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Electric car update

My LEAF's odometer showing 22,222 miles
My LEAF’s odometer showing 22,222 miles

I drive an electric car. I related my impressions after the first four months with my Nissan LEAF in an earlier blog entry.  After over two years and 20,000 miles, I’m convinced more than ever that electric vehicles (EVs) are the future. While there certainly are improvements I’d like them to make, I don’t see myself buying anything other than an electric car in for the foreseeable future.

A lot of people are curious about electric cars and ask me questions. Here are some of the most common questions folks have asked:

The charger in my garage
The charger in my garage

Do you have a charger in your garage? Absolutely. It is a 220V (like a dryer) device with a special plug. I typically plug in my LEAF every evening when I get home from. It takes four to six hours to recharge, but I don’t really think about that when it is charging overnight.

How much has it affected your electric bills? That is a harder question to answer than you might think. I’ve looked at my electric bills from the two years before the LEAF and compared them to the two years since. They are running an extra 20 kWh per day higher, but I also finished off my basement (including an additional AC unit) at about the same time. That is probably exaggerating the difference. Another way of looking at it is that the battery holds 24 kWh and I typically am only about half empty at the end of the day. My cost of electricity is about 10 cents per kWh, so that means $1.20 (at 12kWh) to $2.00 (at 20 kWh) more per day or at most an extra $60 per month.

Recharging at a local McDonald's
Recharging at a local McDonald’s

Do you worry about running out of electricity? I don’t worry about it, but I do have to think about it. I’ve forgotten to plug in the car once or twice and not had enough range in the morning. Fortunately, I have another vehicle I can use. I’ve also pushed the limits of how far the car can go in a day when I have to run some errands in addition to my typical 35-mile, roundtrip commute. On three occasions, I’ve had to stop at one of the local McDonald’s restaurants which have chargers. Having more chargers in the area, especially at work, would help with that issue.

My LEAF smuggly parked between two Prii
My LEAF smuggly parked between two Prii

What do you like about electric cars? I love the way they drive. It is quiet, other than road noise, and I have had to be careful because I can be going 85 mph and not realize it. There is never any hesitation when you step on the accelerator, just instant torque. While the LEAF is not zippy, it nicely jumps when you have to pass another car or accelerate quickly from a stop. I do also love how wonderfully smug I can be compared to folks in a Prius!

What has surprised you the most? I did not realize how little maintenance the car requires. I’ve faithfully taken it in to the dealer every six months and gotten software updates and such. (Yes, it is odd to have to get your car’s software updated and slightly annoying that you can only do that at the dealer.) The only expense other than inspections and tire rotations has been for servicing the brakes. An odd consequence of not having to get the oil changed or fill up at a gas station is that I never clean the windshield or get things like windshield wiper fluid refilled. I’ve had to get some supplies to do those things at home.

I have heard about folks who have not had entirely positive experiences with their EVs. A common complaint is that the battery degrades over time and holds less charge as evidenced by fewer bars on the battery gauge when the car is fully charged. To some extent, that is the expected behavior of a battery. I have not experienced that issue, however.

A co-worker has twice had the 12V accessory battery in his LEAF be dead in the morning. This seems to be a problem with his specific car, but there is some irony in not being able to start an electric car with a full battery because the accessory battery is drained. I know he has been frustrated enough with that problem to not find the irony amusing.

The big challenge with an electric car is the battery and the problems of recharging it. My simplistic answer is that with a commuter car, that is not a big issue. And, over time, batteries will have greater range. The Tesla model S solves that issue with a large battery. My business partner, Mark, has one. He loves his car and has to struggle to even find anything bad to say about it.

My next car will be electric, probably the BMW i3 which will be available with small engine and 2-gallon gas tank for emergencies or when you can’t find a charger. The i3 will be available early next year, but with limited availability. I leased my LEAF because I was not sure of the resale value, so I have less than a year before I need a new car. Hopefully, the i3 will be available around when my lease is up.

One way or the other, however, I will be driving an electric car.

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