So I Bought an Electric Car…

The new ride - a 2016 Leaf SV in a sweet '70s brown color.

The new ride – a 2016 Leaf SV in this deluxe ’70s brown color.

Before we begin, I should probably admit that the Mustache family absolutely did not need a new car. Or even a new used car. In fact, we didn’t even need the two older used cars that we have been keeping around for the last five years, because our local life has blossomed so nicely in this small city that there is really nothing outside of biking distance, aside from the odd trip to the airport.

If I were still my real retired self (circa 2005-2011), we probably would have sold these vehicles and gone blissfully car-free, combining bikes and bike trailers, with car sharing, carpooling, rentals, and Uber/Lyft rides for our trips out of town, which only average twice per month. The money savings of maybe $2000 per year would only be a minor improvement to our annual spending, but the peace of mind of a clear driveway, no maintenance or registration or maintenance or insurance, and the joy of trying something new, would be worth much more.

But instead, I now lead this dual life: Normal Pete, the retired Dad/carpenter is in control for 90% of my waking hours, but like a werewolf, his alter ego Mr. Money Mustache (circa 2011 to present) takes over occasionally, and he has a different agenda.

MMM is restless, reckless, bossy, prone to experimentation, has a surplus of blog-related income at his disposal, and has to answer to millions of people. Pete’s friends mostly live nearby and already ride bikes, but certain MMM readers are still burning millions of gallons of gasoline driving gas-powered cars on long commutes. Many of them want to know if there is a better way.

So, Mr. Money Mustache just bought himself a brand-new, 2016 Nissan Leaf to run a long-term science experiment and report the data back to you. Pete is a bit nervous about this shiny new toy in the driveway, but he will do his best to have some fun with it.

Why is this a Valid Experiment?

As I mentioned in the recent post about Driving a Tesla to California, I think we’re on the cusp of a very positive change in transportation. Gasoline-powered cars are just about to go the way of the dinosaurs they burn as fuel, and they’ll be replaced by a mixture of electric cars you can drive yourself, and electric cars that drive themselves

However, this transition is just getting started. Over 99% of new cars sold in the US are still gas-powered, and when I run the numbers as an engineer and car enthusiast, I find this to be preposterous. Logically, this should already be less than 50%, and by the end of this decade, it should be zero. The only thing keeping more people from ditching gasoline is that people don’t realize how fucking amazing electric cars are, and I feel I should do my part to share this information. The most effective way to do this is to own one myself and write about the experience.

So Why Did You Choose a Brand-New Nissan Leaf?

The simplest way to explain might be to draw a complete picture of the US car market as I see it – including both gas and electric vehicles of all categories. This decision-making chart covers the spectrum of personal transportation needs for, as far as I can tell, about 99% of the population.

Fig. 1: Car Decision Chart

Fig. 1: Car Decision Chart

I was initially looking for a 2013 Leaf, but given my city’s location (90 miles roundtrip to the airport and some other key destinations) the longer range of the 2016 SV model would eliminate all possible range anxiety. Plus, given our unusual money situation these days and my desire to support the EV market in general, I figured the extra dollars would not be missed.

Update, October 11th: The Leaf comes in three trim levels called “S”, “SV”, and “SL”. They are each about $3000 apart in price. Those top two trim levels have a 25% bigger battery, so I upgraded to the SV to get it. But as of today, Nissan has revealed they will start offering the bigger battery even in the base model. So you can now get the higher range for a few grand less than what I describe in this article.


What about Other Electric Cars?

Besides the Leaf, there are EV versions of the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3, BMW i3 and a bunch of other cars. By the end of 2016, the new GM Bolt will be out with 240 miles range, at a higher price. GM has also made the excellent Volt plug-in hybrid  since 2011, which is now pretty affordable on Craigslist. In another 2 years or so, you can get a Tesla Model 3 for $35k before tax credits. And the cars will keep getting better as battery prices drop.

I just chose the Leaf because I wanted to completely ditch the gasoline engine right now. It offered the best price/performance ratio in today’s market and is the most widely available. As you’ll see below, it could actually be considered a cost-effective choice despite the rapidly changing technology.

How Much Does This Thing Cost?

Now THIS is where things get interesting.

Straight off of my sales sheet, this is what the car will cost me:

  • Sticker Price (from the car window): $35,445
  • Dealer Handling Fee (aka more profit margin) added in: $600
  • Assorted Discounts from Dealer: (-4500)
  • Hard-to-Explain Discount from Nissan Finance: (-6000)
  • Federal Tax Credit: (-7500)
  • Colorado State Tax Credit: (-4653)

Sorta Net Price of Car: $13,391

However, it’s not quite that good, because many of these discounts are taken only after you pay sales tax on the full price of the car ($31,544 in this case). In my region, sales tax is about 8.26%, so I paid $2605 of tax. About $1500 more than you’d pay on a car that was really priced at 14 grand.

So my total out-of-pocket cost with tax will be $16,000, which is equivalent to buying a brand-new car with a list price of $14,775. This is right around the price of the cheapest new cars* you can get in the US these days. The difference, of course, is that you get something that is fast, silent, pollution-free, almost free to refuel, carpool-lane eligible and pretty luxurious instead of an economy car.

My Dirty Financing Secret and the Strange Positive Cashflow

Blowing all credibility as Mr. Money Mustache, I actually financed this car.

In order to get that “hard to explain $6000 discount” from Nissan, you have to buy the car with zero downpayment and a 0% interest rate. You can then choose to pay the car off at any point, or let the free money ride over a 72 month payoff period.

I’ve bought new vehicles twice before in my lifetime, and both times I got a discount for paying cash. In this case, the incentives are reversed. (If you work in the financial sector, please let us know in the comments section below why it makes any sense for Nissan to do this!)

The only downside of all this is that carrying a car loan requires me to carry at least $1000-deductible collision/comprehensive insurance on the car, which costs me $190 per year extra at Geico. My car loan is for the full $28,000, so the insurance premium works out to only 0.6% of this balance per year – much less than I’ll earn by investing that money elsewhere, so therefore I’ll keep the loan unless it becomes a pain for some reason.

The net of all this is a very odd cashflow diagram for buying this car:

My net wealth difference over time for buying this car. Original spreadsheet here.

My net cashflow difference over time for buying this car. Original spreadsheet here.

I drove the car home without paying anything at all – I just signed a few papers. Two weeks in, I still haven’t paid a dime, which feels really inappropriate.

Meanwhile, I have already sold my old car on Craigslist and collected $5000 in cash, which is now in the bank. In about a month, Nissan will start withdrawing “car payments” from my bank at $400 per month. But at tax time, I’ll collect that juicy $12,150 in tax credits we saw above. Meanwhile, there are fuel savings every month, and I get to enjoy living in the future (and promoting the joy of gas-free transport to everyone else) the whole time.

The bottom line is that at on balance, I will actually have more money sitting in investments than I would have, if I had kept the old car – at least until mid-2021. On top of that, I’ve placed the new car in service as a business vehicle, which will make it partially tax deductible and skew those graph lines even higher.

At the end of the graph, I put a blip to simulate what would happen if I sold the Leaf for $7500 at that point. Meanwhile, my Scion would have been 16 years old and worth maybe $2000. Who knows what the year 2022 will bring – I could keep the Leaf, or perhaps switch to the latest self-driving electric car with a 400 mile range and replace my domestic air travel with sleeping in my future car while it drives me across the country at night.

