So let me paint a background of my car owning history to show how I got to an electric car.
The Early Car Years: Teens to Twenties
As a kid in my teens, before I was legal to drive, my father gave me a Suburban that he was retiring. I loved this because my childhood was spent growing up in that vehicle. Sadly, it needed a lot of work. As a teen, I had little interest in fixing it up. So we sold it and my grandfather helped me get a recycled (repurposed company car sold off to the public) F-250 pickup from his employer. This is what I learned to drive standard transmission on. Again this needed a lot of work, so I sold this one too. Then when I was 17 and car shopping I found a Honda Civic hatchback 4-speed. Not the car of my dreams, but it was priced right and drove great. After owning it, I really fell in love with this Honda. It had a ton of room for people (important because I am 6′ 3″) and plenty of storage room (I moved a lot in my college years). The thing I loved the most is the gas mileage this thing got – I think it was in the 35-45 mpg range. Oh yeah, and they were very easy to work on.
The Thirty-Something Cars Years: Getting Classy
So in a ten to fifteen year period, I bought 2 more, of the exact same model (just newer). Then I wanted to “class it up” a bit so I bought a Toyota Camry. Now it was quite, a nice ride and comfy, but I took a hit on MPG. I think this Camry got 20-24 mpg. After my Honda’s, this was a big turn off. I had this car however, for like 12 years or so, until it got stolen. At this time, we bought my wife a Honda Civic, hybrid, 4 door sedan. Then I took her car a Mercury Mountaineer.
The Forties, Mid-Life Vehicles: Crisis or Taking a Stand?
I do not really travel too far, so this SUV was fine for me getting around from place to place. This vehicle though only got 15 mpg and had a huge tank. A typical fill-up cost me $60-75 per tank. This was outrageous to me, especially for a car I didn’t love. Luckily, I do not drive too far, so a tank lasted a while. A few weeks ago I had the transmission go out on my Mercury Mountaineer so we started car shopping again.
I test drove several Dodge Chargers and really like them. If you’re going to have a gas guzzler, you might as well… do it in style, right? Actually, I love Challengers, but the Chargers seemed like a good alternative to getting a Muscle Car type vehicle, but keeping it kid and family friendly. The Chargers get about 20-24 mpg. I figured I could deal with this because at least this car kicked ass. There were several cool digital features I also loved. As a technology guy in my business, I like when good technology flows into my personal life. The Charger had a 4-inch touchscreen that is Bluetooth enabled and is pretty kickass. The price we were finding was hitting around $20K. Because cars suck as investments, it made me sick paying that kind of money, especially when I rarely drove.
So we went back to the drawing board. This is when my wife found a digitally connected vehicle that was Electric. I am a pretty green guy, even though I sometimes cave to my “want” of a badass muscle car. Anyhow, this was interesting to me. Keep in mind I was driving several Chargers so this is where my head was at, and then my wife mentioned and electric car that was similar to my old Honda hatchbacks. Hmmm… do I really want to go back to my old stand-by? Do I really want to drop my muscle car, power? Okay… what is the price? $8-9K. What!?! REALLY? Okay, but how do they drive? I don’t know, but let’s go check one out. So we did.
Saving The World and Dollars! – The Pros and Cons of Electric Cars
Wow, these drive GREAT!! I mean it feels just like a regular car, as a matter of fact, I think it has more pickup (or quicker pickup) than my wife’s Civic Hybrid. But how far will it go? Well, it is limited to a fairly short distance – This 2011 Nissan LEAF’s battery will go 60-70 miles per charge. Hmmm… That kind of sucks! Oh but wait a minute, I typically drive 25 miles max one way and on average 40 miles, max, for round trip when running errands or business. Yeah, but how do we charge it? Well… it plugs in at the house with a standard plug. Okay, but how long does it take to charge? This is the kicker… from zero to 100% it takes 15 to 20 hours to fully charge. That kinda sucks, but once it is charged and I go out, I come home and plug it in, to replenish what I used. This only takes 2-4 hours usually. What if I need to go more than 70 miles? I was surprised at how many charging stations there are all over the place. So it seems pretty easy to find them because the digital tools in the car have a built in Map tool and GPS to help you constantly find the closest charging station. Some are free and some cost up to $3.60 per/kw hour. Commercial charging stations are a higher-power than the standard 120v of home charging. There are two types of commercial chargers one that is 240v and charges 0-100% in 4 hours (I am told) and the Super Charger that charges in 30 minutes 0-100%.
So we did end up buying the Nissan LEAF 100% electric car. There are a few reasons. The first is we can easily charge up at home. No gas stations. The second is I really do not drive long distances so 35 miles each way is plenty. The third is because the price of gas is low right now, so electric cars are lower in price right now (supply & demand). This vehicle cost roughly $10K so the price was GREAT! I imagine I will eventually upgrade to the next level of charging station at home to get faster charging. I can see eventually (maybe 2 years out) also upgrading to a newer electric car to get better features and better distance capable battery. I’d also like to get solar panels for the house to go 100% renewable energy charging the car (and everything we need electric for). Honestly, for the last 2 weeks charging from the standard 120v home plug hasn’t been an issue, but I still think the upgraded 240v would be nice (roughly a $400-700 cost plus installation from current research).
Conclusion: Is An Electric Car Right For You?
So far, I am digging this car and it was a quick easy fix to get back on the road instead of dumping more cash into the broken SUV (that was worthless and giving us problems recently). Of course, the car’s emissions are zero, but as a friend mentioned electric is still mostly created by burning coal, or oil and gas. If we can find an electric company like Green Mountain which is green powered or another “renewable energy” only, power company, that would be the best solution for right now. We have been kicking around solar panels on the house and getting off the grid which would help us solve that problem 100%. That is if our house sits right to collect the Texas sun.
Obviously, this is a lifestyle change. There is no stopping at gas stations, but there are also no long distance travels (or at least not as we once knew them). I feel like this will change as these EV cars continue to improve over time. The new 2016 LEAF is said to have a 107-mile battery life. Still not the 400-some a standard car gets, but a decent jump from our car.
So would I recommend an electric car to you? Well, I think it is a great car, but it depends upon your needs. If you do not travel long distances much, then it is a perfect car. If you have all the time in the world and like reading than long distances may not be an issue, but remember you need to love the journey because it will be a longer one. If you are looking for ways to eliminate pollution, this will do it (well besides the electric that comes from non-renewable sources). It is a statement and a commitment to living green. Obviously, the Dodge Challenger also makes a statement, but a much different one.