Buying an EV as a commuter vehicle - does it make sense?

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
3,581
SW Virginia
I drive my 2010 Tacoma 30 miles round trip daily to my workplace where I have access to free EV charging. Most of my errand trips to town are 40 miles or less roundtrip. I need the truck for hauling and winter transportation but have been considering investing in a used EV like a Nissan Leaf for commuting and errands rather than wearing out a truck that would cost $40k to replace. I like the idea of the simplicity and low maintenance needs of an EV rather than a PHEV. My wife drives a hybrid that we can take on road trips. We could also take the Tacoma. I'd also like to decrease my environmental footprint and have a spare vehicle around while the others are being repaired so my motivations are not purely economic.

I'm looking at used Nissan Leafs (Leaves?) that cost about $7k with roughly 40k miles on them. I'm not too concerned about known battery deterioration issues since even a deprecated battery should provide sufficient range, and DIY battery repair is a viable option for me.

Am I missing any factors or options that might sway my thinking?
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
4,610
Northern NH
Access to free EV charging and having access to a charger seems to be an issue I have heard from a few EV owners. I met someone with Volt this weekend and he was planning to charge at charging station at a public space. When I met him the space was occupied by a Leaf that had been plugged in at some unknown point. The charger was indicating it was no longer charging but no owner to be found. There were cars on either side so even if he did want to unplug the leaf and plug in his Volt he didn't have that option. I suppose if no one else at the company has an EV then you are covered but once a couple of folks do then it means someone has to coordinate charging and swapping cars around.

Still a great idea but just make sure you have plug with your name on it;)
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
16,105
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
30 miles round trip you shouldn't need a charge at work should you? I would not plan on ever depending on these free charges but consider them a bonus.

For a while you could get an off-lease leaf for 4000$. They are kind of dumb looking but the newest ones are better.

I like your thinking. My 16 mile round trip commute would also be a prime candidate for a used leaf instead of a 15 mpg 7.3 liter diesel pulling a 7500# truck.
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
3,581
SW Virginia
I met someone with Volt this weekend and he was planning to charge at charging station at a public space. When I met him the space was occupied by a Leaf that had been plugged in at some unknown point. The charger was indicating it was no longer charging but no owner to be found. There were cars on either side so even if he did want to unplug the leaf and plug in his Volt he didn't have that option. I suppose if no one else at the company has an EV then you are covered but once a couple of folks do then it means someone has to coordinate charging and swapping cars around.
I thought about this issue earlier today and share your concern. I think a friendly email amongst EV drivers would solve the problem at work though not a solution elsewhere.
Maybe there's an opportunity for an app where those needing a charge could scan your license plate or a QR code on your windshield and let you know that the space is needed for another EV. The app as an intermediary could keep things anonymous and moving vehicles could be coordinated through it. Of course, this would only work for those participating via the app.
Maybe this feature could be integrated into a large EV app that tracks charger location, availability, etc.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
2,624
Downeast Maine
30 miles round trip you shouldn't need a charge at work should you? I would not plan on ever depending on these free charges but consider them a bonus.

For a while you could get an off-lease leaf for 4000$. They are kind of dumb looking but the newest ones are better.

I like your thinking. My 16 mile round trip commute would also be a prime candidate for a used leaf instead of a 15 mpg 7.3 liter diesel pulling a 7500# truck.
Is yours that bad? My father has one that averages 22 on the highway, 4x4 DRW auto. Makes me glad I didn't find any when diesel shopping
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
2,624
Downeast Maine
Some day I'd like to get an EV for similar reasons. A lot of great points in this thread already. Something else to consider is cold weather performance. Low temps lower the charge and so far all the EVs I've read about use resistance heaters and those aren't kind to your range.
 

Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
16,105
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
Is yours that bad? My father has one that averages 22 on the highway, 4x4 DRW auto. Makes me glad I didn't find any when diesel shopping
I can pass 21 on the freeway too. Mines an auto SRW crew cab F350. You need longer drives to get the mpg up on a big diesel. They're piggy when cold and an 8 mile each way commute isn't enough to get it running efficiently. I get 11 or so when towing.
 