Maintenance is much simpler on electric cars, but the battery does fade gradually. The warranty is 8 years, but you might be down to about 50% range after 100,000 miles. The Leaf battery can easily be swapped, at which point you’ll have an almost-new car. If you’re beyond the warranty period, the current price for this upgrade at a Nissan dealership is $5500, although with battery prices down 80% over the last 10 years, I would expect this to be about 50% lower by the time a new battery grows old enough to need replacement. For now, you could consider long-term battery wear to be roughly equivalent to engine maintenance costs on a very reliable small car (3 cents per mile).

Is it Actually A Nice Car?

In general, the Leaf is a spiffy vehicle, both inside and out. Interior materials are reasonably classy, especially if you get the black interior. Seats have a firm, reasonably sporty shape.The 5-door hatchback design makes it easy to load and unload people and cargo. Both front and back seating areas, and the trunk, are quite roomy. I can easily fit five of me into the car (6’0/185 lbs), and two more of me could actually fit into the hatch (without such niceties as seatbelts or comfort, of course). Or you can fold down the 60/40 rear seats and have an area big enough for two bikes or 1-2 adults sleeping (if you set up a level sleeping platform). Overnight camping (even in winter) in an electric car is somewhat practical, because you can run the automatic climate control overnight without running out of battery – even better if you have it plugged in.

The Leaf's main computer screen, and the phone app that goes with it.

The Leaf’s main computer screen, and the phone app that goes with it**.

The car has some semi-useful electronics as well: a permanent cellular data connection allows you to check on the Leaf from your smartphone if you install the Nissan app. You can pre-heat (or pre-cool) the cabin from the comfort of your bed or office, as well as start/stop charging, check the charge level and review your driving history and efficiency with a nice calendar-based record. There’s also a GPS navigation system.

However, the whole system of menus, displays, and the app are a tech experience straight out of 2007. If you judge the Nissan by current iPhone/Android standards, you can only laugh and shake your head. On the other hand, even the Tesla Model S touchscreen is no match for a modern tablet.

Finally, the Leaf’s audio system sounds quite good thanks to 6 speakers including column-mounted tweeters. I filled up a 32GB USB drive (value $9) with about 500 of my favorite albums in MP3 form, and plugged it into the port on the dashboard. The car navigates the folders nicely and displays the album art. So I’m set for life and never have to resort to commercial FM or satellite radio.

How’s the Performance?

The Leaf is a controversial car: some say it is ugly and drives like an econobox, while I find it looks pretty damned nice, especially with the 17″ wheels and wide performance tires (215/50/17) that now come on the SV and SL models.

The weight distribution is close to 50/50 and nice and low, with the battery pack way down under the floor and the electric motor between the front wheels. Combining those good tires with the reasonably tight suspension, I find you can whip this car around on a curvy mountain road and it handles it very well. Cornering and passing in the city and interstate is similarly enjoyable.

But the best part is the acceleration. Subjectively, I’d describe the typical economy car or SUV as “plenty fast”, and a midrange performance car as “way faster than you need.” The Leaf feels even faster, at “holy shit this thing is fast!” – only a couple of impractical notches below my impression of the Tesla Model S, whose acceleration is “YEEEAAAH-WHAT THE HELL I’M ABOUT TO CRASH INTO THIS CAR THAT WAS JUST DISTANT SPECK ON THE HORIZON TWO SECONDS AGO!!”

The speed is a bit elusive: acceleration around town is fierce, but the official 0-60MPH acceleration numbers for the car are hard to find. So I tested it myself by flooring the car with a camera mounted in the back. You can also get a feel for the smooth, quiet operation of this car as there’s a bit of regular driving thrown in there:

leaf 0-60

As noted in the video, the actual numbers are only average compared to professional driver results on a moderately sporty car like a Honda Civic. But the instant 100% torque (187 ft-lbs of it) means that casually hitting the gas pedal on this car is equivalent to instantly shifting down to first gear in that Honda, revving the engine to 4000 RPM, then dropping the clutch at full throttle and powershifting through the gears at redline. Most people don’t drive like that in real life, and thus an electric car feels much faster for most drivers.

How Far Can it Go on a Charge? (and how much does the charging cost?)

The EPA rates the car at 107 miles per charge, because they simulate typical American driving patterns (full throttle at all times with constant unnecessary braking, and a parachute and a sack of bricks attached to the back of the car). So far, my lowest performance has been 115 miles (25 miles remaining after a 90 mile roundtrip to a far corner of Denver, mostly on the interstate at 70-80 MPH with A/C). And my best is around 150 miles (city and country driving averaging about 45MPH).

“How Long Does it Take to Charge?” is usually the next question, but the idea of waiting to fuel your car is actually somewhat obsolete. Because you generally just leave it plugged in every night, you awake to a car that is totally full – so most electric car owners never need to make a refueling stop. Much more convenient than gasoline.

However, to actually answer the question – you also can charge the car from empty to full in about 5 hours at the typical public charging station (these are often free to use). Or about 30 minutes at a DC fast charging station. Nissan provides 2 years of free nationwide charging with new Leafs. Public charging is starting to become pretty useful:

There are over 36,000 public charging machines in the US, and the number grows by over ten per day.  This should continue to accelerate, because an 8-car gasoline pumping station costs about $1 million to build, while an 8-spot EV charger would be less than half the cost, and requires much less land (plus profit margins on electricity can be much higher than those on gasoline). Existing gas station chains including BP are already adding electric charging stations alongside their gas pumps.

Both coasts have already set up an “electric highway” infrastructure, which is a string of the ultra-fast 30 minute chargers spaced conveniently for electric cars.

If I’m charging at home, the car holds about 30 kWh of electricity, which costs roughly $3.00 at my local electric rates. By comparison, an economy car (35MPG) would burn around $10 of gas at today’s cheap prices to go the same distance, which means the Leaf is getting the equivalent of roughly 115 MPG. This comparison gets even better as the price of gas increases.

Do I Need an Expensive Home Charging Station?

In most cases, no. Just plug the car into a regular outlet whenever you aren’t using it, using the cord that comes with the car. This adds 4-5 miles of charge per hour, or 60 miles per day if you leave your car parked from, say, 7PM to 7AM.

If you need faster home charging (3-4x faster than the standard cord), you grab a 240 volt charger (about $300 on Amazon), and plug it in to any dryer plug. You can add an outlet like this in your garage or driveway for about $60 in parts and wiring, or hire an electrician to do it for a few hundred dollars, depending on the distance from your main breaker panel. Or you can get even fancier – search Amazon for “J1772” for all your options.

It’s even better if you can plug it in at work and let your employer pay for your energy.

Don’t Electric Cars Pollute Just as Much because of Coal Power Generation?

No. Because electric motors are much more efficient, even the worst case (charging an electric car purely on coal-fired electricity) comes out slightly better than burning the typical fracked and imported gasoline mix. Even better, the US electric grid is only about 28% coal these days, and dropping. Natural gas is still our biggest generator for now, but solar and wind account for almost half of new capacity added each year.

At my house, I’ve enjoyed 100% wind power for over 10 years, just by signing up to my local power company’s wind power program. Whether you buy an electric car or not, you should check with your electric company and switch to wind power (or install solar panels) immediately. And save your receipt, because I might use it as an excuse to invite you to lunch someday.

