My new electric car

10 years ago, when everyone else had cable, we were sick of the monthly bill and the mindlessly infinite channel list and cancelled it. I was happy to never have to deal with Time Warner again. But a couple years ago, we subscribed again to keep up with some of our favorite shows. Finally things are changing, and I expect we’ll cancel again before too long.

This on-again, off-again relationship with cable is also how we treat having a second car. Working at home for the last 13 years, even with taking the kids to school and various errands, my wife and I rarely need to be in two places at once. So we downsized to one car long ago, then got a second car for a few years, then downsized again a couple years ago. With my daughters to high school, I knew we’d need another car soon, but it was nice not having an extra car payment and even better to have an excuse to bike to coffee shops.

I promised myself and my son, who is already living in the future, that our next car would be 100% electric. I kept up with new Tesla models and their growing Supercharger infrastructure, but realistically Tesla is out of reach. There’s no way to justify the price for just driving to the elementary school a mile away, a nearby coffee shop, or around town every couple days.

So three weeks ago we picked up a Nissan Leaf. Because our needs (and battery technology) keep changing, we’re leasing it and we’ll decide at the end whether to pay the difference and keep it. It’s a fun little car, so quiet and effortless to drive, and the kids love it.

Obviously our “normal” gas-powered car will remain the primary family car and the one that we take on road trips. The Leaf goes about 85 miles fully charged and plugs into the normal outlet in our garage, as if we were just plugging in Christmas lights. I’ve also used the charging stations at Whole Foods, where I usually go for coffee and work once or twice a week. (We skipped the recommended 240V home charging kit for now, which charges significantly faster. For comparison, Tesla’s range is closer to 250 miles.)

While I’ve always been pretty good at hypermiling, the Leaf has made me even more conscious of it. I drove to my daughter’s basketball game in Georgetown last week, 30 miles away on the toll road. Sustaining 75mph is the worst and dragged my miles/kWh down a notch. On the way back, I drove the more direct, non-toll route and got significantly more efficiency at respectable speeds with some breaking.

But cruising down the highway it’s easy to see that this is the way the world should be, in time. Good new tech always reminds me of that first feeling we got when using the original iPhone, how it felt like the whole thing was from 5 years in the future. It’s not that extreme with the Leaf, but I still see a little of that, a glimpse that it’s more advanced than it should be. I think this may be the best car I’ve ever owned.

Manton Reece @manton