Friday, April 10, 2015

On the Outside Looking In. EDITED!!

As an EVangelist, I meet all kinds of people who have a curiosity about my LEAF.   I have presented my various EVs at shows and some of the responses people have to my presentations are true head scratchers!

I really marveled at how someone could have the point of view that I have encountered. A conversation while showing my LEAF a few years back at the Lacey Alternative Fuel Fair and Electric Car Rally conveniently located in my hometown of Lacey, WA.

A couple came by to ask questions and the lady started to doubt the math on one of the many displays I had attached to the windshield and windows of the car.  You see, I have constantly encountered people who were truly clueless as to what their real transportation costs were.   Most used advertising  to estimate how much they spent for gas without actually tracking the amount of money leaving their wallets. (guessing the truth was simply too scary)

But one chart compared my REAL costs between my 2010 Prius and my 2011 LEAF.  The best part of the analysis is the near match in mileage where my LEAF had driven  14,181 miles for less than $300. The Prius had driven  13,879 miles for just over $900.  now this was fuel only and did not include the $70 synthetic oil changes the Prius required for 10,000 mile intervals.   Some of you would do it yourself but anyone who owned a 2010 might not feel as you did. To change the oil, there were several plastic under panels that had to be removed first. Not even close to worth my time!! But in fairness, my maintenance costs were not mentioned.  Both cars were new so there wasn't any to speak of anyway other than the oil changes.

***disclaimer***  To be fair, I should mention we did drive the Prius to Disneyland and suffered thru gas prices that were much higher than we would have paid here in WA especially when driving thru Central CA where we paid $4.29 for gas at a time when Lacey Costco (my normal station) was selling it for a "mere" $3.40

Anyway, the couple (she drove a Camry, he drove an Escape so neither were "Prius worthy" claimed they paid slightly more I did for transportation without really saying how far they drove simply because they didn't know.

Now before I continue, let me say that my display included my electric bill, monthly distance and cost (which was being tracked by a utility grade meter) along with all public charging fees (which were minor)  along with my Prius costs.

But the lady, after pondering over my charts for several minutes stated "Glad to see you are doing well, but it wouldn't work in our situation. Not sure what our electrical rates are but pretty sure, we are paying over $1 per kwh"

Ok, now the tier one rates at the time were 8.8 cents per kwh and tier 2 rates were 11.1 cents.  When calculating the LEAF's cost, I took all of the tier 2 cost first then added in the applicable amount of tier 1 cost.

When I pointed that out, she said they lived in different area from me (about 4 miles away) and their rates were "different"

So I did a quick analysis of their fuel costs using their commutes plus 30 miles on one car for each weekend day (their estimates worked out to about $150 a month) and came up with roughly $350.  When I said that, they looked at each other, rolled their eyes and thanked me for my time and moved on.

Now, that was a few years ago and I have actually seen a bit of a change in perspective but not sure its a better one or not.

Recently, I am seeing more people discounting EVs as an option for two major reasons; price and recharge time. All of them were completely unimpressed that as Tesla could gain 150 miles of range in under 45 minutes. IOW; it was not a 100% solution. A compromise was required but nearly all of them said that if the price was right, they would be willing to look into deeper into the thought.

Another  way to look at it was people with money and people without  money.   One couple who normally spends ungodly amounts of money on their cars were one of the people I was talking to. The car they are thinking of replacing was a 4 year old Lincoln that had cost them about $50,000 so a Tesla was not a reach for them. Again, it was the recharge time that they were not able to accept. A driving analysis of their habits showed a dozen trips a year that might tax a Tesla's range (complicated by the fact that their most common destination,  Detroit Lakes Oregon meant passing an SC station in Centralia when still nearly full) and my suggestion of "careful" driving would allow them to make the trip without stopping was immediately dismissed as unacceptable. (FYI; telling them they would pass other SC stations on the way did not help)   Now despite both having active lives, they almost always did things together during their off times (which they seemingly have a lot of!) so two cars was a must. In fact, it was not unusual for both of them to drive separately to OR for a day. (ya, the humanity!!)

