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The pros & cons of waiting to buy an electric car

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Due to unforeseen potential life changes, it turns out that we might not be parking an EV, LEAF or otherwise, in our garage for another two years.

editors-blog-entry3Go figure.

After sitting on the Nissan LEAF reservations list for a year and half while repeatedly complaining about the length of the wait, we finally get the chance to order a Nissan LEAF in Colorado – and then something unexpected comes up in our lives and it suddenly appears as if we’re looking at another two years before it makes sense for us to buy an EV.

Rather than turn this into a woe-is-me column about my dreams to become among the first solar-charged drivers in Colorado being dashed – no one wants to read that! -- I’m going to crank out an entry that’s less self-indulgent and, hopefully, more useful to more people (I know plenty of folks who want an EV but who plan to wait a few years before buying one).

So, here goes, a brief look at the pros and cons of waiting another two years to buy a Nissan LEAF.

PROS OF WAITING TWO MORE YEARS

our-clunkers

Our two clunkers: A 1992 Acura Integra with 150,000 miles on it and a 1994 Toyota Camry with 280,000 miles on it.

No new monthly car payments. We haven’t had new car payments for more than a decade and we’re still reasonably happy with our 1992 Acura Integra and 1994 Toyota Camry -- which has nearly 300,000 miles on it! While I’m way eager to own a solar-charged EV, I’m not so thrilled about revisiting monthly car payments.

A 6.6 kW onboard charger for the LEAF. Strong rumor has it that LEAFs built in the U.S. -- U.S. production will begin late 2012 -- will have a 6.6 kW onboard charger. This will allow full charging in about four hours, as opposed to the current eight hours.

More public charging stations -- and more solar-powered charging stations. There aren’t many charging stations in the Denver area right now and, as far as we know, just two are dedicated solar-powered EV charging stations (neither is open to the public). There will definitely be more EV charging stations in two years.

Comparison EV shopping will be a reality. In two years or so, we’ll have several affordable production EVs on the U.S. market, among them the LEAF, Ford Focus Electric and Mitsubishi iMiEV, meaning we’ll be able to shop and compare.

Second and third generation EVs. While most LEAF owners I know love their LEAF, there are always kinks to work out and a third generation LEAF is likely to be better than a first, or even a second generation, LEAF. In two years, several other affordable EVs will be into at least their second generation in the U.S. Plus, by 2013, the LEAF will be built in the U.S.

A lower sticker price. In theory, the LEAF and other EVs should cost less two years from now. However, given that the 2012 LEAF went up in price over the 2011 version, I’m thinking 2013 and 2014 LEAFs might cost even more.

A yellow LEAF in 2013? Last, but not least, yellow – to symbolize the sun and to attract as much attention to solar-charged driving as possible – might be one of the LEAF color options in a couple of years. Then again, maybe not ;-)

CONS OF WAITING TWO MORE YEARS

leaf-line

We're going to lose our place in the LEAF reservations line we've been standing in for 1 1/2 years due to unexpected uncertainities in our life right now.

Lose our place in the LEAF line. We had until Oct. 3 to hold on to the place we’ve held in the LEAF line (sort of – we’ve been passed by plenty of folks in California, Oregon, etc. who reserved later than we did) in Colorado. We’ve now lost that spot due to unexpected potential changes in our life. Not much we can do about that – although I’m thinking that if we’ve stepped out of the LEAF line, maybe it’s time to ask for our $99 reservations fee back.

Falling state tax credit. The state tax credit for EVs is falling in Colorado. I’m guessing it will continue to drop. Meanwhile, here’s betting price drops in the LEAF, or other production EVs, don’t keep pace. That’s pretty much what’s happened with solar in Colorado where rebates have dropped much more quickly than total home solar costs. Oh well. We got in on the solar thing at a perfect storm moment and paid just $8,000 out of pocket for a 5.59 kW fully-installed system. That’s an out-of-pocket cost I have yet to see beaten by anyone anywhere in the U.S. So I suppose we can’t complain about losing out on the highest EV state tax credits.

Falling federal tax credit? Will the $7,500 federal tax credit be intact in two years? If it’s gone completely – hopefully not likely -- we probably won’t be able to afford a production EV. There’s also the chance Nissan will have hit its 200,000 LEAFs sold maximum before we get on board in two years. Of course, if the federal tax credit stays in its current form and is no longer available for LEAFs, we could leap to another EV model that hasn’t hit the 200,000 cap.

LEAF price could go up. In theory, economies of scale and lower battery technology costs will bring EV prices down substantially. However, as of right now, I have to say I’m rather skeptical consumers will see much direct price drop benefit from this in the next three to five years.

Two more years on Big Oil. This both hurts, and literally stinks – think gasoline fumes and tailpipe. A solar-charged EV has neither. However, given our potential life changes there’s not much we can do about staying on oil a bit longer. And, it’s possible – crossing my fingers here ;-) -- one of our two extra years on Big Oil could be spent primarily using electric trains and public transportation in Europe.

Two more years of waiting to solar-charge an EV. This one hurts most: We’re potentially looking at two more years of talking the solar-charged EV talk while only half-walking the walk (we’ve had home solar since June 2010). The upside is that while we continue to wait to add the EV to our PV we’ll be able to rejoice in the fact that more and more people around the U.S., and around the world, are, and will be, joining the solar-charged revolution.

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