Electric Car vs. Winter

Just a few days ago, I got a surprise in the mail. It was a very expensive registration renewal bill* from Boulder County, reminding me that my brand-new 2016 Nissan Leaf was already a whole year old.

The car has now been through the full cycle of Colorado’s interesting driving conditions including blazing sunshine, blowing blizzards, rough roads and high mountain passes. More importantly, it has carried large loads of heavy people and one hatchback-busting load of cargo after another as I used it for endless construction projects as well as shuttling around visitors and even a few paying passengers as part of a related Uber-driving experiment.

Since I bought the car primarily so I could tell you about the experience**, this one year anniversary presents the perfect opportunity.

Electric cars have been getting better and cheaper very quickly. Even a year ago, they were competitive with gas cars (especially after applying the various tax credits available here in the US). And as of late 2017, Nissan has just announced a thoroughly updated 2018 Leaf with longer range, new styling, and even semi-autonomous highway cruising, at the same list price.

Halfway through my time writing this article, General Motors announced that it is totally giving up the gasoline engine and switching to a 100% electric fleet in the foreseeable future.

Changes like these will get even more people asking questions, and it will surely trigger even bigger discounts on the 2017 and earlier models of electric cars. In certain areas, you can get a brand-new 2017 Leaf for well under $14,000 and a 2013 from Craigslist for under $8k.

So let’s get into the report. All year, people have been asking what the electric car experience has been like.

  • Is the car reliable? Any unexpected hiccups?
  • How has the range and performance been in various use scenarios?
  • How good does an electric car like the Nissan Leaf handle in the snow?

Life with a Leaf

If you just want the overall summary, the car has been Excellent. Although I did my best to maximize the mileage we accrued on this car over the year, the total still only added up to 3500 miles (5600 km). But what a blissful 3500 miles those were. The car served us generously, requiring nothing in return beyond refilling the windshield washer fluid once.

 It is hard to believe the night and day difference between gasoline cars and electric ones, in terms of sheer driving pleasure and convenience. The difference is so stark, that I now feel utter disbelief that any car company is still making gas-powered cars, and that anyone is buying them for anything other than long roadtrips (and for those, why not just rent a car?) Even the most luxurious gas cars, of which I’ve driven a few, are complete dinosaurs in comparison to an entry-level electric car like Nissan Leaf.

Now, this is definitely my Wussypants Consumer side speaking, displaying signs of Tiny Details Exaggeration Syndrome. Even the cheapest 30-year-old gas car offers incredible speed, comfortable seats and an environmentally controlled seating area. So what’s the point of scaling that ladder of luxury even further?

The short answer is “Car Culture” : the only real purpose of a car is convenience and comfort – people buy them because they can’t or don’t want to do the work of pedaling a bike, and to carry their little kids in safety, and to stay out of the weather. So if you’re going to buy a car, you are presumably looking for those things, which electric cars deliver in exceptional quantity.

The Leaf is Swift. Tight. Precise. It drives like a very sporty car and jumps ahead when you touch the accelerator as if it weighs nothing at all. But it’s also hushed, refined, and serene inside. As you accelerate and leave all the gas cars far behind in your wake of clean swirling air, you hear just a distant whirring turbine sound as the electric motor picks up speed. On the open road even at the vehicle’s RPM-limited top speed of 93 MPH, the ride is quiet and controlled.

The Leaf is also big. It’s relatively long and tall, which makes it roomy inside. I think of it as more of a crossover SUV, with its cabin big enough for five six-foot-tall men, and a hatchback big enough to hold two more of us. If you fold down all the seats, that same area is long enough to close the door on two bikes or numerous ten-foot plumbing pipes. The 17″ wheels are bigger than those on my enormous Honda van, which gives it great rough terrain and snow abilities (a larger wheel diameter improves both traction and obstacle traversal.)

The Stash-inlaws (in Ottawa, Canada) also bought a Leaf after experiencing ours. Their Leaf easily navigates the rough dirt trail to their cottage in Quebec, carrying five people and their gear.

And it’s cheap to operate. Three dollars of electricity fills up my battery, which is good for about 110 miles of mixed driving, or closer to 90 when blazing along at 75MPH on the highway. Charging time (and finding charging stations) is rarely a concern, since  the car is always waiting at 100% if you just plug it in when you go to bed.

As part of my research on charging efficiency, I bought a (used) Chargepoint 240 volt charger and installed it on my house. This made home charging really fast, but the unit doesn’t get much use: as a form of treasure hunt I still find myself using the many free public stations here in Longmont, to the extent that over 50% of my fuel for the year was free.

Charging map for Longmont+Boulder and some of my recent charging activity (mostly free!). Ignore the charge times – in many cases the car reached 100% and just sat there until I picked it up. You get about 25 miles of charge per hour on public “level 2” stations, and peak rate of almost 200MPH on a Level 3.

Since the first member of my local friends bought a Leaf, the trend has spread through the community and there are now at least a dozen of the things in the area immediately around me. A friend calls the neighborhood ‘Leafmont, Colorado’. The inlaws back in Canada also bought one. People are using these cars for long daily commutes to Boulder and beyond, shuttling kids, shopping, and all the other stuff people shouldn’t really be doing with cars, but are going to regardless of what I say. They love their electric cars. The reviews are almost universally raving.

And all of this is aside from the biggest benefit, which is the hidden one that you’re not burning fossil fuels. The US power grid is down to 30% coal and getting cleaner every day, and you can personally improve that number simply by buying renewable power from your local provider as I do here in Longmont.

So, if you do need to use a car on a regular basis for around-town use, there’s really no reason not to use an electric one.

What about Winter Driving?

Luckily, if you turn off Traction Control, you can still do great Reverse Donuts in snowy parking lots.

The Leaf and other electric cars have big advantages over gas burners in this area as well.

  • The electronic traction and stability control systems work much better with an electric motor, because it can be controlled more precisely. In practice this means that while a normal car would dig itself into a rut, the Leaf applies just enough power to get through the snowbank. Or it stops the wheel, giving you a chance to reverse and give it another go.
  • There’s no cold-cranking worries or waiting for a cold engine to warm up. You press the button, the car is on, and cabin heat is instantaneous.
  • The heated seats and steering wheel make the experience even more luxurious (and reduce the need for cabin heat).
  • Remote heating with an in-dash timer or from an app on your phone means your car can be heated and defrosted (or cooled in summer) before you even reach it in your driveway. Without even consuming battery power, if you have the car plugged in.
  • Big wheel diameter, low center of gravity and 50/50 weight balance make for better handling and traction.
  • Front-wheel drive prevents fishtailing, and is every bit as safe as all-wheel drive. Adding snow tires in winter turns the Leaf into a monster snow crusher.

The Bad Stuff

No story (except perhaps one about bike commuting) could possibly be this universally positive, could it? Does Nissan have Mustache secretly on their payroll? Where’s the real meat of this story?

The only bad side of my experience has been finding that Nissan is a Big, Dumb, Old company to work with. To be fair, this is probably true for all car companies except Tesla, but when it comes to new technologies like electric cars, it helps to have someone who is on the ball.

I get the impression that somewhere, deep in the heart of Japan, there are some clever engineers who designed and built this car. Then their work was wrapped up in a thousand layers of bureaucracy and they were never allowed to talk to customers or improve their product again, until the next “product cycle”.

For example, although I spent $14,000 of my own money and a year of my time to promote their car for free, even helping MarketWatch adapt and re-run the story for free multiple times to their huge nationwide audience, possibly boosting the car’s sales quite noticeably, I couldn’t get access to a single Nissan engineer to discuss the details of the car’s battery management with me. While my local salesman is a rock star, very few other people in the company even know what a kilowatt-hour is. Perhaps they’re still riding the gasoline wave of the Nissan Armada and Titan megatrucks, which provide most of their profits.

Because of this, there are a few obvious brain-dead things about the Leaf:

  • There’s no battery temperature management. This means that in cold weather (15F), you get about 20% less range, even though you could heat the battery to room temperature with just 0.5 kWh (under 2%) of its energy. Or simply use wall power when it’s plugged in. A 20% penalty in cold climates to avoid adding a $100 heater. Why!??!
  • The phone app is horrible. I don’t mean this in the snooty way that cell phone review sites compare each year’s identical batch of high-end-phones, it really is bad. On the positive side, you can run a slightly less crappy aftermarket app called “Leaf Manager” which at least makes it usable.
  • Nissan doesn’t seem to care about its past electric car customers: The 30 kWh battery from 2016 will not fit into a 2015 Leaf, and I’m out of luck if I want to upgrade my car to any of these juicy 2018-and beyond batteries which have been improving at a rapid pace. You can upgrade to a fresh replacement of your current battery, although it’ll cost you $5500.The correct way to handle this (as Tesla does) is to make new batteries backwards-compatible whenever possible, and allow old cars to be upgraded with minimal mark-up on the battery. After all, an electric motor can run for over a million miles with zero maintenance. The rest of the car is rock-solid as well. Why not provide a path for these cars to have a healthy 30-year lifespan, getting a longer range every 10 years or so as the batteries need replacement? There’s still a chance for the company (or the aftermarket) to correct this problem, so I remain hopeful.
  • Some readers have expressed concern about the Leaf’s “driver side small overlap front crash” rating (it earns a low rating, while all other safety categories are good). I think it’s a statistically insignificant complaint, but Teslas are surely even safer. Plus, the reader correctly pointed out that if I’m going to nitpick about the phone app, I should also mention crash testing.

The shortcomings of Nissan stir up some real anger in me. But it’s probably because I like the basic car so much. Nissan’s electric car program could capture so many more loving customers, if it were just managed by a charismatic and highly technical leader, rather than a ridiculous pyramid of corporate paper pushers.

If you want a passionate, perfect car and you have unlimited money, there’s only one choice: A Tesla. The Model S right now for $80,000, or a Model 3 next year for $40k.

If you want a really good electric car and don’t want to wait for a Tesla model 3, the Chevrolet Bolt is a great car with 240 miles of range, much better software, similar rockstar acceleration and “only” $30k after the $7500 federal tax credit since they haven’t run out yet.

Chevrolet Bolt

But although it’s a better car than the Leaf, I would have a hard time justifying the extra $10,000 cost of the Bolt. The extra range makes no difference for the typical urban and suburban driving cycle. But it’s still no good for cross-country road trips because it will still only fast-charge at 50 kW, the same as a Leaf. If you can even find a fast charger out in rural Wyoming. Compare this to Teslas, which charge at 120 kW with chargers along every highway in many of the world’s rich countries.

But for non-millionaires, buying a $30,000 car is about as clever as shooting yourself in the wallet. It’s not even a remotely rational option, so flush it from your mind. The Nissan Leaf (and other electric mid-priced cars) are the best affordable option for driving, if you are still stuck in a life that requires a car.

So the Mustache family will probably be keeping the Leaf and continuing to work it hard for the coming year or more. I may add a trailer hitch and some other minor upgrades, but for the vast majority of our possible uses for a car, it’s a pretty amazing deal.

