Cars

Published on December 13th, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan

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A 2014 Nissan LEAF Can Be An Essentially “Free Car” (YMMV!)

December 13th, 2016 by  

[Update: I note it in the article in two places, but remember that the key to any such calculations depends on several assumptions that can vary a great deal and are based on your individual story. So, please jump into the spreadsheet and modify assumptions as you see fit to fit your story or that of someone you know. Below are just a few examples.]

nissan-leafs-barcelona-silver

If, like me, you’ve been enjoying a car-free life for years, the title above is incorrect. However, if you are a normal person who drives around in a gas car, it could be 100% accurate*.

To kick things off, let’s start with a few assumptions [Update: Since a lot of people wanted a higher electricity/charging price as the default than what I originally used — which was already 3 times what my mom has paid in one year with the LEAF, but was also lower than most readers assumed would be average — I’m kicking things off below with a different assumption list. Actually, I’m just using the assumptions that are in the sheet right now after a number of people have gone in and played with the numbers, except I’m changing the miles from 17,000 (quite high) to 14,000 (approximately the national average). The entire section below before the table is new, but the rest of the article shows the original as well]:

  • You’re looking to buy a $8,000 used 2014 Nissan LEAF.
  • You have a paid off 1995 Toyota Camry.
  • You drive 14,000 miles per year.
  • A stable gasoline price of $2.25/gallon (a rather absurdly low price if you think about it, and likely to rise over the coming years, but let’s just use that).
  • Your current car has a fuel economy of 25 mpg.
  • Annual maintenance costs on the 2014 LEAF are $253.40 per year vs $980 per year on the Camry.
  • The average price of electricity you use to charge your car (including free workplace charging and/or free public charging and/or special home EV charging rates from your utility) is 12¢/kWh.

As you can see in the table below, with these assumptions (which I think are quite conservative, but try your best to plug in numbers that you think are accurate), the total cost of the LEAF (upfront purchase and operation & maintenance) would be the same as your paid off car (so, basically just operation & maintenance) after ~5 years. But you’d be driving a 2014 LEAF rather than a 1995 Camry in that time.

As readers have noted, there may be other costs to consider — insurance, a home charging station if you want and can have one, whether the battery will be adequate for 5–10 years or replaced.

This tool is basically a stimulus to get people looking at the options and considering their personal situations. There is vast variation in many assumptions used here. Have fun plugging in your own numbers!

Cars 2014 Nissan LEAF 1995 Toyota Camry
Purchase Price $8,000.00 $0.00
Incentives $0.00 $0.00
Price After Incentives $8,000.00 $0.00
Price of Gas $2.25
Avg Price Of Electricity For Car $0.12
Average Miles Per Year 14,000 14,000
Maintenance Costs Per Mile 0.0181 0.0700
Maintenance Costs Per Year $253.40 $980.00
MPGe or MPG 120 25
Average Gallons Of Gas Per Year (Miles/MPG) 560.00
Average kWh Of Electricity Per Year For Car (Miles/(MPGe/34) 3,966.67
Average Cost Of Fuel Per Year $476.00 $1,260.00
Total Cost Of Car After Year… Used Nissan LEAF Current Gasmobile
1 $8,729 $2,240
2 $9,459 $4,480
3 $10,188 $6,720
4 $10,918 $8,960
5 $11,647 $11,200
6 $12,376 $13,440
7 $13,106 $15,680
8 $13,835 $17,920
9 $14,565 $20,160
10 $15,294 $22,400

 


Here’s the original example I ran with based mostly on averages but also using an electricity/charging rate of 0.03¢/kWh (since my mom’s effective rate has been 0.01¢/kWh after 1 year in a LEAF):

  • You’re looking to buy a $8,000 used 2014 Nissan LEAF.
  • You drive 13,476 miles per year (the US average).
  • A stable gasoline price of $2.21/gallon (a rather absurdly low price if you think about it, and likely to rise over the coming years, but it is the current average in the US, so let’s just use that).
  • Your current car is paid off (no more monthly payments on it).
  • Your current car has a fuel economy of 20 mpg.
  • Annual maintenance costs on the 2014 LEAF are 33% of your current car’s maintenance costs ($243 vs $737).
  • The average price of electricity you use to charge your car (including free workplace charging and/or free public charging and/or special home EV charging rates from your utility) is 3¢/kWh.

