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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Purely from a point of technological fascination, I have occasionally entertained the idea of buying an electric car. I had a chance to take a Leaf on an extended test drive a few years back, and I walked away knowing I could handle that vehicle as a daily commuter just fine. While there is no way I would want to spend $30k+ for a new one (nor do I want to lease one), I told myself I could be interested in a used one if the price were right. But that's as far as I ever went with that idea.

For the last twelve months, I've driven my '97 Metro as a cheap commuter. In that time, I've put just over 6000 miles on it. While I have seen two tanks which averaged 53 mpg, I usually get about 45 mpg in my typical driving. Back when gas had dropped to $2.00/gallon--the lowest it has been throughout my Metro ownership--a dollar of fuel would take me about 22-23 miles. Now that gasoline has once again topped $3.00/gallon, today that same dollar only takes me 15 miles at best.

As I was thinking about the Metro's cost-per-mile the other day, the idea of EV ownership again came to mind. How much would one of those cost me to drive, I wondered for the first time ever. Since it is the only EV I've ever driven, I decided to do the math on a Leaf. I pulled out my most recent utility bill and was surprised to see my cost for electricity is still exactly the same as it was back in 2009: a mere 8.76 cents per kilowatt-hour. According to multiple internet sources, Leaf drivers commonly see 4 miles/kWh during average driving in non-winter months; during the dead of winter, Leaf efficiency can drop to around 3 miles/kWh. This means one dollar of electricity from my wall outlet could take me over 45 miles in a Leaf during three seasons of the year, and around 34 miles in the dead of winter (assuming no energy loss from charging). Even if I factor in a gross 15% loss in charging efficiency--which is larger than real-world examples from those who have done the math--the Leaf is still significantly more efficient than the Metro was even at $2/gallon... and that's not even factoring in the additional ICE maintenance costs for things like oil, etc. Wow. Suddenly, I am seriously considering buying an EV.

Naturally, this has caused me to spend hours researching older (ie, affordable used) EVs. I remembered Car and Driver's six-car comparison from 2014, so I of course began by re-reading that a few times. Right away, this made me realize I insist on finding one with a 6.6 kW onboard charger. And since range is everything, I am looking for the most miles I can get out of a full charge. After a lot more reading, all my research brought me back to where I started: the Nissan Leaf. The Leaf seems to be my best choice--6.6 kW charging is available, there are always numerous ones for sale, Leaf prices seem to be better than most alternatives, and the Leaf's range of operation is equal to or better than anything else in its price range. From what I have learned, the first-generation Leafs break down into three distinct mechanical categories. I summarize them as follows:

2011-2012 = 24 kWh battery (which degrades in very hot climates), only 3.3kW onboard charger, resistive heater saps cold range
2013-2014 = improved 24 kWh battery degrades less; avail 6.6kW charger; avail heater upgrade to efficient heat pump; avail aggressive regen B-mode
2015-2017 = 24 kWh battery improved again; larger 30 kWh battery now optional

The 2011-2012 models do not appeal to me at all. There are so many improvements on the 2013 car--far more than I itemized above--that I feel the nearly negligible increase in cost (about $1000 in my market) is completely justified. Yet while the 2015+ model is even better, I don't think the improvement justifies the very significant increase in cost ($2500+) over the 2013-2014 cars. The sweet spot for me is definitely the 2013-2014 models.

So exactly how sweet is that spot, anyway? The local online ads show 2013 SV/SL models with list prices starting around $7000. That sounds like a fantastic deal to me. I am really thinking about finally pulling the trigger on one of these.

And with that, the Metro is now for sale.

But, wait--there's more!

Buying an electric car is only a start. I don't even own one yet, but already I have begun asking myself, why not charge it from the sun? After all, the only thing better than not paying for gasoline to power your car is not paying for anything to power your car. I currently have no solar hardware at all, but what if I threw half a dozen panels on my rooftop? You know, just enough to charge the car when it is parked at home during daylight hours. I hear horror stories of people dropping $25,000 on a full-size solar array, and I sure don't have that kind of money to throw around. I wonder how much a small system might cost me. Hmm.

So now I also find myself researching home solar systems. This is all new territory for me, and I admit I know absolutely nothing about how any of this works. Nevertheless, my initial online research has been promising. (A guy not far from me has a huge wealth of solar info at his web site, John Saves Energy. Anybody interested in EVs or solar power ought to check out his site.) I still don't know what sort of total costs I might incur, but at least I feel like installing a basic system isn't exactly rocket science. More research is called for.