* About $530, just for registration, just for one year. They charge you extra for the first 3 years when you get a new car around here, compared to about $50 per year for my old van and previous car, a Scion xA. The hidden costs of Luxury Racing Wheelchair ownership are really big, and often overlooked.

** Although certain curmudgeons in this website’s forum don’t believe me, it’s hard to explain the shift that happens in your life when you truly don’t need a car to get around. Before the change, a car is a reassuring necessity – just as important to your life as as a bed and clothing.  After the change, you see a car for what it really is: an exorbitantly complex rolling living room. Thousands of pounds of glass and metal, with robotic arms to wipe the windows and a thousand components just for the portion to control the air temperature around you. A car is no more a reasonable form of personal transportation than a cruise ship is a vessel for weekend fishing expeditions on the lake. But, since Mr. Money Mustache represents only a very mild form of frugality, he still gets to use and review these fancy toys!


  • Stockbeard October 6, 2017, 7:38 pm

    If I ever buy a car, it will be an electric. Would love a Tesla but can’t justify the cost.

    • Tony October 7, 2017, 6:41 am

      Check out the CPO Tesla Model S on their website.. Still pricey, but much more reasonable than new.

      • Scott October 7, 2017, 8:35 pm

        I will own one within the next year, IAGW. I like cars, so I’m willing to spend a little more on them and retire later, and right now you can get one for <$40k if you find a good deal. CPO is the way to go, since you get a warranty and Teslas aren't the most reliable vehicles in the world.

    • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance October 7, 2017, 12:51 pm

      My husband has been telling me that one day he will save up enough cash to buy a Tesla. He adores Elon Musk and dreams that one day we can be as successful and influential as Elon.

      I think electric cars will be able to save us lots of money spent on gas and will also be beneficial to the environment. I hope they will be able to design much cheaper electric cars for the public. I will be one of their first customers!

      • Margin of Saving October 23, 2017, 7:47 pm

        Teslas are great, but if you want a reasonably priced one (i.e. Model 3), you’ll be too late to get the $7,500 tax credit. Realistically, other car manufacturers will have electric vehicles in 5 years. Not only will they be reasonably priced, but the tax credit will still be available for them. I believe Toyota is the only manufacturer that has used up all its credits.

    • Denise October 7, 2017, 2:51 pm

      We get so bloody ripped off on car pricing in the UK, it makes my blood boil. I’ve just been checking the Leaf’s UK pricing. It ranges from £21k to just under £28k, so at best, it’s at least 50% dearer in England.

      I am lucky enough to be able to choose a company car, as a perk of my job. Much of income tax payable on company cars now is related to the CO2 emissions of the car, so I may opt for a Leaf, then buy it when I retire in a few years.

      Bloody Nissan.

      • Ben October 10, 2017, 1:43 pm

        A $30,000 Leaf in the US should be about 23,000 pounds in the UK at the current conversion of $1 to .76 pounds. Add in VAT and you easily reach the range of 21 – 28,000 pounds. Doesn’t appear that Nissan is hiking prices in the UK much at all. And certainly not by the 50% you suggest.

    • Christina October 9, 2017, 1:23 pm

      I have a Tesla Model S. I traded my Civic last March for a new Tesla because I wanted the autopilot features. I have a medical condition in which I rarely experience sudden vertigo or severe dizziness without warning. I didn’t anticipate how much I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my car. I get a big grin when I walk up to it in the parking garage at work. Before I took delivery, I worried a little about the cost. I haven’t thought about the cost once since, I love it that much. It’s my true love following my husband and kids. Also, I’ve been lucky. My car has had zero issues since I took delivery 7 months ago.

      • Mel August 24, 2020, 9:24 am

        This is how I always felt about my Prius – like it had special lighting around it, and I was always in a car commercial!

    • Andrew Mullen October 13, 2017, 2:21 pm

      Buy a Volt. I bought 2013 for $13,000 last year. I almost always stay with the EV range unless I take it on a road trip. The only downsides are the back being a bit tight and you won’t be able to drive for Uber or Lyft because of the rear bucket seats. The 2nd gen fixes these issues, but is still pretty expensive.

      • Bryk September 3, 2018, 11:23 am

        We bought a 2014 Ford C-Max “Energi” (plug-in Hybrid) in 2016 for $17K cash (quickly adding a $1300 level 2 charger install before the Trumpians potentially killed the tax credit) and this car is seriously the love of my life.

        16-22 miles of battery life (depending on weather and AC/accessory needs) covers 90% of our daily travel, and the hybrid gas engine takes care of occasional longer trips. The dash says we get around 80 MPGe — which is voodoo math on a plug-in hybrid IMHO — but the bottom line is we drive on battery most of the time we don’t need a highway and Chargepoint calculates our monthly home charger bill around $15-22. We fill the 50ℓ gas tank somewhere between 4-6 weeks.

        The depreciation on plug-in electrics is stupid high — you can really get a deal on a lease-end, and the electric drive trains are generally warrantied for a decade. For two months we kept making offers on a 2-year old new C-Max that had been sitting on the Ford dealer’s lot for 18+ months until we realized they did not give a shit about moving it for anything less than list. We came to the conclusion they seriously hate electrics and would rather ratf*ck the planet than give up a penny of their truck margins.

        Because my wife and I work from home this is an awesome one-car family car. There’s not SUV-size cartage space but the back seat folds for occasional big stuff. I’m sure anyone here knows that’s what rentals are for.

        Now if only our public school commute was walk/bike-safe we could use it even less…

  • Mustard Seed Money October 6, 2017, 7:42 pm

    I am really pumped where the car companies are going with electric cars an specifically with driverless vehicles. I think it’s going to revolutionize the way that we travel and the way that we own vehicles. I can’t wait to see what the future holds but traditional car ownership I think is going to die.

    • rh October 7, 2017, 10:57 am

      I disagree. I think most folks will still own a car. When it autonomously drives them downtown to work, they will simply direct the car to drive home to avoid paying for parking. I have a feeling traffic will get worse too. There will be more single occupancy autonomous Ubers on the road simply because it will be so cheap that carpooling won’t make sense. It will also cause public transit use to plummet. I hope I am wrong though!!

      • Ks October 7, 2017, 1:03 pm

        I’m quite confident that you’re mistaken. Because autonomous vehicles will learn and accommodate traffic patterns areas and times of high and low utilization / congestion, all the gross efficiencies in the highly decentralized methods that we’ve been abusing for over 100 years will cause future generations to condemn us for car ownership.

      • AJohn1 October 19, 2017, 11:47 am

        How we think about mobility will likely change with autonomous cars and a company like Uber will probably be at the forefront. I think a company like theirs will own most of the autonomous cars and will handle the logistics of maintaining them, insuring them and figuring out where they go when they’re not in use (there’s already been some ideas on this ). Carpooling would still be an option for those willing to sacrifice a little privacy in exchange for a cheaper fare. We might be able to get rid of alot of parking garages because instead of parking for 8 hours at the job, the car could be sent to pick up other people during the day.

        I doubt the traffic will get much better, though, because that’s more of a function of most of us being stuck in the “9-5” paradigm concerning the hours we work.

  • Carl October 6, 2017, 7:46 pm

    Another great article! I’m patiently waiting for my Hyundai Ioniq EV to arrive for pickup. Most efficient EV in the market. (even better than the Teslas)

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 6, 2017, 7:58 pm

      Good choice! I should have mentioned the Ioniq in here – another hatchback, better than Leaf in many ways, affordable price.

      • Stefan Brand October 7, 2017, 3:03 am

        For people in the EU: Get a cheap small used Renault Zoe for 7000eurc incl. 21% Tax, old Zoe with 22kWh battery can be swapped for the new 41kWh battery, which gives you 300km useable range. It is 3500euro for the swap. I am on top of the list to get it swapped and the current Zoe saves me 50% on TCO.

        Secondly, I will get a DIY 3,5 kWh moped..! Waiting for the batteries right now to be welded at a friend.

        • Georgy Porgy October 29, 2017, 3:11 am

          How are you planning to get that through TÜV (if I interpreted your name right).

      • Scott October 7, 2017, 8:38 pm

        And only available in CA, sadly.

        • Scott October 7, 2017, 8:40 pm

          And only on a lease for that matter, at least as far as I can tell….

    • Andrew McMahon January 5, 2018, 12:06 pm

      Just got my hundai ioniq EV :)

  • Jason October 6, 2017, 7:47 pm

    I’m glad you enjoy your leaf so much. I’m curious if you would recommend upgrading to an electric vehicle immediately or if you would delay a purchase until the current vehicle is past its useful life? My current thinking is to run my car until it’s through and replace it with a electric in a few years once the technology and charging stations are more developed.

    • Dan Kegel October 6, 2017, 8:16 pm

      I waited until my 15 year old Civic didn’t start once, then sold it under market on Craigslist in 3 hours :-)

      Not exactly driving it into the ground, but I had an oversized solar roof, and wanted to use some of the excess energy on an EV.

      Bought a used 2013 leaf for $12,500. Glad I got the quick charge port. Its 80 mile range fine for my 20 mile round trip commute in Los Angeles, but my wife would need the extra range of the newer model to be comfortable.

      • Andrew Mullen October 13, 2017, 2:29 pm

        It all depends on how much you drive. If fuel and maintenance are significant monthly costs then you should switch right away. I went from a 2002 Camry that was paid for to a 2013 Volt and it only costs me an additional $50/ month.

    • Stephane November 30, 2017, 12:56 pm

      Remember a new vehicle suffers a huge depreciation, and is a huge cost. In terms of money, if you aren’t driving a lot, then forget it.
      Even in terms of the environment, because there is so many parts in a car, the environmentalists only recommend you change cars when yours is getting near the end of it’s life.
      So in most cases wait at least until the repair bills start to be daunting.

  • Wendy October 6, 2017, 7:53 pm

    Hi Pete, thanks for the one year update.
    What are your thoughts on electric cars for renters… Who don’t have the option of wiring in a 240 and/or are more rural…?

    • Adam October 6, 2017, 10:41 pm

      I’m curious about the rental side too. Having a garage to install a Chargepoint is ideal, but I wonder about how this has worked for people relying completely using public charging stations. As long as stations are built in proportion to demand it seems like it’d work out – but that’s a big hope when you’re buying a car.

    • 3laine October 6, 2017, 11:05 pm

      Do you have the option of plugging it into a “Level 1” or 120V “regular” outlet? That will give you 4-5 miles of range per hour in a Leaf. Not as fast as “Level 2” 240V (20-25 miles of range per hour), but sufficient for many depending on the length of their commute, and how long they’d be able to be plugged in each night. We drove our first EV about ~40 miles/day for about 6 months before moving closer to our jobs, and we survived charging for ~10 hours every night (4 miles/hr * 10 hours = 40 miles) and occasionally using public 240V charging to “catch up” on long days.

