Our forthcoming EV dilemma

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 24, 2016, 8:47 PM | comments: 0

Being an electric vehicle enthusiast has been pretty exciting these last two years. It hasn't gone at all the way we expected, which is to say it has been an awfully expensive endeavor. Almost two years ago, we started by leasing a Nissan Leaf, and then last year, when it was clear that the Tesla Model 3 was a long way off, we pulled the trigger on the Model S. Today, the future is clear, but things still aren't moving as fast as we would like.

The Leaf ended up being an extraordinary deal, or at least, great for cash flow. We put down $5k, and had a payment of $100 a month. We did a 2-year lease because we wanted to minimize risk in terms of having a purely electric car. It turns out, there really wasn't any risk, and the car has been a really fantastic commuter. It's fun to drive, has that awesome EV torque, a fantastic small but tall size, plenty of room, and the range works out to nearly 100 miles. Plenty of distance for going almost anywhere in town. It didn't take us very long to learn that charging is a largely irrelevant issue, because you leave each day with a full "tank," and plug back in when you get home.

The Model S is only a year old. It really is the best car ever made. I do think it's too large, but otherwise, it's amazing. I've never been a car guy, but this thing blows my mind every time I drive it. That said, I don't imagine we'll keep it all that long, because it's expensive, even with the big down payment we made. I'd like to replace it after three years, when there are less expensive options.

What is clear is that we don't want to go back to gas cars. It's not even an environmental issue for me, it's just that combustion engines seem completely primitive. I like never having to stop at a gas station. It's an extraordinary convenience. The problem is, we need to do something as we approach the end of the lease with the Leaf. Diana called Nissan, and apparently we can extend it another six months, continuing to pay $100. That gets us to mid-February. Then what?

Well, we did put money in for a Model 3 reservation. Best case scenario is that it ships late in 2017, but the realist in me says early 2018. It isn't our next car. If we're staying electric, these are our options:

  • Chevy Bolt. This is a big question mark because we don't know if GM will meet its ship date late this year, and even if they do, there's no telling what the availability is going to be like. The press was impressed with it, and the pricing looks about right. I'm not sure if we would want to buy or lease. It will be eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit. It will have range around 200 miles.
  • Nissan Leaf (30 kWh battery). I think we would consider the new, upgraded Leaf with slightly longer range. We like the car we have. Given the extraordinary depreciation of the Leaf, because of the increasing range (a 200-mile range model expected the next year), there's no way we would do anything but lease.
  • BMW i3. I love this car, but unless there's some crazy deal to be had, it's too expensive. It too is in the range upgrade cycle, making their value questionable. Definitely a lease car if at all. Again, we'll check to see if there's desperation to sell existing inventory, but it's not a likely choice.
  • Prius Prime. This would technically be a return to a gas car, but it kind of depends. The Prime is a high-tech plug-in version of the new hybrid, which can go entirely electric for about 22 miles. This would cover most of the local activity we engage in except for going downtown, before requiring gas. The problem is, no one knows how much it will cost or when exactly it will ship. The way that Toyota has been screwing around with hydrogen, I'm convinced that they may screw this up.

Regardless of what happens, I dread having to buy another car from a conventional dealer. It's just the worst fucking consumer experience anyone can have. Even the Leaf involved us walking away, telling the sales manager to go screw himself after dicking us around, when the floor sales rep called and asked what happened, inviting us back for the deal we wanted. Then when we closed the deal, it took almost three hours to get out of there and get stuff signed. The Model S, which admittedly was crazy expensive, involved no negotiation, precise specifications and ordering online, and even an online down payment. Paperwork was signing a few things, and we could have been in and out in five minutes if they weren't eager to give us a thorough tutorial on the car and answer questions.

I would imagine we will replace the Model S at three years with a Model 3. It will have a minimum of $17k in equity (likely more) at that point because of Tesla's guaranteed resale value. We'll see what happens. It all depends on the realistic ship targets of the 3.

These are exciting times for electric cars, but we're definitely not to the price/range ratios that all make sense. We're getting close though.


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