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Electric Cars

I've had a Leaf (battery EV) since 2013 and I LOVE it. Fantastic torque. High efficiency.  Almost no maintenance cost. Though my roof is not suitable for solar panels, now that (as of 2018) we have in Berkeley the East Bay Community Energy (EBCE; program offering its Opt Up (Renewable 100; Green-e Energy certified), I'll be able to charge my Leaf sustainably.  Actually I've leased 3 Leafs: 2013, 2016, and 2018.  In 2013, some friends and I lobbied City Council to allow residents to put in their own curbside charging stations and with receptive response from Councilwoman Susan Wengraf, a pilot program was implemented to allow installation of about 20 or 25 such projects. On the City of Berkeley website I found that as of "February 27, 2018, Berkeley City Council extended this Pilot through December 2020. New applications, with a processing fee of $397, are currently being accepted."  They didn't accept applications from people with garages or driveways. See

I like the idea of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (EVs) as long as they're not using fossil-fuel derived hydrogen. See California Fuel Cell Partnership (

Hybrid cars (gasoline/electric) constitute technology that can only be
transitional to completely sustainable-energy-based vehicles.

Nissan Leaf parked near solar electric charging station.
Our 2013 Nissan Leaf parked at a solar-electric
charging station in Novato CA.
Photo by Alan Gould.

An electric FedX truck on 5th St in Berkeley CA.
Photo by Alan Gould.
An electric FedX truck

In 2007 I bought a 2005 Prius and had Luscious Garage in San Francisco make it into a hybrid vehicle. It could go only about 10 mi on a charge at most, and could not make it up a significant grade without gasoline engine. I sold it in 2013, when I bought my first pure electric car: a 2013 Nissan Leaf.

Plug-in conversion made fuel efficiency more than 52 mpg, but factor in $1 or so worth of electricity every now and then.

The conversion cost more than the blue book price (about $7000).
In the lower right of this photo, you can see where the plug-in happened—standard 110V outlets using standard grounded extension cords.

close-up of plug-in socket

Update 2018 July 7:

The first Leaf we got was 2013, 80 mi range. But practical range only 65-70 mi. We were pretty happy with it though. The model was one that had a 360° camera system that we fell in love with (in addition to never having to visit a gas station). It was a 2 year lease but we were allowed to extend it a year. Only about $250/mo which I thought was a great deal.

Then we got a 2016 Leaf, 120 mi range, practical range over 100 mi. Had to have the 360° camera system prefer not to live without it. That was a 2-year lease that could not be extended. It was just a bit over $250/mo....again a great deal.

In May 2018 we got a 2018 Leaf with 2-year lease, but the terms went to about $450/mo.  We were disappointed in that, but when a friend of Diane's told us he was paying over $1000/mo for a Tesla, we did not feel quite so bad.  When fully charged, the range reads over 160 miles. I figure it might be a practical range of 140 mi, but have never come even close to testing that.  We still have the model with 360° camera system.  

The 2018 is a really nice car, plenty of room. The range is now high enough that Diane experiences very little range anxiety.  It's REAL peppy. I think the new term for that may be "torquey".  It has some advanced features that I like a lot. For example, there is the "e-Pedal" that makes the accelerator pedal into a combination accelerator and decelerator, such that when you let your foot off the pedal, regenerative braking immediately is engaged without moving your foot to the regular brake pedal. It's a very efficient regenerative braking and with practice you can let the car come to a full stop without ever touching the brake pedal.  Moreover, while stopped, you don't need to keep your foot on the brake pedal if the e-pedal is engaged. That's surprisingly relaxing. 

The other feature I really like is their "Pro-Pilot".  When that's engaged, several things happen.  First a very intelligent cruise control operates.  When it is set at a given speed (in ProPilot mode) it will automatically detect a car that is going slower in front of you and slow down, keeping a proper space between you and that car automatically.  If the car in front speeds up, the Leaf will also speed up until the previously set cruise control speed is reached. I really enjoy watching the car do its thing without me having to touch the foot pedals. If the car in front slows down all the way to a stop, the Leaf actually will come to a stop, and when the car in front starts up again, with a light tap on the pedal the Leaf will start up again, with the same cruise control setting as previously set.  I was sort of amazed when I first witnessed the Leaf do that. 

At freeway speeds, Pro-Pilot will also detect lane lines and guide the car to stay in the lane. You must have your hands on the wheel for that to operate.  I do not trust that function nearly as much as the intelligent cruise control. In fact I don't rely on that lane detection capability at all, but keeping  a watchful and alert eye, like I said, I really enjoy watching the car do its intelligent cruise control thing. On top of the e-pedal, overall it's a more relaxing way to drive in terms of what your foot has to do, but still requires staying alert as ever. I think that's called "relaxed alertness."

Activating Pro-Pilot also enables some other safety alert functions. E.g. the car will detect another car that is in your blind spot and give warning sound or even vibrate the steering wheel if there is danger. Also a warning light appears on the left or right side view mirror if there is a blind spot hazard present.

One other reason I like Nissan is that the company made a commitment to build and actually market the Leaf back in 2011. Then other companies either weren't making electrics at all or made them only to satisfy the California requirement for offering a zero emission vehicle...but did not expend any marketing effort at all.  With Nissan, I actually saw Leaf commercials on TV...indicating a serious commitment to marketing their electric vehicle.  So that's really good too.