      Another option is if there is an accessible dryer plug within a reasonable distance of where you park, there are 240V chargers with plugs that you could use and then take with you, rather than paying to hard-wire it and then leave it behind or pay again to remove it.

    • 2300 October 7, 2017, 7:58 am

      This is my main issue/concern with going all electric. I’d like to go all electric (whenever my car finally dies) but I don’t even have access to 120V as I park on the street.

      I might be living in a house in the future, but don’t want to tie my living shelter decisions to the type of vehicle I have so hard to consider even if I have a house, because may decide to go back to street parking life again.

      May end up going with a hybrid instead…technically we went without a car for 6 years which in large part enabled a mortgage downpayment, but now that have a car the wife is used to it.

      • HuBubba October 7, 2017, 1:28 pm

        I also don’t have good access to charging at my apartment. My work has regular 120v outlets in the basement parking (in the closets, etc) which I could run a plug to if needed. Also, parking garages are beginning to install electric charging options for paying members.

        • Mike Mehrer October 8, 2017, 1:49 pm

          It all depends on how many miles is a routine day. With an 84 mile range car we felt we needed to plug in every night, (in case) Now there is a fast charger not far away, (in case) it takes 30 minutes, @107 miles range, we ended up charging once a week. Doesn’t work for everyone, but sure works for us.

    • Kakboy October 8, 2017, 5:48 pm

      I own a Leaf and live in a rental. I have access to a regular outlet that I plug the standard charging cable into. It works just fine for me. I plug in when I get home and it’s ready to go in the morning. In fact, I usually charge every other night or every 3 nights rather than every night.

    • Claire October 9, 2017, 8:00 am

      A friend in college (10 years ago!) had an electric car… he used to run a heavy duty extension cord from the living room, out the front door, and across the yard to plug his in.

      I think it takes longer to charge from a regular outlet, but if you’re charging while sleeping, time doesn’t really matter, does it?

    • TomTX October 15, 2017, 6:22 pm

      Rent a place with an electric dryer connection in the garage. Poof, you have 240V, and at least 30A.

      Since you’re badass and hang-dry anyway, you can most likely plug in your EV there with an appropriate plug adapter.

    • Stephane November 30, 2017, 1:01 pm

      I found with my Mitsubishi i-Miev that the regular plug was good enough for almost all cases (exception was driving all over and coming home at midnight, the next day, it wasn’t fully charged, but enough to get to work and back and finish later). My main arguments for the wall charger were:
      1) The option to heat the car from the house is way stronger when it’s on 240V,
      2) It adds resale value to my house, and my house already has a ton of green things, so this will make it even more irresistible,
      3) Occasionally it is handy to use the 240V to charge the car before an other outing, though this is seldom an issue. And there are fast chargers here, so I can make a small detour and use one.
      (check plugshare.com for your area).

  • TripTradeNinja October 6, 2017, 7:57 pm

    My Nissan Leaf is also 1 year old this week and I couldn’t agree more with this article. I went from a 2010 BMW 3 series to the Leaf and the Leaf is WAY more fun to drive than the beemer. I even look forward going to work so I get to drive it. I also can’t believe that car manufacturers are still making ICE cars and that people are buying them.

  • Mrs. Adventure Rich October 6, 2017, 7:59 pm

    As a northern Michigan resident, I have wondered about electric car winter capabilities. Sounds like they can do a decent job!

    With the Leaf, how many inches of snow can you navigate “comfortably”?

    The reason I ask is that we live outside of town and have more than a few winter mornings with 8″-18″ of fresh snow to plow through with our Subarus (’08 Outback & ’04 Forester). Our driveway alone is a 1/4 mile long so a good winter car is crucial! I find the slightly higher profile of the Subarus can be key for getting through deeper snow.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 6, 2017, 8:15 pm

      I’ll have to get back to you THIS winter – if we get any deeper snow – with a true test. For winter 2016 I had planned to get snow tires just to test the car’s maximum snow performance, but then we had only one 8″ snowstorm.

      After sharing this lament with a friend this week, he reminded me I can just take the car 30 miles up the canyon to Nederland where they get actual winter, and get snow pretty easily.

      • Stefan Brand October 7, 2017, 3:08 am

        If you ever visit The Netherlands and you want to test the small Electric Renault Zoe, send me an email and you can do just that :) as long as you are willing to shake hands.

    • Tony October 7, 2017, 6:50 am

      I had snows on my 2016 leaf last winter. The vehicle did great in the snow! However you lose range with the snow tires installed. I was so eager to take the snows off in the spring and get back to ‘regular range driving’.

      • Mrs. Adventure Rich October 8, 2017, 7:18 pm

        Great, thank you, Pete and Tony, for the follow-up! I hope used electric cars are/become viable options for our snow-covered paradise :)

    • Bike Bubba October 9, 2017, 8:57 am

      Friend of mine in the Twin Cities–OK, not quite Yooperland but close in climate–keeps his Tesla in the garage and notes about 20% less battery life. Garage stays around 40F or higher year-round, he suspects it would drop further if he parked it outside–he’s noticed that at work, the battery drops pretty quickly at 0F and colder.

      I can see the advantages of electric–get rid of transmissions, differentials, allow straightforward all wheel drive–and then I consider that a big part of my family’s driving is stretches longer than the range of any electric car. Put gently, I’ll believe GM’s pledge to eliminate internal combustion when the range/refueling issue is solved, and not before.

      • Michaelok October 25, 2017, 9:02 pm

        Teslas seem popular in the Twin Cities and somebody drove one to work through a particularly cold winter a few years back, and parked way out in the boonies, nowhere near a charger (there are chargers near the building) so call me impressed. No idea how far he/she had to drive, but there were days where I wondered if my regular old combustion engine would start, let alone an EV. And let’s not even talk about that old Mercedes diesel I had (vision was to run on grease), that had to be cranked up around lunch time to ensure it would start up nicely for the drive home :)

  • Karl Fisch October 6, 2017, 8:11 pm

    The other downside to the Leafs (even the new, unreleased one) are battery degradation over time. They don’t thermally manage them (like Tesla or Chevy or just about everyone else), so they start losing capacity quickly. After a few years, you’re effective range on a charge might only be 50% of what you’re getting now. That’s the only reason I haven’t purchased one (could recently get a new 2017 in Colorado for around $11,000 (Fed Rebate, State Rebate, Xcel incentive), although I think they are all sold now. I was especially disappointed that the new 2018 Leafs still don’t have the thermal management, seems like a huge oversight and short-term thinking on their part.

    I’m a Model 3 reservation holder, despite never paying more than $21k for a car before (2006 Prius, yes it was new – sorry). I cringe at the price, but think it’s better than the Bolt for about the same price (and here in Colorado, subtract $12,500 from the price for Fed and State rebate combined). I also want to support Tesla and their mission, but that’s probably just a rationalization :-). Still hoping to find a 2017 Volt on year-end closeout and I might get that instead. We bought a used 2013 Volt back in December and have gone 6000 miles and used only 4 gallons of gas. I think the Volt is a great choice for many folks, because it has enough range to make your commute each day on electric, but has the gas engine for longer drives if you need it (until the electric infrastructure for long-distance driving gets built out and all electric will dominate, which is where Tesla has a huge advantage right now).

    Thanks for the update, was wondering what you thought of it.

    • Karl Fisch October 6, 2017, 8:15 pm

      Ahh, *your*. Also mean to mention that the price on that 2013 Volt was $10,500 , partially because it was before Colorado’s rules changed and you could take the tax rebate on even a used car if it had never been licensed in Colorado. Sorry they got rid of that – think it really encouraged the resale market here.

    • David Ann Arbor October 8, 2017, 12:47 pm

      “I was especially disappointed that the new 2018 Leafs still don’t have the thermal management, seems like a huge oversight and short-term thinking on their part.”

      This is what makes me hesitate to buy a Leaf. I have a 2007 Toyota Prius with 276,000 miles, and I’m getting ready to replace the car within the next few months. I also will be scaling back my driving starting March 2018 when I partially retire. I still would like to have a car, and having such a quandary as to what to do next. I really do want an electric vehicle, I have a garage, in which a 220 volt power line can be installed.

      • Andrew Mullen October 13, 2017, 2:35 pm

        I too am disappointed that Nissan didn’t address this issue with the new Leaf. I would suggest that you consider the Volt; there hasn’t been any reported issues with battery degradation and they can be had very cheap on Vroom or Carvana.

    • Stephane November 30, 2017, 1:05 pm

      50%? I require some proof of this! I don’t believe it. I saw one Mitsubishi i-Miev owner saying that after 3 years their car lost one bar – and on the i-Miev the bars are 1kwH each (16 total). And the i-Miev runs it’s batteries harder than the Leaf I believe (greater range / kWh battery size).

  • Mr Crazy Kicks October 6, 2017, 8:28 pm

    We did consider a leaf before doubling down on another Prius. I’ll go all electric one day, but with the amount of road trips we do, a $3k Prius that gets an average 48mpg still works best :)

    My favorite part of driving the Prius is rolling in swift silence with just the battery.

    • CapitalistRoader October 6, 2017, 9:21 pm

      Your Pruis is actually a bit more energy efficient than a similarly sized all electric car, on a source-to-wheel basis:


      • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2017, 11:55 am

        But only if you assume we keep burning antique fossil fuels to generate electricity. Nowadays we can choose solar and wind, as mentioned in this article and other comments.

        • Aaron October 10, 2017, 12:30 pm

          Especially with Colorado’s nice energy mix. So much wind and solar popping up!

        • The Vigilante October 10, 2017, 7:43 pm

          Here in central PA, my cheapest electric supplier happens o be 100% locally-produced solar. Yes, even this far north! This is one of many reasons I intend my next car (hopefully not to be purchased for another decade or so, likely well after obtaining millionaire status) will probably be a used Tesla Model 3.

      • 3laine October 7, 2017, 12:37 pm

        Ultimately, the difference between Prius and EV emissions is not of utmost importance to me, so I haven’t tried to deep dive into the calculations of either your link or mine, but here is a study that comes to a different conclusion:


        On a well-to-wheels basis, they map the country and indicate what MPG a gas-powered car (like the Prius) would have to reach in order to match the emissions of a typical EV. Much of the country is shown to require 51+ mpg to match EV emissions, and significant swaths of the country (Western US and Northeastern) are in the 70-110 mpg range. EV efficiency is significantly dependent on location-based breakdown of power production, of course. That being said, the grid is only getting cleaner as renewables get cheaper.

        I’m certainly not suggesting people with Prii should all sell them for EVs. I’m saying there are conflicting studies on this and many variables based on location and such that make blanket statements about which is more efficient problematic. Both Prii and EVs are much more efficient than the average vehicle, and they both have pros and cons. So for now, use case is probably the best driver for which is best for each individual. Also, in the short term, consider the source of electricity if you’re looking for the most “green” option.