And that's where TCL comes in. I know some of you guys have electric cars. Did any of you buy them used rather than brand new? If you did, I'd like to hear about your decision/shopping process and also about life with a used EV in general. And for all of you out there who bought an EV--new or used--are you charging it via solar power? If so, please speak up--I'd like to hear about your experience.
 

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Would not own an EV outside of the 8-year battery warranty under any circumstance.

As far as the solar, direct charging for only your car is probably not worthwhile and too slow. You either need to offset by using and selling the generated power full time, or store it in something like a PowerWall.
 

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I previously leased a 2015 Fiat 500e and I absolutely loved it. In short I wanted to buy it at the end of the lease but they wouldn't budge on the ~$15k buy out price so I walked. The Leaf is a great EV platform but I'll tell you why I chose the 500e and still want to buy a used one.

- Looks like a regular 500 plus some unique trim panels
- It's super fun to drive. I put it up there with the 80's hot hatches.
- Liquid cooled/heated battery pack
- Enough range for my daily commute (24kwh battery with 6.6kw charger) Summer time was 90-100 miles per charge. Winter (20-30F temps) was 65-75 miles per charge.
- Very cheap lease and cheap used prices ($200/month lease and ~$6-8k used prices)

Some minuses are

- No DC fast charging
- The electric parts are Bosch but the rest is still Fiat
- Tough to find a dealership to work on if something does fail

Enough about the 500e. I was totally won over to EVs in general when I leased the Fiat. The cost of ownership and maintenance (or lack of it being needed) were enough to win me over. I love working on my old cars but those are for fun. I don't like working on or taking in my daily drivers and an EV pretty much alleviates that. Also the fact that I never have to stop at the gas station and have a full "tank" every morning is amazing. I think for a short commute or around town vehicle you can't beat an EV.

The downsides that I came across were when I needed to drive around more than I anticipated and came very close to depleting the battery. I did need to stop on a couple of occasions to top up a little just to get home and that's where I would have like the DC charging but it wasn't that bad. Also it is a little shocking the drop in range in the winter. Pre-conditioning helps while it's plugged in but there's still a significant drop.

Lastly, I'm hoping to see what other people talk about in terms of the solar aspect. That is on my list of wants for my house so I would love the hear some peoples opinions. :cool:
 

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Charging your daily driver from your own sun power would be a beautiful thing. :thumbup:

Unless you're set on the Leaf, I suggest driving a few other EVs. The instant torque of an EV can be really fun, but the Leaf is probably the worst EV I have driven (from a driving dynamics perspective), and I've driven many EV models now.

The Model 3, i3, and 500e are the most fun to drive EVs IMO. Because the 500e would be in your budget, I strongly suggest taking one out for a spin and seeing what you think. I love mine and have a blast with it.
 

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I can't add much on buying a used EV, but the horror stories surrounding Leaf battery degradation would scare me off them. The Leaf battery is air cooled and especially in places where it can get hot, the battery degrades at a much quicker rate than comparable liquid cooled batteries. For that reason alone, I'd look to switch over to something like a Focus electric or Soul EV.

For solar charging, you're really probably looking at a net metering sort of situation or a battery storage. Solar, before incentives will hover in the high $2 range per watt where I live (without battery storage), but varies wildly depending on location. I've heard anecdotal evidence of less, but those are places like Florida/Arizona/California. Where I'm at, quotes are more in the 2.75-3.00 range (before federal and local tax incentive). A simple 4kw system would probably cover your day-to-day needs and cost ~12k before tax incentives. The payoff at your rate would likely be a pretty long time.
 

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I'm just gonna plug the ELR. get a 2016, you'll still have a warranty for 6-7 years. They are going for low 20's now.
You can do 40+ miles on EV and you have the gas engine to go cross country without any range anxiety.



 

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And that's where TCL comes in. I know some of you guys have electric cars. Did any of you buy them used rather than brand new? If you did, I'd like to hear about your decision/shopping process and also about life with a used EV in general. And for all of you out there who bought an EV--new or used--are you charging it via solar power? If so, please speak up--I'd like to hear about your experience.
While not a Used EV buyer, I became an EV advocate on TCL (if you don't know who I am :D) five years ago when I leased a BMW i3.

Here's what I would recommend. I would answer these questions before you consider buying any EVs.

1) Are there any chargers along your daily commute? If there's a charger at work, you can skip this question.

2) How far is your daily commute?

3) If your daily commute is longer than 40 miles roundtrip, I'd seriously consider a used PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle)

4) How would you charge your EV at home? I guess you already answered this one.

