Charging Nissan’s Electric Leaf

As the number of electric cars on the road in the United States slowly continues to grow, there are many people who are wary of the new technology and are waiting until the prices of electric vehicles come down a bit and their use becomes more widespread before they throw down any cash. Electric cars still cost significantly more than similarly equipped petroleum powered vehicles and there are simply not enough charging stations in North America to make cross-country cruising a viable option yet either.

The Nissan Leaf is one of the new breed of all-electric cars that seems to be getting a lot of attention lately and the performance of the new 2012 model is said to be improved over the prior year’s models although it does cost a bit more as well. The base price of $32,750 for the 2011 Leaf SV has risen to $35,200 for the 2012 model. Some buyers will qualify for a federal tax credits on their Leaf purchases, which will help reduce the impact of the purchase. The three-year leasing rate for the Leaf is a still fairly high at $379 a month, although the number is only $30 higher than the lease rate for the 2011 model.

One of the biggest obstacles to widespread electric vehicle acceptance continues to be powering them up. At some point in the distant future, the nation will probably have as many electric vehicle charging stations as there are gas stations today, but for now, Leaf buyers will have to be content with installing a charging station at home. A true, commercial quick charge station is powered by a 480-volt circuit that is just not practical of affordable at home.

To overcome the charging hurdles, Nissan is now offering Level 2 home charging equipment built by AeroVironment as a package deal when you buy or lease a new Leaf. The cost of the home charging dock can be added to your loan or lease price at the time of purchase, but it will require installation of a dedicated 220/240V 40 amp circuit connected to a separate breaker that is hard-wired directly to the circuit. This means 99% of Leaf drivers will need an electrician to install the home charging dock that Nissan estimates will cost an average of $2,000 plus tax and license fees.

There are also other charging station companies like ECOtality, General Electric and Leviton getting into the game, but the Nissan-sponsored AeroVironment home charging dock is already widely available anyplace the Leaf is sold.

The AeroVironment dock is fully weatherproof and allows programming the car to charge on the schedule you choose like during non-peak hours which can help owners save on demand costs.

The best news however, is that the Leaf delivers the equivalent of 99 miles per gallon and has an estimated annual electric charging cost of only $560 when the numbers are crunched.

Nissan arrived at those figures by basing the use of the Leaf on 15,000 annual miles driven and an electric rate of $0.11/kWh. Individual owners’ exact costs will vary a bit die to local electricity rates and the number of miles actually driven, but any figures close to 100 miles per gallon and $500 in annual electricity costs are quite attractive compared to the cost of dumping $3-plus per gallon gasoline into a car that gets 25 miles per gallon. The significant difference in operating costs will continue to get even farther apart as gas prices continue to go up and the purchase prices of electric vehicles continue to go down.

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