  • Octopii October 6, 2017, 8:36 pm

    Surprised nobody has mentioned the BMW i3, also fairly cheap as they come off lease. Actually the values have dropped like a bucket of rocks going overboard. Great car – fantastic driving experience. No I don’t own one. Maybe after my Prius dies, if it ever does actually die, which seems increasingly unlikely.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 6, 2017, 9:00 pm

      Cool – I hear the i3 is a really fun car as well. What used values are you seeing for that model?

      • 3laine October 6, 2017, 10:42 pm

        I just picked up a practically new 2015 BMW i3 with 10k miles on it for ~$17k. CPO warranty extension until 2020, included. Higher mile 2014’s I’ve seen for ~$15k. (No $14k new Leafs here in FL as we have no state EV incentives)

        We also test drove a $9k 2013, 20k mile Leaf, too, because it’s absolutely a great car for $9k, considering the total cost of ownership. Our main concern with the Leaf was battery degradation. Even with so few miles, it had lost 15-20% of it’s battery capacity, and others of similar age were worse, so we figured the i3’s active battery management would mean the battery should last significantly longer. Of course, for the price difference, we could put one and a half new batteries in the Leaf, so I certainly wouldn’t claim the i3 to necessarily be the most mustache-approved purchase. But, between the battery longevity, battery preconditioning (which is useful for maximizing range here in FL, but even moreso in states that actually have winter), performance, ect., we went with the i3, but agree that the Leaf is probably the best buy out there if the range meets one’s needs.

      • Abdel Jimenez October 6, 2017, 11:14 pm

        I just test drove a couple of i3s in South Florida and they ranged between $13,999 and $17,500. I also test drove a 2013 Leaf for $7,000 (sold). The advantage of the i3 is not only that it feels, accelerates and handles much nicer than the Leaf, but there is an i3 with a Range Extender meaning that the regular electric range is like 80 miles but once the car is close to being depleted an electric 2 and a half gallon gas powered generator kicks in giving you an extra 70 mile range (i3 is not a hybrid like a volt or Prius because there is no gas motor). In essence you could continue filling the gas in the car and repeating the additional 70 miles which helps people with range anxiety. My only concern is that since an i3 is a BMW I fear that the repairs will be substantial. The battery alone to replace is approximately $13,000, but you can replace individual battery modules for $1,200 each. Also I have read owner reviews that the i3 consumes tires pretty quickly because they are very thin and tall. The other difference between Leaf and i3 is the regenerative braking because in the i3 the second you release the gas pedal it brakes by itself without you using the brake pedal at all; to me it feels weird and tiring because you need to keep pressure on gas pedal the whole time, you can’t cruise. Overall, I love the i3 but I think the Leaf is a much better bargain. The car dealership with the best car prices in Florida where I tested the cars is called OffleaseOnly; their prices are lower than private party values on Craigslist and they have no dealer fees. I almost purchased the i3, but came back to this website for inspiration and guidance and decided to avoid committing financial suicide, therefore, I will save up to buy an EV cash and have no car payments.

        • threewolfmoon October 14, 2017, 7:59 am

          “i3 is not a hybrid like a volt or Prius because there is no gas motor” – The Volt is not a hybrid like the Prius, it is a pure plug-in electric car with a gas-powered range extending generator. It seems to me that the marketing folks at GM made them call it an “engine” instead of a “generator” because that’s what most people shopping for a car are used to terminology wise, but it only kicks in (under normal conditions) when the battery is depleted. If your Mustachian lifestyle is designed with minimal commuting distance, you can drive this car using electricity over 99% of the time.

      • Octopii October 7, 2017, 6:38 am

        They’re a little higher at retail here in DC. It’s more mustachian to stick with an old Prius, to be sure.

      • Gouldness October 9, 2017, 8:47 am

        Sold my volt and got a 2015 i3 (w/range-extender), CPO with low miles, all in was 25k. *i drive about 25k miles a year, so now 98% of my driving is all electric. Love it, soooo quick and handles great. Only problem is the skinny tires, you’ll get stuck in anything put normal pavement. Still worth it. All my gas driving friends all want one after driving it.

      • Andrew October 9, 2017, 9:25 am

        The main reason to get an i3 is for the Rex. (Gasoline range extender)

        Those run about $20k. We just did a lease return on ours at Boulder BMW, it should be on the market soon.
        With ~80 miles of electric driving, 90% of our driving is electric.

        In town the advantage is that you don’t have to be concerned about the odd day where you drive 100 miles… it is fine, you might use a tiny bit of gas. In the LEAF you try to leave a buffer around 20% so you don’t end up using the full battery.
        We drove our i3 from California to Colorado with 4 people in the car … so it is also possible to use for longer distances. We took a couple of 2.5 gallon jerry cans with us to give us a total range around 300 miles.
        Being a BMW it is rough on poor quality streets, but otherwise good.
        Now we are in Colorado we don’t need as many cars, so now we are just a Tesla/LEAF family.

    • Tummy October 12, 2017, 8:43 am

      About 3 years ago, we leased two 2014 i3s and they cost about $65/month after federal and state tax incentive ($50k MSRP, $12,500 total incentives). Nobody believed I could get new BMWs so cheap. With the gas savings and no maintenance costs except for tires, they more than paid for themselves. We just sent our second one back after the 36 month lease and it will probably be selling used for about $16k as a CPO. I haven’t been able to find a similar deal and maybe BMW learned something about inventory management after the initial glut and fire sales.

    • Bryk September 3, 2018, 11:41 am

      Test-drove an off-lease i3 last month after hearing about their sick depreciation, and I honestly didn’t like the driving experience at all compared to my 2014 C-Max plug-in hybrid. The front seats were placed high (I assume to emulate the power-trip illusion SUV owners seem to need) and the cabin roof height was oddly tight, to the point of claustrophobia for me.

      I also like to use my neck and shoulders not just the mirrors, and blind spot visibility was really compromised for me. Overall it felt like they too many compromises between affordability and the “BMW driver” styling/ethos/marketing distortion field. But hey, YMMV.

  • A B October 6, 2017, 8:37 pm

    Thank you for the detailed review.
    One nit to pick:
    “to carry their little kids in safety”

    I know the article isn’t really focused on safety, but your implication – intentional or not – is that driving a car is somehow safer than riding a bike. Driving a car is one of the most dangerous activities imaginable, so I urge you to be more careful with your language and please stop perpetuating this myth.

    • Daniel October 7, 2017, 8:43 am

      AB I don’t own a car and bring my 2 year old around in a bicycle trailer or bus. I don’t feel he is very safe on the road sitting in an aluminium and canvas bicycle trailer. . compared to sitting in a steel framed car. I try to stay on the sidewalks and off the road with him (which is technically illegal but I put my son’s safety first).

      So if I have another child I might have to get an E.V. . even though I’m managed nearly 40 years without car ownership. . . . primarily for safety reasons.

    • Micah Shaw October 9, 2017, 9:28 am

      The data doesn’t entirely agree with your statement, although I wouldn’t say you are wrong, its just a bit more complicated. I think we can clearly agree that driving is the most dangerous thing that most people do. However, most people don’t ride bikes. For those that are riding bikes, it appears that the deaths per mile are higher- tho its hard to tell because of the problem getting accurate reporting miles ridden. (tho that may be offset by the difficulty in getting correct bicycle injury numbers).

      So, I think, from the data, we could say that you are less likely to be killed in a car than on a bike when making the same commute. However, I suspect that people communing in cars regularly travel exponentially farther simply due to the ease of travel- meaning that tho the risk per mile may be lower in a car, the total risk overall is probably much closer, or higher in a car.

      And of course, in BOTH situations, how you drive or ride has a lot to do with what your personal risk is.

      I don’t think there is a strong enough argument on either side here to push either option as the “safe” option.

      Here is a link to some data with editorial opinions added: https://bicycleuniverse.info/bicycle-safety-almanac/

      • TomTX October 15, 2017, 7:38 pm

        One of the arguments for commute bicycling is that for many people, it is a significant increase in exercise, which reduces all sorts of health risks.

    • Darell Dickey October 9, 2017, 9:55 am

      Thanks for bringing up this great point, AB. When everybody tries to keep their own family “safe” by driving an (ever larger) car to protect themselves from the deadly danger of other cars… We have a pyramid problem, don’t we? Biking and walking is not “unsafe.” It is the cars that are the danger.

    • Chris I October 11, 2017, 9:52 pm

      Especially when comparing with a Nissan Leaf, a car with terrible crash safety ratings.

  • Alan October 6, 2017, 9:09 pm

    You skated around the cold weather issue a bit by only mentioning the heated seats and steering wheel. What about really cold days (below zero and such) when you need a defroster. And how about hot days? Is there any a/c or just an open window?

    • 3laine October 6, 2017, 10:55 pm

      The Leaf has an efficient “heat pump” on some models (the base model “S” used resistive heating in the model years I was researching, but that could have changed for 2016+), so it can heat and defrost as a normal car does, if necessary. It’s less efficient, of course, than just seat and wheel heaters.

      At least one EV, the eGolf, has an electric defroster built into the windshield for efficient defrosting.

      Another feature of EVs with active thermal battery management (Bolt, Tesla, i3, etc.) is battery pre-conditioning. You can tell the car when you’re planning to leave in the morning, and assuming you’re plugged in, it will use grid power to bring the battery up to optimal temperature to maximize range. Of course, it also heats the cabin, too. The EVs without active battery management (Leaf, eGolf, etc.) can be scheduled, as well, and will heat the cabin but not the batteries themselves. This helps range indirectly, of course, by reducing the energy needed to keep the occupants warm while driving.

      Oh, and yes, all EVs have A/C, which uses less energy than heating, and is probably a ~10-15% hit to range. (Pre-cooling the cabin is an option on virtually all EVs, as well.)

      • Thiago October 7, 2017, 11:48 am

        I have a 2016 Leaf and live in Southern Ontario, Canada. Here they come with a battery heater for cold days, but they say you should still not use the car if it’s less than around -25C I think.

        I also found this interesting blog about living with a Leaf in Ottawa, and there’s a specific entry about the battery: https://canadianleaf.wordpress.com/

        • 3laine October 7, 2017, 12:54 pm

          From what I can find, the battery heater in the Leaf is basically designed to keep the battery from freezing, rather than optimize the temperature for max range, etc, but thanks for the clarification (that sounds sarcastic, but it’s not haha).

          • RelaxedGal October 9, 2017, 6:59 am

            You are correct, the battery heater (2012 and newer Leafs) is just to keep the battery from freezing; it kicks on at something like 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

            The S trim for all years (even the new 2018 according to the Nissan USA build page) is solely resistive heat. Heat pump is part of the Cold Weather package on the middle trim (by default comes with resistive) and the top trim comes with the heat pump. The heat pump is better for heating when the outside air is between freezing and room temp. If it gets colder all of the cars use resisitive heat, and range takes a hit.

            I drive a 2012 Nissan Leaf in Massachusetts. In the winter I pre-heat the cabin off wall power in the morning, use the steering wheel and seat heat, and a lap blanket. More because I’m a neurotic miser than out of actual need to conserve electrons. The heat, and by extension heated defrost, do use a fair amount of electricity. About as much as driving at 65mph instead of 55mph. Speed is the biggest killed of fuel economy for me.

