We Bought an Electric Car!

I have wanted a Nissan Leaf since they first came out in 2010. Sadly, they were not released in Wisconsin until 2012, and by then, we’d already bought two new-to-us cars, my parents’ 2001 Honda Accord and a 2006 Toyota Prius. Fast forward to a few months ago, when we noticed that the Honda was leaking gas, and we needed to buy a replacement car. We could finally get the Nissan Leaf!

It took a couple of months of searching and waiting to find one in our area. Not many people in Wisconsin trade in used Leafs. There were tons available down in Chicago, but we didn’t want to drive all that way not even knowing if we’d like the car.

We didn’t exactly plan to buy the first Leaf we looked at, but you know how used car salesmen can be. On June 14th, we bought a 2012 Nissan Leaf with 35,000 miles on it for about $9,000. That seemed a little too good to pass up. And we LOVE it!

We weren’t able to drive it right away because we had get a 240-volt outlet installed in our garage, so we could charge it. Technically, it can be charged with a standard 120-volt outlet, but it’s pretty slow. We also had to decide what to do with Jim’s car before switching over the insurance. We decided to donate his car since the dealership was only going to give us $200 on a trade in. It took about a week to get the electrician in to give us a quote and get the work done in the garage.

We had planned to buy a charging station, but Jim’s friend used to have a Leaf, so he gave us an old charger that had been converted to 240-volts.

The Nissan Leaf is 100% electric, and the 2012 model is quoted as getting 87 miles to the charge. My work is 19 miles from home, so I typically drive about 40-50 miles per day, which means I have plenty of charge that I don’t need to be worried about running out of electricity. Although, let me tell you, the first time we drove the car more than just around the neighborhood, we were a little freaked out. It kind of feels like running on empty with a gas vehicle until you learn how the car can handle speed and distance. I feel like my 6 years of driving a Prius (a hybrid vehicle) have been good practice.

It takes 3 bars of energy to get to work. There’s a gauge, kind of like a gas gauge, that shows the remaining charge and the estimated miles that can still be driven. The car charges back to full power in about 4-5 hours depending on how far we’ve driven in a day. It also shows you the estimated time to full charge using either 120-volts or 240-volts, so that’s pretty cool.

For the first couple of weeks, we were setting a timer and then unplugging the car after it was fully charged. I was worried that like a laptop battery or cell phone battery, it might not be good to have it plugged in and “over” charging. But we’ve stopped doing that. It’s just not practical, and Jim’s pretty sure it doesn’t matter.

The car drives really smoothly, so Jim’s taken to calling it “the spaceship.” And of course, it’s pretty much silent because of the electric motor vs. a gas engine. It’s 6 years newer than the Prius, so that helps as well as far as how well it drives. Christopher isn’t in love with it yet because it’s a little harder to buckle his seatbelt. The buckles in the backseat retract into the seat, so sometimes they get stuck. Jim’s going to make something to hold them in place using his 3D printer, and then Christopher should be happy.

One of the other reasons I wasn’t too apprehensive about getting an electric car is that there is a charging station at my work. It’s outside one of the other buildings on the campus, and charging is free to employees who work in park. I don’t plan on charging at work every day because it’s a bit of a walk to that building, but I had a chance to try out the ChargePoint app and the charging station last week.

I went to lunch with a friend somewhere 10 miles north of my office, so I was a little nervous about driving home with only 35 miles of charge remaining. I wasn’t sure if I’d get stuck in traffic or whatever. And since it was Friday, I thought it would be a good day to try out the charging port. The ChargePoint app shows all of the charging stations around town and whether they’re free. The port at work has both a 120-volt and 240-volt charger. I was able to get the 240-volt charger after I came back from lunch.

Once I went back into the office, I was able to monitor the charging via the app. It showed me how long I had been charging and how many miles were added onto the battery. It was pretty cool. There is a 4 hour charging limit, but I didn’t even need to charge that long.

Electric motors aren’t as efficient in the winter because of the cold, so the verdict is still out on how well it will drive this winter. I may need to charge it daily at work, so I may have to drive the Prius when it’s really, really cold. We’ll see. For now we are really LOVING our new car.

What kind of car do you drive? What do you love about it?

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    1. I'm curious about winter too. No, we definitely couldn't take it on a long trip. There are not enough charging stations in WI. But it's a perfect commuting car, which is what we wanted it for. We still have the Prius for longer trips.

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