Electric Car Owning Experience
April 17, 2016 2:57 PM   Subscribe

My SO and I are planning to purchase a car before the end of the year. At this point, we're considering (but not sold on) an electric car so I'd like to hear people who own or owned an EV for over a year. What did you like? Not like? Wish you'd known? Snowflake flurry below the fold.

We live in a large city and will have a garage into which we would install a charging station.

Our city does not charge less for electricity at night, but according to eGallon, an EV would be $0.82 per eGallon, vs. $2.27 per gas gallon.

We bus to work/from work, and would mostly use the car for things like shopping trips (Costco, Ikea, Target), or restaurants/etc we enjoy which are out of convenient busing range. We are not the "take a roadtrip" sort, so the limited range is not a concern.

Money is not a factor, although value is. We are both very interested in making good environmental choices.

We are not currently interested in a hybrid.

We would be buying any EV new with a warranty.
posted by dotgirl to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure if you are okay with people who lease vs. own giving advice...apologies in advance if that's not the case. We are in year 3 of a lease on a Leaf in the bay area. Generally love the car and find it to be great to drive, and for your use cases is a perfect fit. Range is rarely an issue for us. We had bizarre mechanical issues at about the one year point that necessitated replacement of a major part and not having use of the car for about a month, all told. It would have been under warranty, of course, but I would feel nervous rolling out of warranty and being on the hook. Generally I am pretty happy to be leasing because I am uncertain about how "solid" the cars are (as compared to say our Volvo with 100k miles) I am beginning to see the battery range drop off now. Almost everyone I know has a lease vs. bought one.
posted by handful of rain at 3:13 PM on April 17, 2016

Response by poster: I should have said "drove" instead of "owned" - I definitely want to hear from people who lease, as that may be an option we look at.
posted by dotgirl at 3:14 PM on April 17, 2016

I'm fortunately to have had a Tesla Model S since 2013. Previously I had a Chevrolet Volt. I probably have driven 100K electric miles.

You'll quickly get used to plugging in your car at night. I've neglected to plug in my car once, but had enough range the next morning to make it to the charging station at work with no range anxiety.

The power is smooth and surprising, and each vehicle has regenerative breaking - letting up on the pedal will cause an effect like engine breaking and will slow you down a bit. As you become more accustomed to this, you will be able to effectively drive with just the 'gas' pedal most of the time.

Colder weather, rainy weather, and an exceptionally laden car will have impacts on your range. In the winter months, some people have reported a 10% hit on their total range. This will concern you at first, but you will quickly become comfortable knowing how whatever vehicle you choose responds to your environment and your driving style.

After several months driving electric, you may have occasion to once again drive a gasoline-powered car. You will notice that everything seems to move slower, the car's not responding as quickly as you think it should, and you've got all of this vibration and harshness that just shouldn't be there... but it's just the normal internal combustion experience.

PROS: Smoothness, reliability, predictability. Less maintenance. Driving is enjoyable.
CONS: If you forget to charge it, or lose power, you may need to wait for a bit while you top off the tank. Weather, load, and aggressive driving can negatively impact your range by a bit. Since you don't want to road-trip, this may be less of an issue.

Regardless of which one you choose, you'll have fun!
posted by HannoverFist at 3:21 PM on April 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

Dad has a Volt and loves every single thing about it. He was going back and forth about getting a Chevy, but loves it. Hasn't had a bad word to say about it.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 3:23 PM on April 17, 2016

I live in Denver, CO; and commute to Boulder ~30mi to work each day. I considered and tested all the hybrid and electric vehicles and ultimately settled on a used Prius C. Before that I had a Honda Insight Hybrid since 2000. I was trying really hard to make a pure electric work.

-At my work the parking lot is basically 1/4 leaf, 1/4 hybrid, and 1/2 subaru, they all just work.

-None of the people trying to sell me an electric car actually owned one. They barely understood regeneration, the transmission, or the hard details behind judging your range with the battery.
Why not a leaf? I knew I would be using more than 80% of the leaf's battery in a day, and that would mean I would have to replace it sooner than expected, which drove the long term costs up. And the Model S was a bigger car than I wanted right now. The Volt is nice, but I have had bad experience with Chevys. I think it is a pretty excellent car but not for me.

-Leasing means you may not qualify for the tax break on a clean vehicle, but in turn, the financing they offer may be a bit better to offset this.

-The best purchasing, installation, and use advice I found were the various forums online of and by users of the cars.
posted by nickggully at 4:14 PM on April 17, 2016

I leased an electric Golf in December (so 5 months nearly). I decided on a Golf because I was replacing a 99 Jetta that had served me well and because it looks and feels like a regular car and gets good reviews with a particular focus on its driving. The finishes feel a little higher end than other EVs and hybrids and I suspected that a lot of the non EV related design elements have been worked out over the years that the Golf has been around.

The fully charged range is almost 100 miles without climate control, about 85 with climate control. I drive to/from work (8 miles round trip) and other around the city errands.

I park and plug into a standard outlet in my driveway. This is slightly a pain for me because space and access is tight, and I have a baby and the many bags and bundles associated. I don't charge every night (this would be overkill for me in any case - my understanding is that it draws a charge even when full), but do it about 2x per week, and sometimes at the charge point at work (cost of charge point: a little less than 10 cents a mile). I am concerned that someone will eventually steal my charger from my driveway.

Because of this, the range can be a drag. Once or twice I had to do a trip to, say, the airport, but hadn't charged it recently enough, and I cut it a little close for comfort. This is mostly about planning.

I decided to lease because I feel pretty certain the batteries will improve, and there was very little cost incentive to buy vs lease. There was, in general, very good cost incentive to get an EV (state rebate, tax rebate - the lease qualified in 2015). I just didn't want to be stuck with the equivalent of an iPhone 3 in 2018.

Other than the range, my only complaint is that the entertainment system is buggy. Unrelated to the electricness of the car. It's zippy to drive and doesn't look like an 80s athletic shoe.
posted by vunder at 4:38 PM on April 17, 2016

We've had a Volt for about a year. It's pretty awesome, it feels like being in the future. We just plug it into the wall socket.
posted by stormygrey at 4:46 PM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, my e-Golf has regenerative braking but when you use the brake, unless you actively change to an eco mode where the car brakes for you and charges your battery, I ... don't like that mode at all.
posted by vunder at 4:48 PM on April 17, 2016

Best deal is used 2013+ Nissan Leaf; very good battery system (2011-2012 Leaf have a 'merely' good battery), rock bottom prices (~$11k).

Pros: I'm the kind of person who only fills up a tank when it's about to run out, so I'm completely used to "not having much range". It's nice to never have to go to a gas station, never worry about not having enough to go someplace because it's always full when I leave.
Leaf is easy to load things in/out of the trunk.
Easier to parallel park.

Cons: Still have to rent something for long trips.
You forget to fill up the tire air because you don't have a maintenance schedule.
posted by flimflam at 4:56 PM on April 17, 2016

flimflam (or others): do the tax incentives apply if you buy a used electric vehicle?
posted by medusa at 5:06 PM on April 17, 2016

We've had a leased Leaf for almost 3 years without any problems. It still has its original 85 mile range, which is fine for daily driving. They now have charging stations along the freeway so a road trip would be possible.

We charge off a regular outlet every night, and never saw the need to spend $1,000 on installing a charging station.

Overall we are very happy with the Leaf.
posted by monotreme at 5:09 PM on April 17, 2016

Another leaf owner here. We have put about 30k miles on our 2013 with no problems except the air conditioner, which was fixed under warranty. I would second the advice above to stick to 2013 or later, but many of them are starting to come off lease, so good deals can be found. As long as you have a place to charge every night and use it for errands <60 miles per day, it is the perfect compact car. We are temporarily living in an apartment, and driving more, so now it is less convenient. We do have a minivan for trips and hauling big stuff, but the leaf works for 95% of our trips.
posted by Maxwell's demon at 6:22 PM on April 17, 2016

To answer the question upthread about the tax credit- that is only available when the car is first sold, which explains why used prices are so low compared with new.
posted by Maxwell's demon at 6:24 PM on April 17, 2016

Sorry, just reread the question, and saw you are planning to buy new. That is what we did, and with the tax credit and local rebate, the leaf is very good value
posted by Maxwell's demon at 6:27 PM on April 17, 2016

I'm in the Lease a Leaf camp. We are halfway through a 3 year lease on our Leaf. It's spacious and runs like a dream. I say lease rather than buy because I believe that battery technologies are even still going to outstrip the length of the lease. We recently priced ours on KBB and even with no accidents or problems, it is already worth less than it will cost to buy out the lease at the end of the term.

Also, I'd like to echo that as long as you have a standard outlet not used by anything else in your garage, you most likely don't need a charging station for your use case. My husband and I mostly plug it in every night, and in the rare case where we've had to do a lot of back and forth, we will head to the local grocery store and stop for a fast charge which gets us from 0%-80% in half an hour... For free! You can download an app called Plugshare to see the availability and price of all kinds of chargers in your area.
posted by Night_owl at 8:03 PM on April 17, 2016

> What did you like? Not like? Wish you'd known?

With the Leaf I guess the big negative is that the cheapest S trim is pretty budget in terms of interior quality.

Haven't seen an SL but not sure the +$7000 difference is worth it (the SL comes with another 25% of battery capacity which is kinda nice I guess but the town I live in is isolated from everywhere so the Leaf's 80-100 mile range is perfect for me.)

Nissan's given me 2 free years of charging ("No Charge to Charge" -- 30 minutes per day) so my general pattern is to park it at a charger after work (at ~20%) and while I'm eating it charges up to ~80% in that period. Luckily here in town there's hasn't been much of any competition for these chargers after work, I've been "ICEd" more often than seeing another EV in "my" spot.

People who bought Leafs a while ago have been hit with brutal depreciation, but last year I used this to my advantage to sorta-lowball the dealer and they came in with a price ($20,000 after everything is accounted for) I was happy to be paying.

