By Roy L Hales
Brad Gibson was so disturbed by the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” that he decided to never buy another gas burning car for commuting. He and his wife Mariko would share their 2005 Subaru Outback XT until they found an alternative. As they were both working, that meant Gibson could only use it part of the week. He pedaled the 40 miles to and from work twice a week, which was not always pleasant in rainy Washington State, and caught buses. At one point, his father offered to give them a second car, Gibson said no. Though not in the top 1% of America’s wage earners, he was in the top 10%. If people like him were not prepared to make changes, how could they expect anyone else to?
He had to wait nearly five years before a practical, mass-market EV became available, in the form of the Nissan Leaf. In 2010, having never been in an EV before, Gibson took a chance and ordered one. He took delivery in June, 2011 and was delighted to discover it was a real car. It had acceleration and handling that rivaled or bettered any gasoline cars in the same price range.
He soon came to the conclusion that EV’s are better vehicles. Gas cars are an antiquated technology. They rattle and sputter and are so inefficient! Brad bought the Leaf for Mariko, but quickly took over as the principal driver. She ended up driving the Subaru for two more years, when they decided that he Leaf was working out so well, that he decided that he would never buy another car that burned gas, period. And in an effort to cut their addiction to gasoline, they would try going all-electric, with a second Leaf in June 2013.
Mariko loves driving electric. She prefers it over the very nicely equipped Subaru Outback she had been driving. Now the Subaru sits in the driveway. The Gibsons keep it for trips that are beyond the scope of their Leaf, but have only used it once in the last six months. Brad has come to the conclusion that his gas car is not worth the expense. They would be better off renting a gas car, should they ever need one, and so he plans to sell their Subaru.
Thanks to the development of the Electric Highway, Gibson could easily drive across the border to Vancouver, south into Oregon or east to Wenatchee. The only challenging route left is west into the Olympic Peninsula, where there aren’t any fast (Level 3) charger installations.
There are some inconveniences, like the half-hour stop Gibson has to make at one of Seattle’s Level 3 charging stations when he drives over the mountain passes, but these are relatively inconsequential when weighed against the advantages in terms of the environment and how much money his EV saves him.
Looking through a recent $2,500 “major service” bill to maintain his Subaru, he noticed that is was all for parts that do not exist in his Leaf. With the EV, paying for maintentance on timing belt replacements, transmission maintenance, fuel injectors, gasket replacements, oil leaks, exhaust systems and the like are a thing of the past. Even brake pads, which are used very lightly in EV’s, rarely need servicing since the majority of braking on an EV is done magnetically–in addition to saving on brake pad and rotor wear, this “regenerative braking” recaptures the energy of the moving car, charges the battery and extends driving range.
Gibson notes that it’s not that the exhaust system on a gasoline car has been replaced by something else on an EV, it’s that it doesn’t exist at all on an EV. This means it can’t break, and there is no maintenance. So many things that we have become accustomed to maintaining, from various air filters to mufflers, or performing regular oil changes simply no longer happen with EV’s. This makes EV’s incredibly reliable, and very cheap to maintain. Gibson has yet to pay any maintenance costs on his either of his Nissan Leafs.
The most significant cost advantage has come from the drop in his fuel bill. No more $50-$60 bills at the fuel pump each week. Instead, Gibson says his monthly power bill has increased by about $35-40. Instead of paying $2,500 a year for gas, he is paying $452 for the electricity that goes into Leaf.
Brad Gibson believes the beginning of the end of the gasoline car will be in 2017. That’s the year that Tesla is expected to release Model E, a $35,000 vehicle that can travel 200+ miles on a single charge. The whole EV industry is preparing for this. Nissan has developed a battery that will all allow the Leaf to go twice as far between charges. BMW’s I-3 has been developed with an eye to keeping the Model E’s threat to the M3 in check. Gibson thinks that once you have a selection of competitively priced EVs capable of going the same distances as conventional cars, that gas cars are to doomed to become a historical footnote.
Why? Gibson replies, “Because EVs are much better vehicles. They handle better. They accelerate more quickly and much more responsively. The economics are better–they’re cheaper to run and cheaper to maintain. They are both safer and more reliable. And on top of all of that, they’re much better for the environment.”
(Photo at top of page: Brad’s son Taiyo and their dog, Freeway, in the back of Brad’s Nissan Leaf)