Our electric car

In February we replaced our 2007 Honda Civic for a 2016 30G Nissan Leaf. It is a fully electric car.

I’ll be honest and say financial motives were more of an incentive that the environmental motive. But both were factors.

The reason the electric car is so much cheaper to run than a petrol car is because petrol cars pay petrol tax and electric cars are currently exempt from road user charges. This won’t last forever, but I doubt they will bring in charging until a much higher proportion of vehicles are electric. So buying now rather than in five years makes financial sense.

If you travel 20,000 kms a year (suburban commuter according to EECA) a typical petrol car will cost $4,480 in fuel.

The Nissan Leaf will do around 6 km per kWh. So 20,000 kms is 3333 kWh and an average cost at 15c is $500. If you get night rates, even lower.

On top of that the Nissan Leaf engine is much simpler, and servicing costs tend to be significantly lower also.

So financially the higher purchase price should be compensated for after a few years of lower running costs.

In terms of driving it, I find it great. I love not having a noisy engine. In fact the hardest part of driving it is working out if the car is actually turned on or not, as it is so quiet. Accelerates and handles well. Possibly need a slightly firmer touch on the brake.

For a small fee, the inhouse Japanese system can be modified to English and include Apple Carplay, which is excellent.

Charging is a lot less hassle than I thought it would be. It is literally as simple as push a button and plug it into a wall socket.

We still have a second car, which we use for longer trips as you don’t want to tell young kids they have to wait 20 minutes while we get a fast charge. But for 95% of our activities, the Leaf is working well. For a one car family, it could be a challenging purchase, but for a two car family we find it is working well.

Battery degradation was my big concern before purchasing but there’s a lot you can do to slow this. The big lessons are:

  • Avoid fast charges unless essential. The overnight charge at home is best
  • Only charge the car when the remaining range is not enough for your next day’s activities. I will try and charge it only when it is at 30 km or less.
  • Using economy mode can extend range significantly
  • Turning off the air conditioning and opening the window can give you an extra 7 km or so per charge
  • As the battery degrades you don’t need to replace the entire battery but can just replace individual cells

Our battery State Of Health was 90% when we brought the car which is pretty good. That means the maximum range should be 160 km rather than 180 km. But I’ve actually found we are still sometimes getting 180 kms off a single charge.

So I’m an electric car convert. I like having a gauge that tells you kms of range left rather than an fuel indicator that is very approximate. They are undoubtedly going to be the main cars around in a couple of decades, or less. Especially as the technology for batteries will only get better, and the costs will come down.

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