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!


  • Ashley October 9, 2017, 8:47 am

    Yay! We love our Leaf!
    We bought our (used 2015) Leaf in April 2017 and have already taken a roadtrip from MD to FL and back as well as a quick trip to TN from MD and back to view the eclipse :)

    It was an adventure for sure, but it was thrilling to have our trip be almost FREE with the charging stations available! Some states like NC have really got it going on! GA south of Atlanta there was some white knuckling it to the next station since there aren’t many cities on our route thataways, but it was an fun adventure with my three kids :)

    • Chuck October 14, 2017, 10:16 pm

      I don’t think I have the patience for road tripping with a leaf, I’m guessing you’ve got the quick charger.

      I bought my 2014 leaf new in March of 2016, so coming up on 2 years.
      Just rolled over 20k miles in 15 months.

      Maintenance: $28 for 2 tire rotations and a cabin air filter.
      Electricity: $467
      Insurance: $570
      Registration/tags $90
      Current running cost are at roughly 6 cents a mile

      Depreciation is a cost that I’ll consciously ignore like every other car owner until the cars totaled or sold.

    • Doug October 23, 2017, 2:03 pm

      Another eclipse chaser here. I’m duly impressed that you made those road trips all that distance with an electric car. I made the trip from Ontario to Kentucky and back for the eclipse with an old fashioned (but paid for) gasoline fueled car. On those longer white knuckle trips between charging stations were you going slower (less wind drag) to conserve energy?

  • Darell Dickey October 9, 2017, 10:02 am

    I have a 2011 Leaf (my newest automobile, and my 5th EV). And the biggest drag is as you say: I have this otherwise awesome car that looks, smells and handles like new. But I can’t get a modern, higher-capacity battery for it now that my original doesn’t offer the range we require. I’m glad you’re holding out hope that Nissan corporate will change their mind on that – but I have to wonder where your hope comes from. They’ve left their early adopters to swing in the wind from day one. I was on the first Leaf Advisory Board, and met with the executives who were in charge of the Leaf program. From the beginning, there was no plan to provide for the early buyers – everything is concentrated on new, and ever-increasing sales. Sales numbers is all that matters. Putting money and effort into low-margin battery improvements for older cars just isn’t on the menu. If you know something different, please share. And I’m here to help in any way that I can.

  • wally October 9, 2017, 10:34 am

    I know it’s not very mustachian(?) to buy a brand new vehicle but the Bollinger B1 (all electric SUV) might be the exception. The price and availability are still in the works but an EV that can carry 4×8 sheets of plywood sounds promising…

  • Stan October 9, 2017, 1:51 pm

    I think the whole idea of electric cars is great for people having a house with strong electric connection. Plus your city, or country got to have lot of charging points to refill battery. What if I live in the old town in city centre of Poland. How will You charge the car? Hang the 40m cable from my window to the parking place? There is only one charging point in the 600000 people city (Gdansk). I think only hybrid cars for now…

  • Mary October 9, 2017, 2:11 pm

    I bought a used 2013 Leaf SL in Dallas Thanksgiving 2016. It was coming off a 3 year lease At a price of $9800 and 18k miles, it seemed a compelling value.
    I LOVE this car!!! It is my daily driver. I prefer it over my 2010 Lexus 350ES. My daily commute is about 20 miles, so there is plenty of range for my needs. I have kept the Lexus for trips outside of the Leaf’s range, but I am starting to question that decision. For the price of the Lexus insurance, I could rent a car whenever I needed it and come out ahead. In comparison to the Lexus, my Leaf is a dream to maneuver, park and turn around. Its Bose sound system blows the Lexus out of the water. Plus, it has a heated steering wheel, which I love (standard on Leafs)!!!

    Downside: It gets only 45 miles range in the dead of winter (< 30 degrees F), vs 80 in the summer. That's still plenty for me, but I have to be careful with my driving habits in winter. I can't take long road trips like I could if I had a Tesla, due to the lack of fast recharging stations for non-Teslas on the highways. Still, for the money, a used Leaf is a way better deal than a Tesla or any gasoline-powered car out there.

    I will never buy another gasoline-powered car. They just don't make economic sense to me anymore.

  • Dan F. October 9, 2017, 2:58 pm

    Even better deals are out there for a savvy shopper since the greater range vehicles are out. I scooped a 2015 base model Leaf with 21,000 miles on it a few months ago for $7,300 at auction. Needed nothing, even has the quick charge option. Perfect for commuting and living gas and maintenance free. Tons of them out there for 6-8k, perfect for everyday driving

  • Ed October 9, 2017, 3:04 pm

    The problem arises with people like me, who drive 190 round-trip to work a couple of times per week. There are no charging stations in the .gov provided airline employee parking lot at the airport where I am based. I’ll wait until batteries give me the freedom of mobility that I require.

  • Anthony C October 9, 2017, 5:16 pm

    I bought a Leaf a few months ago and it is great. I’m also in Colorado and was able to get the mystery $10k discount. I would have preferred a Bolt but I can’t justify the $15k difference in price.

    The Leaf does have a couple quirks. If you’re tall (6′ 4″), you can drive the Leaf but you can’t be a passenger because the passenger seat doesn’t have height adjustment. Also the steering wheel doesn’t telescope out and the headlights are pretty dim, but the basic stereo is really good. Seems like odd things to skimp on.

  • TNS October 9, 2017, 5:16 pm

    I was super into this until I saw that Leafs in my area (California) are more like $32,000 rather than $14,000. Where are you getting your numbers from?

  • James H October 9, 2017, 5:53 pm

    I would get an electric car (used) when my current seldom used gasoline model gives up the ghost. Except for one thing. I live in a complex with no ac plugs available and I am retired. Not that I am looking but Tesla and the rest sound real exciting. Hybrid may be in my future.

  • Mighty Investor October 9, 2017, 9:41 pm


    Another great, thought-provoking article. One of my relatives is debating between the Leaf and holding out for a Tesla Model 3. She has the deposit down for the Model 3. Personally, I’d probably just do the Leaf and lock in all the tax discounts. But your articles provide great food for thought. Please keep up your compelling writing!

    Mighty Investor

  • GB October 10, 2017, 8:38 am

    As usual, some negativity here, so I thought I would sprinkle a positive spin on EVs. One of the aspects that MMM didn’t mention about electric vehicles (or maybe did – I skimmed the article too quickly!) – is how silent they are. Sometimes I wonder what freeways would look (and sound like) if all vehicles were replaced by EVs. There would be some tire and wind noise, to be sure, but crossing a freeway overpass/bridge on foot wouldn’t perhaps require me to fumble for earplugs – may be even have a conversation with a walking partner.

    Still, I’m very reluctant to sell my used gas car of 15 years and jump the gun on to EV, mostly out of higher insurance and registration expense. I drive minimally (less than 3000 miles per year), so I guess that evens things out. Wouldn’t mind trying the Model 3, though.

  • Rob October 10, 2017, 9:18 am

    Still can’t quite justify. My last Toyota Matrix (crashed, not our fault), averaged approx $1100 per year in maintenance + depreciation, and approx $1200 in fuel per year to drive an average of 20,000 km’s. Total cost of ownership (not including licensing and insurance etc) was around $2300 per year, spanning 7 years. A new Leaf will cost me $25k (after rebates), but will apparently only cost me around $200 per year to charge. Yes, I’ll save $1k per year in fuel, but it will never catch up with the initial purchase price.

    My “new” Toyota Matrix is a 2009 purchased for $6500 with 50,000 km’s. In summary…….more room, way more distance, cheaper overall cost of ownership (vs new Leaf, based on 10 years of forecasted ownership). I’d love to get on the EV band wagon, but it still doesn’t make good financial/utility sense….for me.

    • Michael Sheldon October 10, 2017, 8:18 pm

      Are you comparing a brand new EV to a used gas car? That’s hardly a fair comparison.

      Used 2015 Leafs in my area with half the mileage of your used car are around 10k. So for an extra 3500 dollars you get a newer car and save 1k per year in fuel. You break even in 3 and a half years!

      • Rob October 11, 2017, 2:53 pm

        2015 Leaf in my area is $19 – $21k (autotrader.ca).

  • Doug October 10, 2017, 10:45 am

    To buy an electric car or not to buy an electric car, that is the question. While it’s not out of the question my next car will be electric, I don’t drive a lot of miles so the economics presently don’t support it. The low mileage driven is because of being retired and, following MMM’s example of biking a lot for short trips around town. Add to that I’ll often use public transportation for longer trips if I don’t need a car at destination. At that rate my 2002 Honda should last many years, so if it dies an electric car is only an option if bought at a competitive price.

    Of course if the engine or transmission gives up the ghost there’s the option of an electric conversion. How to go about it? If you live in or near Ottawa you could try REV consultants: http://www.revconsultants.com/ . If you want to build an electric car on the cheap, have a look at http://www.forkenswift.com for some ideas. Here’s another link you may find interesting: http://www.evco.ca . This site, of an electric vehicle club in Ottawa has links to other electric vehicle sites also.

  • Nick Michaels October 10, 2017, 11:50 am

    Great post! After reading your initial article last fall, my wife and I bought a 2013 and 2015 Leaf for $8200 and $10,000 respectively. We had been using a 2013 Mazda5 and 2008 Honda Odyssey to commute and cart our 4 children around. Once we realized that there were actually only 1-2 times per week that we needed everyone in the car, we sold the Mazda5 and kept the Odyssey as our “trip / visiting relatives 20 miles away” car – now we fill up the tank maybe once a month if we don’t take trips.

    Our frugalizing of our budget allowed us to pay off the vans shortly after getting the Leafs and have the loans we took out for the Leafs paid off in short order.

    We got a EVSE from emotorwerks and it has been working great. Have you used the LeafSpy app at all?

    As for people mentioning battery degradation of Leafs I have a 2015 with 22K on it and I still get ~100 miles on a charge… So my suggestion would be to get a 2014+ and don’t drive like an American.

  • CowboyAndIndian October 10, 2017, 11:55 am

  • FrugalFin October 10, 2017, 1:15 pm

    I really like about this site, have been reading your stuff over 2 years now. MMMs post about electric bicycle is really inspiring and so is this new post about EV cars on winter. I live in Finland and winters over there are long, dark and cold. We have long distances between cities.
    Our biggest city, Helsinki got only little bit over 500,000 residents. We have alot of cars in Finland but driving is really expensive. New Leaf costs over 39,000 euros (45,800 in dollars) so its not a wise option for many.
    We need better charging network and a lot of batteries to make EV cars work in there. I hope this gets better in future.
    I bought my Skoda Fabia 1.9 TDI wagon model 2008 one year ago for 2600 euros and it gets (4.5 l/100 km) 52 MPG. I am 24 years old and i have built a nice over 30,000 euros worth of stocks during last two years working in sales industry.
    When my financial independence gets better i can hopefully think about owning EV car. EV bicycle sounds more like good option for me. With it I could cut some car driving.
    I have also 2 old aircooled Volkswagens, would be cool to install EV kit and batteries to one. Atleast it is much cheaper than buying a new EV vehicle in that time in this country.

  • Karri October 10, 2017, 1:50 pm

    Hi MMM, thanks for the good post. I’d like to point out that the 20% loss in range at 15F probably comes from air friction on lower temperatures and rolling resistance.And of course from heating the cabin. But the point is that modern batteries cope well with low temperatures and rolling resistance combined with air friction eats up the range. Br, engineer from cold Finland

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 10, 2017, 9:05 pm

      Good theories Karri, but I found the range returns almost to full if I first heat the battery to summer-like temperatures (via driving and quick charging).

  • Dina October 10, 2017, 3:51 pm

    We purchased a used Leaf for just over $7000 after someone finished up their 3-year lease. Because we bought it after a lease, we were technically the first registered owners of the car and were eligible for the tax rebate of just over $7000. The Leaf is the best free car we’ve ever owned. I could buy several more free Leafs if that tax credit lasts long enough!!

    • Jwheeland October 11, 2017, 10:19 am


    • 3laine October 15, 2017, 9:50 pm

      Are you talking about the Federal Credit? Whoever owned the car during the lease is eligible for the credit, not the person who buys it afterward. For example, BMW Financial gets the $7,500 credit when someone leases an i3, and they pass the credit along to the lessee in the form of a discount off of the price of the car. The person who buys it after the lease is over won’t get the credit because BMW Financial already got it.

  • MKE October 11, 2017, 11:17 am

    I am consistently astonished, despite the perhaps less-than-heartfelt posts about “clown cars” notwithstanding, that this blog doubles as a breathless giddy assessment of how wonderful cars are. Cars suck. Period. Does driving a Leaf or some other BS electric death machine enable you to drive at your own personal pace? Do you get to drive on any side of the road? Do you save money? Do you get to avoid that feeling that you are pissing your life away sitting in traffic? Driving an electric vehicle and promoting one just makes all the lazy car addicts more smug and spreads the ignorance. I am not convinced that an electric car kills fewer people or spending hours trapped inside of one is less soul-sucking than driving any other car.
    How do you read the “Happy City” book and then write this? Everyone hates cars until they get suckered into opening their wallet for the latest whiz-bang bedazzled object. Then their feelings follow the money, and they have to justify the purchase to reconcile the cognitive dissonance, and suddenly that car becomes an object of reverence.

    • Brendan October 11, 2017, 1:09 pm

      MKE- But cars are pretty wonderful, despite their obvious drawbacks, and MMM’s criticism of cars (and especially trucks) is how inefficiently they are used, not the fact that they are used. Case in point: I shared a car with my wife for the last 3 years as I work from home and she was in med school. Here’s what I/we learned: 1)biking is fun, safe, and efficient, and Las Vegas has excellent cycling infrastructure. 2)Biking more than 10 miles in the summer heat (in Vegas) is simply exhausting no matter what time of day it is. 2b) biking in winter wind storms (a weekly occurrence here in the desert) simply sucks. 3) having a paid off, used, car has far more utility to me in my situation than the money I spent on said used car, especially since I still bike a lot and don’t have a daily commute. I find that I now truly appreciate driving (like I did when I turned 16). If I still lived in a Boston or DC, I’d likely ditch my car thanks to density, expense, traffic, and mass transit, but Vegas is not Boston or DC.

    • Kevin October 11, 2017, 2:48 pm

      one can hold two thoughts in their heads at once – that cars are wonderful feats of engineering that have the potential to make our lives much better, and also that if overused they abuse critical natural resources, directly counteract their best attributes (going long distances quickly), drain finances, and contribute to poor health and stress.

  • CrystalB October 11, 2017, 11:43 am

    Just putting in a plug for my lovely Spark EV. I’m in Utah, and we know snow. With snow tires, and careful driving, the thing is a beast. Even better than the Mitsubishi Evo or the Subarus I used to have. I joke that my husband and I are car whores. We are the type of people who oogle cars online, who research and read specs on cars, who love the feel of the road. We are also not people who enjoy biking at all, and we have tried. We have been through 18 cars in the 11 years we have been married, always looking for the next pretty thing. But since I purchased my Spark, I found true love. <3 I get 70-80 miles in the summer and 50 or so in the winter. But I love the responsiveness, the torque, and the smooth and quiet ride. Even my husband loves it. We drive my Spark more than our other car, or our motorcycles combined. So Electric really is the thing- even for former car whores like myself.

  • Brendan October 11, 2017, 12:22 pm

    A shiny new or slightly used electric car has been on my wish list since 2012, but it’s still very much in the “want” part of my list, not the “need”. I did buy a friend’s 2007 Prius a few months ago for my wife as a commuter car, and we absolutely love it; the thing is just so damn practical and efficient. My thoughts were if I love a hybrid-electric car so much, I’m sure full electric cars are just as awesome as everyone says. The lack battery temperature control with the LEAF worries me though, since I live in Las Vegas and the intense, round the clock, summer, heat reduces battery life and capacity at a much faster rate than in cooler climates.

  • ZJ Thorne October 11, 2017, 10:26 pm

    What do you think will happen in the next four years of EV? I can’t imagine “needing” a car before then and I’d rather hold out for autonomous driving so that my girlfriend with a disability can get all the places she needs to be and I can hop bus.

    • Brendan October 12, 2017, 10:05 am

      Well, I think the cars will become a lot more mainstream, judging by the 2018 Leaf redesign, and I’d guess that the price per kWh will drop every year as economies of scale factor in. But, for some vehicles, there’s still a nice tax break if one has a high enough tax bill to take advantage of it. I’m sure the extra options will become standard or a lot cheaper if you want to wait a couple of years.

  • Stephen October 12, 2017, 8:50 am

    One of the points that has stuck in my mind ever since I started reading you blog was your calculation on the cost of driving, something like $.50/mile when you factor in all the costs. Do you think this would be any lower with an electric vehicle? From what I’ve heard there is far less maintenance required on an electric motor compared to an ICE.

  • Georgi October 12, 2017, 10:31 am

    Ah Mr Mustache, you and your hate for AWD/4WD tech. I don’t get why a smart man like you keeps saying AWD has no safety benefits over FWD. And no, I’m not talking about acceleration, or that you can stop faster (you can’t) or any of the other stupid ideas most people have when they get an AWD (no winter tires cause I have AWD?!!?)

    We all agree traction is where it’s at yeah? Then why can’t you see that power applied to the wheels/tires changes the traction of that tire, and having the ability to modify(usually reduce) the power of all 4 wheels individually allows you to maintain traction better vs only being able to do it on 2 wheels (RWD or FWD)… It’s not really that complicated…

    And I’m not even going to go into you making a big deal about AWD cars being heavier than FWD ones.

    It’s ok, I guess it’s one of those things that makes for more attractive writing…

  • Mr. FC October 12, 2017, 10:51 am

    I had a 2013 Volt for 3 years, did great on my LA commute but hands down the most uncomfortable car I’ve ever driven. Held on to it as long as I did because I loved how cheap it was to run. Hills really did a number on EV range, though, and since I live practically on a mountain we have a lot of hills around to scale. Great going down (used almost no electrons) but sucked wind coming back. (This is also part of the reason I don’t have a bike commute…wussy, I know.)

    Interested to know how the Leaf does on hills? Does it really kill range the same way?

  • Karl B. October 12, 2017, 11:29 am

    In July 2016 I built an electric bike that I built because of a story I read here. 7500 miles later, I am glad I did it.

    My take away on (electric) bikes are that they are not at as reliable as a car. You must be prepared to do regular maintenance (chain, sprockets, tires) and flat repair regularly. I am lucky if I can go 500 miles on my bike without an issue. No car needs care that often.

    My car commute was between 35-50 minutes. My bike commute is between 55-65 minutes. In exchange for the extra 20-30 minutes commute time, I get an additional hour of exercise. My weekly “intensity minutes” range from 500 to over 1000. According to Garmin, Intensity Minutes are at least 10 consecutive minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activities. I am much stronger and fitter than I have been for decades.

    We recently bought a 2017 Volt for my wife. She commutes a longer distance but the opposite direction from myself. She didn’t like the Leaf or the Bolt due to their size and Leaf’s range was too small. The Volt was a compromise. We opted for the top of the line Volt for Adaptive Cruise Control and High-Speed Forward Control Braking. The latter feature is rare among most cars and I think a revolutionary safety feature.

