

What I owe the Earth

“What I owe the Earth” by Ben Brown

Does what I do really matter? I’m just me! How much difference can I make? And, anyway, what debt do I owe to the planet?

Today we face a life-destroying threat, a danger more serious than the asteroid impact blamed for killing off so much life 65 million years ago. Most of us who recognize today’s threat blame a collection of forces beyond our control. I contend that the responsibility falls on all of us – you and me – individually. The longer we believe the current story being fed us, that our individual actions matter little, the more likely our destruction becomes.

Don’t fall for the idea that it’s them. It’s us. We all matter, and what each of us does today creates the future.

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Electric Car Examples: Stories of Hope

I am presenting these three electric car examples as stories of hope.

Electric Car Examples, by Ben Brown

Electric Car Examples, by Ben Brown

We still haven’t met the CO2 reduction target that would give our grandchildren and great grandchildren a chance to know the world we’ve had the privilege to live in. Forests, animals, rich fertile soil, safe water and many more wonders we take for granted they may never know. In large areas of the world these wonders may disappear. These electric car examples show a very important choice each of us can make to help us reach our emission reduction target. These are stories of hope. We can pass to our grandchildren and great grandchildren a world like more like the one we inherited from our grandparents and great grandparents.

Electric car examples: charging experience, charging reality, driving distance

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Hydrocarbon Insanity

Some of us call it dirty energy. Some of us call it fossil fuels. I think we should call it hydrocarbon insanity.

Think about how insane this is…

Here are the convolutions we go through just to make electricity:

Hydrocarbon insanity

  • Hydrocarbons power the equipment that gets hydrocarbons out of the ground.
  • Hydrocarbons power the trucks and trains that deliver hydrocarbons to refineries and power plants.
  • Refineries turn hydrocarbons into gasoline and diesel fuel to power trucks and trains that deliver hydrocarbons to refineries, gas stations, and power plants.
  • Hydrocarbons power the equipment that builds pipelines to deliver more hydrocarbons to refineries and power plants.
  • Hydrocarbons power the equipment that builds and maintains the grid that delivers electricity to homes and businesses.
  • The only thing a power plant uses hydrocarbons for is to feed a fire that heats water. Steam from the water turns a turbine. The turbine cranks a generator that puts out electricity.

Even Rube Goldberg couldn’t have invented a crazier way to turn a light on.

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Charging 101: Basic Overview of the Types of Chargers


Ben BrownBy Ben Brown

Everyone who knows me – long-time friends, new friends I made through my work with Sierra Club Southwest Michigan Group on Kalamazoo Drive Electric Week, and folks who’ve become acquainted with me from my blog posts here on the SWMG website – all know how enthusiastic I am about driving electric and renewable energy. It is so cool that everyone I know who has an EV loves theirs as much as I love mine! And all of us take every opportunity to share our enthusiasm with the curious and concerned.

Western Michigan University's solar-powered multiple-car level 1 and level 2 charging station at next to Miller Auditorium's parking garage.

Western Michigan University’s solar-powered multiple-car level 1 and level 2 charging station next to Miller Auditorium’s parking garage. (Click to enlarge.)

We’ve noticed though, that there’s a few yeah-buts that we all hear constantly.

  • “Yeah, but where can you charge?”
  • “Yeah, but, aren’t the chargers expensive and hard to find?”
  • “Yeah, but, doesn’t it take forever to charge?”

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Sustainability: What Could Be

Sustainability – for the Earth, for our Ecosystem, and for Human Health

Ben Brown, Kalamazoo Drive Electric Week organizerby Ben Brown, Sierra Club SWMG Drive Electric Coordinator

Sustainability: Make every day Earth DayEach moment we vote by what we read, write, buy, and do. We’ve been trained to relinquish personal involvement and trust and are paid back many times over by conveniences, most we could survive very well without. Truth is, if we personally involve ourselves in opportunities to care for the beauty of this world and its sustainability, the world would be a far more beautiful place than it is now. Something we could be pleased to leave our descendants.Read more

Post National Drive Electric Week: Beyond the Week

Drive Electric Week showed people that electric cars can improve our quality of life.

Ben Brown, Kalamazoo Drive Electric Week organizerby Ben Brown, Kalamazoo Drive Electric Week organizer

Our Challenge: A Global Invisible Killer

Its largely invisible, not highlighted in the evening news. It debilitates and kills family, friends, frequently, our children, in greater numbers than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined. We rarely see this killer with the naked eye until it is too late. The percentage of the crippled and dying affected by this agent is not shrinking, but growing. Many of us are satisfied with it being a cost or tax of civilization. It is air pollution.

Our Opportunity: We Really Can Act and Choose to Live Differently and Better

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Driving Electric: liberation from fossil fuels, liberation from the gas pump

Seeing, riding, driving electric cars changes what we believe about driving electric.

Ben Brown




Tesla Model S, driving electric

Tesla Model S. Photo: Tesla

by Ben Brown

Concerning driving electric:

A modern, highway-capable electric car…

  • Its more efficient.
  • Its deceptively quiet and smooth.
  • It has good acceleration.
  • Driving electric is very much like a personal style, a signature.
  • Driving electric meshes very well with wind and solar power.
  • It can be refueled at home.
  • Connecting for fueling takes seconds.
  • It consists of three simple parts.
  • No exhaust makes your carbon footprint smaller.

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Hondatron, my affordable DIY electric car conversion

My all-electric Hondatron

By Paul Pancella

Seven years ago, I converted my 16-year-old gas burner to a new electric car. I call it my Hondatron.

HondatronLet me introduce myself.  I’m a physics professor with a longstanding appreciation of energy efficiency. Since the days of GM’s EV1, I wanted to buy a pure electric car for myself. I didn’t really want to move to California, however.  Then they stopped making the EV1 (and a few other compliance cars), but I thought there surely would be more to come.  Even after the great crushing of all those cars, there were regular reports of another commercial EV coming in “the next few years”, but it never seemed to happen.

Although we don’t have kids, I still live in a 2-car family with my wife. In early 2007 the Leaf was still 3-4 years away, and I was running out of patience. Our Prius hybrid hinted at the pleasures of driving electric. At a local screening of “Who Killed the Electric Car?” I discovered the existence of a significant conversion sub-culture. More internet research revealed that a car I already owned, the 1992 Civic hatchback, was considered an excellent candidate for conversion, due to good aerodynamics and low weight. When her engine went down to 3 working cylinders, I realized that its value as a potential EV was probably greater than what I would get for it as a trade-in, so I started getting serious.Read more