Eco for a Week-O


by guest blogger Kathleen Oswalt, executive assistant to Maria Rodale

I am truly lucky to work in a job that affords me so many different and exciting opportunities. As Maria’s executive assistant, I’ve learned so much about organics and have heartily embraced the green lifestyle. I’m as green as I can be at this time and am always learning new things.

Recently, one of the opportunities the job involved was to accompany Alice Waters and her friend Betsy while they were in town to attend the Rodale Institute Organic Pioneer Awards. They decided against a car service and chose instead to have me drive them wherever they needed to go. No problem! I was going the same places they were. And let’s be serious, it meant spending one-on-one time with Alice Waters and her dear friend! It was an experience I am so grateful to have had, showing them our area and getting a taste of Alice’s worldview. But that’s an entirely different post… I digress.

At the time, Honda had lent Rodale Inc. an electric car, the Honda Fit EV, to test out for a full year. Plug in this little guy and you can drive for up to 80 miles on that single charge. After some discussion, Maria and I decided that I should use it while driving Alice and Betsy. I retrieved the keys and got a quick tutorial on working the machine. Bring it on. As I walked outside for my meet-and-greet, I saw this little blue nugget of a car plugged into the wall. It was strange to see at first, but I was eager to give it a whirl.

The first time you drive an electric car—after it’s unplugged, of course—it has an almost golf cart feel to it. I don’t mean that in a negative way. Actually, it was rather zippy—and whisper-quiet! I did a loop around the building to make sure I could actually drive the thing, and then officially took the reins for the week. I would be driving eco for the week-o and was really excited about it!

I learned that the Fit operates off a 24 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, powering a brisk, 100 kW electric motor that produces 123 horsepower and a pretty powerful 189 pound-feet of torque. It can charge up from a household outlet in 16 hours, or in only three from a dedicated, 240-volt charging station. You can lease the Fit in certain states for as little as $256 per month.

On my first run, the car was fully charged and ready to go. I took it home and it fit nicely into my tiny brick garage. It’s a small car, but it certainly doesn’t feel small when you’re riding in it. Since it was fully charged, I didn’t attempt to plug it in overnight. When I picked up Alice and Betsy the next day, I informed them of my little eco car adventure, and we were off. Alice was excited to drive in the electric car, as she had been considering one for herself.

After driving for a bit, I could easily say that on normal, small town roads, it was great—truly a fun ride. When it started to rain, though, and I was on the highway, the little blue car felt a bit like a little blue roller skate. But everything was still all fine and fun until I realized that we only had half a charge, or about 40 miles, left. Realizing this, and seeing that Alice was nervous that we wouldn’t make it to the awards that night, I dropped her off and sped home to recharge.

Because I don’t have an electrical outlet in my garage, I attempted to charge the car with an obnoxious bright-orange extension cord pulled over my fence into the backyard. An hour later, I jumped back in and saw only four miles added. Was this really happening? I zipped over to my parents’ house (they have garage outlets) and tried again…another four miles added. Well, that cancelled the mileage it took to get there, so that was a bust. Unfortunately, my house isn’t set up for quick electric car charging, although Rodale does have the 240v charging station. Seriously, I should have gone there! Lesson learned. If you want to own this car, you definitely need the high-voltage charging station nearby. In the end, I ended up using my own, non-electric car to get Alice to the Organic Pioneer Awards. So maybe I only achieved eco for two day-o, but I tried!

Now, certainly, if the car had longer range or could top-off faster, I’d get one in a heartbeat, because it’s a fun, lively little ride. I’m sure in the future these issues will be resolved and you’ll see me quietly whizzing around town in my own little EV. But when driving a famous chef around town on a tight schedule? Well, we’re not quite there yet!

Kathleen Oswalt makes her bed every morning, always has her nails painted, and is obsessed with mascara. She has the dorkiest dog and the most carefree cat. She is currently the executive assistant to Maria Rodale and was the Men’s Health Single Girl blogger. She is passionate about enriching her spirit and embracing her true self. For more from Kathleen visit


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