Further Reading:

This car is a pretty new thing for me. As I have some fun and test it out, I’ll put the results on a permanent page on this blog called The Nissan Leaf Experiment.

Although I have no affiliation with Nissan or any car dealership, I had a great experience buying this from Nigel at Boulder Nissan, because he’s a genuine EV nerd rather than a car salesman. If you’re shopping for one of these cars, feel free to compare the price I paid price to those at your own local dealership, or contact Nigel himself. You can tell him MMM sent you (he’ll know what that means).

Have Questions? Ask them in the comments below

I really enjoy talking about energy and transportation stuff, so I will do my best to answer more questions below. Also, I suspect that about half of the world’s 97,000 Leafs are owned by Mustachians since we are the ideal demographic for such inventions. So you’re an owner and know the answer to one of the questions, feel free to answer it on my behalf. And also share any corrections to this article if you see some incorrect details.

* note: most of the cars on that 10-most-affordable-cars list are excellent choices, especially the Honda Fit

** notice how my phone reports a different range than the main screen? That’s the perfect example of the clunky interface. You have to manually hit the “refresh” button on the phone app, which then goes into an unsightly 1990s spinning animation for, quite literally 38 seconds before you get the new data.

I can’t help imagining the request must be triggering a pager on someone’s belt at the Nissan Tennessee factory, who then runs to the nearest landline telephone and frantically makes a call.

Martha: “Hello, Bill? This is Martha at Nissan Tennessee. We need a range check on Mr. Money Mustache’s Leaf in Longmont Colorado!” 

Bill: “No problem, I’m right in that neighborhood right now! I’ll pull into his street and check on the car. Stand by. (…)”

Bill: “OK! I got it! He’s at 124 miles remaining.”

Martha: “Thanks Bill! You are like a gazelle these days. How are the kids?”

Bill: “Well, Bill Jr. is a little bit sick, but we’re doing pretty well. Cynthia’s starting soccer next week…”

Martha: “Well, I better get this number entered into the mainframe. Talk to you later!”

Bill: “Sure thing, talk to you later!”

A few seconds later, I get my range update.

Hint to Nissan: you can poll this shit asynchronously in the background, and then the data will be reasonably current whenever I open the app. You cannot have 38 second delays in a product that you actually ship to customers. Who actually saw this and said, “Ship it!”?? Please hire some Mustachians to design all aspects of your interface in the future. We can help if you want to get in touch before the next Leaf comes out. Your look-and-feel grace period is almost over, as Tesla will not be gentle with you.

  • Grant October 4, 2016, 12:15 pm

    For those of us who live in states without insane levels of tax subsidies, used electrics are a great way to go. There are a lot of electric cars coming off lease that can be had for a song. I bought a barely used Ford Focus Electric (only 12K miles) a few months back for $10.5K and, so far, am extremely happy with it. It’s comparable to the pre 2016 Leaf, as far as range goes, and is outfitted like a nearly top of the line Focus (no leather or sunroof, but it has basically every other option). Range is ~70 miles, but only about 55 if you’re running the heater (again, about the same as the first gen Leaf). For someone like me with a ~10 mile commute, it’s the perfect car. It’s quick, comfortable, and has all the bells and whistles, but was cheap to purchase, is cheap to insure, and requires almost no maintenance.

    • Brian October 5, 2016, 7:22 am

      Same here (in Texas). Got a ’12 Leaf for $10k w/ 10k miles. Battery warranty is good until 2018 due to its “in service date” so I’ll basically have a newish Leaf in 2018 again. My Leaf handles 80% of our family’s driving.

    • Brewer's Arcade October 5, 2016, 2:02 pm

      Ineed. Bought a 2012 Leaf SL w/ 28,500 miles on it last month for $8200 and the dealership even delivered it for free! Love the car.

  • Jacob B October 4, 2016, 12:23 pm

    I’ve thought about the electric cars, but living in an apartment won’t allow me to charge the thing. They offer garages in the complex, but at $90/month, there is no way that would be worth it.

    My bicycle suits my needs at the moment. I didn’t even buy gas through the whole month of September, so I am not in a need of one any time soon at least.

    • Abandoned Cubicle October 4, 2016, 1:02 pm

      That’s an excellent point, Jacob. With time I’d hope the infrastructure catches up with the needs of apartment and condo dwellers.. love the bike comment- don’t hear that enough.

  • Norm October 4, 2016, 12:29 pm

    I wonder if the home-charging is totally necessary. I park on the street (in front of my house if I’m lucky) and I think having a power cord draped across or down the sidewalk would be looked down upon by the neighbors. The grocery store (3 miles away) has a charging station so could I feasibly charge it up there, then leave it parked on the street. I doubt having an electric car would mean I’d be driving more, so it might sit there up to a week between uses. Any ideas of how long the charge lasts on a parked car?

    • Brian October 5, 2016, 7:25 am

      Weeks. I parked my Leaf at the airport for a week and came back to it being at the same level.

  • rs7 October 4, 2016, 12:37 pm

    Possible critique of cash flows: you assume the 2005 Scion will last until 2022 without needed a lot of maintenance.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 1:14 pm

      Yeah, that is debatable, but during the time I owned it, the Scion cost me virtually nothing besides a few quarts of oil and a new filter per year. Even when I sold it, the mechanic reviewing it identified that it needed only front brake pads ($40/set on Amazon), and front suspension stabilizer links ($20/pair).

      If you combine gentle driving, basic DIY skills, YouTube, and Amazon for parts, then a simple and well-built car costs very little to keep running.

      • Churchie October 19, 2016, 6:34 pm

        Try RockAuto for auto parts, they are cheaper than Amazon. Also, get a 5% omnipresent discount from RetailMeNot.

      • Churchie October 19, 2016, 6:35 pm

        Try RockAuto, they are cheaper than Amazon. Also, get a 5% omnipresent discount from RetailMeNot.

  • Emilie T. October 4, 2016, 12:39 pm

    Congrats on your purchase and the exciting experiment ahead of you! My wife and I bought a used 2015 Leaf (10K miles) earlier this year. Utah does offer tax incentives, but only if bought new, of course. We live in Salt Lake City, but have yet to experience the car in winter time.

    I wanted to write and encourage you to include the benefits of kinetic recharge in your experimentation. I imagine you have steep, gorgeous canyons where you live. We certainly do. Driving up steep inclines like Big Cottonwood Canyon can cause serious anxiety the first time you do it because it depletes your range very quickly. One trip up the canyon was a bit over 8 miles in distance, but resulted in 31 miles depleted by the time I parked at the trail head. There is super awesome GOOD news though. On your way back down the mountain you get almost the exact number of miles you “burned” back from the kinetic energy charging capability. It is very gratifying.

    Less drastic, but still interesting to note, is when you’re driving from one town to another at a higher/lower elevation. I use a few more miles going to my hometown of South Ogden, which is a bit higher in elevation than SLC. It can be an important factor to keep in mind when you’re budgeting your available mileage and any time you may need to recharge.

    I’d also be curious to read what you discover with range depletion in regard to MPH and cruise control. I have discovered with the 2015 (and who knows if the previous owner took good care of it or not, so my battery could be at a disadvantage), the mileage I get starts to decline above 60-65mph. Cruise control seems to save some miles, probably because you never absent-mindedly raise your speed to whatever that threshold is that deplete the battery more quickly.

