Today marks the one year anniversary of the day I drove my Silverado to the dealership and came home in a 2011 Nissan Leaf. The Leaf is the first modern electric vehicle offered nationwide and 2011 was the first model year. As a result, it had a limited driving range compared to newer EVs and the battery is not as powerful as it was nine years ago. Here are my observations:
The original Leaf’s range is limited, but adequate for all the local trips I’ve needed to make in the last year. I’ve logged about 9,000 miles in the last year. I’ve been to Tampa and St. Petersburg on a number of occasions. Because the Leaf has a comfortable range of 50-55 miles, I’ve stopped for a few minutes on longer trips to do a “quick charge” at a DC fast charger. Several area Dunkin Donut shops have these chargers, making the stops convenient, if not the best thing for my diet. Trips to Spring Hill and Wesley Chapel are not an issue, even without fast chargers there. The vast majority of the time all I need to do is take a few seconds to plug the car in when I get home at night and unplug it in the morning.
I’ve gotten everywhere I wanted to go in the Leaf without having to borrow my wife’s car because of range anxiety. The car is dirt cheap to operate. Charging it each night at home works out to the equivalent of less than $0.90 a gallon for gas. With the exception of Hernando County, there are plenty of charging stations everywhere I regularly go. Most of the charging stations are either inexpensive or free to use.
There is very little in the way of routine maintenance. The one exception is that EVs have a reputation for eating tires. I haven’t had to replace the tires yet, but I can understand why EVs have that reputation: Torque. EVs, including the Leaf, absolutely leap off the line when you step on the accelerator. Unlike a modern gas engine, particularly one with a turbo, there is no lag when you start the car away from a stop. Needless to say, this can be bad for tire life, particularly if you don’t exercise some restraint when some punk pulls up next to you at a stop light and revs his engine.
Our next EV will have a longer battery range. My wife makes regular trips to visit her folks in Palatka. Given that the trip is about 150 miles each way, the Leaf’s range simply wouldn’t cut it. We’ll likely look for something with a 200-250+ mile range. Late model Chevrolet Bolts meet that criteria and are available in the $25-$30k range. The Tesla Model 3 starts around $40k and there are a number of new EVs from different manufacturers that should be hitting the market in the $30-$35k range before we expect to look for a replacement for my wife’s Prius. I’ve driving a Tesla Model 3. It is a very nice car. If lots of Model 3s get traded in when the Model Y shows up next year, that may be an opportunity too good to pass up.
The car can be set to heat up the cabin just before time to leave. This came in handy earlier this week, when temperatures were in the low 50’s. The car turns on the heater and warms up the cabin using “shore power” and without using the battery. This is a nice feature since the cabin heating system is an energy hog and will rapidly decrease the range of the car if you run it continuously. Fortunately, the air conditioner does not have a similar effect.
The Leaf is very quiet. The turn signal is the loudest thing in the car. That and the stereo.
Finally, I don’t see myself ever going back to a gas powered car. It has nothing to do with hugging trees either. Driving an EV is simply less expensive and more fun than driving a typical gas powered car. Starting off each day with a full charge and ready access to charging stations when I take longer trips minimizes the inconvenience of the short range of the car. Newer EVs don’t have the limited range of my first generation Leaf. The fact that EVs are better for the environment is simply a bonus.
I’m not alone either. My Leaf was the only EV seen downtown regularly a year ago. Today there are at least four other EV owners with downtown businesses. Additionally, I’ve seen quite a variety of EV and plugin hybrids using our city charging stations this past year.
I’ve got several new NPR Notes in the incubation stage, so watch this space for new articles shortly.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor