I’ve joined the ranks of Electric Car drivers

This is a post originally published at Sustainable West Seattle’s blog in November 2015, not long after we bought our Nissan Leaf. I’m re-publishing it now in honor of Drive Electric Week, which is September 10th-18th.  Soon I’ll publish an update.

For years I’ve been saying that when our Honda Civic died, we’d replace it with a Nissan Leaf. Well, the Honda died and we just bought a Leaf. I thought I’d share our process.

 silber_EV

Why a Leaf?

There are lots of electric cars on the market. Several are just too expensive (e.g. the Tesla). Others are available only in states like California that have a mandate that require manufacturers sell a small number of electric cars. Those models are hard or impossible to find in states that don’t have a mandate (like Washington). That leaves basically the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt (which is a plug-in hybrid that burns gasoline when the batteries are empty). Though I like the Volt, it’s a bit more expensive and I liked the simplicity of a pure electric vehicle: no gas stations, oil changes, or tail pipe. The 85-mile range of the Leaf is sufficient for our daily driving and with charging stations becoming common, even longer trips are possible. For instance, Catherine wants to visit a farm in Sultan, over 50 miles away. Since there’s a level 3 charging station at the Sultan visitors center, it only takes 20 minutes of charging before heading home with a nearly full “tank”.

Why now?

We considered being a one-car family, just our trusty 1996 Subaru wagon. I take the bus to work, we live 3 blocks from a rent-a-car office with great weekend rates, and there are Car2Go cars in our neighborhood. I’m sure we could have made it work. Heck, we know people who are car free, and they don’t live next to two bus routes like we do. When we went to test drive the Leaf, it was just to check it out, not buy one. After we drove the car and liked it, they shared the deal: $6,500 off of sticker from Nissan, an interest free loan worth over $2,000, $7,500 tax credit from the feds, and a sales tax exemption from Washington State worth over $2,000. They made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.

We could have waited a few months until the 2016 Leaf comes out, which will have a range of over 100 miles. We could have waited a few years until the Tesla 3 comes out, which I’m sure will be amazing and much cheaper than the current Tesla. If you think about it in the terms of disruptive technology, something new (e.g. electric cars) replaces what came before (e.g. internal combustion engines) not because it’s all around better, but because it’s good enough on most elements (e.g. range, safety, driving experience, purchases price) and better on a few elements that the previous solution hadn’t focused on (e.g. low greenhouse-gas emission, total cost of ownership). A small percentage of the population will start buying the new solution because they care about the previously ignored values, which will spur development until the new technology becomes the standard. For us, the Leaf is either good enough (e.g. on range) or better (e.g. greenness) across all fronts. So why wait? Also, Nissan’s generous rebates are designed to get the 2015 cars off the lot before the 2016 model shows up: I’d rather pay $6,500 less and not get next year’s model.

How to charge at home?

We considered installing a level 2 charger at home, which would cost about $2,000. Instead of that, we’ll just charge using a standard plug (i.e. level 1 charging). At this level, it takes about 12 hours to fully charge the car. Since on most days the car sits in the garage for that long and we haven’t fully drained the battery, this should work fine.

I’ve long believed that most two-car families could have one electric car. Let’s see if I feel that way now that we’re on of those families.

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