    That’s my two cents. Looking forward to what you discover!

  • Michal Palczewski October 4, 2016, 12:40 pm

    How come you didn’t buy it used? Did you do the same cash flow analysis for used?

  • Ruz October 4, 2016, 12:40 pm

    So how’s that app do on using up your data on your phone?

    We pay for our data, and found out when our home wifi went out, and a simple app was running on the phone all night, that it chewed through a couple hundred MB in one night – just doing simple updates (constantly). I ended up having to buy more data. (And yes I know Republic Wireless is great – but the service is spotty at best where we live – for both Wifi and Wireless…).

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 1:10 pm

      Good question so I just checked. The Nissan app uses zero cellular data in the background, and in fact only 22 kilobytes (0.022 MB, or one fiftieth of one cent worth of data) in the several weeks I’ve used it. I did a few charging checks while out on the town. So at least it’s efficient.

      Regarding your other problem, click on Settings->data usage and review your apps. Disable background data on cellular networks for anything other than important things. Definitely delete Facebook too, just for general life enhancement :-)

  • Nathan October 4, 2016, 12:40 pm

    Hey MMM-

    A quick answer to your question regarding how the financing works in Nissan’s favor. The short version of the story is that it’s an enticement to get people like you to buy a new car, which supersedes the bit they’ll lose on financing.
    The longer version:
    Nissan gives you a car. You give a promise to pay to NMAC (the finance arm of Nissan) $31,500 over the next 6 years. NMAC pays something less than this to Nissan the car company that still makes Nissan a healthy profit (say $29,000).
    The result of all this:
    1- Nissan sells a car to someone and can book several thousand $$ in profit and $29,000 in Revenue.
    2- Nissan finance pays $29,000 to Nissan Car for the right to $31,500 (the difference being booked as interest income over time).
    3- Nissan largely finances this through cash already in house (free money), though you could apply a long-term debt cost to the loan (current 5-year treasury of 1.18% plus 50 basis point premium because as a multi-national corporation they can access debt much more cheaply than you can). Implying this, the $2,500 in “revenue” nissan finance will book (the 31,500 from you less the 29,000 they pay to Nissan Car) will cost Nissan Finance $1,500, resulting in a gain of $1,000. Not great, but, that’s all just funny-money anyway since it’s all the same company, and it’s as good as anything they’ll really get in the market today.

  • Pellrider October 4, 2016, 12:42 pm

    Nice to see your car and the money you saved on the purchase. Just wondering, why I am not seeing Nissan Leaf in Toronto.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 1:06 pm

      Canada (especially Ontario) has been way behind on the electric scene so far. The weaker dollar, higher sales taxes, electricity prices at 300% of normal (!!), and smaller incentives are all part of it. I’ve heard that the new Prime Minister has some plans to change it.

      Still, spending the same money on bike infrastructure might be a bigger public benefit. Biking is also still pretty minimal in Toronto.

  • Kim October 4, 2016, 12:44 pm

    Great decision!
    What a very pleasant wat tot set an example!
    We (living in Belgium) drive a Tesla S and due to tax benefits on business cars it was about the same price as an Audi A5. But man, the amount of car andere luxury you get for that price is amazing! I don’t want another car ever again. Once you go e-car you kever go back!

  • Mark October 4, 2016, 12:47 pm

    I work in the financial services industry. The only reason for Nissan Financial to offer that deal is b/c Nissan Automotive is providing the Financial arm incentives ($’s). I’m sure there’s a profit/loss sharing agreement involved as well. There’s benefits to keeping customers under the Nissan umbrella, even though most companies look at results separately. Some view the financial services arm as a break-even venture…marketing if you will.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 1:04 pm

      Still.. wouldn’t it be more profitable to add a clause that would add at least a small discount for cash buyers? Nissan still gets the sale, after all, without the expenses servicing the zero-profit loan for 6 years!

      My first $397 interest-free payment gets auto-withdrawn on November 5th, so another month of free driving for me :-)

      • Mrfancypants October 14, 2016, 11:23 am

        Not really a cash buyer is the least inticed by incentives because they have cash on hand, the Automakers are steering undecided (top credit) buyers to cars they want to sell. They are either overproduced, underselling, making room for the next model year etc…

        They are selling 2 products the car and the loan under 2 subsidiary companies, they use the loan as a loss leader to sell more cars which is a higher profit margin profit…

        Also according to Edmunds only 9% of dealer financed loans are at 0% so as part of the entire loan portfolio they hold when the slice them up in ABS the cash flow is easily sold to investors without impacting financial results…

        Trust me they still make money on the cash flow of the 0% loans, you just have think about how you can leverage the money on the deprecating asset purchase effectively the seller has there angles all figured out

  • Dylan October 4, 2016, 12:58 pm

    In the spreadsheet, shouldn’t the “new car registration fee” be a negative cash flow? It’s listed as a credit.

  • REIGuy October 4, 2016, 1:00 pm

    Interesting experiment, but the real modern experiment for simplicity should be Uber for a second car. $15k buys a lot of rides and that’s before we get to chargers, electricity, insurance, maintenance, etc.

    Each car on the road averages four parking spots in a city. A driverless taxi replaces 10 cars. The economics and simplicity of the driverless taxis coming to select cities in the next 2 years is astounding. Google may not even charge for their rides.

    • william October 8, 2016, 9:57 am

      This is what we have been doing for 3 year – 1 owned car and car sharing for the second. It works really well for us, including shuttling kids around. We are fortunate to live in Vancouver, with no snow and multiple car sharing services (we use Evo and Car2Go)., might be less effective in worse weather or less urban areas. I estimate this saves us 10K/year in costs and depreciation versus owning. We are actually thinking of getting ride of our 1st car completely.

  • Kathy October 4, 2016, 1:07 pm

    The battery degradation that you talked about has not proven to be an issue with Chevy’s Voltec battery system. There are many Volts with more than 100,000 miles on them (mostly electric miles) and the batteries are still charging to their full capability. I’ve got almost 70,000 miles on my Volt, battery still perfect. There’s at least one Volt with 300,000 miles on it, no issues with battery capacity. Nissan may have made improvements in newer Leafs, but the older ones were having issues. By the way, I love driving electric. Only been to the gas station a few times since March!

  • Dr Bill October 4, 2016, 1:12 pm

    MMM, I LOVED the article, and without question, your description of the Tesla’s acceleration curve made for quite the guffaw. DOwn here in Ruidoso, all the towns are 70+ miles away and downhill at least 2500 feet. Else, I’d have bought a Leaf. For now, I’m still happy with my 18-year old Ford Ranger. Maybe at 20 years, I’ll trade it in for am 8-year old Ranger (the last year they were made, I think). But the real reason I wrote was that, after 118 comments, I didn’t find one reader decrying your abuse of all the working poor by misallocating $11,500-plus of taxpayer dollars, THEN shedding some crocodile tears of “guilt” for some tax offense, like putting your car on the taxpayer tab as a business expense. But then I remembered that about half government spending is from the deficit carried by the Federal Reserve’s $13 trillion in bond purchases. So, what the heck! I guess it may also mean that more sensitive souls than I haven’t read this article and become genuinely offended yet.

    Now that I’m retired, I don’t need more than one car, a paid-for Kia we’ve had since 2007, and I don’t have enough taxable income to get the full credits for the new Leaf. Hmmm….that new Old Ranger is singing its Siren Song…..

