By Sean O’Callaghan

In this Series, Sean will tell us the 8-year story of his Nissan Leaf, from the purchase till the replacement of its battery.

 

In May 2012 I convinced my (then) girlfriend that we could save a lot of money by buying a new car.

…and that’s a very strange statement to make. Cars are a depreciating asset with high running costs. Up to the point of March 2012 there was no way you could have ever convinced me that I could save myself money by buying a new car. However in March of 2012 I heard a radio add whilst driving my beloved (and it was!) 2008 Honda Civic IMA on my daily commute from Killucan in Westmeath, to TCD right in the heart of Dublin city. A roundtrip journey of 140km amounting to something in the region of 3.5hours a day spent in the car, with one or other of us doing this, or a similar journey, six days a week.

828km per week! (not counting local and Sunday trips which brought the average to about 1000km)

This radio add was for the ‘New All Electric Nissan Leaf’.

Now I wasn’t ignorant of EV’s to this point, Tesla was already making plenty of noise back then, and my father had purchased a Mahindra Reva-i/GeeWiz from Greenaer in 2009 (that thing ruined him for them to this day!), but I’d never considered them affordable. I had also done a research piece on EV’s as part of my M.Sc. so I had a good idea of them and was keen to see them progressing.

At that time however the Leaf had been on the Irish market for about a year and had been retailing for ~€45,000 in 2011. There was the VRT exemption worth €5,000 which helped, but it was still a massively expensive car by my standards.

This ad though told a different tale. The price of the car had dropped in the new year and was now listing at €36,500. Added to that then, Nissan were matching the VRT exemption meaning that you could own one for €26,500 – and it was that number that started my cogs turning.

For the rest of the drive home I was running numbers in my head.

imaThe Civic IMA, for the unacquainted, is what’s called a mild hybrid. This means that it has a motor and a small battery, but it can’t move without the engine. The engine cuts out when you stop, assuming the battery has sufficient charge in it, and it was second only to the Prius in terms of green-cred at the time. Mine was the bona-fida Civic IMA (not the ugly duckling Civic Hybrid which followed) meaning that not only was it almost indistinguishable from a regular Civic saloon, but they were only offered with the Executive trim package, so it was a gorgeous place to be. Despite the hybrid cred however, it was all I could do to get its 1.3L twin spark petrol engine to manage ~50mpg (4.7L/100km) and petrol was running at about €1.63/l at the time. This was amounting to ~€75/week in that car alone (we also had a ’98 Renault Megane taking ~€30/week). Also despite the hybrid cred, mine was registered in early 2008 meaning that it was taxed on the engine capacity not the CO2 emissions; and I still had finance on it to the tune of €370 a month.

By the time I’d gotten home I was already ballpark satisfied that the financial case was there, and I’d moved on to the feasibility of this 160km NEDC range being up to the job where our commutes were concerned. Even back then everyone knew that NEDC numbers were weighted about 25% in favour of the vendor so I assumed a 120km reliable range and set about examining the logistics.

Killucan to Dublin 2 was our main journey – 70km each way – and I knew that even if the car could do the full roundtrip, it wouldn’t for anything but the early stages of ownership and we would need to be able to charge.

At the time there weren’t many options. There were street chargers on Merrion square, Fitzgibbon street and Mark’s Lane, but getting parking at them would be a challenge – and even at that, unless you wanted to pay for a day’s parking, there was a requirement to park and then recover the car during the workday which was just a nonsense. There was also fast charger at Nissan HQ in Park West though – and that was a workable solution at that time as there was no competition for it. We could drive into TCD, park up, and then take 20minutes on the way home to top off the battery.

It was time … for a spreadsheet!

(not disclosed here but available upon request)

I took a bit of time with this. I studied our travel patterns and their seasonality, which mode of transport we use and to what extent; the other EV’s on the market, their prices and viability; the impact of new car finance on the whole picture, and the side benefits we might leverage from have a night-rate meter by replacing our Calor gas with storage heaters. I can provide a copy for your amusement, but long story short the numbers confirmed my suspicions.

We could buy a brand spanking new car and be better off to the tune of more than €2470 a year. That’s nearing €50 a week, real money in your pocket, for the sake of having a new car in the driveway.

[Mind blown]

I had also deliberately omitted the expected servicing cost reduction because, despite having always maintained my own vehicles (fastidiously), I was going to keep well inside the warranty terms with this new tech and figured the costs would balance out in dealer charges as a result.

To be continued in part 2