Don't worry ... I still love my big burley trucks, but EVs fascinate me. They are, without a doubt, the future of personal transportation. However, the future is here already. While it can be challenging today while charging infrastructure catches up, even in a less than ideal environment, a weekend getaway in an EV is possible. To illustrate this, Nissan sent me a Leaf S Plus and we drove up to Oceanside, CA.
I like the Nissan Leaf, but it is important to point out that this vehicle was first introduced in 2011 and there are some anachronistic elements here compared to other EVs out there.
Ultimately these aren't really negatives - no frunk, but it has a hood to reveal the motor for instance. Similarly, from a design perspective it "feels" closer to a Nissan Versa than a cutting edge technology gadget with huge touch screens and minimalist design. Finally, even with the Plus battery 62 kwh the maximum range is 226 miles vs roughly 300 in many competitors. These three elements are common right now on the new generation of EVs that are starting to hit the market such as Tesla vehicles, Mustang Mach-E, and Voltswagen Volkswagen ID.4. However, the Leaf S Plus comes in at a relatively affordable $38,270 ($30,720 after potential Federal tax credits for purchasing an EV).
To put that price comparison into real terms - the Mustang Mach-E starts at $42,895 (with the standard 230 mile range battery) and a similarly equipped 2022 Bolt EV is $35,195 (with a 259 mile range but no available tax credit).
Initially, I looked at the Leaf feeling like something from a previous generation as a negative. However, I then began to consider that the transition to an EV lifestyle isn't like simply switching from gas to diesel. EVs operate fundamentally different than ICE (internal combustion) vehicles. This was and still is a transition vehicle.
Nissan's Leaf is impressive in that it introduced an era where EVs were rare and exotic ... and now, in an era where EVs are practical and common to see on the road, it still holds its own. I am extremely excited to see what Nissan has in store for us with their Next Generation EV the Ariya. Nissan has done a very good job of updating the look and feel of the Leaf and only nerds like me would look deeper.
In fact, most consumers would probably simply test drive the Leaf and decide that it was a good fit for their lifestyle ... or choose to simple go with an ICE vehicle instead. The design feels that comfortable and it has lost some of the "exotic materials" from the earlier generations that felt cheap but were designed to make a point that this was an "positive choice for the environment". However, we are no in a different era where EVs can compete head to head with ICEs and most of the problems that face adoption lay at the feet of urban planners and property managers who need to install more EV charging infrastructure.
These things will happen, they are already happening quickly here in California. We are right on the edge of the point where an EV will be the right choice for most Americans and I'm very excited for that transition. While we wait though, I look forward to working with more companies like Nissan and charging networks like Evgo to help tell this story and show the practical side of taking road trips with an EV.
In our previous road trip, we took the Mustang Mach-E up to Ventura, an extremely EV friendly city. This time, I wanted to take it somewhere that didn't necessarily have EV charging spots throughout the downtown area, a town that is in transition. When I first moved to San Diego nearly seven years ago, I was told not to go to Oceanside. People told me it was a dirty, unsafe town on the doorstep of Camp Pendleton.
Three years ago I visited the city for a surf competition (ironically as a guest of Nissan) and construction improvements was just starting. This week I visited again and was shocked by the transformation. Oceanside is now an extremely walkable city with breweries, innovative and diverse food options, good lighting, and fun people that are delighted that their city is able to welcome guests. There's still heavy construction but you can see the makings of one of the best beach towns in San Diego for visitors.
Because it is so good for walking around downtown and it is served by Amtrak, Coaster, Sprinter, and Metrolink with a station a block from the main drag, Oceanside is also potentially one of the best to visit in terms of minimizing our carbon footprint.
The reason I bring this up is that it reminds me of the state of Electric Vehicles in America right now. We know where we came from. Thankfully, no EV being offered by any manufacturer today can be derided as simply being an "overgrown golf cart". However, we're not quite there yet to a point where we stop looking at EVs as a compromise ... but we're close. What's equally exciting is that EV ownership is no longer the folks driven by a cause. It's the every day family that discovers that EVs can meet their transportation needs and they enjoy the experience of an EV over an ICE.
This road trip from San Diego to Oceanside wasn't just about raw numbers or showing how far we can get on a single charge. It was about practicality and showing what we can do. For example, despite the advances in battery technology and the installation of new EV charging stations, we're not quite there yet. People new to the world of EVs are often fearful of "Range Anxiety". Thankfully, charging isn't the barrier it one was.
For instance, many hotel valets will charge your vehicle if needed - we did this and tipped him well as thanks. Even without a Level 2 charger, this helped add range on our battery overnight. After checking out of the hotel we drove to a local sandwich place that had a fast charger in the parking lot and by the time we were done eating, the car was fully charged.
This pattern is something that goes against the cycle many of us learned from driving ICE vehicles for the past several decades. You look for opportunities to charge when you aren't using the vehicle, instead of letting it go down to empty. Once you start to understand the pattern ... it can be nearly seamless to your lifestyle.
Small behavior patterns like this - walking more, taking public transportation when you don't have to drive, and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels will ultimately lead to a healthier environment.
I think of it somewhat like learning to surf. At first it is challenging to know what type of board to use and how to pick the right waves. But then it starts to become intuitive and you can focus simply on enjoying the experience.
While we're about to wrap up "Earth Month", it's important to consider what that really means. Earth Month - just like Mothers Day - is something to be celebrated and cherished all year long. It isn't about one big celebration or passing a single milestone. It is about doing the right thing to move our society forward into the future. Transitioning to an EV lifestyle and looking for ways to adapt our lives to be more sustainable is something everyone can do ... and I'm not talking about drinking Kombucha and switching to Impossible Burgers (though the Impossible Whopper is damn good!). This is about making smart choices and looking for what we can do, instead of what we can't.
That's why I was so excited to pair the Nissan Leaf with Oceanside for a 24-hour getaway. It is also why I can't wait to keep coming back.