Electric car zips along at 1 cent per mile

Posted June 11, 2008

— A Harnett County man is paying about a penny to drive a mile, although Triangle gas prices set a new record high, a cent short of $4 a gallon, on Wednesday.

Mack Toler, 53, a retired computer engineer, converted his 1989 Geo Metro to electric power in 2001. The Metro's new, simple set up with 14 Club Car batteries under the hood – with no belts, hoses or oil changes – has saved him plenty of gas money, Toler said.

"The energy that is coming out of my wall costs me about the equivalent of 20 cents per gallon," Toler said.

Toller estimates that charging his electric car costs about 1 cent per mile and adds about $10 a month to his electric bill. He said he takes advantage of cheaper electricity on nights and weekends to keep his bill lower.

The Geo plugs into a standard wall outlet and takes about six hours to get fully juiced. The full charge can take the Geo about 40 miles at speeds over 70 mph, though Toller said he usually keeps around 45 mph.

Toller said he wonders why America doesn't join him for the ride.

"It's a matter of national security," he said. "If we had something to shift to besides oil, we wouldn't be dependent on foreign nations."

Toller scoffed at claims from U.S. automakers that there isn't enough demand for electric cars to mass produce them.

"If General Motors puts electric cars out on the car lot and nobody buys them, I'll buy that there's no demand," Toller said. "But when I want to buy one and you won't sell me one, I can't see how there's no demand."

It costs between $5,000 and $8,000 to convert a gasoline-powered car to electric. The smaller the car is, the better candidate it is for conversion.

Toller is one of about 100 members of the Triangle Electric Auto Association, but thinks only about a dozen other members have electric cars themselves.

He admits to one vice himself: a Ford Expedition, which gets 14 miles to the gallon.

"Yeah, that's my gas-guzzler," Toller said laughingly. "And I drive it now a lot less now than I did last year."

Toller said it's a shame alternative-fuel technology has not been exploited as much as it could have been in America.

"We had a 10-year head start on the rest of the world, and we threw it away. And I'm very sad about that," he said.


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  • Vietnam Vet Jun 12, 2008

    The Tesla can run with Ferraris and has much more than a 40 mile range at 220 miles. It does 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, and costs about 2 cents per mile to operate. Granted it has a hefty price tag but it demonstrates that there is a demand and available technology that could be used in the mainstream once a less expensive version could be mass produced.

  • MrPearce Jun 12, 2008


    I think you are ignoring the R&D costs associated with bringing a car to market which is safe, relatively well proven, and affordable. Yeah, this guy can put a load of go-cart batteries in his car and cruise around ---- for 40 miles. And thats in our relatively flat area of the triangle. Try it in the Blue Ridge mountains, etc. Then, how well balanced is the vehicle with multihundred pounds of lead acid batteries sitting where a aluminum lightweight engine sat before? What happens to all those batteries and acid in an accident? Electrically, will the car ignite other contacting cars, itself, it's passenger?

    The liabilities are great in that industry, as well as the exposure, if you are a small player. Which is why big players usually dominate it. Tesla has burned through hundreds of millions of dollars, and still is not in full production (if any at all), and already they speak of backstepping to hybrids.

  • WRALwontdeletemyaccount Jun 12, 2008

    Me, I'm buying a big block Corvette

  • WRALwontdeletemyaccount Jun 12, 2008

    "Toller said he wonders why America doesn't join him for the ride."

    Many of us need to go farther than 40 miles!!

  • MrPearce Jun 12, 2008

    Tesla Motor's? Bwahahahahaha!

    T.hey E.ven S.hipping L.ate A.uto's?

    They, like many others, have found out how difficult it is to ship a real car.

  • colliedave Jun 12, 2008

    If the market is there, the companies will rush to fill the demand. Why isn't there a market out there to convert existing cars to electric power? The electric cars I have seem would look a lot better as beer cans.

  • mom2threecld Jun 12, 2008

    if the democratics back during carters time hadn't kept drilling in america and using our gas, it probably wouldn't be at the price it is. if obama gets in it'll probably go to $8 a gallon.

  • foddertime Jun 12, 2008

    GM and Ford are laying off thousands. If they produced electric cars some people would buy them. GM is dragging its feet on the Chevy Volt. It is estimated that there is still 12 Trillion dollars worth of oil in the ground based on last years price. Much of GM and Ford's development money and incentive comes from oil. Many, many people do not want to see this gravy train end.
    They should get on board before these things are made and imported from China. There are already many startups coming online to fill the void. These will be full fledged sedans, not golf carts.

  • ifcdirector Jun 12, 2008

    Just got a reply back from Congressman Brad Miller who is sleeping at the switch in liberal candyland in which he refuses to support anything other than switching to alternative energy sources to avert an "energy crisis". This is what you get when you elect liberals to positions of power. They will bleed you dry until something less efficient becomes just as expensive but more politically correct in their world view. I wish everyone who voted for him paid $8.00 a gallon. They deserve it.

  • SaveEnergyMan Jun 12, 2008

    Looking into the math, I figure you'll need about 15-20 kWh to do a full charge. Over 6 hours, that's 2500 Watts on average, which is equivalent roughly to a stove or a small AC unit and not insignificant. At the electric rate most people pay, about 9 cents per kWh, that's $1.35 per day or 3.3 cents per mile. Better than 13 cents per mile for a vehicle getting 30 mpg and $4 gas though.

    As for the grid, it MIGHT work late at night, but I still want to know who is going to install the controls to make that happen. If they plug into a 208 V outlet (think dryer or stove) then why would anyone pay for controls? You can mandate it, but who would check and who would know if you didn't use the controls? People want instant gratification and don't want to wait.