Purely from a point of technological fascination, I have occasionally entertained the idea of buying an electric car. I had a chance to take a Leaf on an extended test drive a few years back, and I walked away knowing I could handle that vehicle as a daily commuter just fine. While there is no way I would want to spend $30k+ for a new one (nor do I want to lease one), I told myself I could be interested in a used one if the price were right. But that's as far as I ever went with that idea.
For the last twelve months, I've driven my '97 Metro as a cheap commuter. In that time, I've put just over 6000 miles on it. While I have seen two tanks which averaged 53 mpg, I usually get about 45 mpg in my typical driving. Back when gas had dropped to $2.00/gallon--the lowest it has been throughout my Metro ownership--a dollar of fuel would take me about 22-23 miles. Now that gasoline has once again topped $3.00/gallon, today that same dollar only takes me 15 miles at best.
As I was thinking about the Metro's cost-per-mile the other day, the idea of EV ownership again came to mind. How much would one of those cost me to drive, I wondered for the first time ever. Since it is the only EV I've ever driven, I decided to do the math on a Leaf. I pulled out my most recent utility bill and was surprised to see my cost for electricity is still exactly the same as it was back in 2009: a mere 8.76 cents per kilowatt-hour. According to multiple internet sources, Leaf drivers commonly see 4 miles/kWh during average driving in non-winter months; during the dead of winter, Leaf efficiency can drop to around 3 miles/kWh. This means one dollar of electricity from my wall outlet could take me over 45 miles in a Leaf during three seasons of the year, and around 34 miles in the dead of winter (assuming no energy loss from charging). Even if I factor in a gross 15% loss in charging efficiency--which is larger than real-world examples from those who have done the math--the Leaf is still significantly more efficient than the Metro was even at $2/gallon... and that's not even factoring in the additional ICE maintenance costs for things like oil, etc. Wow. Suddenly, I am seriously considering buying an EV.
Naturally, this has caused me to spend hours researching older (ie, affordable used) EVs. I remembered Car and Driver's six-car comparison from 2014, so I of course began by re-reading that a few times. Right away, this made me realize I insist on finding one with a 6.6 kW onboard charger. And since range is everything, I am looking for the most miles I can get out of a full charge. After a lot more reading, all my research brought me back to where I started: the Nissan Leaf. The Leaf seems to be my best choice--6.6 kW charging is available, there are always numerous ones for sale, Leaf prices seem to be better than most alternatives, and the Leaf's range of operation is equal to or better than anything else in its price range. From what I have learned, the first-generation Leafs break down into three distinct mechanical categories. I summarize them as follows:
2011-2012 = 24 kWh battery (which degrades in very hot climates), only 3.3kW onboard charger, resistive heater saps cold range
2013-2014 = improved 24 kWh battery degrades less; avail 6.6kW charger; avail heater upgrade to efficient heat pump; avail aggressive regen B-mode
2015-2017 = 24 kWh battery improved again; larger 30 kWh battery now optional
The 2011-2012 models do not appeal to me at all. There are so many improvements on the 2013 car--far more than I itemized above--that I feel the nearly negligible increase in cost (about $1000 in my market) is completely justified. Yet while the 2015+ model is even better, I don't think the improvement justifies the very significant increase in cost ($2500+) over the 2013-2014 cars. The sweet spot for me is definitely the 2013-2014 models.
So exactly how sweet is that spot, anyway? The local online ads show 2013 SV/SL models with list prices starting around $7000. That sounds like a fantastic deal to me. I am really thinking about finally pulling the trigger on one of these.
And with that, the Metro is now for sale.
But, wait--there's more!
Buying an electric car is only a start. I don't even own one yet, but already I have begun asking myself, why not charge it from the sun? After all, the only thing better than not paying for gasoline to power your car is not paying for anything to power your car. I currently have no solar hardware at all, but what if I threw half a dozen panels on my rooftop? You know, just enough to charge the car when it is parked at home during daylight hours. I hear horror stories of people dropping $25,000 on a full-size solar array, and I sure don't have that kind of money to throw around. I wonder how much a small system might cost me. Hmm.
So now I also find myself researching home solar systems. This is all new territory for me, and I admit I know absolutely nothing about how any of this works. Nevertheless, my initial online research has been promising. (A guy not far from me has a huge wealth of solar info at his web site, John Saves Energy. Anybody interested in EVs or solar power ought to check out his site.) I still don't know what sort of total costs I might incur, but at least I feel like installing a basic system isn't exactly rocket science. More research is called for.
And that's where TCL comes in. I know some of you guys have electric cars. Did any of you buy them used rather than brand new? If you did, I'd like to hear about your decision/shopping process and also about life with a used EV in general. And for all of you out there who bought an EV--new or used--are you charging it via solar power? If so, please speak up--I'd like to hear about your experience.