    She loves the Volt and the electric mode of the car. It does have an engine, but since the gas motor only accounts for less than half of the miles, the first oil change won’t come until after 20,000 miles! We have taken the Volt on 300-400 mile trips without issue thanks to the gas motor.

    The electricity where I live is on the expensive side. Basically it is equivalent to $2.70/gallon, based on 42mpg of the Volt. So, yes it costs us more currently to drive in electric mode but electric mode has other benefits like less maintenance, etc…

    At the end of the day, we will end up paying $20,000 for a $40,000 car after all dealer incentives, state and federal rebates are considered. We it comes time to replace my car or her, it won’t be with a car with a gas only motor…

  • Yard Work October 12, 2017, 8:43 pm

    Dear MMM audience, I wrote a whole complainy thing and then deleted it. MMM is losing his edge on his attitude on cars, not idea why. Let me try to channel 2013 MMM:

    Don’t buy this car. Don’t buy any car. Move closer to work, sell your car. You don’t need one.

    Buy a bike.

    • Andrew Mullen October 16, 2017, 6:41 am

      I don’t think he’s telling all of the hardcore bike riding mustachians to ditch their bikes and buy an EV. He’s just being realistic…our entire society is built around the automobile and most people are just not ready to ditch them. For the majority of drivers an EV is a much better alternative…better for your wallet, our air quality, and 5.5x more energy efficient than ICE power. Biking is still #1, but if you just absolutely cannot ditch the car then don’t be an asshole….drive an EV.

  • dwieland October 12, 2017, 9:46 pm

    Something important is being overlooked in the raves about electric vehicles — the costs other than to the vehicle owner. Yes, a plug-in car seems cheap to operate (although high and rising electricity rates in some jurisdictions should give pause). But there are other costs that should be considered, costs that shift the environmental burden out of the view of urban/suburban drivers and costs to all taxpayers of subsidizing e-cars. This article from the executive director of the environmental organization Energy Probe (https://ep.probeinternational.org/2017/10/06/lawrence-solomon-why-the-e-in-e-car-actually-stands-for-evil/) describes it well.

    • Slim October 13, 2017, 6:05 am

      Get out of here with that propaganda drivel.
      If you want to do a end to end analysis and comparison, than do it. But include all externalities, including the power used to refine petroleum products (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQpX-9OyEr4) The health impacts of petroleum cars, the fact that wind can be done very well off-shore (the U.S. could be nearly self-sufficient if we used our coastline the way the UK does). In short, tell me how much more electricity we’ll need to power electric cars only after accounting for the electricity generation that we’ll save when that same number of cars no long require gasoline to be refined from petroleum (through electrical power).

      We could get further into the weeds when we start to include the costs of climate change, but that’s sort of laughable in the current political climate.

      The website you linked to can not be trusted.

      • Slim October 13, 2017, 6:19 am

        I should have cited my off-shore wind claim.
        “…U.S. offshore wind has a technical resource potential of more than 2,000 GW of capacity, or 7,200 TWh of generation per year. For context, this is nearly double the nation’s current electricity use.”
        Worth noting that the statement above comes after they pare down the gross potential to just the areas that would be easiest to develop for wind power.

        And of course by the time that were pursued, wind power technology will likely have advanced even further…..

        • dwieland October 13, 2017, 11:48 pm

          When you’re proposing large-scale electricity sources, such as the offshore generation you reference and equally all others whether considered “green” or not, you must also consider distribution. Even if you disregard the considerable transmission loss, power-line corridors are ugly things. Do you really want a lot more of them so that an e-car refueling network can be fed? Dreams are fine, but our assumptions should always be challenged. For e-cars to significantly replace liquid-fueled ones, we’ll need a lot of new infrastructure. Please don’t look at only energy cost, but consider how our urban and rural landscapes would be changed. Eliminating tailpipe emissions incurs offsetting costs. That doesn’t make electric vehicles undesirable, but it does, or certainly should, broaden the universe of discourse. Remember that no form of electricity generation is truly benign; all cause damage in some way.

          By the way, it’s inappropriately disrespectful to call reasonable comment “propaganda drivel” (especially when it’s presented with supporting data) and to denounce Energy Probe as untrustworthy. Please keep your mind open, because we’re all prone to thinking we know more than we do.

          • Slim October 16, 2017, 10:58 am

            Please acknowledge the electrical demands of petroleum refining.

    • Andrew Mullen October 16, 2017, 6:55 am

      Creating one gallon of gasoline requires a great deal of precious energy. When this gallon is consumed only 17% of this energy is actually used, the rest is simply wasted. Gasoline, when burned, also generates toxic fumes that will kill you (I’d prefer that my children not breath this). We’d have to be brain dead to think that this is the answer. Time to move on folks…stop defending the business as usual economy.

      • dwieland December 11, 2017, 7:23 pm

        You shouldn’t exaggerate the toxicity of the exhaust of newer IC engines or ignore the toxicity of the materials used in batteries and the environmental and health hazards of their production and disposal. And although you may not think of Li-ion batteries as flammable like gasoline, they still present a fire hazard and additional danger to firefighters (https://principia-scientific.org/toxicity-fires-the-green-electric-power-lie/).
        Let’s keep our brains fully alive to all issues as we aim for Mustachian frugal living. We must beware thinking we’ve got all the answers; we’re just not that smart.

  • Ralph October 14, 2017, 12:55 pm

    Another piece of data on the issue of auto crash safety is this quote from the NHTSA. “Frontal crash rating results can only be compared to other vehicles in the same class and whose weight is plus or minus 250 pounds of the vehicle being rated.” If my 3300 pound Accord collides with a tiny car, I maybe have an “8-star rating”, but if it collides with a giant SUV with eight people in it, maybe I’m down to a 2-star. Reality and simple high school physics can be a real bitch sometimes.

    • Andrew Mullen October 18, 2017, 1:24 pm

      Safety is about a lot more than just mass. Consider an F-1 car…very lightweight (1,500 lbs) yet very safe because the frame is designed to protect the driver. Many modern cars are designed in this matter. Everyone thinks that they need the heavier vehicle to keep their families safe yet this unnecessary mass makes collisions much more violent. We’d all be better off if our vehicles were much lighter.

    • CZ_Technically_Frugal October 22, 2017, 4:13 pm

      What about buying used Tatra 815 8×8 for about $5000? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatra_815

      If your 3300 pound Accord collides with empty 30 000 pound Tatra 815, you maybe have an “8-star rating”, but if it collides with even empty Tatra, maybe you’re down to a 1-star. Reality and simple high school physics can be a real bitch sometimes.

