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Aaron J. is a bimodal commuter

Aaron Jones, Associate Director for Community Affairs for UCSB’s Associated Students, commutes regularly from his home in downtown Santa Barbara to the UCSB campus. Each day, he travels the same route, but his trip isn’t in the comfort of his own vehicle. As part of a one-car family, Aaron spends the majority of his commute on the bus or on his road bike.

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Noah tests the efficiency of his family’s electric vehicle

Although he’s been known to play a video game or two, Noah Z. is not your ordinary teenager. Recently, Noah decided he wanted to express his concerns about the world his generation is inheriting by shedding light on a simple way that American drivers can reduce their carbon footprint. His experiment won him a medal at the Santa Barbara County Science Fair and has him thinking about the future. The idea started when he and his family checked out the Green Car Show at CEC’s 2012 Earth Day Festival.
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Fifteen Hours with Al Gore

Katie Davis is a member of the CEC Partnership Council, as well as a trained presenter with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project. Below she tells the story of her experience training with Al Gore. 

Katie will be presenting her Climate Reality presentation at 7 pm on Thursday, February 28 at the Santa Barbara Public Library.

Five years since he won an Academy Award for An Inconvenient Truth and a Nobel Prize for efforts to educate the world about global warming, what’s happened to Al Gore’s presentation and, indeed, actions to address the causes of climate change?

Along with 1,000 other Climate Leaders from 50 countries, I recently went through training in San Francisco on how to give the latest version of his presentation on climate change. The training included one 15-hour-marathon day with Al Gore that went from 8 am to 11 pm.

The latest incarnation of Gore’s presentation, entitled Climate Reality, is heavy on weather. What’s changed in the last five years is the willingness of scientists to point to the freaky storms, record heat waves, devastating droughts, super floods and massive fires and say definitively – yep, that’s us. Climate scientists used to be careful not to blame any one extreme weather event on global warming. But that’s changing. When we break 362 all-time high temperature records in the U.S. and no cold records - as we did in 2012 - it’s pretty clear we’re living with climate change right now.

Or as Gore put it, "It's like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation."

While global emissions have continued to rise, there are some signs of hope.  Renewable energy production has exceeded projections nationally, and California is ahead of the trend.  In 2011, 20% of California’s energy use was renewable.

Santa Barbara, with its remarkable record of environmental leadership and abundant sun, wind and waves, could play a leading role in showing the world it’s really possible to kick the fossil fuel habit.

Question is – are we up for the challenge?

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Mikki J. is driving an electric car for $116/month

I consider myself an energy-conscious and open-minded person, but I have been admittedly stubborn about cars. As a faithful Volvo owner for over 20 years, I hadn't really considered driving an electric car.

A few months ago, my son Michael said to me, "Mom! You really should consider getting an electric vehicle. Since most of your driving is your commute to work and you bike and walk so much, it'd fit into your lifestyle well. Besides, you rarely go out of town." My response was, "No thank you, I'm waiting for Volvo to introduce a plug-in hybrid or all electric car."

However, Michael (also CEC's Transportation Manager) invited me to test drive a few hybrids and the Nissan LEAF pure electric car. WOW! I could not believe how much I enjoyed driving the LEAF. Much to my surprise, it handled easily, was very responsive and was quite swift, smooth and snappy. At the time, the $35,000+ purchase price or $350 lease option was over my budget. I set a goal to eventually own a LEAF in 5 to 7 years. I planned to sell my trusty Volvo, buy an affordable Prius C in the interim, and hoped LEAF prices would drop enough for me to own one.

Less than 2 weeks ago, my plans changed. I took advantage of an offer from Santa Barbara Nissan to lease a pure electric LEAF for $199/month with $1,999 down (Editor's note: We're not sure how long this particular offer will last. Contact the local dealer for current promotions and check online). This low price is likely due to the fact that LEAF sales have been slow this year, and Nissan is looking to clear out its inventory to make room for the 2013 LEAFs.

In addition, I qualify for a $2,500 California rebate. This rebate (minus the down payment) means that I will be driving for free for the first 3.5 months. After that, my lease will cost $216 (after taxes) per month. I also calculated that I would be saving around $100 per month in gasoline. (I previously spent around $150 per month on gas, but expect my electric bill to increase by about $50 per month). For a total of $116 per month, leasing the LEAF was a no-brainer. Now, I am so proud and thrilled to be driving electric!

