Atlanta Electric Vehicle Development Coalition

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Here’s why electric car sales are plummeting in Georgia

Here’s why electric car sales are plummeting in Georgia

Reprinted here is the entire story written by AJC staff writer Chris Joyner published on line on January 13th and in newsprint on January 16, 2017.  Copyrighted material – Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Here’s a fact maybe not generally appreciated by commuters gazing at Atlanta’s smudgy, smoggy skyline: Georgia has the second most electric vehicles in the nation.

Here’s another fact: Not for long.

Georgia has about 25,000 electric cars on the road, mostly in metro Atlanta and largely funded by what was one of the most generous state tax incentives in the nation — a $5,000 state income tax credit. But state lawmakers, many of them conservatives who are predisposed against consumer tax credits anyway, canceled the credit in 2015 and installed a $200 registration fee instead.

That whipsaw effect pushed new electric vehicle purchases off a cliff. In July 2015, the state registered 1,426 electric vehicles purchased as the tax credit expired. The next month, just 242 were registered — that’s an 83 percent drop and sales have not rebounded.

The impact also can be seen in the decline of specialty license plate sales for alternative fuel vehicles, which are tied to the registration fee. Every all-electric vehicle — as well as some other alternative fuel vehicles — is subject to a $200 fee. Owner of such cars can opt to get the specialty license plate in return, giving them access to Atlanta’s HOV lanes.

However, since the change in state policy, monthly license plate sales are down nearly 60 percent.

“We should be around 40,000 vehicles now,” said Jeff Cohen, founder of the Atlanta Electric Vehicle Development Coalition. “We’re not growing.”

Backers of alternative fuel vehicles like Cohen have complained that lawmakers turned one of the friendliest states to the electric car into one of the least hospitable.

“According to the Georgia Department of Revenue, sales and leases have dropped over 90 percent,” said Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols, a proponent of the tax credit and owner of two electric cars. “The tax credit was key to our growing this market.”

No one disagrees with that, but it made some conservative lawmakers uncomfortable. Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, served on a special joint study committee created last year to look into alternative fuel vehicles and said the dramatic decline shows the tax credit only propped up an industry that didn’t have wide consumer support.

“Our previous electric car tax credit was too generous, too rich. We have to strike a balance on what is good for the economy, what’s good for the environment and what’s good for the consumer,” said Miller. “It should be market driven, and a free-market approach answers a lot of questions.”

Credit not likely to be revived

Attempts last year to reinstate a version of the tax credit failed, and the joint study committee met three times last year and issued no recommendations. And Miller made it clear the committee was taking a wait-and-see approach to any new measures.

“At this point it’s really fluid because we are still working on trying to develop the right kind of policy that will move us forward,” Miller said. “With energy prices at their current state, it’s difficult for people to justify the investment in alternative energy and that has slowed the pace of our exploration.”

Advocates hoping the state would consider new incentives got little encouragement from the study committee.

“I’m going be as generous as I can,” said Don Francis, director of Clean Cities Georgia, a federally supported initiative. “I was disappointed at how they approached it and what the output was.”

Francis testified at the final meeting of the study committee that the elimination of the tax credit was costing both consumers and the state money as drivers spent more on gasoline and most of those dollars left the state.

Francis said it was pretty clear the committee wasn’t interested in revisiting the tax credit and instead focused on what the state could do to support business uses for alternative fuels while supporting refueling and recharging infrastructure.

There are no disinterested parties here. Miller, for example, is a car dealer and not for Tesla. Cohen is North American sales manager for General Electric’s vehicle charging stations. Car companies like Chevrolet and Nissan, which produce the most popular all-electric cars, are weighing in as well.

But there are legitimate policy questions too.

Should the state put a thumb on the scale to entice consumers to buy one type of car over another? Are consumer tax credits bad policy generally? Doesn’t the state have an obligation to address air quality and climate change by encouraging clean energy?