      It has 6mpg (maybe 8mpg, when empty, but it’s my guess), which isn’t good fuel economy even for SUV, but it can be converted from diesel to natural gas, which improves the fuel economy more than twice in heavily fuel-taxed Europe. Or to woodgas in USA, which will be even more effective (and there is lot of space). So it can be cheaper even to drive (not just to buy), than big SUV. Then there is no problem with bad roads. The car defines what’s considered as road. O.K., it shouldn’t contain trees thicker, than 8″ and holes deeper than 5′.

      And the perfect auto crash safety can be improved easily. Just don’t sit in cabin, but on rails in cargo bay and use drive by wire. Simple brake on rails driven by computer gives you several times longer deceleration path, than in 10-star SUV. It would be illegal slightly (just because law isn’t prepared for it), but you’ll have enough time to walk through the cargo bay to the cabin in case on police check – just use reflecting glass.

      Considering the fact, that the car will be street legal, cheaper (to buy and operate both), than a new SUV and impossible to overload (70 thousands pounds is enough probably), why to buy anything else?

      • Renard October 23, 2017, 7:12 am

        How about a duece and 1/5? Avail at auction for less than 5 grand, run on everything from crushed coal, used motor oil, diesel to jet A……..Open air cab for free styling…..’merica! A touch older than the Tatra, but easily modified and often bobbed to 4×4….I mean who really needs 6 wheel drive?

        • CZ_Technically_Frugal October 23, 2017, 12:44 pm

          The M35 you have mentioned looks pretty tough according to Wikipedia. I hope that crushed coal as fuel is joke (or I need to learn about another injector design :-)), but the rest would fit to Tatra’s engine too. Gasoline may be problem a bit, I’m not sure.

          Both Tatra and M35 would serve as good SUV crusher. But shouldn’t I be afraid of truck crushing me in one of them?

          Wouldn’t be better this version https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OT-64_SKOT (available for 3 grand in 1990’s)? Merkava seems to be the best daily commuter, it has multifuel turbine, which is much simpler than multi-cylinder piston engine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merkava I’m glad, I’m working from home :-) the insurance for Merkava would be crushing.

  • skeeder October 16, 2017, 9:55 am

    All these reports…drive me nuts. In Michigan something around 50% of our power is Coal.
    They are talking about stopping the nuclear plants which is 13% of our energy, somewhere around 16% is renewable.

    So…for my area, an “electric” car is really a “coal powered car”.

    When the first Prius rolled off the lot it was a huge success, but to create the batteries, mine the materials, and manufacture them created alot of pollution. Some people say its less eco-friendly than a hummer.

    No thanks, I’d rather have us switch to natural gas like SO MANY NATIONS HAVE. and keep clean air and cars that refill without several hours of wait. Without as much environmental damage.

    Batteries aren’t the future for cars. It’s a trend. It happened once. It will pass.

    • Slim October 18, 2017, 7:21 am

      It’s a trend, huh?

      “Here’s how every major automaker plans to go electric” http://mashable.com/2017/10/03/electric-car-development-plans-ford-gm/?utm_cid=mash-com-fb-tech-link#F_zHO5HUiRqa

    • Andrew Mullen October 18, 2017, 1:30 pm

      You are mistaken sir.

    • Doug October 19, 2017, 9:27 pm

      Skeeder makes a valid point here. In places where a lot of electricity is generated by burning coal there’s no environmental advantage of electric cars. Quite frankly I’m surprised there isn’t more interest in running cars on compressed natural gas instead of electric. From what I’ve read here, electric cars don’t work so well in cold weather. I lived in Timmins, Ontario where it gets quite cold in the winter. In that kind of climate an electric vehicle wouldn’t be practical.

      So is there a future for electric cars? Probably, but don’t expect all cars to be electric any time soon. They are an environmentally viable option if charged if charged by a utility with low carbon generation like Hydro Quebec, with mainly hydroelectric power. In Ontario, something like 50 to 60% of electricity is generated by nukes and 20 to 30% by renewables and the rest by gas fueled plants, not too bad for carbon emissions. Similarly, some countries like Iceland or New Zealand have very low carbon power generation and import all their fossil fuels, so electric cars would be a good option in such a country. What about range of electric cars? In the foreseeable future, a 2 car family may have an electric car for shorter trips and a gasoline fueled car for the longer trips, or just have an electric and rent a gasoline fueled car for infrequent long trips as MMM suggested.

      • Slim October 20, 2017, 7:13 am

        Even electric powered by coal is still better than gasoline: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bkh5nnMac7U

        “Repeatedly studies have shown even if the electricity comes from coal, electric cars are cleaner than gasoline”

      • Jason October 23, 2017, 4:32 pm

        Compressed natural gas is like Propane -not really a great idea in very cold climates. The lines ice up very easily. On top of that, compressed natural gas requires a lot of energy to do the compressing, and much of it comes from fracking -a pretty big issue if you care about your environment.

        As far as coal -the math disagrees with you. On top of that, it’s easier to shift baseload power than suddenly increase the fuel economy of a significant fraction of a nation’s ICE vehicle fleet.

    • nereo October 21, 2017, 2:54 pm

      The purpose of throwing out phrases like “coal powered car” seems to be deliberate trolling. If we’re to take skeeder’s figures at face value, than the electricity used to recharge an EV in Michigan would come from 50% coal fired plants, and 50% from other sources (including renewables and natural gas). So right off the bat its only partially powered by coal.

      Then there’s the issue that coal plants are often more efficient at producing energy than a car’s engine (as Slim points out).

      Coal fired plants are rapidly being phased out as other sources (particularly natural gas, but also renewables in some areas) are more price competitive and politically favorable. Increased use of EVs will create increased demand, thereby hastening the turnover. More demand = lower percentage of coal power.

      As for why more cars in the US and Canada don’t run on LNG – that’s always been a distribution problem (aka chicken-and-egg problem). Unlike electrical outlets (which are everywhere nad easy to convert into fast chargers) there simply are not many places to refill an LNG powered car. If we had more LNG cars there would certainly be more options, but we don’t… and so far we’ve never gotten past that problem. A number of trucking companies have helped build out LNG fueling stations along major coradors as prices for natural gas have plummeted and diesel was high, but then diesel fuel dropped back down to ~$2.25/gal and the economic incentive dropped with it. Plus, the volatility (potential explosion hazard) has always been a slippery issue for LNG cars and depots here in the US.

