About two weeks ago, I traded my 2011 Nissan Juke for a 2011 Nissan Leaf, an all-electric 5-passenger car that gets about 85 miles on a full charge (under ideal conditions, more on that later). My new Leaf has very low miles on it, less than half the miles the Juke already had, and did I mention that it is all-electric? That means that it relies solely on its electric power-train and battery to get around. That means that I save about $200 a month on gasoline. That means that I never have to get smog checks. That means that I can ride the carpool by myself (until the end of 2014). That also means that I can drive for a limited amount of time and distance and that I need to adjust my habits to accomodate this limitation.
Why did I decide to go all-electric? Well, for the usual reasons like saving money on gas and big picture reasons like helping to reduce our reliance on oil , liking clean air and sticking it to the man. These are the reasons I tell people, but really, its becauuse I’m an early adopter of technologies, a geeky guinea pig if you will. And the fact that I can charge my car for free at work, which is only about 6 miles away from home, where it sits for about 9 hours a day, helped in my decision.
How about the main limitation? The optimistic 85 mile range? The range-anxiety that EV owners experience? After two weeks, I came to the conclusion that for me, the pros out-weigh the cons. Pros like having a two-way communication system with my car and my phone that allows me to check the charge level, estimated range and even turn on the climate control remotely. Pros like not having to worry about the increasing cost of gasoline. It also means that I can’t drive to Vegas in my car, but I never did in the Juke anyway. We would usually drive my girlfriend’s car for long trips because of it superior gas-milage rating.
Having a limited driving range is , lets say, limiting. It makes you think about the car’s charge level and wonder if you can make it somewhere, and back, on the charge. It makes you want to plug in as much as you can. It makes you forget how convenient it is to have gas stations everywhere.
I did manage to run out of juice over the weekend. I completely drained the battery of the car and got stranded. Luckily it was only 2 blocks away from home and I managed to push the car to my outlet (with the help of friendly neighbors and my passengers). I learned that the car does a decent job of estimating how long it can run before the battery is depleted, but I shouldn’t rely on it exclusively. Now, back to the infamous night when the car refused to move: it was about 3/4 charged and the car indicated that I could drive for 70 miles and I was planning on driving to my friend’s house, 23 miles away, or 46 miles roundtrip, so I would have plenty of electrons left by the time I got home. But what I didn’t realize is that my friends house was uphill. I arrived at my friend’s house with 18 miles left in my electron-tank, but decided not to top off the battery there (using an extension cord and my portable charging cord). Lesson learned.
Is an electric car perfect for you? Probably not. Is the technology perfected and can we all just switch to electrons instead of gasoline? Nope, not even close. But are they affordable (especialy if you buy used). And the main limitation is manageable if you willing to change your habits. My Leaf is a pleasure to drive, spacious and speedy. And I just don’t care about gas prices anymore.