    Again, a great article.

  • Eric October 4, 2016, 1:15 pm

    Nice looking car (actually I think the Leaf is pretty ugly, but being electric outweighs the appearance and beauty is in the eye of the beholder). I have a neighbor with one and she loves it. (my model 3 is on order after a bit of non-mustachian extravagance :-)
    Enjoy the new ride!

    For anyone thinking of getting an electric car and solar, the math for a Leaf breaks down like this:
    12,000 US average non-mustachian miles per year
    107 miles per charge for Leaf
    30 kWhr per charge
    3364 kWhr/year

    At my house, about 45 miles south of MMM, a 2.6 kW solar array on my roof will generate 3.4 kWhrs of electricity per year. A 2.6 kW system is about $5,000 in parts for a DIYer, about double that installed.

    Two good places to calculate how large of a system you would need:
    PV Watts from NREL
    Google’s Project Sunroof

    Does powering an electric car from your own solar generated electricity make financial sense? Probably not at current gas prices. Does it make sense from a environmental standpoint? Probably so.

  • Laura October 4, 2016, 1:15 pm

    Sweet! We are toying with the idea of replacing our 20 y.o. car. Hmmm….

  • Mr Mike October 4, 2016, 1:29 pm

    We replaced a 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid (just about the cheapest gas car you can own) with a 2015 Ford Focus electric, which is basically a Nissan Leaf except it came with a more powerful 6.6kw on board charger (at the time more powerful, now equal) and has a battery heater and cooler (the Leaf has neither). This keeps the battery temperature more optimal for range and for longevity.

    I have 20k miles on it so far. Range is no problem, in summer, 80-90 miles is easily doable even though it’s rated for 73 EPA. However, in winter with snow tires, range plummets hard. Snow tires shave off about 10 miles, and cold can shave off quite a lot. There were days where I wasn’t sure I’d make the round trip to/from work (40 miles freeway at 60-70mph) even with no heat. No heat in winter is miserable even with seat warmers if it’s 15 degrees F out. I have only had to use public charging stations twice, and only 15 minutes a piece just to give me a tad more charge for very long driving days. PlugShare’s app makes paying fairly easy and uniform – no separate accounts required, at least for where I live (Portland).

    I did the same 7500 credit + 0% financing for 5 years. I calculated that even with $0 residual value after 6 years, it still penciled out as long as I drove like 80-90k miles over the car’s life. Luckily there’s a 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty on the powertrain, so the car was literally guaranteed by Ford to pay off. Oh, and I put solar PV on the roof, which only made the stupid good deal that much better. Plus, it’s a way nicer car than my old car in every way. There’s only one version of the Focus electric sold – and it’s fully loaded. I’m getting paid to drive a borderline luxury car I don’t have to maintain, or refuel, pretty sweet!

  • afox October 4, 2016, 1:31 pm

    Surprising. The math just doesn’t work which MMM admits to in a previous comment. For one thing its based on driving 12,000 miles a year. An anti-mustachian amount of driving to be sure. For another thing its hard to compare the capabilities of a honda gas car with the leaf with its limited range. You’re just not comparing apples to apples.

    I applaud MMM for making a conscious decision to purchase a vehicle which affects his neighbors in a positive way and doing so at cost. Lets be clear that the leaf is not the most practical or frugal automobile option. A fuel efficient ford fiesta has much more capability than the leaf while consuming little fuel and would indeed have a lower cost of ownership while offering its owner better range.

    • Doron October 6, 2016, 10:56 am

      Leaf beats Fiesta on size, cargo volume, torque, efficiency, maintenance, and quietness. They’re not really comparable vehicles.

      Leaf is very practical in its target market – as a second car in a two-car family, when one needs 40 miles or less per day (typical U.S. commute).

      Price seems to be about a wash. The Fiesta starts at $14.6K but will have higher maintenance and fuel costs. Eventually, the Leaf battery will have to be replaced.

      The only metric where Fiesta handily wins is, of course, range, which doesn’t much matter in the two-car target demographic.

  • Stan October 4, 2016, 1:31 pm

    Please bear with me. I do not know much about Hybrids or EV’s. I am retired, so I will go for several days without even leaving my property, and many times when I do, I either walk or ride my bike. I started recording my monthly mileage lately just to see how much less I drive now than when I worked. Amazingly enough, in the last 3 months, I have driven a total of 78, 100, and 139 miles monthly.

    My question is, is there any effect on an EV if it is not driven a lot? Does the car stay plugged in the whole time it sits still? Are there any battery draining functions going on constantly in the car, as there is on my cell phone that will cause the battery to die? If the battery dies completely, will it be harmed?

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 5, 2016, 6:16 pm

      You might not be the ideal customer for an EV if you don’t need to drive a lot – an old efficient car would save you more. But to answer your question, lithium batteries only lose a couple of percent charge per month if they are not being used.

      The Leaf’s discharge rate depends on another factor: how much electricity the car burns for stuff like computers and standby functions when it’s parked and turned off. I did some quick searching and could not find this answer, so I’ll have to do an experiment on my own car to find out.

  • Bob Waldrop October 4, 2016, 1:55 pm

    Some say that the energy embodied in the manufacture of an electric vehicle cancels out the environmental impact of running the car on electricity, even when the electricity for the operations is generated by a low impact source like wind or solar. Did you look into this question? It’s what stops me from transitioning.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 5, 2016, 6:12 pm

      Great question Bob! I answered this in a slightly heated comment battle with “Bike Bubba” if you want the full details. But in summary:

      Electric cars are only marginally more environmentally expensive to manufacture than gas cars of comparable size. The battery manufacturing creates about 3.5 tons of greenhouse gases, equivalent to burning 318 gallons of gasoline (and that doesn’t even count the impact of PRODUCING that gas!).

      In other words, you pay back the environmental deficit within the first year of EV driving. So, go for it!

      • Alex October 10, 2016, 3:22 am

        It is actually a very good question.

        Here is an article from Copenhagenize.

        In summary : Electric car has the main drawback of still being a car with all the problems it causes before considering the source of energy : congestion, space eater and road safety.


        To add some points, David McKay in its excellent book “Renewable energy : without the hot air” did the maths. EV actually saves about half the energy a petrol car burns for the same mileage. But I think the first step is to avoid as many miles of driving as we can, and then when you have to drive, choose the most effcient car possible. But EV come in the second step.

  • Steve October 4, 2016, 1:57 pm

    Great article! My Chevy Spark EV has been great. I live about 16 miles from the office so bike commuting is realistically only a 1-2x/week option.

    I committed the ultimate MMM sin and LEASED the car. But the lease is only 80/month for three years and I still was able to receive a 2500 rebate from CA (leases don’t qualify for the federal tax credit though). So the lease payments pay for themselves basically and I was only out the 1000 down payment. Another reason I leased is because EV tech is changing rapidly and I don’t want to be stuck with a rapidly depreciating car after three years (see, used EVs).

    • a1smith October 4, 2016, 6:34 pm

      You didn’t directly get the federal tax credit but you indirectly received part or all of it in the way of a lower lease payment.

