Today is my first anniversary of my venture into the world of EVs. Electric vehicles have been around for a while but only recently have they become popular in the mass market world of automobile sales. Last year after considerable thought and research, I took the plunge and leased a Nissan Leaf.

My 2005 Kia Amanti had served me well but it had a lot of miles on it and I knew that I would probably have major maintenance and repair costs if I continued to drive all the time. I did not want another car payment but friends and things I read suggested that you could drive an EV for practically nothing.

In this blog 10 months ago I said, “I do not fit the demographic described above whether you consider age, income, or family. I am not often on the cutting edge of things. I am not a serious environmentalist and live a ‘green’ lifestyle. Nevertheless acquiring a Nissan Leaf seemed to be a good decision on all fronts.”

Now that I have 11,000 miles on my Leaf I thought I would update you on my experience.

Now to tell you how I feel after one year of driving my Nissan Leaf. Before signing the contract one year ago today, I considered four major issues: cost, safety, performance, comfort. Let me address each of these.

Cost: According to the Canadian National Campaign for Electric Vehicles, electric vehicles usually cost between 2 and 4 cents per mile to drive. Vehicles that have an internal combustion engine cost between four and six times as much. Electric cars have only a few hundred parts while gasoline-powered cars have a few thousand. This makes the maintenance cost of an electric car three times less than that of a gasoline car.

There is no transmission (drive train), radiator, or oil pump. Unlike gasoline-powered vehicles, electric cars do not emit pollutants. Owning an electric vehicle also eliminates the need for smog inspections, cooling fluid replacement, oil changes and other types of maintenance. All of this reduces the cost of operating the vehicle.

Another way to address the expense of an EV against an ICE (internal combustion engine, aka gasoline powered vehicle) is to look at actual money spent to operate the car. I calculated the cost of the two-year including lease payments, insurance, tag, and subtracted the savings on gasoline and the state and federal rebates to determine what my out of pocket expenses would be.

The cost analysis concluded that it would cost me about $51 a month based on gasoline prices at the beginning of the lease and 12,000 miles annually. With the lower prices at the pump, I am probably paying about $81 a month. If I had opted for the base model that would have been reduced by about $50 monthly.

Safety: The car is equipped with side airbags, front and rear head curtain airbags and front seat-mounted torso airbags, electronic stability control, and antilock brakes. It is rated 4 or 5 stars in side and frontal  and side collision and roll over.

Performance: When I first got the car one of my friends said with a smirk, “I’ll blow the horn when I pass you on the expressway.” A Leaf owner posted the following on a Nissan website and it expresses my feeling very well. “People always seem to assume it’s like a go-cart or a Smart car when I tell them it’s an all electric. They are always surprised to hear it can go 70 MPH (or 80 or…) no problem and it’s got acceleration you wouldn’t believe. It’s fun taking the car out of ECO mode to show off to someone who has not ridden in my LEAF yet – they always get surprised that the car has that much power”

Comfort: It is not a big car but it is not a “tin can.” You can carry five passengers but that is a little tight. However, I was surprised how comfortable it is for four passengers.

It is equipped with a back up camera, navigation (which needs improvement), blue tooth, premium sound system, four heated seats, heated steering wheel, AC, auto door locks, power windows, multiple speed wipers, rear wiper, and cruise control. The ride is smooth and quiet and it holds the road very well.

I love driving the Leaf. The biggest drawback is the limitation of about 80 miles per charge. For the way I use it, that is not a problem. I drive it around town during the day, plug it in a 110 electrical outlet and it is ready the next morning. There are other more efficient ways to recharge the battery and there are other EVs that get better range than the Leaf, but they are more expensive and I do not need them.

Since the Leaf and other EVs produce zero emissions, they are very environmentally friendly. In this review I have not addressed that issue but it is certainly a positive factor that should not be overlooked.

What is the future of electric cars? One website answers that question in this manner: “It’s hard to tell where the future will take electric vehicles, but it’s clear they hold a lot of potential for creating a more sustainable future. If we transitioned all the light-duty vehicles in the U.S. to hybrids or plug-in electric vehicles using our current technology mix, we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil by 30-60 percent, while lowering the carbon pollution from the transportation sector by as much as 20 percent.”

I will conclude in the same way I finished my initial account of my Leaf experience. Someone said, “The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.” Every time I start my new car I am reminded that things once thought impossible are being accomplished every day all around us. That might be the best thing about my EV automobile.

A wise man of long ago said, “Whatever has happened—that’s what will happen again; whatever has occurred—that’s what will occur again. There’s nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, CEB). That is true but often it takes a different shape and form.

Jamie Jenkins

P.S. If you are interested, you can read my summary of the history of electric vehicles below.

There is much discussion and uncertainly about when and where the electric car was invented. Evidence suggests that Robert Anderson developed the first crude electric carriage in Scotland in the 1830s. In 1890 a chemist from Des Moines, Iowa built the first successful car which was little more than an electrified wagon. It was not until the middle of the 20th century before the first practical EVs were built.

In the 1890s EVs which were assembled by hand outsold gasoline cars 10-1. The decline of EVs can be contributed to at least three factors: development of the motorized assembly line that allowed mass production of gasoline powered automobiles, the non-existent infrastructure for electricity outside city boundaries, and the addition of an electric motor (starter) to eliminate the hand crank method of starting the engine on a gasoline powered car.

In the late 1960s the OPEC oil embargo and concerns about air pollution sparked brought about a renewed interest in EVs. Then in the early 1990s, mainly due to California’s Zero Emission Vehicle Manadae, major automakers began producing a few EVs but this lasted only about 10 years.

Two events have been suggested as turning points in the development and sale of EVs. In 1997 the hybrid electric Toyota Prius was released in Japan and then worldwide in 2000, although Honda began selling the hybrid Insight one year earlier in the US.

The other event that helped reshape EVs came in 2006 when Tesla Motors announced they  would start producing a luxury electric sports car that could go more than 200 miles on a single charge.  Four  years later Tesla received at $465 million loan from the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office — a loan that Tesla repaid a full nine years early — to establish a manufacturing facility in California.

About 345,000 EVs have been sold in the United States since 2008 through June 2015. As of July 2015, there are over 20 different models available in the American market from 12 car manufacturers.

The following web addresses provide a more thorough account of the history of EVs.

http://energy.gov/articles/history-electric-car

http://www.electricauto.org/?page=evhistory

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