Re-doing the solar math on the Nissan LEAF


editors-blog-entry3With Nissan having just announced a very affordable price of $25,280 after a U.S. Federal Tax Credit of $7,500 for the Nissan LEAF, it makes sense to take a look at how much money a solar-charged LEAF might, or might not, save us (and you). Add to the federal tax rebate a Colorado state tax credit of up to $6,000, and you’re talking about $20,000 for a new LEAF for Colorado residents.

I’ll use our own situation as an example. And I’ll compare the solar + LEAF scenario to a scenario involving the purchase of a new, gas-powered car, in this case, a mid-priced Honda Accord.

Obviously, we could save money by holding on to our 1992 Acura Integra (145,000 miles) and 1994 Toyota Camry (265,000 miles) and not buying a new car.

However, eventually our “clunkers” — one of which (the Acura), I’ve owned for 18 years — will stop running, at which point we will have to replace them. A new car is a likely scenario for us, because we hold on to our cars and that makes the investment in a new car — which you know has been “babied” from Day One (as my Integra has been) — worthwhile.

Calculator on. Ready. Start. Punch and crunch!

A. The solar-charged scenario: A new Nissan LEAF + home solar system

  • $8,500 = total out-of-pocket costs for 5.5 kW solar system (Generates 8,000 kwH per year, enough to cover 100-percent of our home electric use + 12,000 miles a year in an EV)
  • $38,750 (Estimated total out-of-pocket costs for a new Nissan LEAF, or similarly priced EV, including $27,000 financed at a 7% annual interest rate across 6 years for $6,000 in interest costs)
  • $8,500 + $38,750 = $47, 250
  • – $7,500 (Federal Tax Credit)
  • – $5,000 (Estimated Colorado state tax credit)
  • = $34,750 (Total estimated cost)

B. The new gas-powered car scenario

  • $29,000 (Estimated total out-of-pocket costs for new Honda Accord, or similarly priced mid-sized gas-powered sedan including $20,000 financed at a 7% annual interest rate for six years for about $4,550 in interest costs)
  • $10,057 = 10 years of home electric costs ($800 per year base — including 5% rate increase every year)
    $11,470 = 10 years of gasoline costs ($1,000 per year base = including 3% annual rise in gas prices)
  • $29,000 + $10,057 + $11,470
  • = $50,527 (Total estimated cost)

When you compare scenario ‘A’ to ‘B’, the long-term savings solar-charging an EV generates become clear. In this particular case, we’re talking about nearly $16,000 in savings. Of course, those savings might in fact be higher because:

  • maintenance costs for EVs are lower than those for gas-powered cars;
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On the other hand, the LEAF’s lithium-ion battery pack will most likely have to be replaced around year ten. But even if you add $6,000 for a battery replacement on the LEAF — a very rough number, you’re still left with about $10,000 in savings.

It’s also worth noting that I have probably not calculated realistic maintenance costs into the Honda Accord scenario. My estimates of $200 per year are almost certainly on the low side. It’s also questionable whether gas prices will only increase at about three percent a year for the next decade.

In sum, at least through year ten, and at least for us here in solar and EV friendly Colorado — Colorado is among perhaps eight U.S. states with outstanding solar incentives — the savings for a solar-charged LEAF appear to be significant.

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