We’ve been watching gas prices dropping for the past several weeks. It went down to $1.93 and has now bounced back up into the $2.20 per gallon range. Just last Thanksgiving, we were looking at the highest gas prices in four years for the holiday.
OPEC has a habit of bouncing the flow of oil up and down to suit their goals, the primary on being to keep everyone addicted to oil. They cratered the US economy in 2008 by sending the average price of a gallon of gas north of $4. Granted, they had help in trashing the global economy, but they were definitely a contributor.
They’ve been pulling this type of stunt since the early 70’s. I’m old enough to remember the Arab Oil Embargo after Israel won the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. The price of oil went through the roof. We got serious about conservation and becoming energy independent and they dropped the price to keep us addicted to their product. This has happened repeatedly since then.
I’ve had enough. The week before Christmas, I traded in my 13mpg Silverado for a Leaf that doesn’t use ANY gasoline. Ever. Charging at home costs pennies a night. As best as I can make out, it is like driving an average gasoline car if gas were about $0.81 a gallon.
Every bit of the Leaf’s power comes from the good old U.S.A., mostly from Duke’s natural gas fired power stations. Unlike a gasoline powered car, as the grid gets cleaner, so does the Leaf.
Then there is the cost of maintenance: No oil changes. No spark plugs. No transmission repairs. Routine maintenance involves rotating the tires. That’s it. EVs have far fewer moving parts to break.
My inner 16 year old has noticed the instant torque the car has off the line. The Leaf is a hoot to drive around town and it is one of the slower EVs available. The Chevy Bolt has comparable acceleration to the 86 Mustang GT I once owned. Dodge has had to asterisk it’s claims about their Hemi powered muscle cars because some Tesla sedans will leave them in the dust in a 0-60 run.
I’ve written previously about driving my son’s Plug-in Prius while he has been in Japan. I was planning on going car shopping with him when he came back stateside. Someone posted a note in one of the Facebook groups I follow about a well equipped, used Leaf that had been listed in St. Pete at a great price. I was going to a meeting near the dealership in question, so I dropped in after the meeting. The car was pristine and the battery health showed a perfect 12 of 12 bars. I drove my Silverado down two days later and drove home with the Leaf.
I’m still getting used to the fact that the car only has an 84 mile range, but that has not been an issue so far. If I plug in each night, I’ll have a full charge in the morning. My typical driving pattern isn’t anywhere near that far in a day. In fact, I often go 2-3 nights between charging sessions. Out of town trips to Tampa or St. Pete take a bit of planning, but charging stations, including high speed DC Fast Chargers that can get me an 80% charge in a few minutes, are becoming more common by the day. Topping off the car at my destination eliminates any worry about making the entire round trip. I used a DC Fast Charger at a Dunkin Donuts last Thursday in Tampa to make sure I had plenty of spare range for the return trip and topped off the car during a lunch break in Oldsmar this week. If I need to go further, I’ll swap cars with my wife and drive the Prius.
The latest EVs have a range of 200 miles or more. I’ll consider grabbing one of those when they start coming off lease in numbers. What you won’t see me buying is another conventional gasoline powered car.
There are now over a million EVs on the road in America. That number is predicted to spike rapidly as new EVs become price competitive with new gasoline powered cars and companies like Ford start delivering the electric F-Series trucks they announced this week. Because of the depreciation on new cars, affordable used EVs are out there now for anyone who is looking. Lease deals on new EVs are also out there that include any federal tax credit that any particular car might qualify for.
If you are thinking about buying a new car, consider this: Ark Investment Management, and others are projecting that by 2022, the cost of a new 200-mile range EV will drop below the price point of 50% of the new passenger cars sold in the US. Once price parity happens, the value of more expensive to maintain gasoline cars will plummet. The Financial Times of London is reporting that we may have already seen the global peak sales of internal combustion engine vehicles. While US passenger car sales sagged between 2016 and 2018, the market share of plugin cars doubled. Think about that. If you buy a new gasoline powered car and finance it with a 60 month loan, it may be essentially worthless before you finish making payments.
As gasoline powered car sales tank, the sale of gasoline will do the same. People far smarter than I am are projecting that demand for gasoline may have already peaked in 2018. Gas stations are going to have to re-think their business model. I have no need to visit the neighborhood gas station. I start each morning with a “full tank”. Some Shell and BP stations in England are already adding DC fast charging stations. Additionally, new car dealers that depend on their service departments to provide the bulk of their profits will also have to rethink their business models.
I believe this is the automotive equivalent of the sea change we saw in shopping when shopping on the Internet took hold. Businesses who do not adapt will find themselves like the big box stores at malls across America. DC fast chargers are popping up at Dunkin Donuts and Walmart locations across the country.
Destination chargers are popping up at retail locations as varied as Publix, Whole Foods, and the Tampa Premium Outlets in Wesley Chapel. New Port Richey has three dual port destination chargers. They are at Sims Park, the Rec. Center, and the City Hall / Library complex. Earlier this week fully half of the charging ports were in use at the same time. Unlike DC fast chargers, which are designed for people who are stopping just long enough to get a quick charge, the destination chargers are designed for folks who will be there for a while. Restaurants, malls, and downtown shopping districts are obvious examples of where the property owners would like people to take their time and shop. We’ve seen this already in New Port Richey. A lady visited our City Hall charger and wrote the following:
“Nice charger. I was just going to get enough juice to head home and ended up staying the entire day in New Port Richey. I did breakfast, then the park, lunch, then a friend met me at the little shops on main, couldn’t pass up ice cream, and by the time I came back my car was fully charged.”
Are you a candidate for an inexpensive used EV? How much do you drive in a typical day? If you generally don’t travel more than 40 miles a day, you are a candidate for one of the very inexpensive first generation EVs.
If you drive 75 to 100 miles a day, the new Leaf or Chevy Bolt, with their 150 and 238 mile ranges respectively, are worth taking a hard look at. The newest Leafs and Bolts can be had for $30,000 or less. Teslas are still pricey, but that will change. The Tesla models are now the best selling luxury brand in the country. You will see a flood of new EV models from various car manufacturers over the next two or three years and the prices will continue to drop.
My general impressions of the Leaf? The car is perfect for what I’m using it for, which is primarily driving around West Pasco with occasional trips to Tampa or St. Pete. It is NOT a long distance highway star.
It will provide a comfortable ride for four adults, if the two in back aren’t as tall as I am. It has seat belts for three in back, but they will need to be very friendly. Luggage space is at a premium and we can’t get nearly as much luggage in it as we can in my wife’s Prius, especially with the back seats down.
My only complaint so far is that I have now kicked the Duke Energy OBD2 transponder out of the OBD2 port three times. The transponder sticks down too close to my size 12 shoes when I’m getting in and out of the car. Nissan obviously never thought someone would drive around with something plugged into the port. I’m going to install an extension cable to cure that problem.
I’ll keep you posted as I get more seat time in the Leaf. At the four week mark, I can tell you that it is definitely a keeper.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor