Electric Vehicles

Resolved: Buy an Electric Car

This week on the Bucks blog, our contributors, along with some of our favorite sources, are posting about their new year’s financial resolutions. Here, Philip Reed, Edmunds.com senior consumer advice editor, shares his thoughts.

Courtesy of Edmunds.com
Philip Reed.
My financial resolution for 2011 is to buy an electric vehicle — most likely the Nissan Leaf.

If you can’t bring yourself to say “financially astute” and “electric car purchase” in the same sentence, I understand. But I’m making my resolution with full knowledge that I won’t recoup my investments anytime soon. I also resolve to acknowledge that there’s some emotion in this process and to understand that numbers alone should never dictate any final decision in life.

I’m not buying an electric vehicle because I’m your stereotypical greenie. Instead, I’m a green-leaning consumer advice editor with a love of new technology and a few specific goals. First, I want to save time on my daily 64-mile commute by using car pool lanes. The Leaf will get me that access after I lose the privilege with my 2004 Toyota Prius this summer, when California’s permits for hybrids like the Prius expire.

Second, I’m thrilled at the prospect of weaning myself from the omnipotent petroleum industry. Third, since I have an air compressor at home to keep my tires full, I’m savoring the idea of never visiting a gas station again — unless I want coffee and a chili dog. Those three reasons aren’t things I can easily put into my decision-making spreadsheet.

But here are some numbers that will fill the boxes: I will probably lease a Leaf rather than buy it, and expect my monthly payments to be around $349. I may finance a couple years of those payments by selling another family car that has retained strong resale value.

I know that Nissan estimates I’ll pay $2,000 for the Leaf’s 240V home charging unit, but thanks to a bill passed recently by the industrious lame-duck Congress, I may qualify for a $1,000 federal tax credit for electric vehicle chargers. I may qualify as well for another tax credit for leasing an electric car, and I plan to do a lot of research on the best way to power up the Leaf when kilowatt-hour costs are at their lowest.

Clearly, gas prices will have to go very high to offset these costs any time soon. But I’m planning for the future. And my resolution for 2012 may be to put a bumper crop of solar collectors on my roof. Although it will take a decade to pay those off, fuel for my car will then be nearly free.

As I said, none of these costs can be recouped in the first year or two — or three — of electric vehicle ownership. If I were truly level-headed, I’d let others be the first adopters and enter the market when the electric vehicle frenzy settles down and prices drop.

But here’s where another intangible comes in: I’m interested in accelerating the future. I’m excited that 2011 marks the beginning of the new age of electrified vehicles.

So I’ll do my small part to tip the scales in favor of a rapid transition to electricity — and write my short-term losses off to good intentions.

Are you planning to purchase an electric vehicle next year? Why or why not?

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