Driving an electric car

In the three months I’ve owned an electric car I’ve received a variety of questions.

How far does it go? Is it on? How do you shift? Does it have any leg room? How do you fit in it? How does it work? How fast does it go? How smug are you about saving the earth? How much money does it cost to charge it? Do you have to have a special plug-in? Do you like it?

To that last question I have to say not only do I like it, I love it.

Pop the charging hood, attach the cable and plug it into the wall. Easy peasy pumpkin squeasy.
Pop the charging hood, attach the cable and plug it into the wall. Easy peasy pumpkin squeasy.

I certainly never set out to buy an electric car. As far as I knew, people in my tax bracket can’t afford electric cars.

When my 1998 Dodge Dakota started its swan song in March, hemorrhaging a quart of coolant every two days, Veronica and I began the process of looking for a new used car. We inquired with a local credit union about a loan and they said they’d give us $10k but stipulated that the car had to be a 2012 or newer.

As I began to search dealerships in the Puget Sound region one car kept coming up over and over and over in that price range: The Nissan Leaf.

It seemed too good to be true. A nearly new car – an electric one at that – for $10k? Potential tax writeoffs, no more oil changes, no more coolant pouring into my driveway, no more worrying about gas prices, etc.

Eventually we made the purchase, paying cash thanks to a family loan. For $10,000 we bought a 2013 Leaf with less than 25,000 miles on it.

Now, that in itself is scary, because no one knows how long these things last. It’s not like buying a Honda Accord knowing that you can put 250,000 miles on it if you treat it well. But it is worth the risk in our mind, and so far so good.

The car charges up to 95 miles at its peak, though I've gotten more than 100 miles out of a charge.
The car charges up to 95 miles at its peak, though I’ve gotten more than 100 miles out of a charge.

Now, to answer those questions from above.

How far does it go? Ours goes about 90 miles on a single charge. Not far, but enough to be a perfect in town car. This particular model wouldn’t work if we didn’t live in an urban environment.

Is it on? It is totally silent. It surprises me still even after three months of driving it. Something surreal about sitting at a stoplight with the windows down and your car is making no noise.

How do you shift? I don’t know. I don’t know anything about cars. I just put it in drive and off I go.

Does it have leg room? How do you fit in it? I’m 6-foot-4, so space is a concern in vehicles. But it has a ton of leg room and because the battery is located under the car, there is a lot of space inside the vehicle. I have more head room than I do in our Honda Accord.

How does it work? Again, not really sure. I just press a button and it turns on. I do know that when I coast or apply the brakes that it recharges itself, so driving home down some of the really steep hills by us helps.

How fast does it go? I bought it in Seattle and comfortably took it up to 75 mph on I-5. We drive it to church in Gig Harbor every time we go, which requires freeway driving.

How smug are you about saving the earth? When I bought my electric car a friend told me, “I heard those things run on smug.” Well, I can certainly agree with that. It is easy to feel superior to my gas-guzzling neighbors when I’m at a stoplight.

The Leaf has a surprising amount of room thanks to its hatchback, folding back seats and a battery that is under the car which saves room in the cabin.
The Leaf has a surprising amount of room thanks to its hatchback, folding back seats and a battery that is under the car which saves room in the cabin.

How much money does it cost to charge it? This has been the biggest pleasant surprise. I’ve gotten three electric bills, so I feel safe saying that it costs me about $10 per month to charge it. My bills have hardly changed at all. It’s incredible really.

I was spending $50 every two weeks on gas, let alone all the things that broke all the time on my old truck.

Do you have to have a special plug-in? Nope. I just plug it into an outlet in my garage. You can charge faster with a plug-in like your dryer uses, but I don’t have one of those chargers. There are also models that come with a fast charger, which can charge the car in 30 minutes. My plug takes about 9 hours to completely charge it.

It is a really fun, easy to drive car. And they seem to be taking off in my area, or at least it seems like I see them all the time.

The only drawbacks are that the tax breaks are pretty non-existant if you buy one used. And you can’t drive very far with this car and because of that you can run into situations where if you forget to charge it up, you are very limited in what you can do.

I recently forgot my laptop at home and didn’t notice until I got to work. So, I immediately turned around and went to get it, only then noticing I was down to 20 miles until empty. I only use about 8 miles each way to work and back, but it is still nervewracking – plus, I’ve never taken it under 5 miles. I have no idea how low you can go. In a gas car I would’ve just gone and gotten gas and not worried about.

So the moral of that story is to remember to fill it up any time you are below 25 miles.

You also can’t really go on road trips with this vehicle, but not every car is perfect I suppose. For now, though, we are happy do our small part to help the earth.

– Craig Craker

One Comment Add yours

  1. Josh Wrenn says:

    Great car for this area. Nice and small and takes away some of the garbage all the idling around here stuck in traffic spews into the atmosphere.

    Liked by 1 person

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