Francis, Cohen and others who want more state support for electric vehicles are retooling and focusing heavily on the annual registration fee. The fee, which this year will be slightly above $200, is meant to offset the gas tax which electric vehicle owners obviously do not pay but go to fund repairs on the roads everybody uses. However, the indexed fee, which this year will be slightly above $200, is the highest in the nation and there appears to be some support for lowering it.

“I think that’s a realistic priority,” Cohen said.

Cohen is bullish on electric cars (he owns three) and believes that sales will slowly rebound on their own, particularly if the lawmakers reduce the penalty to something less punitive.

“I’d rather see the registration fee addressed to maintain our population,” he said. “I’d rather not fight for a tax credit that market data may not prove we need.”

Francis said there may be a way to return a portion of the tax credit’s incentive by giving buyers a break on sales tax at the point of purchase.

“A lot of states are doing sales tax exemptions rather than credits,” he said.

Whatever the outcome, unless policy changes soon, Georgia’s unlikely position as No. 2 on the electric car rankings (way, way, way behind No. 1 California) likely is doomed.

As AJC Watchdog, I’ll be writing about public officials, good governance and the way your tax dollars are spent. Help me out. What needs exposing in your community? Contact me at cjoyner@ajc.com.

 

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EV Charging Comes to Atlanta Airport!

EV Charging Comes to Atlanta Airport and in a BIG way!

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What started out as a conversation between Georgia Public Service Comissioner Timothy G. Echols, City of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and his Director of Sustainability Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (recently promoted to Chief Resiliency Officer) has advanced to the first phase of three phases of electric vehicle charging stations at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. The first 102 charging ports were officially unveiled on Thursday January 12, 2017.  And that was very welcome news to metro Atlanta EV drivers.

How did this finally happen?  Read on about the individuals who led the charge to make electric vehicle charging at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport happen.

don-francisDon Francis, Executive Director Clean Cities Georgia.  Don has been championing charging at the Atlanta airport for at least five years and has been actively part of the planning process that has brought the first phase of chargers. Don’s widespread network of government, industry and think tank partners along with his deep knowledge of EVs and EV charging drives his quest to ensure that the state of Georgia continues to support the growth of electric vehicles and reduces our dependence on foreign oil. Don has overseen charging station infrastructure in Georgia for over 20 years, going back to the GM EV1 project.

tim-echolsTim Echols, Commissioner, Georgia Public Service Commmission. Tim has been the most vocal publicly elected official supporting electric vehicles and charging stations for years. Tim took a position during the 2015 Georgia General Assembly to retain a modified ZEV/LEV vehicle tax credit to continue to support clean energy and to improve Georgia’s air quality. Guest Post by Tim Echols, Commissioner, Georgia Public Service Commission: Why Retain the ZEV/LEV Income Tax Credit In Georgia?As a tireless champion, Tim does not give up easily.  It was Tim’s conversation with Mayor Reed and Ms.Benfield that sparked the commitment on the part of Mayor Reed to aggressively ‘close the EV charging gap’ at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport.  Tim builds bridges ‘across the aisle’ as demonstated by his re-election to the Georgia Public Service Commission this past November, garnering the largest number of votes of any elected official in the history of the State of Georgia.

stephanie-stucky-benfieldStephanie Stuckey Benfield joined the Mayor’s Office as Director of Sustainability in mid-2015 and immediately began to make her mark on alternative fuel vehicles. The City’s fleet began to transition from ‘gas guzzlers’ to fuel efficent vehicles with charging infrastructure to support the city’s EVs.  Stephanie, who is known to ride one of the city’s bicycle’s to meetings downtown, together with Don Francis and Tim Echols, saw the huge need for electric vehicle charging at the airport and in partnering with the Airport Sustainability team, initiated the dialogue with Mayor Reed suggesting that maybe 50 stations were needed. His Honor quickly increased that number 6-fold. Stephanie is truly walking the talk and recently purchased a pre-owned 2014 Tesla Model S 60 following a test drive of a new Tesla at the City of Atlanta’s first Electric Vehicle Ride & Drive event. True to her values, Stephanie purchased a ‘recycled’ electric vehicle!

