February 8, 2011 – Getting Something for Nothing

Featured Trades: (NISSAN LEAF), (NSANY)


3) Getting Something for Nothing. I just contracted to buy all the gasoline I want at 14 cents a gallon. No, I have not struck oil in my backyard, or come into an inheritance from a long lost Kuwaiti relative. That is the de facto price that PG&E is billing me for a full charge on the all-electric Nissan Leaf that will be delivered to me in December.

That works out to $1.20 to recharge a vehicle that will transport me 100 miles, at the price of five cents a kilowatt hour. This is less than half the 11.8 cent/hour I pay to run the rest of my appliances, and a tiny fraction of the 40 cent/hour peak rate I pay to run the air conditioner in the summer.

PG&E has exactly one engineer to talk to its 10 million customers about this ground breaking new technology, and after much effort, I managed to get him on the phone. I asked who was paying the subsidy? Were those profligate bastards in Washington involved? He answered that there was no subsidy, that power sold at night was cheap because there was no other market.

So I inquired as to who was paying for all of the equipment upgrades, like the new transformers and power lines that were needed? Do I sense the heavy hand of Sacramento? He replied that there was no capital cost because the same infrastructure that delivered power to me during the day would be used to power my car at night. Only a couple of bucks would be spent on the installation of a new 'time of use meter'.

Of course, they have subsidized the hell out of the Leaf itself. The car that is costing me $22,000 here in California sells for $32,000 in Japan. I know we're supposed to be cutting the deficit by eliminating handouts like this. But you'll only take my subsidies by prying my cold dead hands away from them. Take someone else's subsidies, not mine! It is the American thing to do these days.

He did mention that one unanticipated problem had arisen. My ears perked up. Many wealthy Tesla Roadster owners in Los Altos Hills were impressing so many girlfriends with rides that they were requiring multiple daytime recharges, even though they promised to recharge only at night. Not only did this send their electricity bills through the roof, it was causing problems with the grid as well. I guess its all part of the teething process, a cost of making the great leap forward to the next generation. Who knew that Match.com would be involved?

I never thought I'd get something for nothing, but it looks like this time I will. That is, as long as the damn car works, and my kids don't run the battery down playing rap music all night. For a glimpse at the future and further insights into this amazing technology, please visit Nissan's Leaf website at https://www.drivenissanleaf.com/ .

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