by Tony Rushin
I picked up my free car a few weeks ago: a 2015 Nissan Leaf S. I got it with a 24 month / 24,000 mile lease and, after the Federal and Georgia tax credits are applied, it will cost me 67 cents a month to operate this 100% electric vehicle (EV).
What’s the catch? There isn’t any. Many people have already taken advantage of the aggressive Federal & Georgia tax credits that are available (a tax credit comes directly off of the taxes you owe). I’m definitely not an early adopter: Out of 18 homes on my street, I’m the fourth person to have a Leaf and I counted nine Leafs (or should I say Leaves) on my 18-mile commute home last Friday.
Is it time for you to get your free car? Perhaps. There’s a rumor that this may be the last year Georgia has an EV tax credit this aggressive so 2014 may be the last year you can get an EV for free. There’s also a rumor that the Feds are contemplating an increased credit to $10,000. At any rate, here’s the quick cost justification based on my numbers:
This quick math doesn’t take into account the increased cost of insurance (I didn’t get rid of my old car), the increased cost of electricity or the additional savings from not needing to change oil so often in my gas-guzzling car. I have a fairly sophisticated spreadsheet my wife got from a friend that takes these things into account. Let me know if you’d like me to email the spreadsheet to you.
Key things to consider
Can you get rid of your current vehicle? I decided I couldn’t because the driving range between charges is only about 85 miles and I need to drive more than 85 miles on some days. So I’m hanging on to my 1999 Lexus GS with 217,689 miles on it.
- This has altered my driveway / garage logistics but nothing unmanageable yet.
- My auto insurance has gone up since my Leaf is now my commuter car and the old gas-guzzler is my “recreational vehicle” (the spreadsheet takes this into account.
Do you consistently drive less than 85 miles per day? I kept track of my daily mileage for about 3 months and found that I drove less than 80 miles about 80% of the time.
The charging station infrastructure is growing. According to Plugshare, there are 143 public charging stations currently located in metro Atlanta. Some are free (most dealers offer this) and some are high-powered which can charge to 80% capacity within 30 minutes. Although the infrastructure is getting better, charging at home is still the most convenient, and least expensive, way to go.
Time savings. None of the cost justification takes into account the time savings. Based on my limited experience, there are two consistent time-savers: never needing to stop at a gas station (saves me five minutes / week) and the ability to drive in the HOV lanes whenever I want (yes, this is true with an EV… could be priceless). I estimate my time-savings per year to be about five hours: for an attorney or other professional who bills for his time, these small time-savers can add up to real money.
Here’s a photo of “The Blackberry” (the name I gave to my Leaf) charging in my garage at night. I’ve had The Blackberry for less than two weeks but so far, in addition to the convenience of “filing up” in my garage at night, here’s what I’ve enjoyed the most:
- The pep and acceleration the car has; pleasantly surprising.
- The pleasure of passing gas stations (sorry QuikTrip).
- Saving wear & tear on my old car.
- Since it’s on a 2-year lease, I shouldn’t have to pay anything to maintain my free car before I return it (if I bought it and was going to keep it longer I would rotate the tires every five to ten thousand miles).
- Knowing I can return my free car in two years and maybe, by then, the new budget EV’s will have a 200 mile range… or maybe I’ll be able to afford a Tesla!
If you already have your free car, or if you’re considering one, I’d like to hear your comments and/or questions.