But the real market is the people on a budget. (plus there is a whole lot more of us!) Now, I am not talking about low income people, I am talking about people like me. We work, have two incomes but don't really have any money to speak of.  So saving a buck is important.  Now, I found it pretty easy to understand that a car with a ¼ of the parts under the hood that goes for 2 cents a mile can only benefit me but others have not.

You see, its the sticker price that gets people. Equating a $100 a month reduction in fuel and maintenance costs to an $80 increase in monthly car payments wasn't working. BUT the lure of huge savings was still keeping people's interest. What I am hearing is there is a lot of interest among the budget conscious to drive EV but most have never paid more than $15,000 for a car so a $30,000 sticker is simply too scary for them.  But the lure of incentives is attracting a lot of interest where if the price in low enough, then a bit of compromise was not out of the picture especially when it wouldn't be an everyday thing but saving money on fuel would!

If EVs really want to succeed, they need to meet the needs of a larger segment of the consumer market. Now most of us think that all our problems would be solved by simply having bigger battery packs that can cycle a few thousand times before starting to get tired and more range for those who can afford it is "one" thing but really only covers "existing" EVers especially when we must face the fact that the remaining holdouts require a "full day of driving" range. That is likely at least a decade away.

The real need is better pricing for those who cannot afford to not afford it.   Allowing the tax credit to roll over from year to year is an easy one and might even help even up the balance between leasers and buyers.  I think if we can make this happen, millions more will experience firsthand how insanely cheap EVs are to drive. It is this source of first time, low cost, under 100 mile EV owners that will become the main source of EV buyers on longer range vehicles.


I almost am never happy with how my blogs turn out but its my fault. I don't plan these things, I generally just type off the top of my bare head. What comes out is usually disjointed, unorganized and frequently ends up with loose ends and incomplete thoughts.  The 2nd part of this the "Budget" buyer qualifies.  But sometimes, feedback works MUCH better than the article and this no different. The following is excerpted from a single Facebook thread

 Yea, my wife's Leaf has saved us money when compared to her previous car (2011 VW Routan), but compared to my Mazda 5? Not very much. I spend about $30-80 a month on gas and can go as far as I want without charging, whereas she has to charge up when going to Seattle. However, she's environmental-conscious whereas I actually drive as a therapeutic release and make enough money to afford to do so -- not everyone can. And you can get a very economical Mazda 3 that gets 40MPG for around $20k and have plenty of cash for gas before it'd catch up to the cost of the Leaf. It's also a nicer car overall, inside and out.
Me; Pay $20K or $22.8K after taxes for Mazda then $1000 a year for gas, or a LEAF for $31K minus $7500 tax credit or $22.5K and less than $300 a year in gas so what is cheaper????   above scenario assume 12,000 miles per year driving and electricity estimate is a bit on the high side. gas estimate is at $3 a gallon

But which one has a manual transmission and is more dynamic to drive? Ultimately, regardless of tax credit, I still have a car payment for a $32k car, not many people can front $7500 and wait for the tax rebate. Do I like her Leaf? Sure. Do I think everyone should drive one and spread the word like the next coming of Jesus? Nope.
Me; Actually many people simply do not qualify for the full tax rebate at all. Due to the marriage penalty, its more profitable for me to file single and her file head of household with dependent. So I would not have qualified for full credit which is why that needs to be changed. But in my situation; I pay waaaaay less than half for transportation simply because I leased. You don't mention what your car payments are for your Mazda, but I pay $245.75 a month with Zero Down. Granted, I got credit as returning customer but if I hadn't gotten that, It would have been roughly $277 a month with Zero down. along with $324 to drive 17,151 miles and no that is not an estimate from my auto manufacturer. That is REAL life data

My Mazda payment is $353, my Leaf payment is $567, with zero down on a 5 year, no interest loan. But these were purchases.
Me; ok so LEAF is "really" $567 minus the $125 a month (7500 credit over 60 payments) or $442 a month. So LEAF is "starting" at $89 a month more than Mazda. That is a pretty easy number to whittle down.  Either way; I am glad we are having this conversation because it does a MUCH better job of making the point I tried to make in my blog!