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blades

Minister of Fire
Nov 23, 2008
3,272
WI, Leroy
I can see a new model(s) of propane fired Mr Buddy heaters. Think of the old Volkswagen Beatle's with the gasoline fired heaters in them ( ya I know I am dating myself). Pulling heat off the eng via the pan tubes really sucked. Used to have to scrape ice off both sides of the windshield. I had a little 12v heater permanently mounted on the dash for the drivers side of the windshield. That helped some.

Currently pulling 18-20 mpg on my deleted 6.0 in a 250 ( 04), 3.73 rear 4x4 auto,extra cab short box, but my run is 42.5 miles one way. That will improve a bit as the weather warms up. Best was 23.1, think all the stars were aligned correctly that trip.
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
2,624
Downeast Maine
Wow, I feel lucky. My mostly stock 06 5.9 Cummins 4 door, 4x4, 8' bed, DRW, 6 speed, 3.73 averages 24 in my rural setting. I can exceed 25 on long freeway drives. Towing all of our stuff up here to Maine through the mountains I averaged 18 MPG. I was looking for a 7.3 truck of similar spec but couldn't find one and the Ram kind of fell in my lap.
 

saewoody

Feeling the Heat
Feb 15, 2017
453
CT
I had similar thoughts, but never for an EV. I have a 2004
Suburban 2500 getting about 11mpg in town. I have only a 7 mile drive to work each way. And most of my other driving is in town as well. So I started looking for a commuter car. I ended up with a 2005 Nissan Sentra with 125,000 on it for $1,200. An EV would be perfect for my scenario, but it’s not worth it to me to lay out that kind of money for a commuter car. The Sentra will pay for itself after only a few months of driving it.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
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Seasoned Oak

Minister of Fire
Oct 17, 2008
6,341
Eastern Central PA
I'm looking at used Nissan Leafs (Leaves?) that cost about $7k with roughly 40k miles on them. I'm not too concerned about known battery deterioration issues since even a deprecated battery should provide sufficient range, and DIY battery repair is a viable option for me.
Could get a good used volt for not much more and not have worry about getting stuck somewhere with a dead battery. Personally, i couldnt get past the weird look of the leaf.
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
78,140
South Puget Sound, WA
Could get a good used volt for not much more and not have worry about getting stuck somewhere with a dead battery. Personally, i couldnt get past the weird look of the leaf.
The Volt has a much nicer fit and finish. The first Leafs feel like an econobox next to the Volt.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
4,610
Northern NH
The Volts are impressive and used ones are affordable.One aspect to check out is getting in and out. The front windshield is angled low and getting in and out is challenge as its easy to knock your head on the pillar. Once inside its comfortable. My concern is I am not sure how well they will age as dealers did not sell a lot of volume and most only had a couple of techs trained to work on them. Now that they are out of production I wonder how long dealer support is going to hold up. Then again I expect its an overall issue with modern vehicles is they are probably going to be taken off the road due to technical (computer/ communication) issues rather then running gear.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
2,624
Downeast Maine
The Volt has a much nicer fit and finish. The first Leafs feel like an econobox next to the Volt.
The leaf is an econobox. The Volt is an econobox trying to justify its own high price. I love the engineering behind the Volt, but it's already a dying breed. PHEV are just so compex
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
3,581
SW Virginia
I considered a Volt strongly but want to avoid the complexity and maintenance of a PHEV. I'm familiar with Volts as we've had some at work for years. I want an uncomplicated econobox with a battery that I may be able to upgrade/repair myself. I actually own a Volt battery and its far from the same level of serviceability as that of the Leaf.

