Turn Over A New Leaf

Pipestone Flyer


Every time a modern motorist thrusts that gas nozzle into their fuel tank and then grimly pries open their wallet to pay for the damage, the thought of an electric car crosses their mind. The $40,000.00 + price tag is certainly a disincentive but over the long haul, it would save you money. Or would it?

It’s somewhat similar to insulating your house. How long will the savings from energy loss make up for the initial outlay? If the payback is relatively short, then, ultimately it will save you in the long run once the savings have paid for the upgrade.

So what’s the payback period for an electric car like the Nissan Leaf? Obviously it depends on what you drive now. To be able to list every make and model to compare with the Leaf would take far more space than can be contained within this article, not to mention all the math involved being beyond this arithmetically challenged scribe. Luckily, however, there is a website that will do it all for you. It is available from the US Department of Energy who was good enough to share it at http://www.afdc.energy.gov/calc/.

By plugging in numbers into various windows listing what you drive, how much you drive and the type of driving you do, it can compare any two vehicles, for yearly running costs based on a 10% down payment on a five-year loan. It is an interesting exercise and is certainly revealing of some surprising facts.

For example, if you were to compare a Leaf with a Ford Focus, the difference in the fuel for the Focus, estimated at $.33/mile is 50% more than the $.22 of the Leaf. Due to the huge difference in upfront costs, it takes 15 years of driving a Leaf, based on average driving patterns, before the cumulative costs of ownership equal that of the Focus. This figure would change the more driving you do in a given year, of course. There were federal government programs in the past encouraging eco-friendly vehicles and, although they have since gone by the wayside, may return again, which would also change the cumulative cost dynamic hugely. 

There are other considerations beyond just monetary ones, obviously. A big one is the ever-present environmental footprint, although such measurements may be difficult since it’s hard to account for every consequence, such as battery disposal after the vehicle has passed its last volt. Certainly the Leaf would be head and shoulders above its internal combustion engine counterparts in the environmental aspect but with the hefty price tag, the reality is; being an environmentalist is just not within everyone’s reach. There is also the fact 15 years is a long time to expect a Ford Focus to last and the Leaf is too new to tell what kind of longevity one can expect.

Many people are still hesitant about these new electric cars. Horror stories abound concerning the cost of replacement batteries, worries about the cost of electric energy outpacing gasoline hikes, and the ability to get service if you’re stuck in Armpit, Saskatchewan with a faulty flux capacitor.

If you google Leaf dealers in our area, it doesn’t list a single one in Wetaskiwin, despite a Nissan presence in the well-known car-centric city. No matter what a Leaf might save you in gas, or how great it is as a little runabout in a large city like Edmonton, around here, where gas is cheaper than most places and electricity is more expensive than many other locales, the fellows selling pickup trucks and SUV’s on the “Auto Mile” are probably not feeling threatened. 


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