In the minds of many consumers, electric cars like the 2012 Nissan Leaf are over-priced, second-cars that are only capable of short trips around town.
Recently however, we found out about a 2011 Nissan Leaf owner who has covered 36,000 miles in a little over 11 months, proving once and for all that electric cars can tackle much more than the occasional shopping trip.
Enter Steve Marsh, a financial controller at Taylor Shellfish in Washington state.
Faced with a 130-mile daily commute, Marsh decided to invest in the all-electric hatchback in an attempt to cut his weekly gas bill.
“I really bought it with the idea that there was a chance I could save money buying this car,” he tells us. “My Honda Accord had over 300,000 miles on it and I started thinking about another car. I have driven more than 200,000 miles on every car we have owned so I looked at the Leaf expecting it to do the same.”
The savings weren’t quite what he predicted, but still impressive.
“I thought maybe my net cost of ownership would be nearly zero after taking into account the much lower operating costs – like getting gasoline for $0.80/gallon. I now know that this expectation was unreasonable, but after all the tax credits and no sales tax in the state of Washington, I feel it is like purchasing a $23,000 new car. So far, at 36,000 miles, I’m now under $20,000 in equivalent costs.”
$99 deposit, test-driven later
Interestingly, although Marsh made the purchase decision based on financial reasoning, he still paid a $99 online reservation fee before even test-driving the car. Some time later, he was offered the chance of a test-drive when Nissan’s 2011 Leaf tour arrived in Seattle.
“It was cold, no snow but it was really cold,” he recounts. “My wife looked at it and said “It’s a regular car!” She was expecting something small like the Smart Car. We drove it around the block, and that was the end of our tour.”
As for the purchase experience?
Marsh praises his online purchase experience, which was free of the usual price-haggling that most car buyers are used to. Instead, he describes the experience as extremely positive.
130 mile commute
Unlike the majority of Americans, Marsh’s daily commute is well beyond the 73-mile EPA-approved range of the Nissan Leaf.
For him however, his long commute isn’t an issue.
“We bought the house when the kids were born,” he explains. “We’ve lived here for 22 years, and now our kids are about to graduate from college. This house is paid for and this is the shortest commute I’ve had in my working life. It gives me a chance to wind down on the way home from work.”
Charging a must
However, driving 130 miles in a day is no mean feat in the Leaf, especially freeway driving.
The only solution was for Marsh to get a charging station installed at his workplace.
“I approached Ecotality and they didn’t want to place one where I work,” Marsh recounts. “I approached one of the owners of my firm explaining there would be good PR for a shellfish company to be one of the first to install a public charging station. They agreed.”
Initially, Marsh’s colleagues were bemused by his new car choice.
“They offered to give me a couple AA batteries if it would help and so on,” he laughs. “But recently one said it might turn out to be a good decision given the current gas prices and how trouble-free the Leaf has been for me.”