 Yes, so ultimately cost to run is about the same, but I can drive my Mazda down to Portland and back in half the time it's take my Leaf whenever I want. Or leave for a trip to CA without having to plan ahead. EVs are great, but they are not for everyone.
Me;  So. two cars is needed but are you not a 2 car household by necessity? And do you not normally drive significantly less than say 60 miles per day? At least one of you anyway? Sorry but not hearing a single good reason why LEAF won't work for you

This poster is a near perfect example of what I am talking about. Again its his perception of the situation and like most point of views, there are more than one.

**His first complaint is the sticker price.  But he fails to consider the roughly $2800 sales tax on the Mazda or the $7500 tax credit on the LEAF which means (as I explained) that S with Charge package is cheaper.

** Monthly payments.  He is only seeing the $214 increase. What is fails to mention is the term on the Mazda which is likely longer with interest or the fact that the $7500 tax credit reduces that effective monthly payment.  I venture to say that when both notes are paid off, the difference will be very little and likely in favor of the LEAF.

**TCO.  He does admit the LEAF is cheap to drive and because the average savings is better than 3 to 1, you don't have to track it to realize the LEAF is VERY cheap to drive, but his opinion is clouded by manufacturer's specs.  He states he gets 40 MPG, but EPA says that the best Mazda 3 gets 29/41 MPG so guessing he is closer to 35 MPG (which is the figure I used to estimate his annual fuel costs). Besides; if he is really having that much fun banging gears, he is definitely not getting 40 MPG.

I tried to determine his transportation needs and only got this

 I work from home so I don't commute at all. I live in Graham, when I do need to go anywhere it's up to Bellevue/Redmond for meetings or multiple locations up north that would require multiple QC stops or Portland. I can do one QC but with kids, multiple stops are not viable. That and the lack of a manual transmission / third pedal, makes it less desirable for me, the Mazda is therapeutic, the Leaf is a soul-less commuter.
He did not mention what his wife does or how often he must make these trips he mentions alone. Guessing that business meetings pretty much means not taking the kids anyway so its pretty much a 2 car household by necessity.



  1. Leasing deals on used EVs could open the down-market, and there's a good business case for both lessor and lessee!

    1. Thanks for posting Jay. Have you seen the proposal that would make used EVs under 5 years old eligible for the tax credit? What do you think of that? I think it would be a great idea and encourage lower income people to buy. And they are the segment that needs it most. Studies show that the lower the income, the shorter the commute. a short range EV would be a perfect fit!

    2. Thanks Dave, I think you were referring to the WA state sales tax exemption? Yes, that would help the bottom end of the market, but should be somewhat offset by reducing the crazy depreciation rate of used EVs. That could mean the benefits accrue mainly to used EV sellers rather than the state or buyers of moderate means...

  2. A good used EV doesn't need any incentive. My FOR Focus EV is 2 years old and still has full battery capacity since it has liquid cooling. The battery should last 20 years at 10K Miles a year and still have 80% capacity or more, even is HOT Phoenix area.
    The only issue is the navigation maps are a #140 buck fee and you may want a new version if you use it a long( a smart phone is better. The other issue is the air cond /heat is not very efficient and takes off 20 miles from a 80 mile range. Other heat pump vehicles hardly use any energy for heat and cooling.

  3. Well, the Focus excepted perhaps but I feel that version one of EVs out need a bit of help. Lesser ranges and batteries with a under serving of robustness is more than enough to scare off potential buyers unless they can really hammer a deal on one. $15,000 for a 3 year old LEAF is not a deal in my mind. $11-12,000 is

  4. I really hope that in the next year or two, 2-3 year old LEAFs drop to ~$10k or less. I would love to see more teenagers in them. They are safe, cute, and cheap to operate. And the range limit? Well, as a parent, I see that as kind of a good thing. Or at least, a long range is something the average teen is rarely likely to need, so it's a non-issue.