Sunday, March 26, 2017

Bolt Verses LEAF; Is Twice The Range Worth Twice The Price?

We are on the eve of the official Bolt launch for Washington State and the excitement is ahhh...well, anyway I thought this might be appropriate for people considering their next EV option.

In a few days, the premise of this article might simply be completely different when the Bolt arrives in Washington State on April 1st (hopefully no pun intended...) .  Bolts have actually been at a handful of Dealers here for most of March and I recently found out that they were transferred from California Dealers who apparently ran out of room to store them, or something.  And despite an expanding market, sales of the Bolt dropped significantly in February but then again, February is typically sluggish for most automakers.  But what about the "Volt" and the LEAF? Both of them saw huge sales in February.

It is now looking like Chevy overestimated the new product excitement.  Both the Volt and LEAF are seeing most if not all of the $7500 Federal Tax Credit applied to lease contracts which is leading to prices well below $20,000 if the leaser decided later to buy out the car.

Why does this matter you ask?  Some EVers don't qualify for the full $7500 tax credit in a single year and it can't be rolled over to later years. (Not all of us are as lucky as trump...) So whatever you can't claim is lost.  So the best option is to lease, realize the discounts immediately, then purchase the car outright or better yet, wait till the lease is nearly complete and see if you can negotiate a discount off the residual which lowers your price even more. I am in this category.  I would be paying thousands more if I purchased an EV over leasing. Since Nissan generally waives lease termination fees if you purchase along with their near zero "Money Factor" (essentially the interest rate on the lease payments) resulting in a very low "Rent Charge" (interest payments on lease term) which in my case totaled $29.20 over the 3 year lease.  So there is minimal risk to leasing with maximum benefits of the $7500 off the top.

Bottom line?  If I decided to simply buy the LEAF after my zero down drive off on Nov 12, 2016 the day after I brought it home from Magic Nissan in Everett, it would cost this minus $149.75 (check received for over billing of licenses, etc)

IOW, I would get roughly half the range for half the price, right?  Well, since I am not likely to get near the max federal tax credit, I would have to go the lease way and as luck would have it, the lease calculator recently became active for WA Dealers (my local dealer has nothing btw but I am just in the State Capital, hardly an important area of the state.)  FYI; this was a great deal on Veteran's Day but I am now seeing SV's going for $1000 less!

So figuring with no federal tax credit from Chevy, its not looking good.

So if I leased at this rate today and decided to buy it tomorrow, it would be a total of

$4150 down
$14,436 in payments
~ 21,000 Residual (based on 54%)
Total $39586 plus fees so basically over $40,000.

So without the Federal tax credit considered, its much more than twice the price. If I were to buy it, my tax credits would drop it down to just about half the LEAF price.  Primarily because the Bolt being new, Chevy is trying to maximize profits, they are literally adding $7500 to the cost of a lease.   On the Chevy Bolt forum when I brought this up, I heard all kinds of excuses and twisted logic on how "Chevy was doing us right" but nothing made any sense to anything but Chevy's pocketbook.

But everything comes with a price and longer range is definitely worth a lot in time, convenience, and stress so now the question becomes;

Is twice the range worth twice the price?

First off, I need to add a few tidbits of info on what 25% more range can do.  I moved from a 24 kwh LEAF (range about 90 Summer miles for me) to a 30 kwh LEAF (range probably about 120 or so) fort the price listed above. It was a zero down, drive off $245.99 a month bill. This is 24 cents higher than my previous LEAF so essentially zero impact on my finances. Now there has been a LOT of talk on social media about how lame this was for Nissan to do this. The general perception is that it was a near useless bump in performance. After all, what difference is 6 kwh or roughly 20-25 miles or range really going to do?

And I have to admit, I was halfway towards this attitude as well but I was in a time crunch and the deal was good and the Bolt was simply too far off so I did it.

But the benefits of this slight bump in range was much greater than anticipated. Below a tale of two charges.

 2013 24 kwh LEAF Fast charge  April 2015; 33.4 min charge time, SOC 30 to 82%, Charge rate drop from max currrent at 38%.  Battery health  96%

2016 LEAF with 30 kwh pack  March 24, 2017;  > 30 min charge time, SOC 22-88%. Charge rate drop from max current <80% SOC. Battery health, 100%.

Now unless your an EV Nut (like me) a lot of what you see here is probably not making a lot of sense but in a nutshell, my 24 kwh LEAF after a 30 min QC was giving me maybe another 50-60 miles of range which basically made it a challenge to skip chargers on the West Coast Green Highway on the 2nd or later charges during Summer when my range was greatest.

In my 30 kwh LEAF,  I was charging MUCH less than 30 mins and able to skip chargers with ease. In my previous blog I drove over 300 miles with 4 stops (could have done it in two) of 18, 22, 28 and 13 minutes during the rainy season!  In fact; the fast charge profile was faster than me. I stopped to grab a quick bite and went to check the status of the car after about 29 minutes and the charge had already completed! I had spent less than 25 minutes in the restaurant!  UNREAL!  But the bottom line was even with 20 minute charges, I was rolling out with nearly 90 miles of "Winter" range!

