nissanleaf

Just over a month ago, Mary and I sold our two cars and went down to a single car: a Nissan Leaf–an all electric car with a 100 mile range.

On the one hand, this might seem kind of crazy. 100 miles isn’t very far, after all, and if you turn on the A/C or the heat, the expected range isn’t even 100 miles. But after a month of driving, we’re really happy with the choice. A lot of people have asked questions about what it’s like, so I thought I’d devote a blog post to it.

Fuel & Economy

leafdashboardLet’s start with the best part: we haven’t been to a gas station in a month. That’s a great savings right there. Every night we plug the car into a regular wall outlet in the garage and it’s ready to go by morning. (We don’t yet know what the effect on our electricity bill will be yet either, but our estimates put it at about $25/month). Plus, no oil changes!

We’re also saving money on insurance. One car, even a new one, is cheaper to insure than two, so that’s nice as well.

To offset those savings, we added a lease payment, which is an incredibly reasonable rate. Basically, it’s a net zero when compared to what we save on gas and insurance. Because of that, it almost feels like having a free car. Of course, it’s not, we’re paying the lease payment. But that’s our only car expense, save for a couple bucks here and there for charging stations or parking meters.

I’ve never leased a car before, but we felt in this case it made sense. We got to drop our gas payment to $0, and we felt that in two years, battery technology would be improved enough that the Leaf (or equivalent) should be able to do better than 100 miles. 150 or 200 would provide a much better range. We might consider buying if the mileage gets that high.

Urban Location, No Commute

One of the reasons we decided to make the leap to a single car is that we live in the most dense part of Tacoma. It’s easy to walk to the coffee shop, the barber, the grocery store, the movie theater, the park, Hannah’s daycare, Hannah’s pediatrician, and what-not. All within 3 to 4 blocks. It makes it easy to ditch the 2nd car.

Plus, we work from home, so we don’t have a regular commute. Metro Parks takes me to meetings around Tacoma, but not on a daily basis, so they’re easy to schedule around, and we know about them well in advance, so we don’t have conflicts on the car.

Alternate Car Options

Of course, sometimes we will want to both drive at once, and sometimes we’ll want to drive farther than 100 miles. We have some good options available to us.

Around Town

  • I’m buying a bike. With some of what we made from the sale of the cars, this is a good investment, I felt. I may end up being a fair-weather biker, but that’s fine. The exercise and the quick trips around Tacoma in the summer will be great.
  • Car sharing. We belong to ZipCar, a car-sharing service that just last fall placed a car a block away from us. If things get squeezed we can reserve a extra car for a couple hours.
  • Public transit. With the exception of the Link and the 590 buses to Seattle, we haven’t regularly used transit. We didn’t need it, we had two cars. But we live right off of some key lines around Tacoma and as we learn the system, we’ll start to make good use of it. We have two ORCA cards that I hope will see a lot more use.

Longer Trips

  • As part of the lease, Nissan will give us 10 free days of rentals from them over the next two years. We haven’t tested this option yet, but for a weekend in Portland or something, this should be great.
  • There is literally an Enterprise Rent-A-Car across the street from us. It will be handy if we use our Nissan credits too fast or need something different than what they have to offer.

So whether we have a need for a car that can go farther than 100 miles or just an alternate way to get around Tacoma, we feel pretty confident here.

Our Longest Trip So Far

Yesterday was our longest trip so far in the Leaf. We went to Ballard and University Village in the car. Combined with two side trips, we put 100.6 miles on the car in one day. How did we do it in a car that has a 100 mile range? We charged it at the Fred Meyer in Ballard while we walked around and had lunch (that’s the picture at the top). Three hours of charging at their EV station added another 40 miles to the car and we got home with ease, A/C running and everything.

The First Month

We are seeing Leafs more and more places these days ...

We are seeing Leafs more and more places these days …

The truth is, in the first month, we haven’t encountered a need for the 2nd car yet more than once. Sure, there were some days that took a little more careful planning in the morning than we used to have to devote to this. That’s a small price to pay.

Expenses for ORCA cards, ZipCar, and rentals will rise a bit, but we need them so rarely, I still think it will be a net savings.

And finally, there’s another reason I’m glad we made this decision: I feel like we’re helping to improve the network of charging stations. The more electric cars on the road, the more charging stations will get installed, and the car will become a better decision for more and more people. Mary and I are in a unique place to take advantage of it: urban home, lots of alternate transit options, no regular commute. But not everyone is. The better the system gets, the more people it will eventually make sense for.