That’s correct — you really can afford to buy an electric car. There is a dealer in town who can put you behind the wheel of an almost new electric car for just $25,000.
That’s still a lot of change, but it’s substantially less than what electric cars cost new. And with the money you save on fuel, they start paying for themselves immediately.
The owner of Green Rock E.V.S. (Electrical Vehicle Solutions), John Gordon is a reseller of electric cars. He keeps his eye on auction sites, classified ads and so on, looking for good buys on “like new” electric vehicles across North America. He services a small but growing demand for “green” vehicles from his home-based business in St. John’s.
Electric cars can be expensive, perhaps a little out of range for many of us. However, by purchasing newer used vehicles, Gordon takes advantage of depreciation and passes on those savings to customers.
I first reached out to John several weeks ago after seeing his company’s Facebook page, which raised a whole bunch of questions.
Are the cars really cheaper to operate? Would they work in our climate? How about all those hills? How far can they go on a single charge?
We agreed that I should take a couple of cars for a test drive, though it was hard to pin down a time that worked for both of us.
Last week, John called out of the blue and said, “Let’s go right now!”
Spontaneity always works for me and soon John was at my gallery door on Duckworth Street, in a 2012 Nissan Leaf SL.
He drove at first, heading for the top of Signal Hill where I would hop in the driver’s seat. At the base of the hill, he pointed to the fuel indicator, which showed 47 km of power remaining on the battery.
On the way, I was full of comments and questions, first about the car itself.
How many moving parts does it have?
Not many. The AC motor connects straight to the drive shaft, with no transmission.
What sort of fluids does it take?
No gas or oil, just a bit of brake fluid.
How often does it need service?
Just a check-up once per year. Because there are so few moving parts, there is less to break down or require service.
Finally, the big question: what does it cost to run, in terms of electricity?
The answer — and you’d better sit down for this one — is just $384 per year.
Yes, per year. We all know people who spend more than that in a month for gasoline.
Later that day, I challenged John on this, asking if the energy cost was based on manufacturer specs (and U.S. utility rates) or personal experience.
“Electricity rates in Newfoundland are $0.12 per KWH,” he said. “The Leaf has a 24 KWH battery, with 150 kilometre range per charge. So 12 cents x 24 = $2.88 to fill the Leaf for 150 kilometre, which breaks down to $0.0192 per km. So if we used 20,000 kilometres per year the energy cost would be $384.”
We arrived at the top of Signal Hill, with Cabot Tower cloaked in fog, and I jumped behind the wheel.
When I pressed “start” there was a pinging sound — like an incoming email alert — and the car was powered on.
But then … silence. Not a sound. You don’t really notice this until you’re in the driver’s seat. In the distance, I could hear the foghorn.
Suddenly, I was infatuated with this car.
I touched the accelerator and the car took off — peppy, but quiet — and drove down Signal Hill.
Because of all the batteries on board, the car weighs about as much as a small truck, but it handles nicely and has a great suspension (it glided smoothly over all those potholes).
Drive and handling is comparable to that of a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry.
The car had 34 kilometre left on the battery when I started down the hill (it uses more going uphill). But get this: at the bottom, there were 41.
Which brings us to one of the car’s more interesting features: regenerative braking. You are consuming power as you accelerate, but when you coast along the wheels are generating power and sending it back to the battery. Going downhill generates more power and braking even more again. The power that you burn going up the hill is partially refunded on the way down.
Infatuated? Don’t be talking. Now I was in love.
Next, I took the Chevrolet Volt for a drive.
This car is electric with gasoline back-up. Its battery stores about a 50 kilometre charge, sufficient daily driving for many, and a gas-powered generator that tops up the battery when it runs low. The generator runs at peak efficiency — no slowing down, speeding up or idling — so it’s not too costly to operate. Gordon said it costs about $40 to fill, which is a small tank, and can last for weeks, depending on how much you drive in a day.
The Volt is a nicer, sportier car, but it’s also pricier, at $29,500 (they are about $40,000 new).
Purchasing the Leaf incurs the one-time cost of about $1,200 to install a 240-volt line from the fuse panel to the driveway or garage.
The Volt doesn’t need this because its smaller battery can charge adequately from a 120-volt line. It’s the better choice if you take frequent extended trips out the highway.
Whatever your preconceived notions of an electric car may be, if they are negative I can guarantee that driving one will change your mind. Gordon’s used models put the cars within reach for more of us, and the fuel savings are incredible.
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