My old car was 22 years old. It was a super-sweet ride (BMW M3 – the original style). But as my mechanic said, it’s had a hard life (as the only owner I think that comment was aimed at me). It has reached the point where I expected it to just fall apart while driving like one of the cars in The Great Race.
I first looked at the Tesla but it has no back seat for my daughters and the trunk won’t hold the weekly grocery shopping. And about 5 seconds later it hit me – I’m old. Because when I was 25 those would not be important issues yet now they’re the first things that occurred to me.
So that took me to a BMW 535 or a Nissan Leaf. I figured I’d get the BMW. My wife figured I’d end up with the BMW. My daughters were sure I’d end up with the BMW. But at the end of the day, I got the Leaf. Why? Well first the downside – it’s not as nice a car as the BMW (which is reasonable as it’s ½ the price). The Nissan is well made but a BMW is exquisite. The BMW also has superior handling although the Leaf corners well due to the heavy weight across the bottom of the chassis due to the batteries.
Interestingly the electronics in the cars are comparable. Unsurprisingly the acceleration is comparable too – electric motors have a giant advantage on this part. And the turning radius on the Leaf is better than my M3 (barely).
The thing is, with work I basically drive to work and back home, along with a couple of stops in Boulder. My M3 may have the capability to go 180 MPH but driving in Boulder is pretty much limited to 40 MPH. The occasional drive down to Denver is a bit faster but doesn’t require anything more in handling. So there’s the rational explanation (which is not what drives us), that they’re both fine.
I think electric cars are the future. And I’m really curious as to how they will work out. The only way to find out is to take a leap of faith and get an electric car myself. Reading the occasional article does not begat understanding. So why did I pick the Leaf? Because I want to learn what owning an electric car entails.
And within 8 hours I’ve discovered one giant difference. Electrical charge is the center of your universe when you are going to drive somewhere. Your car has a range before it needs to be re-charged. But unlike a 3 minute stop at a gas station, you’re looking at 7 hours – if you have the 220 volt special cable available. 17 hours if you’re using a standard 110 volt outlet. And unlike California, there are no J1772 charging stations in Colorado. (There is also a fast charge that takes ½ hour and requires a special adapter in 440 volts. Once they get those on I-70 then you could stop for lunch while your car gets recharged.)
I learned this with a vengeance because I went in for the test drive yesterday to see if I wanted the Leaf that I had pre-ordered and was on its way. But it turned out I could buy the test model yesterday and did. So I have the car but no home charging station. I figured not a problem, I could use the 110 charger in the garage and stay on top of the driving I did. Uh, no. All of the garage outlets are on a GFI circuit so as soon as it starts charging, it trips the breaker. It’s nice to have that level of safety in the garage but it means no overnight charging until I get the 220 J1772 adapter installed. That has really brought home how important charging time and availability is.
I’m still glad I got it, but I am a little nervous.