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One year with the e-carThere are plenty of reasons to embrace electric vehicles – Local News – Mobile Adv

Benjamin Theard and his wife Nikki with their Nissan Leaf after purchasing the 100 percent electric vehicle in June 2012.

BENJAMIN THEARD/Special to the Press| Updated 14 hours ago

Let me try to dispel what seems to be the prevailing perception of the electric car.

I am not a Nissan salesperson, simply someone who has driven the 100 percent electric Nissan Leaf for one year.

The Leaf is not a glorified golf cart by any stretch of the imagination. It is a solid, 5-passenger, 4-door vehicle that looks, feels, and handles exactly like a “real” car. When I take people for their first ride in an e-car, I usually get “I had no idea they had come so far,” or a big-eyed “you’re kidding, no gas motor?” I’m writing to share my e-car experience over the past year, and to encourage others to consider whether an e-car might be the right fit for their family.

Without sounding too much like that salesman, I will say that the Leaf is a passenger car that will quickly accelerate to 90 mph and has most all of the bells and whistles that you can get in any luxury vehicle. Some of my personal favorites are heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel and heated outside rear-view mirrors, a user-friendly navigation system, anti-lock disc brakes, stability and traction control, and front and side airbags as well as side curtain airbags. A spoiler-mounted solar panel, rearview camera, and quick charge port (80 percent charge in 30 minutes) is available on the SL model.

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One year with the e-carThere are plenty of reasons to embrace electric vehicles

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Benjamin Theard and his wife Nikki with their Nissan Leaf after purchasing the 100 percent electric vehicle in June 2012.

BENJAMIN THEARD/Special to the Press | Updated 14 hours ago

Let me try to dispel what seems to be the prevailing perception of the electric car.

I am not a Nissan salesperson, simply someone who has driven the 100 percent electric Nissan Leaf for one year.

The Leaf is not a glorified golf cart by any stretch of the imagination. It is a solid, 5-passenger, 4-door vehicle that looks, feels, and handles exactly like a “real” car. When I take people for their first ride in an e-car, I usually get “I had no idea they had come so far,” or a big-eyed “you’re kidding, no gas motor?” I’m writing to share my e-car experience over the past year, and to encourage others to consider whether an e-car might be the right fit for their family.

Without sounding too much like that salesman, I will say that the Leaf is a passenger car that will quickly accelerate to 90 mph and has most all of the bells and whistles that you can get in any luxury vehicle. Some of my personal favorites are heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel and heated outside rear-view mirrors, a user-friendly navigation system, anti-lock disc brakes, stability and traction control, and front and side airbags as well as side curtain airbags. A spoiler-mounted solar panel, rearview camera, and quick charge port (80 percent charge in 30 minutes) is available on the SL model.

My wife and I (retired and empty-nesters) leased an all-electric 2012 SL Nissan Leaf on June 1, 2012. We live in the Cougar Gulch area 10 miles outside of Coeur d’Alene.

We commute to town three to five times per week, visiting the Kroc Center (health club), Fred Meyer, Costco, and essentially anywhere in the greater Coeur d’Alene area, including Post Falls and Hayden. Since June 1, 2012 we put approximately 150 miles per week on the vehicle, for a total of 7,000 miles for the year. Our average outing is approximately 35 miles, with occasional single trips of 70 miles or more. Maximum range at full charge is in the area of 100 miles.

We have a 220-volt charger, plus the 110-volt charger that came with the vehicle. We plug the car in on return from most outings.

If we have a particularly busy schedule for a day, we will make a trip in the morning, return home and plug in, then make a second trip in the afternoon or evening.

Cost to operate is fairly easy to calculate, using the U.S. EPA consumption rate (2011 model Leaf) of 34 kWh per 100 miles. We receive power from Kootenai Electric Co-op, at $.064 per kWh, or more accurately at $.076 per kWh, with surcharges, service availability charge, etc. Using our rough annual 7,000 miles driven figure, that’s about $2.58 per 100 miles driven, or $180.00 for the full 7,000 miles. In comparison, using the average fuel economy for new cars listed for 2012 of 24.6 mpg, and the 2012 listed average fuel cost for unleaded regular of $3.50, the same 7,000 miles would have cost $995.00. For the same 7,000 miles, the cost to operate my Ford diesel (average $3.96 per gallon, 15 mpg) would have been closer to $1,848! I compared my electricity consumption by month for the year, against the previous year consumption and was surprised to find virtually no increase in power used. There are too many variables to say that it cost almost nothing to charge the car, but it is clear to me that I can pay for the “fuel” to drive the car by turning off a few lights, or using the home air conditioner slightly less.

I was a little apprehensive about winter driving, since we receive about 100 inches of snow a year, have a fairly steep hill approaching our property, and about two miles of gravel road before reaching pavement. The Nissan Leaf is front wheel drive and weighs approximately 3,300 pounds. I bought a set of winter studless snow tires on utility wheels, and mounted them in mid-October. We drove the vehicle all winter, and on only two occasions chose to use our diesel 4WD Ford pickup due to deep unplowed snow. The Leaf gets jerked around a bit in the deep snow, but otherwise did very well. The computerized crash avoidance system can be switched off, which seemed to improve traction.

I am not quite a wild-eyed environmentalist, but care deeply about America, and believe that there are many reasons to embrace the electric vehicle. I firmly believe that our fossil fuel resources should be conserved to be used to “keep ’em flying” when we need to protect our country and its allies. I also firmly believe that electric vehicles can provide a large percentage of our ground transportation needs, and at the same time reduce pollution. The cost-savings sure don’t hurt either. For most families that have a 160-mile round trip commute, and the ability to plug in on arrival at work, a second vehicle, which is electric, is a very real and desirable option.

After one year, we are completely satisfied with our decision to “go electric.” Our only regret is that we were not able to do it sooner.

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