Our Trusty Steed
Thor and I took a major plunge back in late January. We looked at one another, looked at our modest pile of savings, and put pretty much all of it into an electric car and solar panels on the roof.
The two really go perfectly hand in hand. An electric car may soothe the conscience of its driver, but in this country the energy via electricity is not truly clean unless you are harnessing it yourself. (Yes, fossil fuels are still squandered in the production of solar panels. You got me there, hot shot. Moving on.)
I have waited this long to bring you my testimonial on the 2011 Nissan Leaf to make sure new-buyer’s euphoria was minimized and to have taken a trip of moderate length to test multiple charging stops in the real world aka with two small impatient children. And now I can say to you, without reservation…
I love it.
My love exceeds the simple pleasure of purchasing a barely-used vehicle for the first time. It exceeds getting a ludicrously hefty trade-in discount at the dealer for a station wagon that needed major repairs and, quite frankly, smelled noticeably for multiple reasons, none of them good.
My love exceeds the altruistic joy of contributing quite a bit less to our planet’s demise, and that is no small joy. I hadn’t realized a dark cloud of feeling like “part of the problem” was always there in the car with me until my first test-drive when, suddenly, with the push of a button it had dissipated. The sunny “part of the solution” vibe that shakes glitter down on me while I drive also appears to have had a pleasant bolstering effect on improvements of all sorts in other areas of my life. Plus, no more gas stations. Woo!
My love even exceeds the name Owlet helped choose for our new ride: The Sneaker. (Cuz it’s so quiet without all the engine noise of a gas car.)
So what is my favorite thing?
My car is alive.
I lived most of my childhood, in school and out, in fantasy realms that always involved either pretending to be an animal or throwbacks to pioneers or the Middle Ages or cavemen, when life was simple and raw. I always chose time machine over spaceship, peasant over princess. The conveniences of this modern world and the trappings of wealth hold no romance for me.
I was also a huge horse nut growing up, and my car is the closest I am likely to get to horse-based transit. It needs time to rest and recover after a busy day. A long trip necessitates pit stops for recharging; a short trip, on the other hand, takes virtually nothing out of it. I can drive fast and accelerate quickly for fun (safely, of course), or I can go slow and steady and conserve energy for the long haul. In short, because the sin of fuel-burning no longer dogs my wheels, I have freedom to drive to suit the occasion.
A visit to the Oakland Zoo did take most of the day. We left Santa Rosa in the morning with a partial charge, stopped twice to charge on the way there and twice on the way back, returning a little after bedtime. (If we had begun the day with a full charge, we would only have needed to charge thrice roundtrip.) With little kids, though, those stops are often made anyway, and having to stop to
pop on a feedbag for the horse charge the car made it easier, in a way, than trying to decide whether and when to take a break or push on. We explored new places and had two tasty meals out while the car charged — and bought snack food for the trip during the second charge instead of buying overpriced nonsense at the zoo. Both kids were zonked out after a fun day and slept for much do the way home including the third charging stop. Amusingly, at the fourth stop we were regaled as heroes and pioneers and fielded a dozen eager questions from the curious bystanders in the natural food store parking lot. I guess a seemingly normal family of four plugging in instead of gassing up makes it that much more plausible for others to follow suit.
There is no doubt in my mind that a combination of electric cars and trains on an infrastructure of solar and wind power is the way to go. Are you with me?