Here are a few of the things that I have discovered in my two and half years of living with an electric vehicle (EV) as my primary mode of transportation. These are aspects that I feel make EVs better than the typical internal combustion engined (ICE) vehicle.
Low Cost of Ownership: I justified the lease of my 2012 Nissan Leaf on the basis of its low acquisition cost thanks to federal and state tax incentives and its low operating costs thanks to it being an EV. I have to say that while it looked good on paper it has actually turned out to be even better. I estimate that it costs me between $30 and $40 per month to fuel the Leaf for my 42 mile round trip daily commute plus some running around on the weekends. I have rotated the tires every 7,500 miles and that's pretty much been it. There is no reason to expect an EV to have more mechanical problems than a conventional car.
Programmable Charge Timer: One of the neat features of the Leaf is the ability to program it to either begin or complete charging at a specific time. Let's you get a cheaper rate for your electricity after 8:00 p.m. You can simply program the Leaf begin charging sometime after that. Alternatively, if you know that you will be leaving home at 6:30 a.m., every day, you can program it to be ready at 6:00 a.m. While ICE vehicles don't need to be charged, imagine being able to have your car gas itself up overnight.
Programmable Preheating/Precooling - This has got to be one of the coolest things ever. Sure, any automatic transmission car can have remote start, but that requires a lot of effort. You actually have to push a button. With the Leaf, you simply program it to preheat or precool the cabin and to have the job completed at a certain time. And then it does it day after day. You can even program it to be ready at different times on different days. The best part is that if you do this while it's plugged in, it doesn't use any of the power you will need for driving. It also turns on the heated seats and the heated steering wheel as well depending on the outside temperature.
No Warm Up Time - As I contemplate whether or not I would go back to an internal combustion vehicle, this is one of the features I think I would miss the most. Basically, you don't have to wait for the engine to warm up on an EV since it doesn't have one. I go to the gym at 4:30 a.m. three days a week. I simply walk out to the Leaf, unplug it and get in and go without worrying that I might be doing damage since I haven't given the engine a chance to warm up. The Leaf actually uses energy from the mains when plugged in or from the battery when not to keep the battery's temperature from getting too low. Also, my trip to the gym is very short - less than a mile. This would simply be murder on a conventional car's engine.
No Wasted Time Pumping Gas or Changing Oil - This one is fairly self-explanatory. The next time you have to stop for gas, think about what it would be like to simply pull into your garage, plug in your car and go inside. One of the things I really hated about my Jeep was stopping for gas, especially if it was cold and rainy or if there was a line at the pumps. At some point, I might estimate the number of hours this aspect has saved me.
Remote Apps - I know a lot of cars probably have these now. But with the Leaf's system you can get the car's state of charge and range, stop or start charging, or stop or start the climate control system.
Simplicity - Besides not requiring gas or oil, EVs in general are simpler. There are far fewer moving parts which means less wear and fewer things to go wrong. In a hybrid, you are actually carrying around an internal combustion engine that you only need some of the time and wish you didn't need at all. Ever wonder what it looks like under the hood of a Leaf. Here you go:
Storage - EVs in general have more storage space than the equivalent conventional vehicle and way more than a hybrid. This is because the engineers have fewer and smaller components and more flexibility in their placement. Battery's can be engineered in various shapes to maximize passenger and cargo space. They can even be used as part of the structure of the vehicle.
Handling - Ok, this may be one you aren't expecting. Think about this - in many EVs including the Leaf, the Tesla Model S and the Fiat 500 EV, the battery is actually placed in the floor. This results in a low center of gravity. Some testers have even reported that the Fiat 500 EV actually handles better than the regular 500.
Instant Torque - EVs don't have to build rpms to make power. It's there all at once. They accelerate almost effortlessly without any drama. And Tesla has proven that you don't have to sacrifice performance to go electric.
Quietness - By now you probably know that EVs are almost silent. Most have had to add some sort of warning sound so that pedestrians can hear them coming. Sure, we all enjoy the sound of a nice twin cam at full song, but for everyday use, it can get old.
Smug Self Righteousness - If you just so happen to be one of those folks who believes that the ice caps are melting, the seas are rising and that a polar bear on a stray iceberg will come floating by at any moment, then only an EV will do. When it comes to guilt free driving, it doesn't get any better than this. For bonus points, you can add a solar array to the roof of your house and really give the middle finger to the energy cartels.
Sure, its not all moonlight and roses. I plan to do a follow up on some of the less positive aspects of EV life, so stay tuned. In the meantime, if you any questions about the Leaf, leave them in the comments below and I will try and answer them.