Someone I work with, who's opinion I value highly, recently went looking for a PHEV and came home with a new Honda Clarity. His original intent was to buy a Volt but found the Clarity to be a much better build and ride.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
78,140
South Puget Sound, WA
The leaf is an econobox. The Volt is an econobox trying to justify its own high price. I love the engineering behind the Volt, but it's already a dying breed. PHEV are just so compex
The Volt is not an econobox. If you owned one you wouldn't be making that statement. It's significantly better detailed and more fully featured than the original Leaf and has much better battery protection. Out on a windy road and particularly on long freeway drives it is a more comfortable and better behaved vehicle. Chevy got it right with the Volt. It's a shame that they discontinued it, but that is a good opportunity to get a good deal on one. We may see the Volt again, perhaps reborn as an SUV.

The Clarity wasn't out when we got our Volt. One important factor for us is the hatchback utility with the fold-down rear seat for greater big item hauling capacity. That cut out several cars we looked at would include the Clarity. Although I have owned a few Hondas and like them, I have not warmed up to the Clarity's looks either, but I like that it is a true 5 passenger car.

semipro, sounds like the Leaf would work out fine for you as a commuter car. There is also the Focus electric which may show up on your search.
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
2,624
Downeast Maine
The Volt is not an econobox. If you owned one you wouldn't be making that statement. It's significantly better detailed and more fully featured than the original Leaf and has much better battery protection. Out on a windy road and particularly on long freeway drives it is a more comfortable and better behaved vehicle. Chevy got it right with the Volt. It's a shame that they discontinued it, but that is a good opportunity to get a good deal on one. We may see the Volt again, perhaps reborn as an SUV.

The Clarity wasn't out when we got our Volt. One important factor for us is the hatchback utility with the fold-down rear seat for greater big item hauling capacity. That cut out several cars we looked at would include the Clarity. Although I have owned a few Hondas and like them, I have not warmed up to the Clarity's looks either, but I like that it is a true 5 passenger car.

semipro, sounds like the Leaf would work out fine for you as a commuter car. There is also the Focus electric which may show up on your search.
Own a luxury car and you will see the Volt is just a well built econobox just like the Corolla and Civic.
 

PaulOinMA

Feeling the Heat
Oct 20, 2018
353
MA
Neighbor had an Audi A8L for his few mile commute to work. Got a Volt after that and he loved the Volt. Perfect for his commute.

His colleague that is also a neighbor drove a 500-h.p. BMW M6 convertible the few miles.
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
2,624
Downeast Maine
I'm not saying the Volt is a pile, I actually quite like the first gen, but it's not a luxury car. It's an economical car, but that doesn't mean it's bad. My wife's car has features found on a Mercedes, but her Fiat is far from a luxury car and is still an econobox. Perhaps it would be better to call the Volt a "premium" economy car? Like Buick, just a bunch of European economy cars with nicer interior features, which I also happen to like, especially their new wagon, but I also like the Opels upon which they are based.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
78,140
South Puget Sound, WA
Have driven my SIL's BMW and BIL's Lexus several times as they also have driven the Volt. The Volt is more fully featured than my SIL's BMW. She loved driving the Volt and this is from someone that is a die-hard BMW owner. No one ever claimed the Volt is a luxury car but there is a huge gulf between econoboxes and high-end luxury cars. The Volt falls in between like the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, etc.. Of course it's more expensive, it has a huge battery in it. FWIW, I have a friend that has an early 2000s Mercedes. I will take the Volt any day to that car. It certainly has been more reliable and it is more fully featured and has nicer detailing like the upholstery leather stitching.
https://www.motorauthority.com/news/1026335_chrysler-not-to-blame-for-mercedes-drop-in-quality
Neighbor had an Audi A8L for his few mile commute to work. Got a Volt after that and he loved the Volt. Perfect for his commute.

His colleague that is also a neighbor drove a 500-h.p. BMW M6 convertible the few miles.
My neighbor had an A4 and he loves our Volt. After a test drive he said he liked the Volt better overall. A few months later he upgraded to an A6. Now that is a really nice car and he's definitely one up on me.
 
