In the spring 2010, our oldest car turned 10 years old and we started looking around to trade it for a new one. We have two cars in the house, built about five years apart from each other. We found that getting a new car and keeping it for 10 years work the best for us in terms of cost/benefit. We keep them long enough to get a good return compared to leasing, and we still get the pleasure of driving a new car every five years or so. The car we were trading that time was our good old Sienna minivan. Gas prices were a big concern so we decided to go for something smaller. A new Prius model was just being launched, loaded with a huge technology package that makes any geek like me drool, so it felt like a perfect match… until the Deepwater Horizon oil spill happened.
I’m no environmentalist but after watching that out-of-control oil spill for three long months, something hit me. The people that died in the explosion, the extensive damage to marine and wildlife, the communities affected by the impact on fishing and tourism, the pictures from space showing the monster spill moving each day, and the unbelievable cynicism of people in the oil industry, particularly the CEO of BP and his infamous “I want my life back” comment. I just didn’t want to be any part of that.
We go to war because of oil. Lobbies inject millions of dollars into the political system in exchange for easy regulations and high subsidies. Per day, tar sands operations in Alberta release as much CO2 as all the cars in Canada combined. Oil companies are the most profitable companies in the planet, and gas prices always go up inexplicably every Friday before a long weekend. Want it or not, we support this industry. We are a society addicted to oil. After the Deepwater Horizon accident, I decided I should try to break my own addiction.
In early 2010, electric cars were starting to shift from a model of limited-production and very expensive cars, to a system of mass-production affordable cars. The Mitsubishi iMiev announced a cross-Canada tour, and both GM and Nissan started to take orders for the Volt and the Leaf in the United States. I knew it would be just a matter of time before these cars were available in Canada, so I decided to keep my old car a bit longer and registered as a hand-raiser for all three of them.
Both Volt and Leaf were delivered to their first US customers in December 2010. Prices in Canada were announced in the spring 2011 and I was able to test drive a Leaf in May.
So why the Leaf?
It’s the car that best fits our needs. It’s 100% electric and it looks and drives just like a regular car. In terms of size, it’s the only electric car available with five seats and considerable cargo space. It is loaded with high-tech features including 3G access for telemetry and an iPhone app. Its 160 Km range is more than we can ever drive in one day in Ottawa so it will be our primary car (with our second car used for backups and longer road trips). The Leaf is extremely silent and has no vibration. It is very smooth to drive and also incredibly fast to accelerate. It has a very low center of gravity allowing for very sharp turns. Overall it’s a lot of fun to drive.
I look forward to own a car that needs no visits to the gas station and requires no oil change. A car that is clean and doesn’t contribute to air pollution. A car that doesn’t idle in traffic wasting fuel, uses energy efficiently, and charges at night when electricity demand is low and no coal-fired power plants are running.
I also look forward to drive the Leaf in the winter. As one of the first Leaf delivered in cold climates, I plan to monitor the car performance and share the data with other Leaf owners.
Finally, the amount of savings we’ll be making in terms of fuel will easily pay back the extra costs during the lifetime of the vehicle. Compared to our other car, it will be like buying gas at 25 cents a liter, saving us at least $1,500 in fuel and oil changes every year.
All in all, not a very difficult choice to make.