Pauline and John Sweeney with their all-electric Nissan Leaf.

Pauline and John Sweeney with their all-electric Nissan Leaf.

When Pauline and John Sweeney initially heard about the all-electric Nissan LEAF just before Christmas last year, it immediately dawned on them how beautifully the vehicle could fit into their North Central Washington lifestyle—saving them money and reducing their environmental impact at the same time.

The Nissan LEAF is the world’s first mass-market and affordable all-electric car and, as a result, has gathered its fair share of early adopters—especially as gas prices have shown how unpredictable they can be over the last few years—and the Sweeneys are proud to be counted in that category.

As the first people to own a LEAF in North Central Washington, they relish the fact that they are saving loads on “fuel” costs and filling their car up with locally produced electrons, instead of fuel mostly imported from places around the world that don’t have our best interests in mind. In Chelan and Douglas Counties, electricity prices are so incredibly inexpensive that an electric car like the LEAF can be driven for less than a penny a mile—compare that to the 14 cents a mile it would cost you to drive even a fuel efficient Toyota Corolla and now you’re talking a factor of about 20 times less expensive to drive a LEAF.

“For a two car family around town in Wenatchee, the LEAF is about the best car you could think of,” Mrs. Sweeney told the Plugin Center shortly after they took delivery of the vehicle. Most days the Sweeneys take their two cars—their second car is a Volvo all-wheel drive station wagon—fewer than 50 miles. Even though the LEAF is restricted to around 90 miles on a full battery in between charges, as a second car this limitation doesn’t make a bit of difference.

“This is an urban assault vehicle—and it can compete with luxury vehicles as well,” said Mr. Sweeney. “On the outside it may not look like it, but on the inside it is loaded with more amenities than our Volvo. Its on board computer and navigation system has more stuff than I will ever delve into, to be honest.”

The Sweeneys also rave about how comfortable the LEAF is, countering the frequent misconception that electric cars are just glorified golf carts. “It’s a very comfortable car, rather surprisingly,” said Mr. Sweeney. “It certainly isn’t a golf cart.” Having all the comfort, convenience and luxury of an upmarket vehicle was very important to the Sweeneys, given that they are about two years away from retirement—and the LEAF seems to deliver that in droves.

You might wonder how a couple that only got interested in the LEAF last December was able to get a LEAF so quickly given that the car is in such high demand, and wait times can be between 4 and 8 months from order to delivery. Indeed, after the Sweeneys learned about the LEAF in December they quickly paid a trip to the local Town Nissan dealership, and said they had a pleasant and informative conversation with the sales people there, but it quickly became apparent they wouldn’t just be able to buy a LEAF and take it home.

Nissan began taking pre-orders for the LEAF consisting of a $99 deposit in April last year, but by August the company had taken more than 20,000 pre-orders for the car and decided to suspend any other ordering activity (in fact, Nissan only just re-opened it last month). After the Sweeneys found this out they were a bit discouraged, but lodged their interest with Town Nissan and then settled in for a long wait.

On a whim, when they were on a trip to Spokane in January they decided to stop by the Nissan dealer there and see if they had any other information on the LEAF. As it turned out Jaremko Nissan had what’s called an “orphaned” LEAF on their lot—another customer had decided at the last minute to not purchase it. That LEAF was fully loaded and was the exact color the Sweeneys wanted, so they decided to buy it on the spot. “We would have liked to have bought our LEAF locally, but it just worked out this way,” said Mrs. Sweeney.

It was a brilliant stroke of luck for them, given how much they love their new LEAF. “We get lots of gawkers and onlookers asking us what it is and how it drives,” said Mr. Sweeney. “But we don’t mind. We enjoy telling people in the area how much they can save on fuel and how the car can fit into their lifestyle as easily as it does ours.”