But fast charging is only convenient if you can do it.  NRG is by far the largest CCS provider in the area and despite being the fastest growing public charge provider as well, they have a long way to go to come close to providing adequate coverage even for a 250 mile EV.

Result;  LEAF wins!

But range is important as we all know. My LEAF is losing range daily as we speak. It has not been noticeable or recordable due to LEAF Spy limitations, Nissan instrumentation limitations or whatever but the loss will happen. But my track record (and the favorable Northwest climate) has been good to me and I don't expect that to change much.  Either way, with NCTC I will definitely find out if excessive fast charging is detrimental to long term health!  For all we know, the Bolt for all we know could still have over 90% of its range in 10 years.  One thing we do know is charge cycle counts is a prime degradation factor and the Bolt being able to travel twice the distance on each charge cycle definitely means it will be better setup for the long haul

Result; Bolt wins.

So its a toss up, right? Either you want that range or you can live without it.  The reason that Bolts from California are in WA early has to be two things; perception that there is a pent up demand for longer range EVs and simply dealers in CA giving out great deals to dealers up here. Soon we will have sales reports for March and I am expecting the LEAF to continue clearing out the lots and the Bolt to hold its own which is not all that great especially considering very large East Coast markets are now in play. This might give Chevy a wake up call to reevaluate their lease terms or it may not.  In November, if Chevy had been giving out the full federal tax credit on leases, I would likely be driving one right now.

But the financial commitment is pretty extreme and in calculating my personal TCO, I can't ignore the fact that a Bolt requires me to pay for that range every day whether I need it or not.  Weighing the pros and cons here becomes very subjective so for anyone investigating the Bolt over any other car, a real evaluation of need is the first order of business.  I still have trips I wouldn't do in my LEAF on a time crunch, namely the Washington Coast. Charging there is L2 at best and not much of it so a high chance of a queue making a day trip a very long day. A Bolt would breeze thru that trip.

But my age says that the old days of driving 5-6 hours straight without stopping are long gone. I hate to drive as much as an hour at a time without stopping.  During my 300 mile trip, only the Astoria stop was made for charging only. The other 3 stops would have been done in any car and only the Castle Rock trip was extended due to charging (sort of. I actually had plenty to do... updating Facebook and other important tasks...)

So now the Bolt's additional range is more convenient for quick freeway blasts. Its convenience in Seattle area traffic a bit lessened.  We have so much congestion here that I frequently got over 100 miles of range in my 24 kwh LEAF not because I had to but because traffic allowed me no other choice!

So in a nutshell;

More public charging support
Free charging for first two years.
Easily justifiable TCO AKA getting home with a bunch of range left means you paid too much!

Range; I did not touch on the drastic reductions bad weather can have on an EV or even something as minor as changing the type of tire (John) but in a vehicle with super high efficiency, everything matters.

Public Charging Support; If WA follows the CA model for the VW settlement money, we should have several dual format chargers coming hopefully in the next year or so.  With 240 miles of range, The Bolt really only needs a little bit of help but with more CCS based cars coming out, queuing looks to be an issue as well.  Maybe being on the "black sheep" standard is not such a bad thing...

Performance; Bolt has it and I could care less about it.

Familiarity;  LEAF has it and I could care less about it. I like trying new things and the Bolt promises to teach me things I didn't know.

TCO; Again, the big challenge. Ignoring the sticker price, right now I am realizing a lot of benefits in free public charging.  Granted, not everyone's cup of tea but it currently provides me little inconvenience especially when half the time, I can use the time to get work done that would need to be done at home anyway. Besides (I mention this only because its a question that constantly comes up) charging publicly most of the time means having my LEAF never sitting at full charge. With the additional range I can charge publicly, go home, get up the next day, make it to the job then charge on the way home.  I actually went 2½ weeks never using my home EVSE (hopefully PSE won't be mad paying me $500 towards my EVSE for home use)  In reality, I can afford the Bolt but at this time, I simply cannot see the justification of blowing out all my emergency cash so the option is large down payment on a lease and what?? Don't know. Hope for a  $7500 reduction in my residual?  Sounds crazy right?

Well it is... as long as you are not talking to a current LEAF lessee  :) ...

Well the above is the perfect final statement but I just have to say something.   The Federal tax credit was designed to give the consumer the incentive to get an EV at a reasonable price and allow the manufacturer to charge a price that would allow profit for this new technology and I must tip my hat to Nissan, Tesla, BMW (finally) along with the others who have passed this credit rightfully to the leasers who have taken the leap to help contribute to widespread Electric Vehicle adoption.

But for those manufacturers who have chosen to keep all or part of the credit for themselves, this is nothing but profiteering, plain and simple.  The sad part is that they are actually getting away with it with some consumers.  As mentioned above, I have heard some crazy justifications for what Chevy is doing and I am shocked that no amount of explaining is shedding any light on this pathetic situation.

It is my hope that Chevy will understand the err of its way and fix it and fix it soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment