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Thread: One year with an Electric Car

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    Member JaxRed's Avatar
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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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  4. #2
    Member Spazzrico's Avatar
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    Re: One year with an Electric Car

    Thanks very much for the update. I swear I'm going to do this for my next car so I really appreciate some real feedback. The leasing option would be the only realistic one for me now, so it is nice to hear it is feasible.

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: One year with an Electric Car

    Thanks for posting this RJ. We don't own a car and living in Chicago we don't need one. But if we did get one, we'd definitely consider an electric. Good to get a perspective.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: One year with an Electric Car

    so lets assume you charge the car 5-6 nights a week from home.....how much would you expect your electric bill to raise by charging every night of the week or at least 6 mights a week.....are you charging it each and every night?

    do you notice a drain on your houses normal electric usage when your charging the leaf? like when my wife and daughters all want to dry their hair at the same time with 3 different hair driers and the lights in the house start flickering??

    great write up....its nice to see some decent reviews on the leaf....I have looked around but never really read anything good other than on websites where I dont visit often so I am not sure how to take the review....glad to see they are good vehicles..

  7. #5
    Member JaxRed's Avatar
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    Re: One year with an Electric Car

    I charge the car 7 days a week, I am sure there is some effect, but literally my electric bills have not changed. Trust me, the first time I opened the bill I was very afraid to see what was waiting for me.

    The Leaf basically has it's own electric line. We had an electrician come out and wire a 240 Line in the garage from the junction box. So it does not get affected by other things going on in the house.

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    Member medford's Avatar
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    Re: One year with an Electric Car

    I'm no where near buying an electric car, but thanks for the great writeup.

    Like you, I doubt that I'd ever lease a car, I'm a "buy it and own it" type guy, and would perfer to keep my cars as long as they can run, but at this point, it probably makes more sense to lease it, especially at that price, b/c as you found out, the charging technology and probably the total distance allowable on a full charge will increase a lot over the next 10 years.

    Anyhoo, I'm surprised that your electric bills didn't change much, obviously it costs something to charge it, perhaps the increase there has been offset by lower energy costs elsewhere. At any rate, if you assume the alternative is a 30 mpg car, and you were planning on 12,000 miles a year, that would translate to 400 gallons of gas a year, 33.3 gallons of gas a month. I wonder what the average cost of gas has been over the last year, obviously it fluctuates, but lets use $3.25. That would roughly $108 dollars a month in gas. If its true that the costs running the extra electric are negligble (lets say $8 a month) and you shifted those savings over to cost of the lease, that would drive the costs down pretty good ($99).

    At those numbers, you'd think the future would be most people having one for weekends, short commutes, as well as a traditional gas car, or at least until the range/number (and time) of charging stations increase to a level on the level of Shell gas stations across the country.

    One question, is there a portable battery charger available? The obvious big scare would be running out of power 5-10 miles from home b/c you got stuck in an unexected traffic jam. If there was a charger that you could "plug" in for 25 minutes to get you the last 5 to 10 minutes or to a site where you could plug it in for longer, would increase the appeal. I have no idea how big that charger would have to be though.

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    Member Sea Ray's Avatar
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    Re: One year with an Electric Car

    Jax, what is the warranty on the batteries/charging system?

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    Re: One year with an Electric Car

    Quote Originally Posted by Sea Ray View Post
    Jax, what is the warranty on the batteries/charging system?
    For electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to compete with gas-powered cars, battery prices need to drop by between 50 and 80 percent, according to recent estimates by the U.S. Department of Energy. Getting there might require inventing entirely new kinds of batteries, but thereís also a strong case that improvements to the lithium-ion batteries that power the current generation of electric vehicles may be enough.
    Electric vehicles cost less to operate than gas-powered ones, but that economic advantage largely disappears in the face of expensive batteries. The battery pack for the Chevrolet Volt costs about $8,000. The larger battery in the Nissan Leaf costs about $12,000.
    This article probably answers all of your questions.

    http://www.hybridcars.com/13-key-que...rdering-28007/
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  11. #9
    Member JaxRed's Avatar
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    Re: One year with an Electric Car

    Quote Originally Posted by medford View Post
    One question, is there a portable battery charger available? The obvious big scare would be running out of power 5-10 miles from home b/c you got stuck in an unexected traffic jam. If there was a charger that you could "plug" in for 25 minutes to get you the last 5 to 10 minutes or to a site where you could plug it in for longer, would increase the appeal. I have no idea how big that charger would have to be though.

