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Thread: One year with an Electric Car

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    Member JaxRed's Avatar
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    Apr 2000
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    One year with an Electric Car

    I mean a real electric car. A Nissan Leaf, not a Volt. A Volt is a plug-in hybrid. In reality there's only 4 pure electrics.

    Tesla, Leaf, Mitsubishi I-Miev, and Ford C-Max Energi. The are a couple others, sold mostly in California but they have minuscule sales (Less than 100 per month).

    I've had it 14 months now and have over 16,000 miles, so I'm doing about 1,000 miles a month.

    The Leaf is a niche vehicle. It really only serves as a commuting car for people with 2 cars, a fairly short commute, and a place to charge over night. I suspect 30-40 percent of folks fit that niche.

    I'm a semi-techie guy. That's why I wanted an Electric rather than a plug-in hybrid. Even though for most people, a plug-in Hybrid really is kind of the best of both worlds. Electric-only mode for short trips and gas for long trips. The thing holding back sales is cost.

    Volts (and Leaf's) approach $40,000 in cost.

    So after 1 year do I regret buying it? I regret 2 things. Buying it when I did (instead of 2-3 months from now) and not leasing. First the lease. I only leased one car in my life, and vowed never to do it again. And I intended to put as many miles on this as I could and did not want to get hit with mileage charges and pay for little cosmetic issues. But.....the lease costs are so low. I've seen them for $199 a month. And you can walk away after 2 years. Since I purchased, I'm paying much more.

    And there's kind of a natural limit as to how many miles you can put on it, as it goes about 70 miles on a charge, and it takes several hours to charge. So it would not have been hard to keep it at 12,000 miles a year.

    As for when I purchased, the car I bought was the top of the line 2012 Leaf. They really are very nice cars. GPS, Bluetooth, backup cameras etc. They are a blast to drive, with amazing acceleration, and surprisingly roomy. It ran me about $38,500. I paid sticker. At the time the dealers were trying to charge over sticker because they were in short supply.

    But the 2013's come out next month and 2 things have really changed. Not the mileage, you still get about 70 miles a charge. But they now charge twice as fast, and they have dropped about $6,000 in cost.

    The cost drop is the result of several things. First, the cars are now made in Tennessee instead of Japan. Much cheaper here. Secondly, the economies of scales are starting to kick in on the battery manufacturer side of things. And thirdly Nissan quite frankly wants to sell more of them. The Leaf is far and way best selling of the Electric and Plug-In Electric Vehicles worldwide. They just announced they sold their 50,000th vehicle. Volt has sold 32,500 all in the US. But Nissan expected higher sales, especially in the US.

    Their US goal for CY 2012 was 20,000 and they only hit 16,749.

    So it hurts a little to be driving a 1 year car with little dings and 16,000 miles on it when for what I owe, I could have a brand new 2013....... and the 2013 is better, mostly because of one little thing. Charging.....

    Let's talk about how they charge. They have 3 levels of charging. 120 volt. You can plug these babies into any 120 outlet and charge them. That's called Level 1. I assume that puts the number of Level 1 charge locations at 500 million. (ok,, I have no clue how many 120 volt outlets there are, I was using a real high number just to impress you).

    But Level 1 is VERY slow. Like 16 hours to charge from empty to full. Unless you charge all night, it's close to useless. But there are tons of people with short commutes who use 120 at home.

    240V (Level 2) - This is what most people (like me) use to charge at home. For reasons unclear to me, the 240V charge is more than twice as fast as the 120V. You can charge from empty to full in 6.5 hours. And of course you don't really start from empty unless something went terribly wrong the day before.

    The Leaf has a charging timer so you can tell it to start charging at a specific time (like midnight) to take advantage of cheaper rates. Or you can do what I do and just tell it when I want it to be ready and it figures out when to start.

    When the Leaf first came out home 240V charging systems were going for about $1,500. That would have been show stopper for me, but then good old American know-how took over. Some engineer in California figured out he could adapt the standard Nissan 120V plug to put out 240V. And for about $325. He had tons of satisfied customers so I bought, and now I am one of those satisfied customers. Home chargers now go for as low as $799 at Lowes.

    There are a few public level 2 chargers in most towns. Almost all Nissan dealers have a free one available to the public, so in Jax there are 7. 4 Nissan, 1 city, 1 free commercial (Shopping center) and 1 pay station. But a 2012 will only get 13 miles for an hour of charging at Level 2, so unless you are parking at the exact spot you are going to be, the public Level 2 chargers are only useful for emergencies. In 14 months I took advantage once. I had planned my trip and knew I was on the edge, so I stopped at the shopping center and charged for 20 minutes or so just to be safe.

    Level 1 and Level 2 chargers use the same plug.

    Level 3 charging is high speed DC 480V charging. It uses a different plug. Only the top level 2011-2012 Leafs had a high speed port. But it can charge a Leaf from empty to full in 30 minutes. Now you're talking!! Here's the problem. They are practically non existent except for a few isolated places like SoCal or Oregon. For example.....there are none in all of Florida. The main reason I went for the more expensive Leaf was to get the Level 3 charger which is useless to me.

    So why is the 2013 a lot better about charging? Because the internal charger on the 2013 can handle twice as many kw as the 2011-2012 model, so it charges twice as fast at Level 1 and Level 2. There are many times when I would get home with 30 miles or so, and some place to go that night, but not quite enough time to get it charged up for the trip that night. A charger that was twice as fast would make the car much more useful for that 2nd trip during a day.

    The third thing that is different about the 2013's is that they now offer a "stripped down model" at about $28,000 which after the $7500 federal rebate means you are talking about a $20,500 car. Much more in line with a "normal" car. But does not have the new high speed internal charger.

    I love the car...... So what would I do knowing what I know now?....... For sure I would wait for the 2013's.... and I would probably lease.
    Last edited by JaxRed; 02-19-2013 at 09:56 PM.

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    RBA (02-20-2013)


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