Did you find driving an EV with a 73-mile range too restrictive?
O'Dell: Not most of the time, but enough that it quickly became unlikely that we'd replace it with another "pure" EV. Although the number of public charging stations has grown, there simply weren't enough in our territory to make longer drives possible. We never got to use our rapid-charger port, for instance, because installations of quick chargers in our area didn't begin until our lease was ending. The 73-mile range (more like 60 when we drove at freeway speeds) meant we couldn't use the Leaf to visit some of our relatives and friends who lived farther than 30 miles from our home.
Reed: At first, the 73-mile range seemed adequate. But as time passed, and my patience diminished and the range dropped slightly, I began to feel restricted by it. Also, to squeeze a full 73 miles from the battery, I had to abstain from using heat or air-conditioning, which I became increasingly unwilling to do. In the last year of my lease, I took to "topping up" at the office by charging for 90 minutes at a public charger, which usually cost about $1.75 for the time period.
Do you think that driving the Leaf saved you money even though your lease payments were really high?
O'Dell: Most definitely. Because we have a home solar system, our electricity costs were nil. If gasoline averaged only $3 a gallon over our three years of leasing, the equivalent cost of fuel for a 30-mpg car would have been $1,577. We installed the solar system to offset our home electricity costs before we added the EV to the load, and topping up the Leaf each night from the 240-volt "Level 2" charger we got for free as part of a special program made little difference.
But even if we had paid the full 8 cents per kWh that our utility charges EV owners who plug in the car between midnight and 6 a.m., our total three-year fuel costs would have been just $2.69 per 100 miles, or $412 for the term of the lease. Our total out-of pocket for maintenance and repairs totaled $80 for a cabin air filter and $432 for four new tires, which we bought just before the lease ended.
We used the Leaf to replace a 25-mpg car. Although it was paid for, it would have continued to cost us roughly $60 a month for gasoline, plus oil changes and other maintenance. Nissan applied the Leaf's $7,500 federal tax credit to the lease, so that didn't save us money. But we did receive a $5,000 state rebate. And we sold my wife's seven-year-old, gasoline-gulping car for $8,000 in a private transaction. So overall we made out just fine.
Reed: Driving the Leaf saved me money in a number of ways. First of all, and most noticeably, I didn't have to fill up my gas tank once or twice a week to the tune of $40 a visit. Instead, over three years, I calculated that I saved $3,400 in fuel costs, compared to my previous commuter car, a 30-mpg 2007 Honda Fit. I also figured that I avoided at least $300 in oil changes that would have been required for my Honda Fit. And finally, unlike John, I returned the car without replacing the tires, so that was one expense I avoided.