    The power cord that comes with the car (Level 1 120V) is portable, so you could plug it in anywhere but it's so slow that you'd have to be desperate.

    The fact is that 95% of your trips are doing something you've done before, or closer. When you first get the car you watch the miles remaining like a Hawk, but after a while you know what you can do, and it almost becomes a non-factor.
    Last edited by JaxRed; 02-20-2013 at 11:32 AM.

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    Member JaxRed's Avatar
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    Re: One year with an Electric Car

    Quote Originally Posted by Sea Ray View Post
    Jax, what is the warranty on the batteries/charging system?
    There's been a bit of a fuss with people (Mostly in Phoenix) losing more battery capability than would be expected. Nissan upped the battery warranty as a result of that, but......

    It's one of the great unknowns for those of us on the bleeding edge. When the time comes to replace batteries, what will that cost? Everyone is assuming that technology and mass production will reduce the cost, but no one knows for sure.

    Two claims I have NEVER made are that

    1) This will save me money
    2) I'm saving the planet

    I bought it because I wanted to try some next-generation stuff. It will be a bonus for me if it runs forever, and that after the payments stop I'm driving for "free".


    Added: I am 14 months in and have lost no capacity
    Last edited by JaxRed; 02-20-2013 at 11:57 AM.

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    Re: One year with an Electric Car

    I bought it because I wanted to try some next-generation stuff. It will be a bonus for me if it runs for ever, and that after the payments stop I'm driving for "free".
    I bought my Toyota Echo in 2000 and made the last payment in 2004. Driving "free" is a great thing. I keep saying that I am going to get a new car. But the old Echo just keeps humming along at nearly 40 MPG. Neil Young said it best, "Long may she run."
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    Member cumberlandreds's Avatar
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    Re: One year with an Electric Car

    Thanks for your review. I think electric vehicles are very interesting and I think most likely alternative in the future to fuel power. I just wish the Feds would invest a sizable portion of budget to the development of long lasting batteries that are economical for all so we can finally wean ourselves off of oil.
    Reds Fan Since 1971

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    Member Sea Ray's Avatar
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    Re: One year with an Electric Car

    Quote Originally Posted by texasdave View Post
    This article probably answers all of your questions.

    http://www.hybridcars.com/13-key-que...rdering-28007/


    Whatís the warranty on the Nissan Leaf battery?

    It hasnít been announced yet. Under California emissions laws, the Chevy Voltís battery pack is regulated to have warranty coverage up to 100,000 miles. But the Leaf is a zero emission vehicle, and therefore is not subject to the same oversight. (Yet, we anticipate the Nissan will at least match competitors for warranty.)
    No answer. That tells me nothing

  16. #14
    Member Sea Ray's Avatar
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    Re: One year with an Electric Car

    Quote Originally Posted by JaxRed View Post
    There's been a bit of a fuss with people (Mostly in Phoenix) losing more battery capability than would be expected. Nissan upped the battery warranty as a result of that, but......

    It's one of the great unknowns for those of us on the bleeding edge. When the time comes to replace batteries, what will that cost? Everyone is assuming that technology and mass production will reduce the cost, but no one knows for sure.

    Two claims I have NEVER made are that

    1) This will save me money
    2) I'm saving the planet

    I bought it because I wanted to try some next-generation stuff. It will be a bonus for me if it runs forever, and that after the payments stop I'm driving for "free".


    Added: I am 14 months in and have lost no capacity
    I understand about being on the bleeding edge and all. I bought one of the first HDTVs, a 43" for over $3K. I don't have the stomach for a $40K bleeding edge buy though. Without a warranty it has no re-sale value. At this point, nothing about this car appeals to me. I'd much rather buy a Prius and settle for 50 mpg

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    Re: One year with an Electric Car

    Quote Originally Posted by Sea Ray View Post




    No answer. That tells me nothing
    The company intends to notify current owners and dealers early next year that it will make the warranty retroactive to cover all existing Leafs, offering to repair or replace the carís lithium-ion battery if it loses more than 30 percent of its ability to hold a charge after five years or 60,000 miles.

    Read more: http://www.autoweek.com/article/2012...#ixzz2LXtwBapW
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