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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
2,624
Downeast Maine
Have driven my SIL's BMW and BIL's Lexus several times as they also have driven the Volt. The Volt is more fully featured than my SIL's BMW. She loved driving the Volt and this is from someone that is a die-hard BMW owner. No one ever claimed the Volt is a luxury car but there is a huge gulf between econoboxes and high-end luxury cars. The Volt falls in between like the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, etc.. Of course it's more expensive, it has a huge battery in it. FWIW, I have a friend that has an early 2000s Mercedes. I will take the Volt any day to that car. It certainly has been more reliable and it is more fully featured and has nicer detailing like the upholstery leather stitching.
https://www.motorauthority.com/news/1026335_chrysler-not-to-blame-for-mercedes-drop-in-quality

My neighbor had an A4 and he loves our Volt. After a test drive he said he liked the Volt better overall. A few months later he upgraded to an A6. Now that is a really nice car and he's definitely one up on me.
Features do not equal luxury. Hyundais have heated and cooled seats, power steering wheels, etc. You can alternatively get a Bently without heated seats, but that doesn't make the Hyundai more luxurious. Talk to any person who works in the auto industry, the Volt is an economy car. You also can't compare two cars with fifteen years of R&D between them.

Edit: could be more than fifteen years depending on which MB. Compare a brand new C class to a new Volt, equally equipped. There's a world of difference.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
78,140
South Puget Sound, WA
Dude, no one ever said that the Volt or any other car is a luxury car. It is designed to be economical, so is the Lexus 300h. That does not make it an econobox. You seem to only be able to equate vehicles in one category or the other. There is a world of options in between.
 
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CaptSpiff

Feeling the Heat
Jan 13, 2014
417
Long Island, NY
The Volt falls in between like the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, etc..
OK begreen, I get that you really like your Volt, but Fusion or Accord?.... Really????
I was just talking with a co-worker last nite who loves his Volt. Driven over 7000 miles on electric, and less than 1000 on gas, since Oct 2018 purchase. Mentioned how feature rich it was, and how his only problem is he has to drive with his seat up a bit to give leg room to his kid in the back booster seat. That's my definition of an econobox. He doesn't have to do that in his wife's Accord.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
78,140
South Puget Sound, WA
Econobox is a United States informal slang term for a small, boxy, fuel-efficient economy car with few luxuries and a low price. The term is typically used for cars from the 1970s and 1980s.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Econobox

If rear seat legroom is the definition then I guess the Mercedes 2-door C class and BMW M2 are econoboxes.
 
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DuaeGuttae

Feeling the Heat
Oct 26, 2016
409
Texas
I drive my 2010 Tacoma 30 miles round trip daily to my workplace where I have access to free EV charging. Most of my errand trips to town are 40 miles or less roundtrip. I need the truck for hauling and winter transportation but have been considering investing in a used EV like a Nissan Leaf for commuting and errands rather than wearing out a truck that would cost $40k to replace. I like the idea of the simplicity and low maintenance needs of an EV rather than a PHEV. My wife drives a hybrid that we can take on road trips. We could also take the Tacoma. I'd also like to decrease my environmental footprint and have a spare vehicle around while the others are being repaired so my motivations are not purely economic.

I'm looking at used Nissan Leafs (Leaves?) that cost about $7k with roughly 40k miles on them. I'm not too concerned about known battery deterioration issues since even a deprecated battery should provide sufficient range, and DIY battery repair is a viable option for me.

Am I missing any factors or options that might sway my thinking?

My husband needed a commuter car once we moved to Texas (he had always used biking and metro or carpooling before). We were able to get a lightly used 2017 LEAF and really love it. Even if we had to replace the battery without warranty help, we concluded it was more economical than other options. We don’t have a lot of worries about cold weather range, but we did buy an electric blanket that plugs into the car for kids in the backseat. We’re a family of six, so we were only looking for this to be the commuting and errand car, but we are glad that it seats five (even with car seats).

I can’t tell you what other options are out there or what you might be missing. I’ll just say that we are very pleased with our purchase and with not needing to use the minivan for everything.
 
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