Thursday, September 17, 2015

Nat. Drive Electric Week: Buying vs. Building plus more Leaf Temptation

[I apologize - this one is a bit of a rambler.]

More about this Leaf further down the page

One of my favorite on-line places to hang out is It's (mostly) a forum for people who are involved with electric bicycles. A really common thread on E-S is a newbie who asks which new electric bike to buy - the question is normally answered by a chorus of Build Your Own Electric Bike for Half the Price - and End Up with a Better Bike in ten-part harmony. For those of us who have more mechanical skill and time than money, it's a very valid piece of advice (for electric bicycles.)

I feel pretty safe in saying that you cannot buy a decent quality electric bike for less than $1500, and it's quite possibe to build a very competent electric bike for somewhere around $800. Also, it can be done in very little time. One of the plusses (to me) is the amount of knowledge you gain by building (and repairing) your own. (I rode my electric bike smugly yesterday because I had just repaired the charging port and spent about $5 doing so.)

Back on the road!

Another online place I love to hang out is It is mostly for electric cars, especially the DIY conversions, but it, like E-S, has a little bit of everything. I love seeing the motorcycles, scooters, and bikes there. Lots of labors of love appear on there, and lots of shop-time epiphanies show up there too. And it links to EV Tradin' Post - dangerous stuff!

For many years, if you were an average joe or josie and wanted to drive electric, you had to build it yourself. That's no longer true.

I mentioned earlier this week that I would go drive a new Leaf for part of my own NDEW pursuits. So yesterday I jumped online and found that our local Nissan dealer does indeed have a new one in stock, a white 2015. And it is deeply discounted. And it is eligible for 0.0% finincing and a possible $5000 financing discount. And it's eligible for a $1500 Texas discount and a $7500 federal tax break. When all is said and done, the Mesquite Hugger household could have a new Leaf and a fast charger in the garage for less money than almost any new car on the market. And it could replace our primary driver that costs us $50-75 dollars per week in fuel plus lots of maintenance. (Like me, its age and mileage have made it much higher maintenance.) We could fairly easily put a huge check mark on our Personal Carbon Reduction checklist.

Oh the temptation! But then I step back. Times are tight. There are educations to pay for. We have done our best not to create new debt, and the jobs become steadily less secure. It's really not time for us to buy a new car, and like I keep telling myself, the best way to avoid temptation is to avoid temptation. I guess I had better not test drive a Leaf this week.

Maybe I could cancel the internet at home and give up the smart phone (upon which I am writing this post), cancel Netflix, and quit buying a $3 coffee each morning. I could also sell Lucy (sniff). All of that combined could help make Leaf payments.

The conclusion? Yes, it makes good sense to build your own electric bicycle, but it does not work out the same way for a car in most cases. Used (and even some new) electric cars have dropped into the range of attainability for the common person and are often much less expensive than building your own. (It's not hard these days to find a lightly used Leaf for $9000-$12000 - you will be hard pressed to build a quality electric for less than $12000.) As an added bonus, you can be driving your car during the two years you would've spent building your own. And it may even have a warranty still attached.

An electric pickup? Now that's another story. Until Nissan or Mitsubishi offers one up, you are probably better off building your own. Speaking of which, does anybody out there want a Mazda pickup that's halfway there? I may need some down payment money for a white Leaf...

May you avoid temptation unless it leads you to a better place, snagit!

PS. If you want a really cheap electric car, look at buying somebody else's conversion. These low gas prices may be hard on electric car sales, but they do wonders for electric car cheapskates. (I hope you are a good mechanic/electrician/plugger-inner.)