Eco Investor January 2020


Electric Car Is Quick Off the Petrol and Coal Grids

By Victor Bivell

Two big consumer issues around electric cars are price anxiety due to the high prices of new cars and range anxiety as they can make longer trips harder to manage. But these issues can be easily avoided. I recently bought an electric car. It's secondhand so I had no price anxiety, and it's a city runaround so I have no range anxiety.

Take away these worries and the many positives of an electric car immediately take over and make owning one both pleasurable and profitable.

When I was doing my research into buying an electric car, I was particularly struck by a comment from an electric car owner who said that it was a great feeling driving past service stations and knowing that you didn't have to buy petrol anymore. I remembered the comment the first time I drove past a servo, and I can confirm it really is a great feeling. It is so good I keep having it.

And it's not the only one. Other great feelings are saving money, and filling up with electricity from our solar panels. Perhaps a more important one is knowing that my car is no longer contributing to carbon emissions and all that black particulate matter that many mornings with the dew seems to fall so thickly on everything in Sydney. Just the thought of breathing it 24/7 can make me feel a bit crook.

My electric car also comes with some great numbers.

The first is the price. The car is a 2014 Nissan Leaf with 48,913 kilometres on the odometer and 10 out of 12 bars on the battery gauge. Fully charged, the car can do 136 kilometres, which is enough for what I wanted - a city runaround. The total price was $17,638 including the ownership transfer and stamp duty. I'm happy with that.

I spent a few years researching an electric car, and by the time I was ready to buy, the market had changed a lot. Along with falling prices, there was a big increase in the number of cars available online. The increase is mainly due to the grey market where car dealers and buyers import secondhand Leafs from Japan. That's what mine is, and so far it has been a good buy.

More good numbers come from recharging the car. I worked out a Leaf could do equivalent kilometres to my petrol car for around a third to a sixth of the cost, depending on petrol prices, the range per litre and the range per kilowatt hour. And, of course, much less by trickle charging from our solar panels.

For the first month, my electric car did about 500 kilometres and used 65 kilowatt hours. From the grid and our energy retailer that would cost $15.11. But two thirds of the 65 kilowatts came from our roof. We imported 22 kilowatt hours, so we paid $5.11 for the 500 kilometres.

In comparison, my 20 year old V6 would have needed a decent refill to do that in Sydney. With petrol currently at $1.60 per litre, that's at least an $89 refill and probably more.

There are many variables when working out fuel costs, but I estimate I can save around $1,500 and more per year.

There are three other things I've learned about recharging. There is great pleasure in timing the top ups to maximize energy from our solar panels. Some days it's all solar and we are exporting to the grid at the same time. With petrol, you pay to fill up. With solar, you can make money while filling up.

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A perfect solar top up for the electric car on 21 January. The light blue is solar production. The dark blue is exports to the grid. The light orange is total home consumption. The dark orange is imports from the grid. The black rectangle is recharging the electric car. The big usage from 12.30 to 1.30 is the electric hot water boosting.

Even if I have to use the grid, which so far has not been often, it's so much cheaper than petrol that it doesn't hurt.

And thirdly, I bought a 10 amp, 10 metre heavy duty extension lead. Nissan cautions against extension leads as normal household ones are not up to the job. But chat sites show that plenty of owners use suitable heavy duty leads. I got one for when I may need to trickle charge away from home. The car's lead is 8 metres and with the extension cord I have up to 18 metres to reach a power point.

Servicing also has good numbers. The petrol car was good when it was new but gradually it got more and more expensive to service and pass rego. A thousand dollars was not unusual and now and then it was a lot more.

Early on in my electric car research I checked the manuals and read that servicing is usually cheap as there are so few moving parts compared to combustion engines. The main items for checking are the brakes, tyres, and lights. So I am hoping to save up to another thousand dollars or so a year on servicing costs.

Range anxiety was not really an issue as we have two options. My wife has a small second car that we can use for out-of-city driving. If we need a bigger car, our local rent-a-car group will do a late model family car for $145 overnight. Our savings from the electric car will cover many overnight hires but in reality we are likely to need this only on rare occasions.

Overall, if I save around $2,500 or so a year on what I would have spent keeping the old car then the electric car will pay for itself in six to seven years. Anything longer and the savings will quickly pick up. In reality, it should take less as the repair bills and the fuel bills were rising with the age of the old car.

The electric car was an important step in reducing our total energy costs, but it is also a lot of fun. I got used to it very quicky and it is a pleasure to drive. And by the time I am ready for another car, electric cars will be even cheaper and better. #






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