21 January 2020
Drive 16,000kms for free. Save $200. Help the planet.
Those were the recent conclusions I arrived at regarding my freshly purchased second-hand Nissan Leaf.
Admittedly, those are bold statements, so it’s reasonable to accept they require a fair amount of clarification. So, here’s a brief outline of my Electric Vehicle (EV) experience so far.
For the last 16 years, I’ve been working predominantly in the oil and gas industry. It’s been very kind to me and my family, and I hope it continues to be the case for quite some time. However, it’s clear that the world is changing, and, for many very good reasons, the earth’s reliance on fossil fuels is set to decline.
In that same vein, our family recently embarked on a solar adventure. A couple of months ago we installed 6.6 kW of solar panels, something a great number of folks around the world are getting on board with. I looked at the numbers and, like many people, realised that it was a bit of a ‘no brainer’ - especially for a five-person household with ‘small people’ who run multiple computers, iPads, iPhones and air conditioners, among other things. The base case showed our return on investment for the solar array could be as little as two years. By this point I’d contracted the solar bug and wondered why should we stop there?
The timing coincided with the release of the all new, second generation Nissan Leaf in Australia. Reliable sources told us that this was the world’s bestselling fully electric vehicle (as opposed to being a hybrid). So we booked a test drive and went for a spin. The new Leaf is a good looking, impressive machine and we really liked it. What is probably obvious, but notable nevertheless, is that the electric engine is extremely quiet. The silence is golden – unless the kids are in the back seat, in which case it’s no different.
We then had to consider whether it made financial sense to buy a new electric vehicle. Despite its green credentials (I’ll cover just how green later) and low-cost power options, its premium price tag begged the question whether or not it made sense to take the plunge. We eventually concluded that it probably didn’t yet.
Of course, the financials associated with EVs in various parts of the world vary wildly and, in some countries, it will be a more attractive prospect to own a brand new EV. For instance, according to the Norwegian website Norsk elbilforening: “The Norwegian EV success story is first and foremost due to a substantial package of incentives developed to promote zero-emission vehicles into the market. The incentives have been gradually introduced by different governments and broad coalitions of parties since the early 1990s to speed up the transition. The Norwegian Parliament has decided on a national goal that all new cars sold by 2025 should be zero-emission (electric or hydrogen).”
Similar government incentives exist in the US and European countries including savings associated with purchase price, registration and company car tax.
But no such incentives were available to me in Australia… yet. We thought we had put the decision to bed until I met a guy in the EV industry who pointed out that there was a local car dealer who was importing and selling five-year-old, secondhand Nissan Leafs. We have a few upcoming lifestyle-changing events, including our eldest child beginning to learn how to drive in a few months’ time. We had a good think and, all things considered, including the fact that it was a car we were unlikely to feel ‘precious’ about if our child decided to ‘remodel’ it, we thought we’d go and have a closer look.
Long(ish) story short, we bought one and sold our Nissan XTrail (which was a great car, by the way). So how do the full financials and green credentials all stack up? How does it drive? Does the energy provider give us a special deal for owning an EV? How far does it go on a charge? Do we have range anxiety? What are the charging options? How long does it take to charge? Do we need a second car? Do I think we’ll go back to an internal combustion engine car again? Does owning and charging the electric vehicle mean we’d want to upgrade our solar installation even further?
Read part two of this series to hear Andy's answers to some of the common questions he encountered along this EV-owning journey.