  • AZ-FI October 4, 2016, 2:08 pm

    Congrats MMM! We bought a Leaf exactly the same way almost exactly a year ago and love it. One other intangible to add to the list of benefits is the HOV lane – it really cuts down on my commute time and is what put us over the edge on an EV in the first place. I will say you could have haggled a bit more on price ;)

  • Joy October 4, 2016, 2:09 pm

    Those CO rebates are killer. Thanks to reading your posts on dumb auto purchases I felt validated to get rid of my SUV and get a used Prius for our long trips with kids (although I really wanted a Leaf). It took my husband about an year but finally he sold his BMW 328i and found a local retiree to help him buy a Leaf at auction. Fully loaded 2013 SL with 11/12 bars was $15,500 with taxes, no dealer fees. When we ran the numbers for new S’s at the local dealership it didn’t make sense plus I kept the MMM motto in mind, never buy new! He gets to charge free at the office and I have hardly noticed a blip on our electricity consumption the days it has charged at home. As you mentioned it is super zippy, so no hard feelings ditching the BMW. He is thrilled to enjoy his ride and feel better about it. The last BMW maintenance trip was what pushed him over the edge I think.

    • Miro October 5, 2016, 11:20 am

      Amazing! Very similar scenario to mine. I just sold my BMW 328i as well and purchased a 2016 Leaf S. Parting with the Beemer was a little sorrowful, but after enjoying the smooth, quiet and FAST Leaf, I’m not looking back. I too was getting weary of the expensive and ever increasing maintenance on the BMW.

  • Hammo October 4, 2016, 2:16 pm

    Nice One! It totally makes sense.
    Although I’m prepared to wait for the Tesla Model3 in a few years and then another few year when we get it in Australia ;-)
    BTW: Your EV discounts and rebates in the US are insane.

    • a1smith October 4, 2016, 6:32 pm

      The federal EV tax credit will be running out soon. The rule is listed below. It will be interesting to see how EV sales are affected once these large tax credits evaporate.

      The qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicle credit phases out for a manufacturer’s vehicles over the one-year period beginning with the second calendar quarter after the calendar quarter in which at least 200,000 qualifying vehicles manufactured by that manufacturer have been sold for use in the United States (determined on a cumulative basis for sales after December 31, 2009) (“phase-out period”).

      Qualifying vehicles manufactured by that manufacturer are eligible for 50 percent of the credit if acquired in the first two quarters of the phase-out period and 25 percent of the credit if acquired in the third or fourth quarter of the phase-out period. Vehicles manufactured by that manufacturer are not eligible for a credit if acquired after the phase-out period.


  • Ben W. October 4, 2016, 2:28 pm

    $13,391USD for a brand new 2016 Leaf? MIND BLOWN! Wow, you guys have some nice incentives down there! Up here in Manitoba, Canada, there is zippola for incentives right now as far as I know. A 2015 Leaf SL with the leather/nav package was around $40,000 CDN, and I bought mine used and imported from the US with less than 10K on the odometer for $29,500 CDN thinking I got a decent deal! However, I live rurally, about 55km from the nearest level 2 charger in Winnipeg, so in the dead of winter, commuting to the ‘Peg can really suck trying to make the return trip (read extreme range anxiety from the missus). So, the 2016s with the 25% bigger battery packs are looking extremely attractive right now, especially if I could convince a Coloradan to buy one on my behalf and sell it to me! Interested?!

  • spike October 4, 2016, 2:33 pm

    Timely article. David Roberts, who “writes about energy and climate change” for VOX recently wrote a piece about the cost of electric cars vs traditional ICEs. Included is a “nifty” tool put together by MIT brains to compare emissions and costs of all models:


    Thanks for the interesting write-up and running another fun experiment MMM

  • miahshodan October 4, 2016, 2:54 pm

    I love transportation tech too, but I look at it more like you look at food. It is worth paying more for a better experience. I was driving a 1995 Audi S6 and my wife has a 2006 Prius. we decided we only needed one car as I work from home and often don’t drive anywhere during the week. She drives to the school, grocery store, etc., When I do drive into the office or to see my parents it is 300 miles + with no time to stop and charge and no desire to be in a penalty box like a Prius (I am 6’4″) So I recently bought a 2012 Audi A6 to replace both of our cars, which is fun and comfortable, gets 30 mpg on the highway and cost me $20k (salvage title). Now I can’t get my wife to give up the Prius, she likes the fact that it is more of an appliance than a car, so I am trying to convince her that an electric car would be a better appliance. I also tried the electric bike idea, but that did not go over well.

  • Apathy Ends October 4, 2016, 2:58 pm

    Thanks for the review, I haven’t spent a ton of time looking at the distance gains of electric cars in awhile – those tax credits definitely make it a lot more interesting from a cost perspective

    I have started to notice all the new (and some old) public transportation park and rides putting a few charging stations in – free charge while you take the bus to work sounds like a pretty good deal to me. (The one right by our house is even solar paneled)

  • EV October 4, 2016, 3:04 pm

    Welcome to the EV brotherhood! With your construction skills you could pop up a few panels and have free fuel for life.

    • EV October 4, 2016, 3:06 pm

      Also don’t forget about the federal tax credit for a purchase and installation of a home Level 2 charger.

      • EV October 5, 2016, 12:28 pm

        Two more tips:

        1. 30% federal tax deduction on entire solar panel installation.

        2. $2,000 cash back (200,000 rewards points) if you pay for your solar panels on a Chase Southwest and Chase Signature credit card each husband and wife, then just close the accounts later. Can probably get $3,000 cash back if you plan it right with business cards too. I wound up with about $2,400 cash back and gift cards after I paid for my solar panels using the credit cards.

  • Cape Coddess October 4, 2016, 3:06 pm

    I’m curious about the off-gassing from a new car interior. I have purposely purchased only 3 yr+ old cars for that reason, having read somewhere that this is how long they could off gas for. What are you thoughts on, or have you heard anything about, off-gassing from the Leaf? Or any other EV?

  • Andrew October 4, 2016, 3:13 pm

    MMM I am in shock but have to congratulate you on the new Leaf. I read somewhere that the new model is much improved and should be tested. I test drove a 2014 one day while in a dealership and was absolutely blown away by how it drove. However this is now raising an issue for my own car. I have a 2015 Audi A3 TDI which I bought before I realized its time to live like a Mustachian. Audi has offered me a buy back at effectively the same price as what I paid and I can take the buy back as late as end of 2018 but no later. So I can basically drive “free” until end of 2018 with the only risk being that should my car get totaled or stolen I only get today’s insurance value. But if I wait I get the benefit of free driving and time which might mean in 2 years a better EV or something else. Would you wait?

  • Turboblocke October 4, 2016, 3:19 pm

    I leased a Nissan LEAF for three years starting in April 2013 Normally I’m not a fan of leasing but at the time, in France, where I live, Nissan were doing a ridiculously low deal to get rid of the original models. In addition, I expected technology to advance rapidly and thought that there would be much better cars available by April 2016. A final reason was that at the end of the lease period, the LEAF would then be available for some one else to buy while I took the hit on a new car. Yes I know that it’s not very Mustachian.

    So I handed the LEAF back about six months ago… and haven’t replaced it yet. The expected technological advances haven’t made it to the European market yet. I do miss it’s low emissions and especially the amazing acceleration with full torque available from standstill. In Europe we use a lot of roundabouts, I think you call them traffic circles. I really enjoyed the LEAF’s handling going around them and then the acceleration as I pulled away, leaving supposedly sporty BMWs and Audis flat footed and struggling to keep up.