With such assumptions, you’d be spending $1,489 per year on gas, and you’d be spending $121 per year on electricity. (For the record, my mom has been easily and enjoyably living with the LEAF — only car in the household — for over 1 year and has spent far, far less than that ~$40 on charging/electricity in total.)

Not long after the 4th year of LEAF ownership, you would have saved more money on gasoline and maintenance than the cost of the 2014 Nissan LEAF + charging + LEAF maintenance. In other words, at that point, you basically got your LEAF for free.

If you kept the car for 10 years (and, to reiterate, assumed all of these figures fit that period and you didn’t replace the battery), that would be $11,000 in savings compared to keeping your gasoline car.

Cars Used Nissan LEAF Some Current Gasmobile
Purchase Price $8,000.00 Paid Off
Incentives $0.00 $0.00
Price After Incentives $8,000.00 $0.00
Price of Gas $2.21
Avg Price Of Electricity For Car $0.03
Average Miles Per Year 13,476 13,476
Maintenance Costs Per Mile 0.0181 0.0547
Maintenance Costs Per Year $243.26 $737.14
MPGe or MPG 114 20
Average Gallons Of Gas Per Year (Miles/MPG) 673.80
Average kWh Of Electricity Per Year For Car (Miles/(MPGe/34) 4,019.16
Average Cost Of Fuel Per Year $120.57 $1,489.10
Total Cost Of Car After Year… Used Nissan LEAF Current Gasmobile
1 $8,364 $2,226
2 $8,728 $4,452
3 $9,091 $6,679
4 $9,455 $8,905
5 $9,819 $11,131
6 $10,183 $13,357
7 $10,547 $15,584
8 $10,911 $17,810
9 $11,274 $20,036
10 $11,638 $22,262

Nissan LEAF white


Naturally, if you change the assumptions, things change.

Let’s say you still have $3,000 to pay on your current car (instead of $0), but you pay twice as much for electricity (6¢/kWh), drive less (12,000 miles instead of 13,476 miles), and have better fuel economy in your current gas car (25 mpg instead of 20 mpg).

The situation gets even better. Just before the end of the 4th year, you’ve saved more money than the 2014 LEAF cost you.

Cars Used Nissan LEAF Some Current Gasmobile
Purchase Price $8,000.00 $3,000.00
Incentives $0.00 $0.00
Price After Incentives $8,000.00 $3,000.00
Price of Gas $2.21
Avg Price Of Electricity For Car $0.06
Average Miles Per Year 12,000 12,000
Maintenance Costs Per Mile 0.0181 0.0547
Maintenance Costs Per Year $216.61 $656.40
MPGe or MPG 114 25
Average Gallons Of Gas Per Year (Miles/MPG) 480.00
Average kWh Of Electricity Per Year For Car (Miles/(MPGe/34) 3,578.95
Average Cost Of Fuel Per Year $214.74 $1,060.80
Total Cost Of Car After Year… Used Nissan LEAF Current Gasmobile
1 $8,431 $4,717
2 $8,863 $6,434
3 $9,294 $8,152
4 $9,725 $9,869
5 $10,157 $11,586
6 $10,588 $13,303
7 $11,019 $15,020
8 $11,451 $16,738
9 $11,882 $18,455
10 $12,313 $20,172

If you keep the original assumptions but also assume you still have $3,000 to pay on your current car, you save more money than the LEAF cost you sometime in the middle of the 3rd year of ownership.

If you assume you still have $3,000 to pay on your current car, but charging will cost you 7¢/kWh and your current car has a fuel economy of 25 mpg, then you don’t save more money than the LEAF cost you until the end of year #5.

nissan-leaf-long-term-review-one-year

There’s great variation in the savings or costs depending on individual circumstances (ymmv), so if you want to play around with the numbers based on your situation or the situation of someone else you know, feel free to do so here. And feel free to drop us a note about what you find.

Of course, saving money isn’t the only reason to drive electric. It may just be something you do in protest to this, or it may be because of the dozens of other benefits of electric cars. But the potential to save money while driving a newer, better car should be a huge attraction to a lot of normal buyers.

*Tip of the hat to MrSteve007 for stimulating this piece.





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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.



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