paul-bowersPaul Bowers, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Georgia Power, A Southern Company.  It takes amazing commitment on the part of a public utility to get behind an initiative with candidly, a negligable ROI. With just over 25,000 EV’s, it would have been very easy for Paul Bowers to politely decline support for the EV Community Charging program, which is in the process of rolling out up to 61 recharging islands with both DCFC and Level 2 stations throughout the State of Georgia.  Instead under Mr. Bowers leadership, Georgia Power has embraced and significantly advanced the ability to own an electric vehicle in Georgia as the result of the series of committments that he and his organization have made, including supporting the multi-year charging stations project at Atlanta Airport.

mayor-kaseem-reedCity of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Hartsfield Jackson Airport General Manager Roosevelt Council Junior.  Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport plays host to 100,000,000 passengers a year, the majority of whom do not live in metro Atlanta. The airport is in the midst of a $6 Billion modernization program which includes the demolition and reconstruction of the North and South terminal parking decks targeting 2018-2020 timeframe.  Mayor Reed is committed to making Hartsfield Jackson International Airport the “Greenest Airport in the World.” Mayor Reed Puts Atlanta on the Global Climate Stage

councilman-gm-airportWhen asked about the timing for electric vehicle charging at the airport, Mr. Council’s predecessor said 2-3 years aligned with the new parking decks.When Mayor Reed gave the word just several months ago (summer 2016), Mr. Council got to work and found a way, partnering with Polly Sattler, Senior Sustainability Planner, to make electric vehicle charging happen throughout the airport in January 2017!   Thank you Mayor Reed for lighting the fire and thank you Mr. Council for carrying the torch!

The January 12, 2017 media event was held in the International Terminal Short Term parking deck where 75 people gathered for the announcement, several of whom were delighted to plug and and charge up during the event many had been waiting for a very long time!

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 Photo Credit:  Jeff Cohen

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Encouraging Electric Vehicle Developments in Georgia

As the leaves began to turn, three very significant events have taken place which bode well for the advancement of electric vehicles and supporting recharging infrastructure in the State of Georgia.

Mayor Reed in ParisHartsfield-Jackson International Airport  City of Atlanta Mayor Kaseem Reed has committed to the installation of 300 electric vehicle charging parking spots by the end of 2017. Sources indicate the charging infrastructure will be a mix of Level 1 charging stations, L1 plug-in outlets (owners can plug in their charging cordsets), Level 2 stations and even a few DCFC stations. Regardless, this is a HUGE step forward as the most notable gap for EV charging in metro Atlanta is the airport.  The first 100 charging spots will be on-line by the end of 2016 with the remaining 200 coming on stream over the course of 2017.

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State of Georgia General Assembly Joint House-Senate Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Study Committee. At the end of the 2016 Legislative Session, a resolution passed forming a Joint Study Committee led by Rep. Bubber Epps and Sen. Jeff Mulls. The committee received testimony during three sessions (Macon, Ringgold, Atlanta) and concluded their public hearings on November 9th.

During the last meeting at the State Capitol, electric vehicle testimony was provided by Nissan North America, the City of Atlanta (Director of Sustainability Stephanie Stuckey Benfield) and CleanCitiesGeorgia. The latter was provided by Executive Director Don Francis, whom everyone knows is the “Godfather of EV Charging” in Georgia.

Don made a fact based presentation to the Joint Committee seeking to demonstrate:

  • PHEV  sales in Georgia are falling. While the State of Georgia is still #2 in the nation with 24,328 plug in electric vehicles registered (California is 10x larger at 229,723 PHEV’s according to IHS Polk data year ending August 31, 2016), Georgia PHEV sales are off over 90% and Georgia’s percent of total registrations is at only 0.4% vs. 0.8% national average.  The combination of the elimination of the LEV/ZEV personal income tax credit in June 2015 coupled with the “usurious” PHEV registration fees ($204 this year) have brought the mainstream EV market to a screeching halt. At the national average of 0.8% there should be another 6,500-7,000 new PHEV’s on Georgia’s roads versus the 1,247 according to IHS Polk.
  • Foreign Oil Dependency in Georgia is Unabated. More money is spent on petroleum in Georgia ($30 Billion) than the State Budget ($20 Billion) with the vast majority of those funds leaving the state. In contrast, electricity is generated and consumed in Georgia and those funds stay in the state. CleanCities goal nationally is to reduce and ideally eliminate the United States dependence on foreign oil.
  • Legislators are leaving money on the table. The economic impact of EV’s in Georgia is well over $100 million per year between vehicle sales/resales, electricity consumed in Georgia and disposable income effects from lower cost electricity (yes even with gasoline at $2.50/gallon).
  • The PHEV Registration Fee is Punitive. The $200+ PHEV registration/road use fee is twice that of the next highest states ($100 in Michigan, North Carolina and Washington State). It needs to come down.

At the end of this final session, Mr. Francis put up the “Ask” slide and boldly put forth three recommendations which the Joint Study Committee positively received:

  1. Restore a reasonable LEV/ZEV tax credit targeting 10% of the qualifying PHEV price with a cap of $3,000. Follow the Federal model of tax credit by battery size.
  2. Reduce the Alternative Fuel Vehicles registration fee to $50.00.
  3. Support EV charging station infrastructure. Address the language in the current legislation to enable the existing EV charging stations tax credit to be applied to commercial and retail properties. BOMA spokesman Mark Gallman provided similar testimony.

The committee thanked those providing testimony on behalf of Electric Vehicles with the prevailing sentiment expressed by Senator Butch Miller: “Something needs to be done but it is a question of balance. We need to find the right balance.”

Tim Echols created Georgia’s annual Alternative Fuel Vehicles Roadshow to showcase the capabilities of a wide variety of alternative fuels including electricified transportation.

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Electric Vehicles and the Southeast Grid – Newly re-elected Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols and Union of Concerned ScientistsPeter O’Connor convened a two-day ‘think tank’ session to discuss the current and future state of electric vehicles, and charging infrastructure, to hear case studies from regional public utilities, and take a glimpse into the future of charging infrastructure.  Workplace charging was tackled by one panel and Residential charging by another. Four public utilities (Duke EnergyGeorgia Power, Florida Power and Light, Jacksonville Energy Association) shared the outcomes of their initiatives to support PHEVs and recharging infrastructure. Ally Kelly from The Ray foundation shared the plans to test bed roadway embedded EV recharging on the 18 mile stretch of Interstate 85 between Georgia and the Alabama State line named in honor of the late Raymond C. Anderson, the visionary Chairman of Interface who led the carpet industry into the recycled fibers technology.   Audi’s EV Architect (coolest job title at the conference) Wayne Kallen said that the first full Battery Electric Vehicle from Audi is coming in late 2018!

So if one were to believe that all of the PHEV development work was taking place in California, this conference would surely have demonstrated that incredible advances are being made in the Southeast and in fact Jeff Kessler representing CARB (California Air Resources Board) said as much during his panel remarks.

During the post 2015 Georgia General Assembly era, the electric vehicle constituents in Georgia have been very busy advancing infrastructure (4,500 Public Level 2 charging stations and 375 Fast Charge plugs), and building the case for the Legislature to restore the State to a leadership position in the advancement of Electric Vehicles in Georgia.

2017-chevy-bolt-ev-commercialStay tuned as we watch how the next major development – the almost $60 million VW settlement Fund [if the State accepts it], is to be administered in Georgia. You can be sure that more charging stations (and even Superchargers) are on their way as the 2017 Chevrolet BOLT, the 2018 Tesla Model 3, all new Nissan LEAF and that all-electric Audi extend the reach the electric vehicles throughout the State of Georgia and beyond.

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2016 US PHEV Sales Top 110,000

US Plug In Electric Vehicle sales are on a tear in 2016 up +31% vs. sluggish 2015 but also up +20% vs. the record setting 2014.  So what’s going on?  Two words: pricing and innovation.