  • Chadwick October 4, 2016, 3:26 pm

    MMM and John Oliver are 2 of my favorite things. I’m wondering if this John Oliver about the auto lending industry sheds some light on why you can get away with paying nothing up front. They know if you don’t pay they can just repo the car and sell it again… and again… and again. They may be betting on you eventually not making the payments, which may be better for them in the long run.


    Or it could just be something less cynical, such as the car selling business being so competitive that dealers have to offer incentives like this to compete.

  • Karl October 4, 2016, 3:43 pm

    Nice article and car decision chart – very similar to my own decision making prcess when looking at cars.

    I was car-free for 6 years while at university with minimal income. Only when I started to earn good money and work full time did I purchase a car (a large 4×4 van that I camperised) and even then it was specifically for travelling around Australia for a year.

    A couple of years later I sold that, because of the expense to own and run, and I wasn’t travelling as much, and bought a very nice condition, low mileage, used Toyota Corolla station wagon. This thing is awesome. Reasonably good mileage for a 12-year old vehicle (~6L/100KM of cheap fuel), cheap to insure, plenty of internal storage space for furniture, white goods, sleeping inside etc due to the slightly extended wagon shape, yet still a small and city-friendly vehicle that’s easy to zip around and park. I still use a bicycle for short trips less than 5km to the grocery store or park/beach to avoid parking dramas and wasting fuel though.

    I would love to have something like this but with a 100% EV system instead. It’s a shame they’re not easily converted as I love the shape and style of the compact wagon (which were discontinued in favour of making more SUVs in 2006).

    My next purchase I am planning on is a large cargo van that I will convert into a mobile studio apartment so I can travel again and go back to being rent and utility free ($500 per week to rent an apartment vs $150 per week to live in a RV). However with the rapid uptake of EV I am now thinking I should wait and see how this progresses, as fuel costs are the main weekly expense ($80-100 per week, on average) when travelling and living in a vehicle. Australia is a bit behind with charging stations, although Tesla has set up a few along the hwy between Melbourne-Sydney and also a couple along the hwy between Sydney-Brisbane.

    A future scenario where a manufacturer makes a EV cargo van large enough to camperise and there are plentiful charging stations for free/very cheap usage it would be perfect for going mobile. With insurance, charging and maintenance fees being the only remaining cost it would be perfectly feasible to live off ROIs from investments and interest, and/or basic passive income from online ventures. $200 a week in this scenario would cover all vehicle expenses, food, etc required to be healthy, comfortable and have complete freedom.

    Exciting times! Let’s see where the next few years take us.

  • Mark October 4, 2016, 3:44 pm

    I didn’t get how the 0% financing lowered your purchase cost by $6000. Also, I have managed my federal income taxes down to almost zero (I have low income) so I can’t use the tax credit. I wonder if there is a secondary market for slightly used Leafs, wherein someone with a high marginal federal tax rate in a state with a generous tax credit buys one of these cars for a net cost of $15,000, then sells it after one year to someone like me who can’t use the tax benefits, but would gladly pay $15,000 for a one year old low mileage Leaf (would I? :) )

  • Jose Gonzalez October 4, 2016, 3:53 pm

    Hey MMM!

    The near future is so exciting that when I read your last post I just had to come and comment ….

    It is a little hard to live in a city like Houston and not own any vehicle since any distance is greater than 5 miles and with the temperatures here most of the time the times that you can ride a bike are very early or late evenings. Even with that there is no way that you could arrive destination without being covered in sweat. When you comment about that amazing weather in Colorado I just wish I could live in a city like that!

    I have been reading about the new changes to be part of our daily lives and when I saw this video, really changed my perspective and really will have an impact way faster and greater that both you and I believe. I encourage everybody to make 1 hour to watch it… this is not the future, its happening NOW!


    I hope you find this useful.

    • JN2 October 5, 2016, 3:29 am

      Great link Jose. Tony Seba is compelling. Interesting days ahead!

  • JonathanH October 4, 2016, 4:00 pm

    Love the leaf, but what’s next – the iPhone 7 experiment? JUST KIDDING, hehe, sorry just had to.

    • a1smith October 4, 2016, 6:23 pm

      Well, if you buy the Leaf to test it and report back the data you can probably deduct it as a business expense! ;-)

  • Archon October 4, 2016, 4:26 pm

    MMM buying a new car? I almost checked to make sure it wasn’t early April! Continuing the post, I understand your math, and between the factors of Pecuniary Recidivism (your cash going right back into investing until it’s needed for autopayments), Bold Experimentation (benefiting your readers as well), and Forward-Looking Planetary Stewardship, I like your choice. Also, it’s the right color for early Autumn, though I regret that Nissan likely doesn’t offer woodgrain.

    As a beginner in facial hirsutism, I want to point out that I wouldn’t have even considered working out the math on any new car purchase, and I appreciate that you have an open enough mind to use the back of a napkin. I’d like to send you an Internet High Five (tell the nearest person that someone from the Internet has Demanded you receive a quality high five, and it’s up to THEM to see it happens! Vigorous high fiving shall ensue.).

    I’m reading through everything in no particular order, and I have no idea how much more there is to see, but I’m enjoying the ride! I’m surely benefiting from it as well. Thanks MMM!

    P.S. Since your Leaf will be at home (plugged in) during the day quite often, is there any consideration of using it to slush peak power to your company if you know you’re not going to use it all day? Allowing the use of electric cars as power balancers for utilities has been brought up in the past; I have no idea where the best practice currently lies.

  • David October 4, 2016, 4:31 pm

    Sorry but absolutely don’t believe 90 miles at 70-80 mph, I have a 2015 leaf S and energy consumption increases rapidly above 55mph (wind resistance at square of speed per HS physics). At those speeds the 100 mile range will be consumed in about 50. Although I’m really glad I did a lease, I’ve had the car dead on startup twice in 18 months on battery cell failures. This car still has under 10k miles (my lease was wholly paid by a $5k GA state incentive added to the federal, I’d be more angry if the car wasn’t free). This was before the residuals tanked, 2 yr old used they are going about $10k so the incentives are not worth buying new
    ($10k depreciation per year!)

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 10:23 pm

      Nope, my range stats are not fabricated. In fact I briefly got up to over 90 MPH on that particular trip, just to see how she ran at high speeds.

      I think you had a highly defective battery, which also affected your range on the highway. It’s still useful to hear your report, since it’s the first I have heard of any trouble with a 2015. Most of the bugs were in the earlier versions, especially 2011.