            That said, cold is still a big factor. I do not have a garage, though I do have covered parking so thankfully I don’t have to clear snow off the car. I have a 38 mile round trip commute every weekday, during rush hour. Now that my car is 6 years old, at 62,000 miles, that commute is at the very edge of possibility at 5 degrees F. Massachusetts winters seldom get that cold, maybe 4 or 5 days/year, but I have hit the local Nissan dealership for a quick charge (and bonded with with fellow Leaf drivers) on such cold days.

            Air conditioning has only a minor impact on range. My efficiency drops from a peak of 4.8 miles/kWh in the mild Spring/Fall to 4.5, maybe 4.4 miles/kWh at the peak of summer (90 degrees or so on the drive home here in MA). Winter I average closer to 3.8 miles/kWh, and the temp on the drive in to work most days is about 30 degrees F.

            • Mindy November 29, 2017, 9:06 am

              You are the first person to mention air conditioning. Where I live, it is more important than a heater. How is the Leaf’s AC? Does it have problems when there is high humidity? What about high temps? MMM makes a very good case for making this my next car, but if the AC is mediocre, it’s not an option for my family

            • Mr. Money Mustache November 29, 2017, 8:23 pm

              The A/C in the Leaf is as good as any car I’ve ever used. Plus, you can turn it on from the phone app, before you even leave the building/house to go out to your car.

              One benefit of an electric car is that the A/C is electrically powered as well – i.e. the coolant compressor and the fans are turned by an electric motor rather than a belt connected to the gas motor. This is more efficient, so you pay a lower energy penalty for staying cool.

              Also, one thing that *may* be helping the cause is that in an electric car, the heat exchanger for the A/C doesn’t have to share a cramped space filled with 140F (or hotter) air from the engine’s waste heat. It’s all by itself up in the front of the car, meaning it gets access to much cooler ambient air.

  • Kevin Ngo October 6, 2017, 9:12 pm

    Hey MMM,

    My family is car-free (and we hope to stay that way). However, could you do a true cost of commuting using numbers from your electric car? I would love to see how different the cost of driving is per mile. Just curious.


    • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2017, 11:52 am

      It’s still super-expensive to commute in any car, because you either get hit with depreciation or fuel/maintenance. And tires, and insurance, and registration. And hospital bills when you get the lifestyle diseases.

      Leaf gives you cheaper fuel and lower maintenance, but the other (larger) factors are just as high.

  • Josh October 6, 2017, 9:25 pm

    Not sure about mass market EVs yet. I have a 10yr old Volvo wagon and a 28 year old Saab. Run about 7000 mi/yr and over half is road trip to see family. Would like to diy the Saab to EV with 10 kWh of used Tesla modules, but the cost is about 15 years of fuel at current driving rate. The Volvo is good for another 10 years easy. Then I’m sure I’ll walk into some generic 2020 to 2022 EV. I’ve just laid 6 awg wire in new garage to charge it from the 7kw PV array I hope to throw up next year.

  • CapitalistRoader October 6, 2017, 9:31 pm

    From the GM article:

    “The key question is one of consumer acceptance. Last year, all forms of electrified vehicles, from hybrids to battery-electric vehicles accounted for barely 3 percent of the U.S. new vehicle market. Pure electrics, like the Chevy Bolt, generated only around a half-percent of total volume. But a number of recent studies have suggested that could top 30 percent or more within a decade.”

    That sounds low. I’m guessing that in 2030 the large majority of passenger cars will be powered by gasoline- or natural gas-fueled internal combustion engines spinning an electric generator spinning electric motor(s) spinning the wheels e.g., a Prius power train. Internal combustion engines have gotten so efficient it will be difficult to make the case for ditching them. In states like Colorado where we get close to 80% of our electricity from either external or internal combustion engines, you have to take into account line loses when transmitting that electricity to charge vehicles vs. the car having it’s own efficient ICE electric generator.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2017, 11:58 am

      I’ll take the other end of that bet, Capitalist. Have you been following battery and solar performance and cost at all?

      By 2030 I don’t think any passenger cars will be manufactured with gas engines (at least for use in the developed world). Technological change is exponential, not linear.

      • Micah Shaw October 9, 2017, 9:47 am

        I got to agree with MMM here. I believe the whole idea of having an on board gas powered option (be it a motor or generator) that requires any sort of upkeep or maintenance, and additional up front costs is just crazy! The only reason we have it right now is because we lack the infrastructure and the battery technology to run all electrics the same way that we run gas vehicles. (i.e. its not quite as convenient) But we currently have in existence the technology to drive all electric cars for hundreds of miles off 30 minutes of charge. If you imagine a world in which there were fast charging stations littered around every intersection, but you could only get gas from 2 or 3 places in a city, and nowhere out in the country, NOBODY would be suggesting you use a gas powered vehicle for anything but some very specialized use cases. And the need for a secondary system built in to your car to support the use of gas would seem silly.

        Over the next 15 years I expect batteries to get better, charging to get faster, and charging stations to become much more common. If you can drive for 2-3 hours, and only need to stop for 10 minutes to charge- and you don’t have to worry about there being a charging station wherever you happen to be when you need it- I don’t think anyone will be looking for a vehicle with a gas backup system.

        I think only a tiny percentage of consumers really care about the environmental effects, so the actual cleanliness of an EV over a hybrid is essentially a non-issue. But, as our power grid get cleaner, EVs ALL get cleaner, even the 8-10 year old ones still on the road.

        But then again, we rarely predict how new technology really works out. We all thought computers were going to make us more productive….

        • Mr. Money Mustache October 10, 2017, 9:24 pm

          I hope the part about computers was a joke.. The insane productivity of these things has defined my entire life (including this blog). Computers rule! :-)

          • MKE October 16, 2017, 1:44 pm

            I think what Micah Shaw was referring to is the idea that nothing is 100% good and zero-percent bad. Computers are now turning on us. Henry Ford probably loved cars about as much as you love computers (with your love of cars, apparently, not far behind). All “convenience” comes at a price, often a high one. Our future might turn out to be one of behavioral problems and isolation caused in large part by hypercomputerization.

            My corporate job as an engineer worsened as a result of computerization. While I was by far more conversant than my compadres in their use, I saw how awful computers were making our existence. Going out to the factory floor and conversing with the workers, getting dirty, and running experiments was replaced by sitting isolated in an office running models all day long. Boring, Depressing. Meaningless. Dehumanizing. I was out of there.

            George Orwell was right, so long ago: The machine has got to be accepted, but it should be accepted grudgingly, like a drug. Like a drug, the machine is useful, addictive, and habit forming. The more often one surrenders to it, the tighter its grip becomes.

            It applies to cars, computers, television, cell phones, calculators, many of the convenience machines we have compromised our active existence to.

            It also applies to electric cars, and I see little wariness in the comments section. It’s a mindless, devil-may-care embrace.
            I own all these things – grudgingly and warily.

    • Andrew Mullen October 13, 2017, 2:45 pm

      With the ICE ban going into effect all over the world you will be hard pressed to find a manufacturer that hasn’t flat out abandoned them. Also, the ICE is not efficient at all unless your top priority is generating heat…they are quite good at that. Percentage of energy used by fuel type- Electric 73%, Hydrogen 22%, ICE 17%.

      • Stephane November 30, 2017, 1:17 pm

        The ICE bans are a total joke. If by that time the EV market isn’t developed, they’ll simply be overturned as “wishful thinking”. That being said, battery technology is dropping in price quickly, and capacity is increasing quickly too. So if it continues this way, 3-5 years it’ll be competitive, and 6-10 years people will see no reason to buy gas.
        Over here, Quebec has a number of fast chargers because adoption is good (electricity is cheap in Quebec, gas is taxed a little more, and there are grants), so the companies maintaining the fast chargers are adding them at the rate of about one a month (though the charge many times the cost of electricity, because they can only bill by time, not by kWh… regulations are behind again). So the fear of not finding a charging station is dropping quickly.
        So what’s left in resistance? Not much really. People will make love serenades about gas cars, but when they realize they are paying more for more trouble, they’ll be ditching them soon enough.

  • AF Retired & Loving Life October 6, 2017, 9:44 pm

    I’m interested in hearing how the Leaf tows. I use a utility trailer rather than having a pickup, so towing capability and capacity are musts.

    • 205guy October 11, 2017, 7:20 pm

      The owner’s manual says the Leaf should not be used for towing, and it has no rating for it. But there are several Leaf forum posts with reports and photos by people who do light towing, so it seems totally feasible. I have a 2015 Leaf and so far have installed a hitch and use it for a bike rack (the strap-on bike racks don’t work well with the Leaf hatch–bikes are too close to the rounded back and my bike chainring scratched the paint). But I have the exact same idea as you: get a light trailer to haul yard waste instead of borrowing a friend’s pickup to do it. I already bought the wiring harness for trailer lights that is specific to the Leaf. The bike hitch provides plausible deniability should I have any issues with towing.

    • Stephane November 30, 2017, 1:19 pm

      One Mitsubishi i-Miev owner towed 600 lbs of firewood on a trailer with it. He was extremely careful with it of course, as the i-Miev is not recommended for towing. And the i-Miev is smaller too, in all possible ways… so… there’s definitely some options there.

  • MAD Wealth October 6, 2017, 10:00 pm

    I think an underrated car feature is the hatchback style. It’s so much more efficient, and utilitarian than a trunk. You make a great point about road trips. SO many people complain that electric cars could never work since you can’t drive cross country as easily. It’s like renting a car never crossed their mind.

    I wonder how much longer car charging will be free in your town. I’m not sure how it is in other parts of the country, but I imagine as they gain in popularity municipalities will start charging somehow for it. Some will choose to charge directly, and others will just hide it in with other taxes(property,sales, transfer).

    We are definitely seeing a rapid shift in the car industry. Literally the majority of cars on the road are obsolete. We both for sure have been on that same page for awhile. I think we’ll really see the infrastructure finally start to ramp up too now that major car companies are all changing course. Every smart business person will ramp up to meet the future demand.

  • mike October 6, 2017, 10:05 pm

    I love your year end reviews, whether it’s the car or your yearly spending. Always thorough and insightful.

    I had heard Tesla was going to install the roofs with electric solar windows. Wouldn’t be surprised if the outer shell of a car could eventually serve as a collector of the suns rays.

    Can’t understand why there’s not an electric scooter or motorcycle in mass production.

    • Markus October 7, 2017, 2:30 am

      But there are e-motorcycles in mass production in good old europe ;)
      http://www.ktm.com/de-int/e-ride/ (page should be available in english too)

    • Stefan Brand October 7, 2017, 3:15 am

      Motorcycles do exist: “Zero motorcycles” they are pretty expensive compared to a car though.

    • Daniel October 7, 2017, 8:50 am

      If there was an electric motorcycle . . I guess could not be called a “motor” cycle anymore since it won’t have a motor. But yeah I’m curious to know if there exists highspeed cycles that are electric. As for a electric bicycles and and scooters. . look to China. THeir streets are full of electric scooters and they have been manufacturing them very cheaply for many years now. In China an electric scooter is not a novelty. . it is as common an the automobile.

      • Vince October 7, 2017, 2:33 pm

        I would hope that an electric motorcycle would still be a motor cycle since it would need an electric motor to power the drive wheel. Unless someone knows better than I, an electric motor is required to turn that stuff from the outlet in your house or from your battery into a circular motion. Just sayin.

      • Guy October 7, 2017, 2:49 pm

        Arcimoto, out of Eugene, Oregon, has a three-wheel EV (classed as a motorcycle): https://www.arcimoto.com/vehicle/

        The site mentions a top speed 80 mph, and it says it has a range of 70 to 130 miles.

      • Matt October 7, 2017, 3:24 pm

        Actually, the generally accepted terminology in engineering is electric motor and combustion engine. So your gasoline vehicle has an engine, not a motor. But it’s really just semantics and nobody really cares. There’s much more important terminology that people are always butchering.

    • Pavel Kadera October 7, 2017, 11:42 am

    • Janne October 9, 2017, 8:05 am

      The problem with solar panels on the car surface is the low energy intensity. A 1 kW solar array takes about 6 square metres of space so I don’t think you can get much more power than that. A solar array installed on a car will never be optimally aligned towards the sun (in non-equatorial regions), so some of the potential is lost. If the car battery was 50 kWh, I think you might expect a 4 to 10% extension of range from car-based solar panels during a single day.

    • Diana October 10, 2017, 2:18 pm

      check out http://www.scoot.co- some seriously utopian electric scooter sharing happening in San Francisco. Pretty amazing and as an early adopter I can vouch for its awesomeness.

  • EJ October 6, 2017, 11:59 pm

    My cousin in Longmont recently bought one of these. It was fun rolling around in it…for now I have 2 gas cars with low miles on them…going to drive them to the ground before switching, but at some point the maintenance may overtake the worth of the actual car…I am still holding out for an electric bike but can’t justify the $3k cost yet and the additional 20 minutes away from my toddler in the afternoon.

    • TomTX November 19, 2017, 6:46 am

      There are quite a few good electric bike choices under $2k, delivered. RadPower and Juiced come to mind.

  • Cubert October 7, 2017, 4:26 am

    Same experience here, going from gas powered lawn mower to a cordless battery powered one. Gas sucks. Now I need to grow a pair (of mustache tips) and push mow or kill the lawn altogether.

    Good food for thought on the Leaf. I have an old Fit that’s still serving us quite well.

    • Octopii October 7, 2017, 6:34 am

      Yes! We are fully committed to cordless electric yard equipment. There has been no compromise whatsoever going from gas, and actually it has made life better, cheaper, and reduced hassle. It’s quite jarring when the neighbor fires up her gas mower… My only concern is that at some point Ryobi will obsolete our battery type.

      • Erik Y October 7, 2017, 9:09 am

        That’s why I use a corded electric mower for our quarter acre lawn. A little more hassle dealing with cord management, but no worries about batteries.

      • Andreas October 9, 2017, 4:34 am

        I agree with Cubert above. I bought a battery powered lawn mower almost three years ago for ca €200, one of the best tools I have! But I also have a small garden so..but it works perfectly and I also clean it after each use. A cheap model, but they also have all spare parts available so gonna store up on what breaks first..

        Octopii: Regarding Ryobi they have the same batteries for different types of units, right? At least my two “power tools” do. Might be a good idéa to buy another battery just in case. On the other hand the backlash from customers if they first “introduce” one batteri fits all and then make it obsolete a while later is not going to sound well.

        • TomTX November 19, 2017, 6:51 am

          Ryobi has been REALLY good about making their systems backward compatible.

          I have old Ryobi cordless tools originally bought with NiCd packs. Now that I think about it, one of them has to be >12 years old, as I bought it when we had the old house. The old tools work fine with the new Li-ion packs, even the top end ones (as long as you use the 18v packs)

          The only “noncompatible” was the chargers. You had to get a new charger with the new Li packs.

          Bigger items like the cordless electric mower and the more powerful versions of the yard tools use 40v packs. I haven’t made that jump yet.

    • 9 O'Clock Shadow October 10, 2017, 12:31 pm

      Same here! Bought a Black and Decker Battery powered mower in 2010 to cut our approx 5000SF of lawn. On a dry day it will complete the job with enough juice for the neighbour’s front yard. If its really wet, it will cut out at 2/3’s the square footage. I had to adapt, but it just finished its eight season! Paid $400 for it, and the only maintenance is putting the battery inside during winter. A new 36V battery is all we’d need to make it run like new.

    • Stephane November 30, 2017, 2:05 pm

      I prefer corded, because if I can avoid batteries I will (power cords don’t age like batteries).
      There’s a robot lawn mower, but it’s not mustashian. Though why not split with a neighbor?

    • Amanda September 28, 2018, 6:37 am

      Second-best thing about a battery-powered mower, after not involving gasoline: it’s light enough (under 30 lbs) that I, a thirtysomething woman of average strength, can easily carry it through our townhouse, one-handed.

      Third-best thing about the battery-powered mower: it’s quiet enough that I can listen to podcasts while mowing – it’s seriously about the same as vacuuming indoors.

      If it ever goes, I’ll woman up and replace it with a push mower, though; our front and back yards are pretty small.

      Lawn mowing and trash/recyclable management is women’s work around my house – dish washing and bathroom cleaning is men’s work :)

  • Brew October 7, 2017, 6:13 am

    Pete, great write up. Had to write in my recommendation for an electric Fiat 500. I’m on my second one. Similar to how the Leaf is taking off in Longmont, the same thing has happened with eFiat 500s in my hometown of Manhattan Beach. My brother got one, I drove it and loved it so much that I got one and now many of it friends drove them too. Bonus is that our current lease payments are less than $100/month. Most fun I’ve ever had driving.

    The only negatives are the car is tiny (although we load up our two kids in back to zip around town + I like the tiny size as it makes parking much easier in a crowded area) and range is limited (less than 100 miles), but for urban drivers, I highly recommend it.

  • Linnann October 7, 2017, 7:09 am

    I’ve been driving a 2011 Leaf since 2013. I commute 50 miles to work and charge at each end, putting 6,000+ miles on my car per year. Since I put so many miles on per year we had to purchase, not lease. I live in the Chicago area, dealing with cold winters. Last winter the battery depletion became an issue, so this summer my husband worked hard talking to Nissan Corporate in the USA (not the dealership which had minimal knowledge) and we received a replacement battery. I effectively have a brand new car and am loving it! Arranging a battery replacement was a lot cheaper than buying a new car. I love my Leaf!

  • Michael October 7, 2017, 8:20 am

    I’m a bit disappointed that this article and MMM ignore one of the most important aspects of buying a car- safety! The Nissan Leaf is rated POOR in the small front overlap test. Congratulations on saving 10k buying this car over a used Volvo, but killing yourself or one of your passengers in the process. My life and my families life is more valuable than that. I’m not sure how MMM can promote a car like this with good conscience knowing well someone will likely die if they hit a telephone pole or a tree while driving this. There are times to pinch pennnies and times when you should see that life is valuable and spending a few bucks is worth it. There are many other reasonably priced cars with low operating costs and great safety ratings that would be a better option. I hope in the next car review MMM takes a better look at all of the important factors in buying a new or used car instead of only looking at the cheapest option.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2017, 11:45 am

      But you’re talking about a tiny probability multiplied by another tiny probability. You can make a bigger difference in your healthy lifespan by driving less and biking more.

      Car safety specs are a great thing to measure on a systemwide basis, but in personal decision making you have much bigger levers at your disposal.

      Plus, by driving an old Volvo you are causing pollution that shortens everyone else’s life. Good tradeoff?

      • gk October 9, 2017, 11:15 am

        it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. although inspired by the original MMM post about the leaf, we were concerned about the leaf’s safety scores (loved everything else about it, though). we went with a different model EV – the ford cmax energi, so it’s an EV/hybrid. it had good safety scores, we found it used, it cost approx the same as a new Leaf after all its credits, and it met our needs. 95% of the time, we drive within the 25 mile EV range. the cargo space leaves something to be desired, but our small family has managed a few road trips in it with our gear and room to spare.

      • Rogue Dad, M.D. October 19, 2017, 8:38 am


        You are right about the probabilities, however the safety issue is the same reason people should purchase insurance when they are not FI.

        While on an individual level, riding a bike and staying off the roads clearly reduces your chances of being in a car accident, once you make the decision to be ON the road, minimizing the safety concern is a dangerous recommendation.

        I am a pediatric emergency medicine doctor — I see first-hand what happens to kids who are injured in car accidents. While reducing car usage is the ultimate Mustachian goal, as you’ve said, since most people ARE still using them, you feel an obligation to teach them use cars responsibly. I have 3 kids; most of our driving with them is very short distance and low speed (to/from school/daycare, both close to our home), however we do family excursions/trips that are occasionally longer distances (with road trips planned when they are older).

        If I am driving 1000 miles with them somewhere (idea of which probably makes you nauseous, but also makes me cringe since i’m not sure I can handle 1000 miles with them), I am putting their safety before anything else, and that includes buckling them into the appropriate seat and having a car that won’t be demolished when some drunk idiot crosses the line and hits us at high speed. You don’t want to see what happens to people when that happens.

        So rather than exhort your readers to ignore safety ratings, you should be going after Nissan for having not achieved higher safety ratings. That is far more important than the poorly constructed iPhone app, and is something Nissan should be able to figure out given that they already do it for every single car they make.

        Telsa has figured it out, Nissan can too.

    • Juan October 7, 2017, 6:59 pm

      “A tiny probability multiplied by another tiny probability” sums it up pretty well, but Michael, if you would like a more in-depth look at the concept of “safety”, how fear sells, and how to use math over headlines or emotions, I’d recommend:

      • Ben Trutter October 9, 2017, 9:24 am

        I was always thinking about getting a Honda Fit until a couple driving a Fit was waiting at a red light and got rear ended by someone going way too fast and both passengers in the Fit died. This happened blocks from my apartment and kinda turned me off of them.

        • MKE October 11, 2017, 11:03 am

          I own a Fit, and my wife was rear-ended by some uninsured, unlicensed felon in a truck on a cell phone. Naturally, the guy was given a ticket and sent on his way. She was fine. But I also once saw a guy in a full-size cargo van get smashed to death between two semi trucks. Then there was the idiot in the SUV I watched take an exit ramp way to fast, flip and kill himself. Message: motorists will kill people, regardless of make and model.

    • Kakboy October 8, 2017, 6:12 pm

      The Leaf gets a “good” in every test by the IIHS except for the small overlap front. You make it sound like it’s a death-trap.
      I’ll take my chances.

