The cost of getting from point A to point B

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 26, 2014, 5:29 PM | comments: 0

We're having a lot of fun driving our shiny new Leaf. If you've ever driven an electric go-kart, it's a lot like that, only bigger and with satellite radio. The 80 to 100 mile range hasn't really caused any anxiety, and even doing the slow-ass charge from a 110 outlet at home has been adequate. I mean, in four days we've already put 200+ miles on it. Gotta remember we only get 1,000 per month on this lease!

Today I drove it to work for the first time, and I plugged it into one of the four stations in the parking garage that mostly go unused. The local utility has gone apeshit installing these things all over town, which is a huge win. I could drive to and from work, maybe twice, on a single charge, but it's actually slightly cheaper at these stations. They generally charge 13 cents per kWh, while the cost at home after the first 1,000 is a little over 13.5 cents. (The math works better at home when we're not running the air conditioning all of the time and using less than 1,000 kWh per month. The first 1,000 are about 11.3 cents.)

This gives me a real price of electricity on the spot, and I could compare it to miles. What it came down to was 3.5 cents per mile. And keep in mind I was driving like a dick, mashing the pedal from a stop or through turns because that's what makes it so much fun.

So how much does this energy cost compare to gas? That's pretty straight forward to figure out since we know mpg, and gas around here is currently about $3.20 per gallon:

  • 3.5 cents/mile - 2015 Nissan Leaf S
  • 7 cents/mile - 2012 Toyota Prius V Three (our other car, averaging just under 46 mpg lately)
  • 10.7 cents/mile - 2008 Hyundai Elantra (the car the Leaf replaces, which averaged around 30 mpg)
  • 17.8 cents/mile - 2015 Chevy Suburban (random large SUV at 18 mpg combined)

Assuming we put 12,000 miles on the car, that means the Leaf saves $864 per year in energy costs over Diana's old car. That's not too shabby. Granted, you're talking about a car that was $18,500 (adjusted for inflation) versus one that was around $23,000 (after credits, rebates and haggling), so it's not strictly a win. But hey, if you were coming down from a Chevy Suburban, then you save about $23k on the price of the car and $1,716 per year on fuel costs.

People don't like to have those debates, suggesting you can only compare to a car of similar size, but I tend to think mostly in terms of cost. The Elantra will cost you less if you keep it for six years (assuming constant energy costs), but only just barely. I think in terms of cost because 95% of what I do in a car is tool around town, and any vehicle can do that. If I need to road trip or carry cargo, the Prius V is exceptional at that.

The numbers are fun to think about, and while I enjoy the hippy tree hugger zero-emission story, I was attracted to the car because it's so damn fun to drive. I've been interested since I rented one last year. Now the challenge is to remember it's a leased car. I did OK with the 2010 Prius that was totaled in an accident, so hopefully it'll be OK on this one.


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