I'm Going To Use As Little Fossil Fuels As Possible For An Entire Month To See If An Enthusiast Can Live Electric

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Photo: Bradley Brownell

For as long as any of us have been alive, car enthusiasm has largely meant burning hydrocarbons, emitting CO2 and building gas-guzzling sports cars for the sole purpose of going fast. For decades I’ve been opposed to the electrified future simply because it denied me a manual transmission and sporty suspension, but that attitude changed last year when I drove Porsche’s magnificent Taycan and rode Harley-Davidson’s incredible LiveWire. Those two experiences proved to me that it was possible to be an enthusiast and live an electric-powered life at the same time.

So, for the entire month of December, I’m conducting an experiment. One that puts my ass on the line to prove once and for all that it is possible that not only can a normal human person live a fossil-fuel-free life, but it can also be fun. I am taking this concept to extremes and living for an entire month in the future that I think is totally possible right now. No gasoline, diesel, propane, natural gas, or coal will be burned in my household from this moment until the new year. Myself, my wife, and our basset hound will live an entirely electric-powered life. Maybe we’ll thrive. Maybe we’ll fail. Time will tell.

For every ten people who have been enthusiastic about the results of this trial run, thirty more have popped up thus far to shout a well-ackshully at me. Usually, it goes something like this: You know that you’re just offsetting the carbon emissions of a gas car or motorcycle to the carbon emissions of the power generation station your local power grid uses to provide power to your house. Your efforts are futile, and besides all that electric cars aren’t manly anyway.

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Well, to that first point I will happily point out that for several years I have been paying my power company, in this case NV Energy, to supply my house with 100 percent non-fossil fuel energy. In Northern Nevada that mostly means geothermal, hydroelectric, and solar. Instead of the normal residential rate of 8.159 cents per kilowatt hour, I pay one cent more than the national average at 12 cents per kilowatt hour in order to offset the power generated to supply my home with 100 percent renewable energy. Furthermore, I have contracted with a local company to install solar panels on the roof of my garage, but because of coronavirus delays, the earliest they can be installed is mid-January. Anyway, power can be generated and consumed in a way that does not rely on coal or natural gas.

As for those of you who think electric vehicles aren’t masculine or whatever: Who cares what you think? Get the heck out of here with your toxic views of what a man should or should not be.

In addition to my home being powered fully by renewable zero-emissions energy, or at least offset to such an extent, our ’30s house is packed with high-efficiency electric appliances. I mean, sure, I can’t run the electric heat and a blow dryer at the same time without tripping a breaker, but that’s the sacrifice you have to make to live in a delightful Paul R. Williams-designed Lea Steel home.

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Alright, so let’s meet the players. If I can’t drive any of my Porsches, or the Buick Regal TourX, what am I going to be driving for the month of December, and how can any of it possibly be any fun?

1. Tesla Model Y Dual Motor

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A good friend of mine recently offered to do a car swap, with him driving my Buick Regal TourX and me taking his new Model Y dual motor for a spin. I’ve never had the pleasure of driving one of Fremont’s finest, so I’m happy for the opportunity. When most non-car people think electric car, the first thing that comes to mind is a Tesla. There’s a reason the company sells so many of these things.

Obviously, Tesla doesn’t have a press office anymore, so we couldn’t ask the company to loan us a press model to test. Instead, I had to rely on the kindness of a pal to get an opportunity behind the wheel.

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I picked this car up on Saturday and haven’t had much opportunity to drive it, aside from a few hours drive back to my house from San Francisco. As a replacement for the TourX, this works really well. It’s just a normal car with lots of power. It doesn’t have Ludacris mode, so it doesn’t shout “Move Bitch” when there is a slow car in front of you or whatever.

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An interesting point of note, I paid almost $50 for a full tank of gasoline on the way to drop off the Buick. Getting home with a short Tesla Supercharge cost just under $14.

2. My $2,000 Nissan Leaf

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I’ve put a couple hundred miles on the cheap-ass Leaf so far. I wouldn’t say it’s a very fun car, but as a replacement for a normal gasoline compact hatch commuter car, it’s serving really well.

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This car still needs a bit of work to make it truly cool, if such a thing is even possible, but as a daily driver it’s just so nice to drive. And so cheap to operate! It feels almost new inside, and it drives like a car with just 57,000 miles on the odometer. Man, I still can’t get over how good a deal this was.

My local EVGo station is actually named Brad, which I find amusing. I will stay loyal to Brad, and use him whenever possible.

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3. Zero DSR Black Forest

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I am, fairly recently, an EV convert when it comes to off-road motorcycling. The Zero DSR obviously isn’t quite as off-road ready as an Alta Redshift. That thing will rip through deep sand and big off-road whoops. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I took the DSR on a nice medium-difficulty hard-packed desert trail, and it put the biggest smile on my face!

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4. Zero SR/S

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Ostensibly the sportiest of the five vehicles we’re working with this month is the Zero SR/S. This electric sport touring full-fairing motorcycle is built to do both big range and big speed. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s fetching to look at. I am a bit disappointed with how few miles I’ve ridden the SR/S thus far, but hope to rectify that over the course of December, assuming the weather stays nice.

5. Harley-Davidson LiveWire

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Photo: Bradley Brownell
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In spite of the rough start that this bike and I got off to, I really love riding this ridiculous machine. When I first rode the LiveWire last year I instantly proclaimed it my favorite motorcycle of all time. It feels light and nimble, belying its 550-pound weight, and absolutely rips out of corners. It’s fast and fun in the way that sport-oriented motorcycles always have been. In my mind, this might be the perfect commuter machine as it is really only optimal for about 50 - 70 miles at a time but still charges up overnight if you don’t run it down to zero percent.

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I’m extremely excited to see how a full month of electric driving will go. In the process of this month riding and driving these five vehicles, I’ll give you a full review of each individual machine, plus weekly updates on how things are progressing. In the process, we’ll discuss the state of renewable energy in the U.S. market, how our national charging infrastructure is progressing, the concept of buying for your actual needs rather than edge cases and whether it’s possible to still have fun while driving/riding EVs. When it’s all over, I’ll give you an honest assessment of how it went, including my exact costs from start to finish. Yes, I’ll even show you my electric bill.

So, here we are, on the precipice of a massive change. Am I going to be able to make it to the end of the month without even lighting so much as a map gas cannister to loosen a rusty bolt on one of my project cars? Can I possibly make it without kicking on my grille to get a nice stripy steak? We’ll see.

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#NoDinoDecember, here we go.

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.

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DISCUSSION

Three thoughts, apologies in advance for the implied snark.

1. I’m sure that this will be a fun review, but make no mistake, there’s absolutely zero (no pun intended) challenge here. You have multiple EVs on hand, several of which are objectively fun as you’ve already attested to in your reviews, and all of which are objectively capable of accomplishing the insignificant task of “driving” that you’re going to assign to them. This isn’t Ewan and Charley risking running out of juice in the Bolivian Andes, this is like a challenge about whether you can wear pants for thirty days. Spoiler: Yes, but why would you want to?

2. I presume that no use of fossil fuels includes no posting to a GMG site, which relies on servers powered by fossil fuels, using an internet backbone powered by a ludicrous (and growing) amount of fossil fuels.

No? Then you’re using fossil fuels this month, just like 99.99-little-bar-over-the-top-% of people. Don’t feel guilty about it.

3. ... but seriously, have fun, especially on the bikes! My only real question about them is just how bad desert cold will be for those motorcycle batteries and whether it kills the range even worse than hoonage.