      • Chris I October 11, 2017, 9:57 pm

        40,000+ dead on US roads last year. The leading cause of accidental deaths behind drug overdoses. Not something I’m going to chance.

    • Darell Dickey October 9, 2017, 9:58 am

      It sounds as if you consider “safety” of a car only in the context of what happens to the people inside of it. The danger of cars is that they do to the people OUTSIDE of it, so I wouldn’t fret so much about safety ratings as they stand today.

      Somebody once said that we have car safety backwards. All the hard metal bits should be on the inside of the car. And the soft pillows that inflate should be on the OUTSIDE of the car.

      • MKE October 11, 2017, 11:04 am

        Darell Dickey gets it right! Thank you! Nice to know someone else has their thinking cap on.

  • Schorschi October 7, 2017, 8:22 am

    I have been driving electric since 2014 and won’t ever go back to gas for my daily commute. The smooth, powerful, quiet acceleration is such a joy to experience. Coupled with almost non-existent maintenance cost makes this the perfect daily driver for me. And I can even charge for free at work.

    I drove a smart ED first in 2014 on a three-year lease. It was a test balloon as I wasn’t trusting enough of the technology at the time. But what a fun and capable car it has turned out to be. A completely different animal than its sluggish gas brother with that odd semi-automatic transmission. I was sad to let it go this past May at lease-end.

    So, now I drive a Chevy Spark EV. This one is even peppier than the smart, and has a fast-charger which enables me to drive long-distance which I couldn’t do with the smart. The Spark EV was hard to get though, as it is no longer being made (the Bolt being its successor) and was only ever sold in California, Oregon and Maryland. I had to go all the way to Maryland to bring it back to Florida. I actually got two, one for my daughter, one for myself. Brought them back on the auto-train which runs from Virginia to Sanford near Orlando. Both used for $12.5K and $10K respectively. Active battery-management guarantees a long battery life. I couldn’t be happier.

    • Georgy Porgy October 29, 2017, 9:20 am

      I believe the capacity to charge the battery at work is key to your great experience. If I could charge at work I’d go electric in a heartbeat. If it were free, that would make it all the more attractive. But then there’d be freeloaders, who would charge the car battery at work, only to go home and reverse-charge to juice up the home battery. That wouldn’t work for long.

  • mem_somerville October 7, 2017, 8:31 am

    I bought my Leaf in November last year. And I read your piece as I was in the process of doing it. I was mostly on board, but it was a real shift in technology so I appreciated the decision process that you laid out. I have no regrets.

    Haven’t stopped at a gas station in a year, don’t miss that at all. Never had an issue with range. Oh, and my free electricity from my solar panels has been fine for my less-than-1000-miles so far.

    Another nice feature of it is the early adopter community. We share tips and issues in a way that I never had with my ICE cars.

    I’m watching the possibility of getting paid to store and deliver power back to the grid too. That day is coming. Won’t happen with your gas tank.

    Certainly these cars are not right for everyone’s situation right now. But if you have a 90-mile commute you made other choices already. What surprises me is the hostility to EVs I’ve seen on some of the current stories. Nobody says you are required to have one. But for some of us it’s the perfect use case.

  • Josh October 7, 2017, 9:01 am

    Great review that, while remaining positive, doesn’t pull punches. I’ve owned two LEAFs – one of the first ’11s made, as well as now a ’14. The biggest detractor is the inability to actively manage battery temperature – a feature standard on all other EVs. My ’14 actually will heat the battery if the temperature falls below 0F, a threshold argued by many as too low. More troubling though is the lack of active cooling, which speeds degradation in times of higher ambient temperature or after successive quick-charging sessions.

    My hope is that Nissan comes around on battery pack replacements. A local Nissan dealership tech has said that it is quite possible to install the 30kWh pack in older-generation vehicles. So, either Nissan does this, or hopefully the aftermarket rises to the occasion.

    Glad you’re enjoying your LEAF!

  • Erik Y October 7, 2017, 9:17 am

    We’ve been Leaf owners for about a year and a half a love it. Ours is a 2013 that still has full battery capacity. We only have the level 1 charger, but it has worked well for our driving needs. This is in Portland Oregon where it rarely gets very hot or very cold. I love never having to go to the gas station or desling with oil changes or other fluids.

  • Matt October 7, 2017, 9:23 am

    Didn’t you post a picture on twitter earlier this year of the car getting towed? I assumed it was a break-down but you didn’t make any mention of that incident here.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2017, 11:11 am

      That was me running out of battery at 78 miles (of fast interstate driving) because it was cold and I refused to believe the winter range was so much less than the summer range. The towing was free courtesy of Nissan Roadside assistance (free for 2 years), but it took 2 hours for the towtruck driver to come. Would have been faster to push my car home those last 8 miles :-)

  • Dave October 7, 2017, 10:35 am

    I’ll play devil’s advocate: I’d like to know how present day MMM squares his purchase of a $14k heated-steering-wheel luxury mobile with his prior posts. I had the understanding that anything not powered by muscle was lazy and there was threats of face-punching. Clown-car was it?

    How many snow bike tires can you buy for $14k?

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2017, 11:41 am

      You are right Dave – for my personal situation, if money were tight it would be totally reasonable to have zero cars. Before the blog, since money was already in abundance, we had two older vehicles and used them lightly.

      But this blog isn’t about me minimizing my spending, it’s about increasing average human well-being, which also includes promoting stuff that improves the present and the future.

      Since potentially millions of readers here still drive cars daily, I figure it’s part of my job to suggest cars that will help improve their lives a bit, along with the lives of everyone they share the breathable air with.

    • Andrew Mullen October 13, 2017, 2:57 pm

      A heated seat and steering wheel is a great EV hack to increase efficiency. In colder climates EV drivers can lose up 25% of their range by trying to heat the entire cabin. Heated seats and steering wheels are much more energy efficient (mustachian). Also, at $14k, the Leaf is definitely the cheapest commuter car that you can buy in the US.

  • Poppa October 7, 2017, 10:37 am

    Hear hear, MMM! I have to testify for our Leaf. We bought a ’13 basic package (S) with 17K miles in the spring of 2016. I found it on craigslist in California for $9200, and had it shipped to Colorado for $700. Because we bought it out of state, it was still eligible for the Colorado tax credit, so this year we got about $2000 off our state taxes. $8000 – way less than an inflation-adjusted Yugo cost back in the day!

    We bought the Leaf because the Prius was such a damn gas hog for my wife’s 40-mile roundtrip commute. The Prius has now supplanted our Subaru Outback as our road trip/mountain/off-road vehicle, and we use it sparingly. My wife and my daughter hate the Prius, mostly because it’s been beat to hell by our kids pissing and puking and leaving food to rot in it, and from encounters with a bear and a coyote that damaged the back and front bumpers, respectively (sorry, Mr. Coyote). My wife wants to ditch the Prius completely, but I’m trying to hold out until we can get an autonomous minivan that will drive us safely back to the Motherland (Wisconsin) for occasional family visits while we sleep soundly through the night. I may have to bridge the gap with a Prius V, for the sake of my marriage.

    Let’s do some math here. We drive the Leaf about 11,000 miles per year. We’re averaging 4.6 miles/kWh. So that’s about 2400 kWh/year. We pay 9.5 cents/kWh in Longmont (including fees), so it costs about $228/year in electricity to run the Leaf. With the Prius, we averaged about 48 mpg. So 11,000 miles would take about 229 gallons of gas. What does gas cost these days? About $2.50 – way too fucking low (who’s getting subsidies, now?). Thus the Prius costs about $573/year to run (not including oil changes). So the Leaf is roughly half as expensive to run, and it doesn’t smell like puke.

    What about the eventual cost of replacing the Leaf battery? At $5500 every 100,000 miles or so, that adds $605/year to our costs. But note that Prii (and of course other gas-powered vehicles) also have maintenance costs associated with them. Gen 2 Priuses are getting about 150,000 miles out of their traction batteries. We replaced ours at 150,000 miles at a cost of $2300. With the Subaru, we put in about $8000 of repairs (including a rebuilt engine) in the first 150,000 miles or so. Replacing the traction battery of a Prius at the dealer used to cost upwards of $4000 (not sure what it is these days), but we were able to get ours replaced with a battery from a salvage vehicle that only had 17,000 miles on it (at a hybrid/electric maintenance shop, Boulder Hybrids, that I helped found several years ago). I imagine when the time comes to replace the Leaf battery, my man Paul at Boulder Hybrids will hook me up with a used deal for around $3000.

    Shit, sorry MMM if I’m taking up too much space in the comments section, but I’m just so exuberant about EVs…

    Perhaps most important about our Leaf purchase is that because, like MMM, we purchase wind credits from Longmont Power, our Leaf is virtually emissions free. Even using the average electricity mix in the U.S. (still mostly fossil fuels), EVs have far fewer emissions than the average gas vehicle.

    Finally, thus far we’ve only charged the Leaf with a standard 120V charger over night, and it’s been fine. MMM himself has generously given me a 240V charger, but I’ve been too much of a slacker to hook it up – I’ll get that done soon, MMM.

    • Chuck Tuna October 8, 2017, 7:22 am

      I believe I’m the source of that charger – get your ass in gear before I have to come out and do it for you in exchange for a nice week of skiing (and a wooden box for my kitty’s ashes)!!!

  • Jeff October 7, 2017, 12:03 pm

    The battery degrades faster than one might expect. The following article has tips for extending the battery life, in addition to information about battery degradation/replacement.


  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance October 7, 2017, 12:46 pm

    Wow this is such a detailed review. I hope the management at Nissan will read your post and find out ways to improve their products. My husband has been dreaming about getting a Tesla, but we don’t have the money to do that yet.

    I think electric cars should be the future for the car industry. However, I also wonder to what extent oil companies will be able to lobby and hinder the transition towards electric cars. It’d be interesting to see!

  • MichaelEV October 7, 2017, 12:48 pm

    Just wanted to re-state what a good deal the 2017 Leafs are as Nissan works to get them all out the door before the 2018 re-design arrives. Note also that in many areas you can buy out-of-state and still qualify for incentives (YMMV! check local regulations). Also for those who do not qualify for the $7500 tax credit, which would include many true MMM followers, there is a way to work the Lease system to get similar results. I’ve posted fairly extensively about that and our out of state buying experience at everettpowered-evs.blogspot.com
    Michael. 25 years in EVs

  • Gino October 7, 2017, 12:48 pm

    Just itching for the RV companies to get on the hybrid bandwagon.

  • Martin October 7, 2017, 12:55 pm

    For a new, small electric car company, try electrameccanica.com. Also, much less expensive than the competition!

  • Ks October 7, 2017, 1:11 pm

    How do long term 5+ years maintenance costs compared to gas engine vehicles? the uncertain battery replacement strategy is a concern for those of us who keep cars for a decade or longer.

    • 3laine October 7, 2017, 8:50 pm

      EVs have fewer common maintenance items. No oil changes, brakes last many times longer (most braking is done by the regen brakes putting energy back into the battery, rather than using the normal friction brakes).