  • Damian October 4, 2016, 4:37 pm

    Ah, North American products end up so cheap… no way that car would be mine for under $40K real dollars here in Australia … :(

  • Ben Nelson October 4, 2016, 4:42 pm

    I LOVE electric cars!
    In 2008, I took an old Geo Metro and converted it to electric! (The only electric car you could buy at the time was the Tesla Roadster!)
    More recently, I ended up buying a 2012 Mitsubishi iMiEV electric car, which is quite possibly the “Worst” electric car out there. It has the smallest battery, shortest range, and worst heater of any electric car! (And I’m in Wisconsin!) It’s also super-easy to park, has an amazing stereo system (which automatically rips DVDs into an internal hard drive) and features CHAdeMO fast charging!
    I paid $7,000 at Thanksgiving 2015 for a 2012 model year car with 30,000 miles on it. It has the remainder of the 100,000 mile battery warranty, so no worries about the battery condition of a used car.
    This car WILL pay for itself in just a few years, just based on the savings of gasoline and oil changes.
    Another great thing about EVs is that you can run them on RENEWABLE energy! I’m already on a plan with my local power provider for renewable energy, but I’m also rebuilding my old garage right now, partly to install solar panels on the roof. (As in, I literally just came in from digging a trench outside to run the power cable…)
    I’ve run the numbers, and a complete solar system will pay for itself in about 3.5 years when you use it to power your own electric car instead of buying gasoline.
    Now, no vehicle is perfect, there’s a few little things I don’t like about this particular car, but even then, nothing keeping a person from improving on it! I hacked the heating system by mounting a Semi-Truck heater behind the bumper. It runs on E-85 ethanol fuel (cheap, clean-burning, and easily available in my area.) I used about 3 liters of fuel last winter for the heater.
    If you want to take a look at some “real-world” electric car adventures, come on over to my blog and say hello!

  • Nuke October 4, 2016, 4:47 pm

    Huge MMM fan here. This was a very interesting article, and a bit of a departure from others.

    One thing that troubled me greatly was the blithe reference to the Fed and state tax credits. Over $12,000. That is huge (yuge?). A tax credit is arguably, pure welfare that the rest of us taxpayers pay for. (Minimal research on tax credits will confirm this.) Why should the rest of us who do nothing but ride bikes, take the bus or, hell, drive Humvees, have to subsidize a self-proclaimed wealthy man to buy a toy like this?

    • Justin October 4, 2016, 10:13 pm

      Subsidies are a useful tool that governments can use to promote the common good. The common good here is a cleaner environment (less smog, lower carbon emissions, less mercury, and slowed climate change). There is no doubt that when mass produced in the hundreds of thousands that electric vehicles can be offered without subsidies at a lower price point than comparable ICEs. The problem is getting to that point from a dead stand-still. Car companies are not going to produce these cars initially at a loss out of some moral obligation or dedication to the common good. This is where subsidies can bridge the gap between start-up and self-sustaining industry. Just like the first flat screen cost four times as much as they do today, so it will be with electric vehicles, the subsidies are needed to create an infant market that is profitable for the manufacturer and economical for the consumer. The federal subsidy expires after the first 200,000 EVs by manufacturer, after which they will not be needed to sustain the market once these cars are being mass-produced. The early adopters are deserving of the subsidy because we are serving as the guinea pigs that will eventually allow refined and upgraded versions of these cars to be made available to all consumers at a reduced price. The government even gets a return on its investment when Tesla and other US based manufacturers lead the world in this technology and export to other countries. Its a subsidy, but in my mind its an investment with huge environmental, social and economic returns that can realized by nearly all Americans.

    • Paul October 6, 2016, 10:45 am

      It is interesting you mention the tax subsidies angle. There are economic and environmental studies showing that the environmental benefit of electric vehicles, at least in terms of total CO2 emissions, is significantly dependent on geographic location. So much so, that in certain areas of the US, such studies claim, it would be the better public policy to impose an extra tax on electric vehicles than to subsidize their production!

  • Adventures with Poopsie October 4, 2016, 5:26 pm

    I admit to not knowing a great deal about electric cars, but definitely like the idea of them. We own a Volkswagen Polo and were shocked at how much better fuel economy we got from my previous Toyota RAV 4. We have been thrilled with it, but now I read there is a VW Golf electric car?!?!

    Unfortunately they are not yet available in Australia, but we will be keeping an eye out and, when the time comes, making the switch. Looking forward to following this experiment closely.

  • a1smith October 4, 2016, 6:19 pm

    The most likely reason you got such a good deal on the 2016 Nissan Leaf is that the 2017 Nissan Leaf is a major update. It will have bigger battery (either 30 kWh or 40 kWh with 24 kWh no longer offered) with commensurately higher range. Also, there are rumors that the 2017 Nissan Leaf battery will be liquid cooled to eliminate the issues with air cooling.

  • John October 4, 2016, 6:25 pm

    You won’t get $7,500 for the Leaf in 2022. You can buy 2013 models with 25k miles right now for that much with a little searching and they are only 3 years old. So a 6 year old Leaf would probably get you more like $5000 if that. It’s hard to tell what the market will be for a car like this with the rapidly changing technology. All those tax credits really devalue the used vehicles in this genre, which is probably what you discovered and why you bought a new model instead. That said, I still love the Leaf and plan to get a used one within the next year.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 10:16 pm

      Aha, but what will happen to the used EV market when the tax credits are gone, quite a while before 2022? And when people stop being fond of used gasoline cars? Will this bring used EV prices up a little bit – especially if batteries are easy and cheap to replace by then?

      I have no idea either. But it will be fun to find out. One of the reasons I do “experiments” like this in public is so other people can learn at my expense.

  • Scott October 4, 2016, 6:26 pm

    Good post. Thanks for including “fucking” in the phrase “people don’t realize how fucking amazing electric cars are”. I might have missed that bolded and italicized phrase otherwise.

  • CapitalistRoader October 4, 2016, 6:52 pm

    EV’s are less expensive to run than gasoline cars but market share has never climbed out of the one percent range. There has to be a reason, even with taxpayers subsidizing EV purchases they still aren’t popular. I expect the majority of automobiles—autonomous or human driven—will continue to be powered by petroleum or natural gas for decades to come. ICE engines have become so much more efficient in recent decades and there’s no reason to believe that those efficiency improvements won’t continue.

    My guess is that most of us will be driving (or more likely, riding in) natural gas hybrids in ten years’ time.

    • fgm October 7, 2016, 10:28 am

      “ICE engines have become so much more efficient in recent decades and there’s no reason to believe that those efficiency improvements won’t continue”

      There is a reason and it’s called the law of thermodynamics. There is no way internal combustion engines (ICE) will come close to the 80-90% efficiency of electric motors ever. Current best ICE efficiency is in the 40% range, and it has taken decades to do that. Electric is the future, and it is going to happen faster than anyone believes.

      In a former life I used to work in the photo industry and everybody saw digital coming. However all the experts and amateurs saw it decades away, year after year. Then, suddenly, Eastman, Polaroid, etc. went broke!

      I can bet anyone that in 10 years, tops, at least 90%+ of all new car/truck are going to be electric AND self driving AND sales will be to enterprises, NOT individuals. And I’m probably way off and it will happen way sooner. I’m sure my wife’s Prius is going to be our last car.

  • jlcollinsnh October 4, 2016, 6:59 pm

    According to the chart I should be driving a 70k Tesla?

    I don’t think I’ve spent 70k total on every car I’ve owned over the last 40 years. :)

  • Kanwal October 4, 2016, 7:23 pm

    Hi MMM,

    Congratulations, and welcome to the EV club! I got my KIA Soul EV this spring and am loving it! Silent operation, awesome torque, and maintenance free! Plus I haven’t had to visit a gas station in 7 months. Mine costs around $10 a month to operate. My daily commute is 32 km (20 miles).

    Living in Canada the purchase price is higher but in Ontario I got back a $10,499 provincial government rebate.

    The official range is listed as 149 km (93 miles) but I’ve gotten as high as 180 km (112 miles).

    Driving an EV is amazing! There’s no going back to the combustion engine for me!



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