Driving Electric

While my 2013 CX-5 is reasonably fuel-efficient (~28mpg in real world driving), this summer I watched in dismay as gas prices spiked. Even when my tank was almost full, watching prices tick up every time I drove past a gas station left me unsettled. I’d been idly considering getting an electric car for years, but between months of fuel price anxiety and upcoming changes in tax credits (that will leave me ineligible starting in 2023) this fall felt like the right time to finally pull the trigger.

On October 24th, I picked up a new 2023 Nissan Leaf.

I originally shopped for plug-in hybrid SUVs with the intent of replacing my car, but none of the brands seemed to have any available, with waitlists stretching well into next year. So, instead I decided I’d look for a pure-electric to use for daily driving, keeping my CX-5 for family vacations and whenever I need to haul a bigger or messier load. (I worried a bit about the cost to have two cars on my insurance, but the new car added only $30 a month, which feels pretty reasonable.)

I got the shorter-range version of the Leaf (40kwh) which promises around 150 miles per charge. While it’s compact, it makes good use of its interior room, and I have plenty of headroom despite my long torso. The backseat is very tight, but my sons will still fit for a few more years. In the first 25 days, I’ve put about 550 miles on it, and the car has yielded slightly better than the expected 150-mile range. It’s fun to drive. The only significant disappointment is that my Leaf’s low-end “S” trim doesn’t include the smartphone integration to track charging and enable remote start/AC (which would’ve been very useful in Texas summers). Including tax and all of the assorted fees, I paid sticker at $32K (17 down, 15 financed at an absurdly low 2.25%), before discounting the soon-to-expire $7500 federal tax credit.

For the first few weeks, I was trickle-charging the car using a regular 120V (1.4kw) household socket. While 120V takes more than a day to fully charge the Leaf, even slow charging was much more practical for my needs than I had originally expected. Nevertheless, I spent $2550 on a Wallbox Pulsar Plus 40A Level 2 charger ($550 for the charger, $2000 for the new 240V high-amp socket in my garage) to increase the charge speed to the full 6.6kw that the car supports. My current electrical panel only had 30 amps available, which is the max the Leaf will take, but I had the electrician pull a 50 amp wire to simplify things if I ever upgrade to a car with higher capacity. My local electric company will reimburse me $1200 for the charger installation, and there’s also a federal tax credit of 30% capped at $1000. So if everything goes according to plan, L2 charging will only have a net cost of $600.

While I’m enjoying the car, it’s not for everyone– between the small battery and the nearly worthless public fast-charging support, the practical range of the Leaf is low. The Leaf only supports the losing Chademo standard that is likely to go away over the next few years, and the Austin metro area only has two such chargers today. It’s also not clear that the Leaf model line has much of a future; the 2023 edition might be the last, or at least the last before a major redesign.

Nevertheless, for my limited needs, the Leaf is a good fit. In a few years, I expect I’ll replace my CX-5 with a hybrid SUV, but for now, I’m stressing a lot less about gas prices (even as they’ve fallen back to under $3 a gallon in Austin 🤷‍♂️).

-Eric

Published by ericlaw

Impatient optimist. Dad. Author/speaker. Created Fiddler & SlickRun. PM @ MSFT '01-'12, and '18-, working on Office, IE, Edge, and Web Protection. My words are my own, I do not speak for any other entity.

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