Since I rarely drive more than 25 miles in a day, I'm using a regular 120 volt outlet in my garage for charging (as many LEAF owners do). Later, if I find I need to charge up faster, I could always add a 240 volt charger. My garage already has a 240 volt outlet from an old electric dryer, and I could purchase a charging station for $900 at Home Depot.

I take very few road trips, and when I do they are either to LA or the Bay Area. Nissan is now offering the LEAF lease with 10 free rental days with a gasoline car, for those occasional trips. I also could join friends in their car on a road trip, or switch cars with my son when I want to go out of town.

I'm simply thrilled to be off oil! It certainly happened much sooner than the 5 to 7 years I had originally projected. I will not miss driving all around town, fretfully checking and comparing gas prices. Imagine what a totally gratifying experience it is now, as I drive by gas stations with a huge smile!

I'm considering solar panels next, so look for me soon, as I will be driving on sunshine.

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Rock out to electric tunes in your electric car

My dad was a Mercedes man. My favorite of his cars? A buttermilk 300E with matching leather seats. I loved to slip into that luscious interior and escape to the hardware store for father-daughter bonding. While different models came and went, the Mercedes always got the prime garage spot - with other cars relegated to the driveway.

You can imagine my surprise when I arrived at his house two months ago and encountered the Mercedes parked in the driveway.

Something had changed.

A squeaky clean Chevy Volt was now plugged into the prime garage spot. Dad had purchased the Volt and installed a rooftop solar system through a zero money down lease program. The Department of Energy and the State of CA helped fund his 240 volt charger (no pun intended), which is set to charge only during off-peak periods. With this setup, his electricity bills are about the same, though sourced from renewables instead of fossil fuels, and hedged against inflating energy costs. However, he's saving about $100 a month in gasoline.

To celebrate Dad's shift in priorities, I made him an electric car playlist to bump to while silently whirring down the highway.

I put a lot of thought into the order of these songs and thought there might be other plug-in / hybrid electric vehicle owners who would enjoy a playlist selected specifically for their automobile. I would love to hear what I might have missed and welcome your suggestions.

I hope you'll enjoy this playlist in your electric vehicle!

  • "Electric" by Lisa Scott-Lee
  • "Danger! High Voltage (Soulchild Radio Mix)" by Electric Six
  • "Electric Avenue" by Eddy Grant
  • "Electric Youth" by Debbie Gibson
  • "Electric Lady" by Con Funk Shun
  • "Electric Feel" by MGMT
  • "Plug In Baby" by Muse
  • "She's Electric" by Oasis
  • "Don't Bring Me Down" by Electric Light Orchestra
  • "Running On Empty" by Jackson Browne
  • "Charge Me Up" by Jennifer Lopez
  • "Electric Barbarella" by Duran Duran
  • "Electric Man (Radio Edit)" by Mansun
  • "Charge" by The Renegades
  • "Electricity" by Spiritualized
  • "Together In Electric Dreams" by The Human League
  • "It's Electric" by Metallica

Listen to the full playlist through CEC's YouTube page →


About the author:

Cherlyn Seruto is currently commuting 80 miles a day via gasoline, and is considering selling her soul for an electric Porsche Speedster a la Reverend Gadget.

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Dennis A. wants to be free from fossil fuels

My journey is one of many steps. Thirty years ago I built a modest house for our family near the upper end of Mission Canyon that was quite green at the time. Our utility bills were miniscule. Nevertheless, in 1999, we installed photovoltaic panels to generate most of our electricity. However, I was troubled by the fact that, living in upper Mission Canyon, we went everywhere around town in our cars -- yes, that is plural. The only way I saw to reduce this dependence on fossil fuel was to move downtown.

Concern about energy and resource use evolved from a basic value that I have held for a long time -- namely, the sacredness of all life. Spending a lot of time camping and backpacking as a child and teenager shaped this reverence for life and my becoming a conscientious objector to war.

As we know, tensions around the possession and exploitation of the planet's finite resources—fossil fuels being prominent on this list—have and continue to lead to many wars and the destruction of many creatures and habitats. I remember being stuck in long lines of cars waiting for gas during the OPEC oil embargo in 1973. That event sparked my involvement with solar energy and efforts to move away from our over-reliance on fossil fuels. This awareness has undergirded my path of using fewer non-replaceable resources.

About 6 years ago, we and 2 other couples began designing a 4 condo infill project just a few blocks off State Street. We harnessed the sun for powering the buildings in all ways—space heating, hot water, and electricity. This combined with rigorous energy conservation measures has nearly freed us from fossil fuels in our homes.