My ugliest surprise to me so far is that even with the back seats down my hybrid road bike doesn't fit in the back. What a crappy hatchback!

Also, the back hatch is a magnet for road grit when the roads are wet, there's a ledge there that doesn't get any drainage.

What I didn't know going in was that the scheduled maintenance out to 100,000 miles and beyond is rather minimal . . basically tire rotations ever 7,5000 and brake fluid changes every 30,000.

I wish the Leaf's regen braking was just a touch stronger, it's good enough but it's not strong enough to bring the car to a stop unless you've got a lot of run room.

Speaking of brakes, coming from a manual car I detest how the Leaf can creep at a stop even if you have the brake pedal depressed a bit.

The Leaf S is no Model 3, but if you can get out the door for $20,000 I think it's a pretty damn good value. I plan on driving it into the ground, well into the next decade.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 9:14 PM on April 17, 2016

I lease the Ford C-Max. I've had it for about 18 months now. I freaking love it. I'm getting about 99 mpg and I'd be getting better if I could plug in at work reliably. The range is very low compared to the Leaf or Volt or Tesla, but it has a gas engine which I absolutely need.

I plug in in my garage in a 110 v outlet. There is absolutely nothing I don't like about it. If nothing better comes out in the next 18 months, I plan on leasing a new C-Max next year.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:39 AM on April 18, 2016

I have a 2013 Chevy volt. It is just a fantastic car. I love zooming around silently, and my wife gets free charging at work. It charges of a regular outlet, though we are planning on eventually running 220 out to the garage. Our plan is to eventually replace our Toyota Matrix with a plug-in hybrid that can pull a small trailer,(for going camping and home improvement and such) and then eventually replace the volt with a Bolt or a model 3.
posted by rockindata at 12:31 PM on April 18, 2016

The Chevy Volt and Ford C-Max are both hybrids, and they are not interested in hybrids.

Teslas, VW eGolfs, Nissan Leafs (that's odd to write) seem covered. Also out there: BMW i3, Ford Focus Electric, Fiat 500e, Honda Fit EV, Kia Soul EV, and Smart Electric Drive.
posted by NortonDC at 4:51 PM on April 18, 2016

I have a 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV that I bought used last spring. We run it to the grocery store, the coffeeshop, and every once in a while to work.

I'm charging it on a regular outlet in the carport. Usually I do an overnight charge about once a week. I can charge it for not too much money at work and at a couple of other spots around town in a pinch.

In the summer it gets about its advertised range; in the winter, somewhat less. It gets really fogged up in cool damp weather; ie the whole of a PNW winter. Sigh. But it unfogs pretty quickly, which is what kills the mileage.

The hatchback holds about a half-dozen standard size grocery bags. The headspace is astonishingly good; mr epersonae (6'+) finds it quite comfortable. Four adults can sit in it comfy as long as not all of them are really long-legged.

I like how it drives, and I've gotten very comfortable with the quirks of regenerative braking. It's not the fastest car in the universe, but I manage it all right on short freeway trips. (FWIW, I'm a bit nervy driving on the freeway in any case.)

I think it's the cutest car! I sort of feel like I'm driving a little old lady car from the future, if that makes any sense? Mr. E sometimes jokes by saying that it's what the execs drive around the factory, and we usually refer to it as "The Bubble".

Oh, and it has the weirdest cupholders I've ever seen. They're...square?
posted by epersonae at 4:51 PM on April 18, 2016

I've had the Mercedes electric for about a year now, and I could not be happier. I needed the extra space in the back seat and trunk, and also wanted to treat myself to the premium quality so that is the reason for getting the Mercedes. Otherwise I think the Leaf would have covered my needs.

I tried a few electrics (Leaf, Golf, BMW) before getting the Mercedes, and I was impressed with all of them. They all had the great responsiveness of the electric motor, and were very good to drive. The Leaf is good value for the money, roomier than you think, the Golf a little more expensive but feels better built. But the best electric I tried was the BMW i3. Such a terrific car! Wonderful interior, and truly fun to drive. Had I not needed the extra space I would definitely have gotten that little gem.

During winter range goes way down with electrics if it gets cold where you live - it was very noticeable, but did not pose a problem for my normal use. This holds true for all the models we looked at, but it depends on your needs of course.

There is one big drawback and that is the range, and that is a definite drawback. We rent a fossil fuel whenever we need to make long trips tomsolve this shortcoming, but if you just need it for local driving I would say an electric beats anything in the same price range. Plus it is much cheaper to run. And because it has much fewer moving parts the maintenance cost will be considerably lower.

I recommend you go try a few.
posted by Agent X9 at 12:00 PM on April 19, 2016

The Volt is not a hybrid, not in the traditional sense. If your commute is less than. 30-40 odd miles you can just plug it in and not use gas. Even when you go over your battery charge the gas engine acts as a generator for the electric system rather than a traditional drive train. So you always have that silent transmissionless zip.

It is considered an extended range electric, not a hybrid.
posted by stormygrey at 8:29 PM on April 28, 2016

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