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Tesla delivered 34,455 Model S and Model X through September 30th following a very aggressive (for Tesla) sales push which included Model S and X ‘inventory vehicles’ – produced without a buyer and the ramp up of Model X production. Tesla reportedly converted a number of Model 3 buyers to Model S with its newly re-priced $66,000 base price. I visited Tesla stores in Atlanta and Cleveland where the store”cupboards” were bare and exhausted Product Specialists had delivered every vehicle they could get their hands on before September 30th. Tesla began to make deliveries of its 0-60 in 2.5 seconds P100D with its 315 mile driving range as well.

Chevrolet VOLT –  sales for the second 2016-chevrolet-volt-010-2-668x409-668x409-668x409generation model and its 53 mile all EV range are up +76% to 16,326 units, beating full year 2015 (15,393) and on pace to  best 2014 (18,805). Used car buyer are discovering a great value in the VOLT, which sell for less than 40% of the price of its price when new, attracting the next generation of buyers to the versatile 400 mile range VOLT.

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BMW X5 xDrive 40E at almost 4,600 units helped push BMW “E” sales up by 24% off-setting lower sales for the i3 (2017 model gets a longer range battery pack at 110 EV miles) and i8  both off about 20%. BMW just started shipping the 330E with just 323 units delivered and the 740E arrives in the Fourth Quarter of this year.

Federal Incentives (up to $7,500) are still plentiful and many states also have additional incentives on top of Federal continuing to support EV sales.  US gasoline prices are creeping up but still very low so not likely impacting the sales growth of EVs.

The next chapter:  2017 Chevrolet BOLT- officially rated by the US EPA at 238 miles of all electric driving range and a base price of $37,495.00 before Federal Incentives.  The long-range, mass market EV may be finally here.  That is until the Tesla Model 3 arrives in late 2017.

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National Drive Electric Week 2016 Metro Atlanta Event – September 10, 2016

Save the date!  Join metro Atlanta electric vehicle owners and our event sponsors for the 6th Annual National Drive Electric Week event in metro Atlanta.  This year the event will be held in Alpharetta Georgia at the incomparable Avalon community off GA 400 Exit 10 Old Milton Parkway.

Date:  Saturday September 10, 2016  Place: Avalon Alpharetta Time: 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Check out the details at : Drive Electric Week Avalon Sept 10 2016.  Please register to attend and if you are an Electric Vehicle owner, please register as a volunteer/attendee.  We will have breakfast and lunch for you, a Goodie Bag and give you the opportunity tell event goers about your experience as an EV owner.

Sponsors to date include

  • Georgia Power – Electric Transportation
  • Sierra Club – Georgia Chapter
  • Hannah Solar
  • Clean Cities Georgia
  • Tesla Avalon

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I am proud to serve as this year’s City Captain along side CleanCities Georgia Executive Director Don Francis.  If you would like more information about how you can get involved in the event email me at AtlantaEVDC@gmail.com or Don at don@cleancitiesgeorgia.org.

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2016 Plug In EV Sales up 19% through June

2016 is turning into a boom year for plug in electric vehicles!  According to InsideEV’s monthly sales scorecard, electrified vehicle sales are up +19% (+10,455 units) vs. sales through mid-2015 reaching almost 65,000 in sales.  The month of June recorded the highest sales of any month on record breaking 15,000 in sales. InsideEVs Monthly Plug-In Sales Scorecard

Behind the EV resurgence are four factors:

1). Tesla. Combined sales of Model S and Model X have topped 19,000 units commanding just under 30% of the EV market.  Model X reached almost 7,000 units and Model S, refreshed in April, sold just over 12,000 new vehicles through June. The 373,000 Model III advance deposits provide a nice tailwind, as does the recent price reduction on the 2016 Model S (about $5,000 less than a comparably equipped 2015:  see our earlier post (New Tesla Model S 60: A good value?).