The next step was to get rid of my car, which I did about 8 months ago. Now biking or walking gets me wherever I need to go with the occasional negotiated use of my wife's car. Even though my geographic world has shrunk, my interactive world has increased. I meet more people—old friends, new friends and casual interactions—than I ever did in the past. Best of all, I love it.

Being a part of a small living community has also been wonderful. Visiting, helping, borrowing, lending and sharing on a daily basis is a lost pattern of living for most of America.

The frosting on the cake for this journey (and totally unplanned) is having our son, his partner, and their new baby – our granddaughter – living in the flat just above us. Multi-generations living together is prevalent in most countries of the world but not so common in the U.S. today. This old family living arrangement has brought us great joy and richness. It makes me think often of the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child."

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David W. maximizes the range of his electric vehicle

I purchased my Nissan Leaf in March 2011. I couldn’t resist the appeal of zero emissions, cool styling, fun driving, green status, well-engineered and built car, and a 100 mile range. I must say it has delivered on all of these promises, with the exception of the range.  For me, range has been a bit problematic because I live in Santa Barbara, and I have an office in Hollywood. My commute is 92 miles door-to-door. I thought, I’d have 100 miles of range, so hey, no problem.

Real life experience

Well, here’s my real life experience over the last year or so. Fortunately, I don’t make that commute every day, only once a week. I have a loft in L.A. so I stay for a few days, mid-week, and drive back to S.B. for 4-day weekends. Bottom line -- I have made the 92 mile commute on a number of occasions, but on many of the trips I’ve had to avail myself of one of the four Nissan dealers along my route for a free, level 2 charge, stopping anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes at a time. Adding an hour, to an hour-and-half commute is not a lot of fun. (With a one hour charge, I can pick up about 12 miles of additional range).


I’ve learned about range anxiety first hand. It sits right under one’s sternum, something that pilots and race car drivers know all too well. I’ve also learned there are a number of factors that affect the range I am able to get on each trip such as:

  • Driving mode – eco mode or regular
  • Driving style – lead foot, or with an egg between your foot and the accelerator
  • Terrain – along my route I climb the 800ft Conejo Grade
  • Temperature – the Leaf cools it’s works, but no heating
  • Load – weight of passengers and cargo
  • Accessories – heat, AC and lights
  • Solar charger on the rear wing
  • Altitude – thinner air in certain locations
  • State of charge
  • Speed

Tactics to extend range

I’ve come to learn that the largest factor is aerodynamics. Even though the Leaf is nicely shaped to cut through the wind, and even deflect it around the side view mirrors with its bubble-lensed headlights, pushing all that air out of our way takes lots of energy. So the faster we go, the harder we have to push against all that air. (Race car drivers know that at top speeds it takes an enormous increase in horsepower to gain just a few more MPH.)

I’ve come to learn this in two ways. I can make my 92 mile commute without having to stop for a charge if I draft a big rig truck down the coast.  I let the trucker push the air out of my way with his fossil fuel. I don’t recommend this practice as it’s just as nerve racking as the range anxiety I’m trying to overcome. It’s also dangerous and you’re likely to pick up your share of rock chips.

The second way, is on the days I’ve hit stop-and-go traffic along the 101, I can make the 92 miles, by poking along well under the speed limit. However, if the traffic is moving along at a clip, it’s also a bit dangerous to try to go 50 mph with traffic zipping by you at 70.

Since I am trying to make my commute without stopping, I’ve also over inflated my tires by four or five pounds, tinted the windows so I can leave the AC off and added some GasPods along the rear roofline. I don’t know if they help, buy hey, any bit helps and I only need just a few more miles.

DC Quick Charging Stations

With just one DC quick charger along my route I’d be set.  In the same time it takes one to pump a tank of gas, use the restroom and grab a beverage for the road, I can pick up enough range to make my commute comfortably. All I need is 10 minutes on a DC quick charger, and I’m home free. I hear there are charging station companies evaluating DC quick charging stations along my route. I can’t wait!

Hidden Dangers

On a side note…. there is a hidden danger of using the level 2 chargers.  I stopped at the Nissan dealer in Camarillo for an hour to gain some additional range.  I was feeling good about picking up 50 cents worth of free electricity courtesy of Nissan, until I realized I was walking back to my car from Frys Electronics having just spent $200!  A month or so later the same thing happened when I used the free charger in front of the Malibu Public Library and walked over to the Cross Creek Shopping Center and spent $150 on clothes.  This is something that is not mentioned in the owner’s manual. So beware. (However, I’m up to speed with my tech toys and I’m better dressed thanks to my Leaf’s need for more juice.)

See you on the 101!

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