  • Qmania October 17, 2017, 10:12 pm

    MMM inspired me to buy a Leaf. This summer I found a 2013 with 53K miles on Craigslist. The seller was asking $7K but I talked him down to $6K because the front tires were bald and the rear bumper is scratched up. The back tires were still fine, so I bought two new ones for $230. Total cost: $6,230. No one but me notices the scratches. Other than that, it looks brand new.

    So far, I love the Leaf. It is fun to drive and incredibly fast when you want it to be. I have been a little worried about how it will do in winter, so I was glad to hear MMM’s report.

    A couple of observations for others considering a Leaf:

    1. Battery degradation doesn’t seem to be much of an issue. After 54K miles, my Leaf still has 11 of 12 bars.

    2. I had to pay about $150 extra to register it, because Idaho tries to make up for the gas tax I won’t be paying. This was particularly annoying because I do not drive all that much.

    3. It took me a while to realize that the miles per kWh meter in the car is measuring the power coming out of the battery, which is not the same as the power coming out of the wall. You pay for the power coming out of the wall. While the car tells me I am getting 4.60 miles per kWh coming out of the battery, my Kill-a-Watt meter tells me I am getting just 3.26 miles / kWh coming out of the wall. Still, even at summer electricity rates ($0.1241 / kWh here in Idaho) I figure that is still roughly the equivalent of about 72 miles per gallon. Winter rates will be even better.

  • Igor October 18, 2017, 4:25 am

    I’m curious about your battery health. Your previous article pointed out your LeafSpy SOH went down to 89%, what is it today? I ask because I have a 2016 30kw model and the SOH plunged from 94 to 86% in a few days, not sure whether to freak out or not!

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 21, 2017, 5:31 pm

      I find that the “state of health” seems to be an ever-changing estimate, which mostly correlates with battery temperature and recent driving (it drops with short drives and partial recharges in cooler weather). But my warm-weather range remains the same as new, as far as I can tell. I’ll update the ongoing experiment page if I notice a real, measurable drop in performance.

  • Tom October 18, 2017, 11:18 am

    The reason why corporations don’t let you (or anybody else) talk to them is to fend off lawsuits where people later claim that X idea was theirs and that the company stole their ideas without compensation. One way to defend against such lawsuits is to have a corporate policy of declining all unsolicited ideas.

  • Tom October 18, 2017, 11:21 am

    For those who have bought a Leaf used, how do you deal with transporting it from 100’s miles away back to your home base? There are some great deals, but they are are 1,000 miles away. Usually not an issue to pick it up and drive it home, but with the Leaf it is.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 21, 2017, 5:29 pm

      Hey Tom, you might look into “Uship”, which transports cars for a pretty low price.

  • CZ_Technically_Frugal October 18, 2017, 12:01 pm

    I’m not sure about the Leaf – there may be some hardwired trap – but all electric cars from 1990’s I have seen here in Europe wants just two parameters from battery. Maximal voltage and maximal current. So it’s very simple to swap old lead-acid batteries for new LiFePO4 and run 200-400 km with car designed for 100 km or less. The only difference is, that any Lithium based cells MUST have battery management system with cell-balancing ability, because overcharge or undercharge will kill them very quickly.

    Adding heating and thermal insulation is fairly simple. Thermistor, op-amp (as comparator), big transistor (heating batteries too) and some resistors aroud the battery pack. And thermal insulation to not heat up air aroun the car instead of batteries. It’s a bit surprising they didn’t do it in Nissan, because you shouldn’t charge the batteries (even by regenerative braking) when they’re under 5 degC (41 degF). A few pieces of styrofoam or polyurethane foam would fix it probably.

    My new car from 1990’s cost me about $8.5k with batteries good for 200km. Which is pretty crazy price from my point of view (and pretty crazily new car too, my previous were from 1970’s and 1980’s), but lifespan of the batterypack should be about 1 million of miles. So it seems to be my last car :-).

  • Eliza October 18, 2017, 8:24 pm

    I was totally pumped by this review. Knowing how quick things change with technology I got excited and went to check out the Leaf in Australia. Sadly, the 2018 model is set to be priced at around $39,000 which is likely to be a deal breaker for most drivers given what’s available on the market for half that.

    Another downside in this sunbathed country is that our electricity is mostly generated from coal and a lifecycle analysis from a few years ago on electric vehicles showed that unless you were charging from outside of the grid, the carbon emissions of an electric car would be higher than a small petrol engine. It just beggars belief how twisted the system can be.

  • Jessi October 21, 2017, 6:34 pm

    How do you find charge stations? I have seen Tesla ones at the grocery store, but presumably those are only for Tesla.

    • Rosie October 23, 2017, 10:34 am

      Plugshare is a good app/website that seems to list chargers from all the different charging networks – you can narrow it down to show just the type of charger you’re looking for.

  • J. Boman October 23, 2017, 3:38 am

    Great review!
    I have had a look at electric cars for some time but the reduced range in winter is one of my major concerns as it gets very cold where I live. However, you have convinced me that it is possible!
    Thanks for the inspiration:-)

  • Alicia Kennelly October 23, 2017, 12:53 pm

    While it is true that a larger wheel size grants better traction in good weather, that is not necessarily true in heavy rain or now where a smaller contact patch (and a higher weight per square inch of that contact patch) is beneficial to traction. I do recommend snow tires on a separate set of wheels (steel or inexpensive alloy) for anywhere that gets real winter. This not only provides much better winter driving, but allows the selection of a pleasurable summer tire.

    • Alicia Kennelly October 24, 2017, 10:07 am

      Also, people choose a -1 (smaller diameter wheel) for winter use to save money one the wheels and tires.

  • Taron Millet October 26, 2017, 10:22 pm

    Best car I’ve ever owned is my current SMART Electric Drive. I test drove every brand of electric car except the Tesla (’cause I’m not that rich and didn’t want to accidentally fall in love with it) and was very surprised to find that the SMART was the most fun to drive by a decent margin, largely because of rear-engine rear-wheel drive I think (the only other car that has that is, yup, the Tesla). I always thought FWD was better but now realize that it is marketing hype, mostly created to reduce manufacturing costs and increase trunk space, while rear wheel leads to a superior driving experience ( http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/gearbox/2003/04/why_frontwheel_drive_sucks.html ), and rear-wheel rear-engine even moreso, which is why Tesla went that route I imagine. The incredible torque of an electric engine meant that for every other car but the SMART, punching the accelerator lead to peeling out, but the SMART just burst forward at full speed (this is because the weight shifts to the back when you accelerate). It also can stop on a dime, has literally the tightest turn radius of any vehicle on the market, and is the easiest car to park ever.