      As far as battery replacement, most EVs have a 8 year / 100,000 mile warranty for failure. Also, most EVs have had no indication that battery capacity loss will be such that replacement will be necessitated by reduced range. Tesla, Volt, and i3 have seen relatively high-mile cars with very little (Tesla/i3) or no noticeable range loss (Volt).

  • Christopher R Young October 7, 2017, 2:16 pm

    One disadvantage of the Leaf is that it the only car that uses the obsolete CHAdeMO DC fast charging technology. Combo charging is the future because every car company except Tesla uses it. Buying a Leaf would be like getting a BetaMax!


    • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2017, 4:47 pm

      But it’s also the best selling car (so far). Many chargers just have multiple heads to support the different styles.

    • Anthony C October 9, 2017, 5:11 pm

      If CHAdeMO ever becomes obsolete there will surely be a way to replace the charger in the Leaf to the new standard. It’s just DC.

  • Andrew Ulvestad October 7, 2017, 2:18 pm

    Happy to discuss the Leaf battery with you. The performance at high temperature is absolutely terrible so please be careful when driving your car in the heat. The leaf has no thermal management. They are using a blend of LiMn2O4 and LiNiMnCoO4 at the cathode, graphite at the anode. If you skip to about minute 26 in this video you can see Jeff Dahn discussing the various cathodes used by different manufacturers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxP0Cu00sZs

  • Mr. ROMT October 7, 2017, 2:57 pm

    Thanks for the review MMM!

    Our local utility has been offering a $10,000 incentive with the local Nissan dealership to purchase one of their remaining 2017 model Leafs. With the $7,500 federal incentive on top of that, and the fact we have recently added solar panels to our home, based on your review I think I need to head to the dealership to do some additional investigating.

    My concerns have largely been around the Leaf’s relatively short battery life, my relatively long commute (don’t punch me in the face, I am trying to fix this!), and our cold winters, but based on your experience of about 20% less range on cold days, the Leaf could still work for me as a daily commuter.

  • Denise October 7, 2017, 4:11 pm

    Maybe this has been answered somewhere, so if it has, I apologize . I really want an electric car. But, I am just not sure it will fit everything I am looking for. Maybe you folks, can give me some perspective, or tell me something I am missing. Or make a suggestion, that I haven’t even considered.

    I now have a VW diesel that is getting bought back or I can get a fix, per the class action law suit. I am really leaning towards taking the money, and getting a new , used car. My question to all you folks is, I drive cross country to Florida a few times a year, and to Tucson at least 3-4 times a year. I know electric cars are great around town, but I am a worrier, and wonder how I would drive across country? Would I be stressed with “range anxiety”? And how is it actually done, you follow and app that tells you where you can plug in along the way?

    Would I be better off renting a car for those trips? But, that would add thousands to my car budget each year? I was also looking at finding a diesel that I could replace mine with, and run veggie fuel in it. I wanted a four wheel drive, that I could run veggie fuel in, but still have it look decent enough to take clients out in? But I can’t even find anything that fits my wish list, in my price range. I would like to keep it under $15,000. I am not opposed to a more vintage model. I have no problem fixing things, and wouldn’t mind a car I could work on.

    I am buying land shortly, and it would be nice to have something I can go on dirt roads with too. I do realize the labor of veggie fuel, I drove an old Diesel Benz for awhile. I have the room and time to create a decent set up to filter and pump fuel.

    I am just so confused now. I loved my VW, had it since 2009, loved the 40 MPG, and great reliability. My one and only complaint about the VW sportwagon, was it’s low clearance. Now, I just don’t know what to replace it with. I am feeling like what I need doesn’t come in just one car or SUV!!! I certainly don’t want an around town car, and road trip car. I do have a motorcycle, that I can do a lot of my around town driving. But, I can’t take clients on it! And there is nowhere to put my dog! And it gets cold in the CO winters.

    Any suggestions or insights would be awesome. TIA

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 7, 2017, 4:18 pm

      Hey Denise,

      Depending on the calendar length of your road trips, renting a car could be even cheaper than driving your own. The industry is super competitive in the US, to the point where rentals can be $25 per day with unlimited mileage.

      If you’re driving more than about 100 miles at that price, the rental car company is losing money and subsidizing your vacation! So don’t be shy about renting. Most people just underestimate the cost of using their own car, because they think of gas as the main cost.

      • Denise October 7, 2017, 6:36 pm

        Thanks, I will do the numbers and take it into account.

    • 3laine October 7, 2017, 9:10 pm

      If you’re driving cross-country multiple times per year, then right now, your only practical option is Tesla, unless you’re ok with really taking your time. This is coming from someone who’s owned 3 non-Tesla EVs and who has done 1,500+ mile trips in them. Others, especially the Bolt or the i3 with Range Extender (small built-in gas generator) can work for regional or slow long-distance trips, but if you’re planning on knocking out 500+ miles per day all the way across the country, Tesla is the way to go (though it will be at least double your stated budget, probably much more). The others just don’t have the infrastructure and charging speed to do it practically. I vote EV and rental car. Put all those thousands of miles on someone else’s car.

      • Denise October 7, 2017, 11:10 pm

        Thanks, it’s looking like a rental car might be the way to go. I would love to get a Tesla. I might have to just be a bit more patient and possibly raise my budget. I had my last car for almost ten years, and plan on keeping my next one for at least that long. So I really want an alternatively fueled vehicle.

        • Andrew Mullen October 18, 2017, 12:57 pm

          You can pick up a 1st gen Volt for $10-15k and it will be an EV most of the time and then when you head out on a long trip you can just use gas. I would highly recommend this car unless you need a 5 passenger (Volt has buckets in the back). Check Vroom or Carvana; they have a good selection and my transaction (with Vroom) could not have been easier.

  • Scott October 7, 2017, 8:32 pm

    I noticed the link in Footnote 2 was broken, so here’s the correct link: https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/mmm-2016-budget/msg1565670/#msg1565670

    I’m curious how it supports your point though? It seems like that guy really did need a car, especially since he lives in “the south.”

  • Cory October 7, 2017, 9:25 pm

    One thing I’m having trouble reconciling in my mind is the whole “cars are for inter-city travel, not intra city travel” thing. For the last year I’ve been almost exclusivly getting around by bike, and only get in the car if we are driving to the mountains to camp, or are going on a family road trip. It seems like the one legitimate use of the luxury racing wheelchair is the one thing these cars can’t do (I.e. road trips). Am I missing something?

    • RelaxedGal October 9, 2017, 7:35 am

      The only thing you’re missing is the moderately longer range suburban commute (me). That’s where the 100-150 mile range EVs really shine.

      For road rips though, you are right. Tesla, Bolt, Volt, i3 Rex. Those can do road trips. I rented an RV to see the eclipse this summer in Tennessee and the only EVs I saw on the highway were Teslas and Volts. Even near Smyrna Tennessee, where the US Leaf is produced, I saw no Leafs.

      If you want to see a great Tesla road trip, check out

  • Reiko October 7, 2017, 10:56 pm

    $530 for registration for one year!?? That’s ridiculous. In Illinois, electric vehicle registration is only $35 for TWO years (and regular car registration is something like $105 per year). Not that I recommend living in Illinois for any other reason, but man, Colorado is really screwing you over.

    • kurt October 8, 2017, 4:27 am

      In Australia it’s over $1400 USD :(

  • Zack October 7, 2017, 11:12 pm

    At the very end of your post. I believe it is missing “see”. As long as I can understand the message, it doesn’t bother me, but I think I read in a previous post that you welcome corrections and I hadn’t seen anyone else mention it.

    :”After the change, you *SEE a car for what it really is”

    Thanks for this blog, it provides tons of value and has motivated me to make positive changes in my already blessed life!

  • Steve October 8, 2017, 12:15 am

    I have a feeling the current US Administration will either make the electric grid so pro-coal as to be a headwind (yes, burning coal is worse than burning refined oil) or financially slow the adoption of electric vehicles (repeal subsidies, maybe penalize those public charge ‘freeloaders’). It’s encouraging when an old school company like Ford makes lofty 2020 goals, but oil is already forecast to remain below $50/bbl through 2020. While gas remains ‘cheap’ and people vote in nationalistic, ‘status quo’ / ‘roll back’ fashion, it’s hard to imagine electric cars saving the planet.

  • Sonya October 8, 2017, 5:54 pm

    Thanks for clarifying a lot of my open questions about the Nissan Leaf. Currently we have 2 cars, a sedan and a minivan. The minivan sits in the garage most days unless I have to make a run to Costco. My husband uses his sedan for his daily commute, but will be FI in 15 months. At that time, we’ll likely be able to unload his sedan and share the van. I don’t think buying a leaf right now makes sense if we can just share our existing multipurpose van in the near future. It is so enticing though–with all of the government and energy company credits available will bring it below $20K . Thoughts???

    • Alicia Kennelly October 24, 2017, 9:49 am

      Have you considered a Ford C-Max Energi? It is a compact cargo vehicle that is a plug-in hybrid, and can go short distances on purely electric power (20 miles or so, IIRC) and then can operate as a traditional hybrid after that range. It won’t replace a 3-row minivan or a large cargo hauler, but it may be an in-between option.

  • Jesper October 9, 2017, 4:19 am

    God i wish our (Denmark) government subsidized these type of cars more. A Nissan Leaf is ~$45K here, no one in their right mind would go for an electric car when then gasoline counterpart is less than half.

  • Mrs. Picky Pincher October 9, 2017, 6:50 am

    This is AWESOME. I love seeing electric cars becoming more competitive and more affordable. After Hurricane Harvey we had a gas scare/shortage in our area. It was humbling to see how swiftly a lack of gasoline can bring an area to its knees. We need to diversify our fuel options, and electric cars are a fantastic option.

    I think the only reason I haven’t switched is because of the long road trip issue. I regularly drive 5+ hours (one way) to visit my family; I’d love for electric cars to have either a longer range or a faster charge time.

    • Andrew Mullen October 18, 2017, 12:58 pm


  • RelaxedGal October 9, 2017, 7:12 am

    Tip on the Leaf: maintenance is so infrequent that things rust out. I had some serious brake work this summer because the brake calipers froze up (because I mainly use regenerative braking) – and my usual repair shop wouldn’t touch the fancy electric brakes so I had to go to the dealership. I put windshield fluid in a the start and end of the summer, and both times the hood wouldn’t latch close – the latch was rusty enough that it stuck in the “open” position. WD-40 and a lever loosened that up both times but I need to pick up some good grease to protect that.

    I drive a 2012 Leaf with 62,000 miles in Massachusetts where we salt the roads liberally.

  • TheRidge October 9, 2017, 7:53 am

    Great report! Good to hear all the positive things about EVs in general, but I am not really surprised to hear your frustrations with after sales support. FYI: Old Leafs here in Japan are unbelievably cheap due to short battery life and poor support. In my experience driving several electric cars (for short runs though), nothing beats a Tesla so far.


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