OK, we don't actually have a Nissan Leaf or Mitsubishi i yet. But I've finally been able to reserve a place in line to buy one of these cool electric cars, something that wasn't possible until recently.
While we were on a Maui vacation last month I read in the Honolulu paper about how Hawaii was going to be one of the first states where the Mitsubishi i MiEV would be introduced.
(This car is just called the "i," a strike against it. Anything that costs almost $30,000 should have more than one letter in its name. Plus, "i" doesn't sound green. And doesn't Apple control every use of a lower case "i" when it comes to selling a high tech product?)
Wondering what the other early introduction states would be, I leaped online and learned that California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii (a.k.a. the environmentally with-it states) would see the Mitsubishi i in early 2012.
Further, that it was possible to reserve one of the cars via a refundable $299 deposit. I did just that from our Maui condo's patio, having learned my lesson when I looked into the availability of the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf a few months ago.
The web sites of both car manufacturers basically told me tough luck.
They'd taken orders for all the Volts and Leafs they could sell for a while and said that later in 2011 prospective buyers would be graced with the opportunity to ask permission to fork out money for a car.
I found this irritating.
I sent emails to both Chevrolet and Nissan asking how serious they were about entering the electric (or quasi-electric, in the case of the Volt) car market, since they didn't seem like they wanted to make it easy for Prius owners like my wife and me to move up to a higher level of greenness.
So when I saw that Mitsubishi was inviting people to reserve a car now, I figured it made sense to make a $299 PayPal payment just in case the i (really Mitsubishi, you need a better name) turned out to be a winner.
I'm not convinced that an electric car is right for us.
But since we're a three car family now, after a Mini Cooper S entered my life and we kept our Toyota hybrids (Prius and Highlander), I figured that if we traded the Prius for an i or Leaf, short trips could be made on electricity and longer ones with our two gas guzzlers -- even if my wife and I needed to each separately drive over the 80-100 mile electric car range.
That's an optimistic range, by the way, from what I've been reading in various reviews. It assumes driving at a fairly low speed on level ground without much use of the heater or air conditioner.
But we live almost six miles from the Salem city limits, with some pretty large hills between us and our in-town errands. So before we buy an electric car, I'll need to do some testing to see how much range we've got at our disposal once we get into Salem (regenerative braking on downhill parts of Liberty Road could help with recharging).
I like the looks of the Mitsubishi i, but it's a bit too cute for my taste. And at first web site glance my wife thought it looked too small for her needs. The 80 mile claimed range also wasn't as appealing as the Nissan Leaf's supposed 100 mile range.
Thus I was thrilled to see an email from Nissan pop up in my inbox this morning. It was an invitation to reserve and order a Leaf that was being offered to "limited registered customers in launch markets." (I'd registered after learning that I couldn't reserve a Leaf earlier this year.)
Within a few minutes another fully refundable $99 had been added to our VISA balance. It's interesting that even though the Nissan Leaf is more expensive than the Mitsubishi i, the reservation charge is one-third as much.
That's one nice thing about the Leaf. The longer range is another thing. All in all, the Leaf looks like a more appealing electric car than the i -- albeit quite a bit pricier. Next we'll get a quote from a local dealer and hopefully be able to test drive a Leaf.
I really like the idea of an electric car. Not having to worry about the price of gas, the availability of Middle Eastern oil, or how we're contributing to global warming even with our two hybrid vehicles is deeply appealing.
Along with the current Oregon/federal tax credit incentives (I believe these are $7,500 federal and $750 Oregon.) These bring the price of a Leaf or i down to the merely "wildly high" range. We'd almost certainly lease an electric car, of course, given how quickly the technology likely will advance during the next few years.
So, the electric adventure begins. Until we actually drive a Leaf or i we can't be sure that one will meet our rural south Salem driving needs. But there's a good chance that we'll be filling up on Portland General Electric "fuel" before too long.