    Its small size and light weight also makes it one of the most efficient electric cars, though its max range is of course lacking due to smaller battery. We just rent a car for longer trips (or use the train!).

    Unfortunately, the gas-powered SMART car sucks, don’t even bother. Transmission is terrible. The fact that the ED doesn’t HAVE a transmission is part of why the electric version is 10x better.

    Anyway, I LOVE my SMART Electric Drive, as a couple with no kids it serves our needs well, it was cheap (slightly used), incredibly fun to drive, and everyone around us can’t help but smile or wave when they see our cute little car. I’ve never loved a car before, I’ve appreciated them, but this is the first one I’ve loved. Had it for 2 years now and I will NEVER buy a gas car again, I can tell you that much.

    • 3laine December 4, 2017, 2:06 pm

      FWIW, the BMW i3 is “rear-engine rear-wheel drive” also.

  • Bill in NC November 1, 2017, 9:49 am

    New, non-Tesla EVs are better leased than bought.

    The Bolt EV leases are especially attractive right now.

  • Baty Area Mustachian November 6, 2017, 2:30 pm

    Article about the end of the automotive era, recommended by Benedict Evans (of a16z):


  • Tatil Sever November 16, 2017, 9:17 am

    Joining late to the discussion, but I’d like to comment on the *lack of $100 heater for the battery that costs 20% of capacity*. I’d cut Nissan engineers some slack. The battery pack has “active air cooling” to avoid overheating. That means air channels along with, probably, heat sinks and fans. It is designed to expel heat to the outside and it is likely built to be pretty effective at that task even if they turn off the fans. Heating the battery pack up in the garage while plugged in might eventually raise its temperature, but I bet it would quickly go approach the ambient temperature once you start driving around and air starts flowing through the pack.

    Nissan would probably have to add additional mechanical systems to block airflow and the heater itself may have to be diffused through the pack to avoid heating cells unevenly. Large temperature gradients may present a fire risk, as more and more current will flow through the warmer cells/packs, which in turn will heat them up further, completing a vicious circle. At Tesla price range these are not insurmountable problems, but for Leaf, the design and component costs are probably a bit too much. (By the way, a Google search got me some graphs that suggest Tesla Model S is indeed much better at holding its range at low and high temperatures.)

  • Krista Walker November 27, 2017, 4:08 pm

    My husband bought a Chevy Volt from CA when they first came out..VIN # 20. They didn’t even sell them in the state we lived in, AZ. When he went to register the car the person working at the DMV didn’t know what to charge him since there were no electric cars in the state yet, so they charged him $25/year. He’s had the car since 2011. Our state has crazy high car registration, as well, so I love paying it every year!

  • Ben Nelson January 3, 2018, 7:03 am

    I’ve been driving a used electric car for a few years now – a 2012 Mitsubishi iMiEV – probably the least well known (and most overlooked) EV in the United States. I paid $7,000 for it as the second owner. ( I also built and drove my own electric car before that – a 1996 Geo Metro with an electric forklift motor!)
    It’s a modest, but very practical car.
    One place that it rates poorly IS the heat!
    To make up for that, I installed a “Parking Heater” designed for a semi-truck. That’s a very small fuel-burning heater which creates heat for truck drivers to sleep overnight in their cabs instead of having to idle that enormous engine, just for heat.
    I know it sounds crazy to add fossil fuels to an electric car (although I actually am running the heater on ethanol fuel) but it’s a TINY amount of fuel compared to what a gas car uses to to warm the engine, idle at traffic lights, and otherwise WASTE! I also only use that heater on longer trips or when it’s REALLY cold out.
    (I think I used a gallon total last year.)

    A great feature of all electric cars is the “Pre-Conditioning” That lets you remotely pre-heat or pre-cool the car while it is plugged into wall power. On most cars, you can even set that on a timer or control it with a smart-phone app. Just think how luxurious it is to hop into a nice warm car on a very cold morning!

    Another great thing about that is I can do it with my car parked INSIDE my garage with the door CLOSED. Don’t try THAT with your gas car! If I’m parked outside, the defrost of the pre-heat mode is powerful enough to completely melt snow and ice off the car. No more scraping in the cold!

  • Lithium Doesn't Like Extreme Cold January 22, 2018, 9:07 am

    I have a 33 KW 2017 Ford Focus Electric. Bigger battery then the 2017 Leaf. I am located in Ottawa Canada. The car averages 180-210 km (113 -131 miles) range in the summer.

    Winter time for me is an entirely different story in terms of range. The car is left outside plugged in. When it’s really cold (-20 to -30 C, -4 to -22F) at night, the car gets as low as 100km (62.5 miles) of range at 100% charge, WITHOUT the heater/climate control. Speaking with other owners , this massive range degradation is typical in this extreme cold climate.

    Combine this with heating to keep the windows clear (think blizzard) and driving through unplowed/ snowy roads, you could be looking at 60-70 km (38-43 miles) of range on a full charge. Don’t ask me how I know.

    So in the winter, in cold medium sized city, you’re pretty much city bound, if youre caught in a winter storm, perhaps just your corner of the city. Something to keep in mind.

    The car is fantastic otherwise, has auto traction control for the winter which is helpful, its weight makes it feel like a tank ploughing through the snow with winter tires. However it seems one would need to really oversize their battery for cold climate use due to the massive range degradation. For example if you wanted your summer range in the winter as well, you would need a battery at least twice as large, or three times as large if you wanted that summer range in a worst case winter scenario.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 22, 2018, 11:26 am

      Hey Lithum, I agree with your complaints about cold weather range reduction. Only a tiny percentage of the world’s population lives in places as cold as Ottawa (which is the primary reason I no longer live there myself!), but thanks to Europe there are plenty of people that live in at least moderate cold.

      The best solution in my opinion is not a bigger battery, it’s simply an actively heated/cooled/insulated battery as Tesla and GM are already using. In this article, I estimated that only 0.5 kWh of energy could heat the mass of a Leaf/Focus battery up to a much more powerful part of its operating range. You could get this from even a household plug in a fraction of a single hour.

      Nissan (and Ford) just cheaped out for these early versions, and I suppose I can’t blame them – the market niche was still small when these cars were designed, so they probably figured they would just focus initial efforts on drivers in warmer regions.

      What they may have missed is the public relations damage that this triggered: people tend to remember the WORST stories, rather than the weighted average. So everyone shares stories about the earliest Nissan Leaf batteries in Phoenix, AZ, which died untimely deaths, and the Ottawa batteries that can’t go far in winter.

      The lesson for YOU: try to keep your battery warm if you want more range. Ideally, in an insulated garage.