2). VOLT.  The all  new 2017 Chevrolet VOLT is outselling it’s Gen 1 model by 73% with sales just under 10,000 vehicles through mid-year.  Plug-In hybrid buyers know that the VOLT is their best option for daily electric commutes and the range to go the distance (400 miles).  Chevrolet dealers might be getting better at selling the new VOLT; or at least not ‘unselling’it to well educated PHEV buyers.

3). Ford. Ford’s Energi models (C-Max and Fusion) along with the Gen 1 Ford Focus Electric managed to grow unit sales +26%. Ford, through CEO Mark Fields, has committed to invest $4.5 Billion to electrify its product line and offer at least 13 electric models in the near future.  Watch the Blue Oval.

4). New EV offerings in total helped support Plug In growth. BMW X5 Drive40e, Audi A3 E-tron, Volvo XC90, VW eGolf and Hyundai Sonata plug in all have added just under 9,000 vehicles through mid-2016. Most of these models did not exist in early 2015.

Two EV have lost significant sales base in 2016: Nissan LEAF (under 6,000 units/-41%) and BMW i3 (under 3,000 units/-36%). Nissan needs to launch the GEN 2 LEAF as soon as possible and BMW may need to adjust the value equation for its i3. At $42-50,000 the 84-110 mile EV is crossing into Tesla territory.

What can we conclude from 2016 so far:  new product with longer range is driving market growth and the impact of ‘cheap’ gasoline appears to be part of the history of 2015 Plug In EV sales. Growing charging infrastructure is building confidence in EVs and is slowly chipping away at ‘range anxiety disease’. Major public utilities commitments to building out EV charging infrastructure, especially in California and in the Pacific Northwest is a harbinger of what can be expected across the US: public/private enterprise to support EV charging station build out.

Tesla inventories are reportedly a tad high and the Detroit and Asian Automakers always run ‘end of model year’ clearance sales. Now might just be your time to get into an EV metro Atlantans!

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Tesla Model S 60 is back: A Good Value?

New Again Tesla Model S 60! This past week, Tesla announced the re-introduction of the Model S 60 kWh battery with a range of 210 miles and a base price of $66,000 USD. Other features include the new front end styling and headlamps introduced across the Model S line just a month earlier and the optional 75kWh upgrade to add another 39 miles of range for $8,500.00 USD and the optional Dual Motor for another $5,000.00.

Our sister company, Georgia EVentures, LLC, took delivery of one of the last Model S 60 kWh vehicles produced in March 2015, so we thought we would provide a comparison to see just how good a value the new, now 5 year old Model S 60 is compared to it’s original  60 kWh version launched in 2012.

2016 or 2015 Model S 60 – Which is the Better Value? To make the fairest possible comparison, we used the same color and trim (Blue Metallic, Grey Leather, Obeche Gloss, fixed roof, white headliner),  the same options (Autopilot, Tech Package/Premium, Air Suspension)  and 19″ base wheels. Supercharging was a $2,000 option in 2015 and standard in 2016; our 2015 Model S has both front and rear Nex Gen seats so a -$1,000 adjustment was made to account for the actual cost of the Nex Gen rear seat in the 2015.

Four factors make up the biggest components of value for the new Model S 60:

  1. Base price reduction of $3,900 (-6%) for comparable range (210 vs. 209)
  2. Inclusion of Supercharging which was a $2,000 option in early 2015.
  3. Decoupling of Autopilot and Tech Package/Convenience features saves $1,750.
  4. Future ability to unlock 15 kWh of battery/39 miles but not for $8,500-9,000 as offered today: Tesla is still struggling with how to price longer range battery packs.

Bottom line, before Federal and State Tax Credits (Georgia’s $5,000 ZEV tax credit vanished on July 1, 2015), the “New” Model S 60 is a better value at $4,000 less (-5%) than the 2015 Model S.

As they say, timing is everything. And this might just be a good time to finally purchase that Tesla Model S you’ve always wanted!

Fortunately for Georgia EVentures, the Georgia ZEV tax credit more than made up that difference, providing about $1,000 in lower cost versus the comp equipped 2016: yes timing is everything!