I think one of the biggest mistake on buying an EV used or new is that people don't realize that it takes 3-4 hours on 230V charger to charge their car. Longer if you don't have 230V charger. You have to know the range of the EVs, and know where chargers are located along that route.

To me, if you are buying a used EV, I'd go with a PHEV with 30 plus miles of electric range. Jumping into a BEV will open your eyes to problems and challenges relating to electric range, charging time, and battery degradation. To me, Chevy Volt presents the best scenario as it will have ICE backup as well as decent EV range of 35-55 miles. This way, range anxiety becomes no problem. Chevy Volt has consistently shown that it battery can last way beyond 200K miles and its degradation has been minimal (unlike Nissan Leaf). They can be had cheaply too, if you are looking for a 2012-2014.

Plan our your route and see where the chargers are, and explore charging option before you purchase an EV. If you commute more than 30 miles round trip, I'd just go with Chevy Volt and call it a day. It's been very reliable and will even take you long distances if needed. Plus you still save tons of money in gas and electricity.

If your commute is less than 20 miles round trip, and plenty of readily available chargers along the way, get the BEV. Fiat 500e, Nissan Leaf, and VW eGolf will serve your purpose more than adequately.

Best of luck.:beer:
 

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Used 2014 Volt - Love it. No solar charging. I charge at work and at home; commute is about 12 miles each way. I like the Volt because I can do cross country trips with ease on the gas engine and it's pretty luxurious in the upper trim level.

The Volt's (and Bolts and ELR's) have had zero battery degradation since they're water cooled. Have you looked at the Spark EV?

 
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This thread is relevant to my interests. Bought my Focus Electric when it came off a lease from another owner, and paid <$10k for a 3 year old car with only 18k miles. Fantastic. Would do it again in a heartbeat.

The car has been very solid for me. Repair wise, it's had a bunch of recalls on things like the door latch, charging cable, and stop safely now issue. The only real fault it had was the TCU (modem) not going to sleep and draining the 12 volt battery. Needed a jump, but everything was fine. I like that it has a liquid cooled/heated battery so I'm not too worried about degradation. With all that said, I don't think I'll keep it more than a few more years, just because I want to buy a long range EV that can do everything rather than "only" 98% of my trips. That and the unknowns about the battery post warranty, even though failures have been few and far between.

Since you've been driving a Geo Metro, I'm going to recommend you check out the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Normally I don't recommend that car since its a bit small and underpowered, but you seem to enjoy a similar vehicle already and it may be a good fit for you. The prices are just amazing, and it gives you all the other EV advantages any other plug in would have, plus it has DC fast charging.

 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
EV swap the metro.
:laugh: I know John (of JohnSavesEnergy.com) did this, but I don't intend to.

I'll tell you why I chose the 500e and still want to buy a used one.

- Liquid cooled/heated battery pack
The liquid cooled battery pack is a definite plus in the 500's favor; that the Leaf uses only air cooling is one of its only drawbacks.

Some minuses are

- No DC fast charging
DC fast charging is optional on the Leaf, and at first I thought it was something I definitely needed. However, my plan is to do the vast majority of my charging at home via a 240v outlet (which I will need to have installed in my garage)... so I think I could live without the DC FC option just fine.

the Leaf is probably the worst EV I have driven (from a driving dynamics perspective)
Um, you do realize I'll be using the EV as a replacement for a 1997 Geo Metro, right? ;)

I can't add much on buying a used EV, but the horror stories surrounding Leaf battery degradation would scare me off them.
As I mentioned in my OP, the Leaf's battery was upgraded in 2013 models, and was again upgraded (specifically to address the heat issue) in 2015 models. But here's the best part: the first-gen Leaf's standard instrument cluster indicates the overall state/capacity of the battery. Check it out:



The skinny 'capacity bars' on the right illuminate independently of the wide 'state of charge' bars on the left. When the battery is new, there are 12 capacity bars (as shown in the above photo). As the capacity diminishes, the bars will gradually turn off one by one. The top bar represents the highest 15% of battery capacity; each remaining bar signifies about 6.5% of additional capacity. Especially on earlier models, it is common to see a few bars missing. Here is one example:



Needless to say, one of the first things I look at when viewing used Leafs for sale is that gauge. There is even an app you can use which connects via the OBD port to give you an exact state of health readout for the battery. If I get to the point of shelling out money for a used Leaf, I will most definitely use that app and scan the car before buying.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
1) Are there any chargers along your daily commute? If there's a charger at work, you can skip this question.
If there is one along my commute, it would need to be at one of the new gas stations along the way. My dealership does have a charger, which is nice, but that's really not critical since...