      Driving and DC fast charging also warm up the battery quite quickly. Once your battery warms up, your car performs almost as if it were summer again. So, a car (even a Leaf/Focus) will only perform poorly for its first battery charge of the day. If you then charge it and continue driving, things look much better.

      • Lithium Doesn't Like Extreme Cold January 24, 2018, 12:21 pm

        That’s for the reply MM, a few quick notes:

        – One of the reasons I chose the Focus is the fact that it uses active liquid cooling/heating for thermal management of the battery as opposed to the air cooling system of the Leaf or VW E Golf. Active liquid cooling/heating is supposedly tops ATM in terms of thermal management of these batteries as you astutely noticed.

        – I took a road trip this winter wherein I used several L3 (DC Quick charge (350v/125A)) chargers along the way. I noticed no noticeable improvement in range. I also thought that the range would improve along my trip, however I was driving the car continuously for hours at highway speeds, only stopping to recharge and the range stayed around the same. You would think that would help with the range. I was even forced to use an L2 for 5 hours as one L3 wasn’t working with my car, No noticeable difference (about 100-110km range). Which brings me to my next point.

        – The L3 quick charge network has vastly improved just in the last year in my neck of the woods (Eastern Ontario). Even so they are usually at best 50 km apart outside the city. With 100 km range you need some good planning and hope nothing unexpected comes up along the way. Best to reserve those kind of trips to the summer when you have closer to 200km of range or use a gas car in the winter. I expect this to be a non issue in the near future with bigger/better batteries and more L3 stations.

        – when you plug in the car when parked, its suppose to heat the battery if it’s cold. I always do, yet still get that low range when it’s cold. I use an L1 charger at home (regular 110v, 12 amp plug), I’ve heard rumours that you need to use at least an L2 (240v) charger to engage the heater even though an L1 provides more than enough power as you pointed out. However my road trip experience doesnt seem to suggest that using L2 or L3 chargers ameliorates the range situation vs using an L1.

        – keeping the car in the garage definately helps, the range jumps to around 150 km at above the freezing mark.

        You’re absolutely right that this cold weather behavior only affects only a small percentage of the world population, however I posted these comments in hopes it would be helpful for ppl in this climate that were considering an EV. I’m not sure if the Bolts or Tesla’s experience the same range degradation, maybe others can jump in with that info.

        Ontario has one of the largest EV rebates in NA ATM, so I expect there to be many ppl considering an EV in the near future, thus perhaps many readers of this blog may find this info useful so they go into it with more realistic expectations in terms of winter range performance under varying conditions.

        Ford’s press releases about the active liquid heating system in the Focus touted it as being super amazing in cold weather. Seemingly fooled by marketing again!


        • Mr. Money Mustache January 25, 2018, 11:40 am

          Thanks again – I think the next step in your data collection is to keep actual temperature records of the battery core and compare it to the range.

          Are there any Focus EV equivalents to the Leaf SPY app, which pulls a bunch of useful data out through the OBD-II port and into a phone app? For me, this has been a sanity saver for the Leaf, since the car’s default design is to hide almost all of its data from you and just put a few meaningless unitless bars onto the dashboard (another place where Tesla wins and Nissan sucks!)

          If the garage helps, that means battery temperature IS affecting your range. But perhaps the Focus battery is not heating itself up as much (either actively or passively) as the Leaf does passively.

          A software change from Ford could probably make all the difference – just allow the DRIVER to control the battery’s thermal control setpoint. For longer range, you’d leave the battery at 20C or above. For shorter range, you could ignore the temperature, and the battery could even last longer since Lithium batteries live longer if kept cool most of their lives.

  • Jason January 28, 2018, 2:25 pm

    Disclaimer: I read NONE of the previous comments, just the article, so I apologize for redundancy.
    My family owns a 2013 Nissan Leaf and a 2014 RAV EV (yes these things exist) and both have changed my opinion of cars altogether. I rarely pay more than $3k for a used car and often profit on the resale, so both were a shock to the budget. However, with that said, the fuel cost offsets are not something you can ignore. 95% of our miles have been free, using local free chargers as MMM pointed out. I know that might phase out in time, but we have offset thousands in petroleum costs vs. my old diesel and gas vehicles. The electric cars are as amazing and fun to drive as MMM describes.
    For Nissan Leaf drivers who haven’t already found it, the LEAFSPY pro app + a cheap OBDII tool to me are vital, if not necessary, for driving a Leaf.
    Also, once vehicle to home energy systems are allowed/produced/promoted in the US, this will change the game for anyone, especially those of us with Solar PV systems who aren’t stoked about shoveling out $13k for 2 Powerwalls.

    Love our EVs.
    J & R

  • Dave September 17, 2018, 9:27 am

    I live out in the boonies and drive an SUV, so I have a slightly different perspective. When an electric SUV is available that is truly a replacement for my gas-powered one:

    – Has the same load-carrying and cargo capacity.
    – Has the same range as I get from a tank of gas
    – has access to charging stations everywhere just like gas stations today
    – can be recharged in 10 minutes or less
    – costs the same as my gas-powered SUV

    Then I’ll be eager to buy one.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 19, 2018, 11:14 am

      Yep, that’s what many Americans are waiting for. But remember that electric cars already offer advantages that gas cars can never match, RIGHT NOW. So you may be willing to make tradeoffs to get some of this goodness.
      – free or almost free FUEL
      – never have to stop at a gas station because you charge at home while you’re sleeping
      – faster acceleration
      – instant winter heat
      – no engine noise
      – no pollution
      – take money out of the pockets of OPEC

      I’d never go back to gas cars, and am frankly shocked that anyone is still buying the antique machines.

  • Claire Cohen-Norris October 11, 2018, 5:22 pm

    I agree with almost all that you wrote…except for your condemnation of the Bolt. I drive it a long distance, regularly, as my marriage is long distance. If there are DCFCs in decent supply, as there are throughout New England and Eastern NY, long distance travel is a breeze in the Bolt. Here is my one year summary of the first almost 30,000 miles I drove in my wonderful Chevy BoltEV. https://www.facebook.com/BYE2CO2/photos/a.1510563998966156/1873916092630943/?type=3&theater

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 11, 2018, 7:50 pm

      Cool story Claire! That sounds like the perfect car for your situation. I agree that there are SOME perfect uses for the Bolt, and it is definitely the cheapest range for the price.

      I just wish it had faster charging, because with the upcoming VW-sponsored national network of chargers, it would become a budget Tesla as soon as 125kW charging is everywhere.


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