First, I want to share my typical driving situation. I own a 2007 Honda Ridgeline with 125,000 miles on it. It is a great SUV! I drive it to and from work in the city of Wenatchee about 10-20 miles per day. On weekends, I often take it on a day trip up the Icicle Valley, to Chelan, or around Wenatchee to take advantage of our beautiful outdoor wonderland. About six times a year, I drive about 600 miles round trip to visit friends on the Washington coast. Finally, once every other year, I take a week or two road trip vacation somewhere between 1,000 to 2,000 miles. All total, the Honda has been racking up 15,000 miles per year on average. At this rate, it won’t be long before it will be time to replace the Honda at a price pushing $40,000 with sales tax. Ouch.
What is worse, is at least 10,000 miles per year is in town driving where gas mileage runs around 13 mpg. The in-town driving is tough on the Honda and its tires, and is a bit clumsy in the city. This is the primary motivation for buying an in-town car. I used to own a Geo Tracker and it was perfect for bouncing around the city and thus I admit a small car is really all that is needed to carry myself and groceries.
In evaluating which car to purchase, I wanted to keep my costs low and essentially pay for the car with gas bill savings. My options included purchasing a used Nissan Leaf, a new Chevy Bolt, or another small electric vehicle. After test driving a Bolt, a very nice EV for the price, I decided to eliminate that option due to the purchase price. It would be more expensive than my gas bill savings even with the Federal Tax Credit of $7,500 and trading in the Honda
Ridgeline. The second option, a used Nissan Leaf, is very affordable at roughly $6,000 to $8,000. After nearly purchasing a used Leaf, I decided to investigate the lease of a new EV Smart car which required going to the Mercedes dealer in Portland, OR. There is so much demand for these little cars, that they sold three of them while I was test driving one. I see why!
With the $7,500 tax credit that Mercedes applies to the lease, I walked out of the show room with a 36 month, 30,000 mile lease for only $143 per month. This is pretty hard to beat! Now, the Honda gets parked except for road trips and in the mountains where it excels. I also get to keep $8,000 in the bank and end up with a new car instead of a used Leaf. If you can tell that I’m happy with the choice, you are right!
So far, everyone asks… “How is the performance of the Smart car?” Here are my two cents. First you need to drive one to fully understand. I think you will be shocked at how well they drive for such a short wheel base (even in the snow). It is not a luxury car, it is an in-town car that can park anywhere, turns on a dime, and is simply fun. It is spunky with the torque of the electric motor and has enough creature features to make it very comfortable.
The first week of leasing the car the temperatures in Wenatchee were below 30 degrees and bottomed out in the teens. I will tell you that the EPA rated range of 58 miles was cut to about 40 miles with the heater going full blast. So, the first week, I chose to charge it at a level 2 charger twice for about three hours each time. Now that the weather has warmed up to the 30s and 40’s, the range is now 70 to 80 miles in town. Since there is not an 110v outlet at my apartment, I am charging it once a week and once on the weekend at one of the many L2 chargers located in town.
Check out the PlugShare app and you will find all the chargers. It is a piece of cake. Planned charging is easy to do as part of your regular activities. For example, it is easy to charge while taking a walk at the park or at Saddlerock where there is an L2 charger, or at noon when having lunch.
The Smart car has an impressively fast L2 charging system. It is not a hassle at all. In fact, it is even a little easier than realizing unexpectedly… oh I need to go get gas.
At the end of the day, the life of the Ridgeline is prolonged, I have a new run around town car, save a lot of gas, and enjoy sharing with our community the opportunities to contribute to the advancement of technology, conservation of energy, and the betterment of our city.
- Steve King lives in Wenatchee and contributed this article at the request of the Plug-In NCW committee board. King is the Community Development Director for the City of Wenatchee.