2) How far is your daily commute?
A whole 4 miles each way.

To me, if you are buying a used EV, I'd go with a PHEV with 30 plus miles of electric range.
To me, Chevy Volt presents the best scenario as it will have ICE backup as well as decent EV range of 35-55 miles. This way, range anxiety becomes no problem. Chevy Volt has consistently shown that it battery can last way beyond 200K miles and its degradation has been minimal (unlike Nissan Leaf).
I have been ignoring the Volt primarily because it has the ICE. (Ironic, eh?) I don't go on long vacation drives very frequently; when I do, I often have my car hauler trailer hanging off my rear bumper (with the Jeep loaded on it) so the econocar would stay at home. Past experience has shown I go on long vacation drives so rarely that the range extender would be wasted money--I'd get much more value out of a BEV with twice the battery range of a Volt. This is also why I think I can be just fine without a DC fast charger.

Have you looked at the Spark EV?
Yes, until I found out they only have a 3.3 kW onboard charger with no upgrade available. As soon as I discovered that, the Spark fell off my list of contenders.
 

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A whole 4 miles each way.
until I found out they only have a 3.3 kW onboard charger with no upgrade available. As soon as I discovered that, the Spark fell off my list of contenders.

The first quoted statement makes the second quoted statement irrelevant. You'll be fine.

I would *not* get a Leaf because of the air-cooled battery. Spark EV would be a fine replacement for the Metro.
 

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OP, I have some good experience here. What is your true budget? If it can reach around $14k, I'd skip the Leaf and get a BMW i3. Best battery of the bunch, RWD, and super high tech carbon, plastic, and aluminum body. The 500e would be my runner up in the EV category. The Volt and ELR are great alternatives but more money, complexity, and not as fun.
 

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I'm just gonna plug the ELR.
Do these have the same running gear as a volt? when I do finally need a new car I'm thinking no to full EV because I keep my cars forever (can't remember the last time I had a car payment) and worry about battery degradation, but that wouldn't be such a concern in a car like the ELR and Volt, right?
 

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A whole 4 miles each way.

~snip~

Yes, until I found out they only have a 3.3 kW onboard charger with no upgrade available. As soon as I discovered that, the Spark fell off my list of contenders.
Trust me, you'll still be starting every day with a full tank and have WAY more range than you'll need on a day to day basis with the Spark. The Spark is also massive fun to drive, originally rated at 400 lb ft of torque, but later downgraded to a mere 350 lb ft... it'll light its little tires up with no problem. You should drive one if possible.
 

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Do these have the same running gear as a volt? when I do finally need a new car I'm thinking no to full EV because I keep my cars forever (can't remember the last time I had a car payment) and worry about battery degradation, but that wouldn't be such a concern in a car like the ELR and Volt, right?
Yes, the ELR is a Volt in fancy clothes. Like the Volt, it's only using about 60% of it's overall battery capacity (empty is 20% charge and full is 80% charge) so battery degradation is nil. Both are capable of 45-60 miles of all electric power, especially in traffic or in the spring/summer/fall. I don't hypermile in my Volt and I can easily exceed the rated range.
 

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The Spark is also massive fun to drive, originally rated at 400 lb ft of torque, but later downgraded to a mere 350 lb ft... it'll light its little tires up with no problem. You should drive one if possible.
Just want to confirm this. I REALLY enjoyed driving the press car we had; a former colleague of mine even owned one when she lived in California.

Personally, I wish used Kia Soul EVs depreciated more rapidly.

Tom
 

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Just want to confirm this. I REALLY enjoyed driving the press car we had; a former colleague of mine even owned one when she lived in California.

Personally, I wish used Kia Soul EVs depreciated more rapidly.

Tom
Do you think it's the most fun of the 1st generation cars? I was kinda "meh" at it, and it really is sub-sub compact in terms of interior volume compared to the others that are in the price range.

For me, in terms of fun I ranked them (most to least):
i3
Focus EV
Spark
E-Golf
Licking a 9V battery
Leaf

No real Soul EV or fit EV or other edge case compliance cars to test out here, and I ruled out the 500e because I needs at least vestigial rear doors.
And I echo what others are saying about the necessity of a high capacity charger. I don't even have an L2 setup in my house and have always been able to top up before our next outing. We do have the luxury of taking other vehicles when necessary though.
 

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I don't own an EV but this is relevant to my interests.
 
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