Electric Car Diaries: The Inspection

So I’ve had my Nissan Leaf for about two years now, and since it was new when I acquired it, I had two years before I needed an inspection. Time is up, and today I got that inspection.

I don’t have anything new to report on the maintenance of the car beyond what you already know from my previous five entries. I still love this car. The only downsides remain my inability to take it on road trips and the fact that my kids make the backseat a mess on a regular basis — though the latter would be the case regardless of what kind of car I drove, of course.

Today I took it to a mechanic for the vehicle inspection, which could be done anywhere that does inspections. (In other words, no special technician needed.) The inspection took TEN minutes. And the cost? SEVEN DOLLARS. That’s right. SEVEN. No emissions, so, there.

HA!

I love this car.

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To read the entire Electric Car Diaries series, in which you can experience vicariously the sometimes astounding and sometimes entertaining story of how I ended up with this car in the first place, what its features are (from a practical standpoint), and what it’s like to drive it, please click on the links below.

Episode 1: Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

Episode 2: It’s Been A Week

Episode 3: Fingernails That Shine Like Justice

Episode 4: My Other Car Is A Valkyrie

Episode 5: No News Is Good News

Episode 6: The Inspection

Episode 7: My Lease Is Up

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Electric Car Diaries: No News Is Good News

I know it’s been a while since I posted an electric car diary about my Red Ninja. At first, I didn’t write any new ones because there wasn’t really anything to report. My car was operating beautifully, just like any other car. No news is good news, I guess.

A lot of things have happened since then, though, and now I’ve had the car a year, and I figured it was time to update again. For one thing, I moved to a different house in a (technically) different city, and this process of fixing up my old house, buying a new one, packing, moving, unpacking, selling the old place, settling in)––and in the middle of the school year, no less––took about six months, so it kept me pretty busy and unable to post much of my own content here on the blog. (You might have noticed that, too, and I’ll just apologize for it now. There. Glad to get that out of the way.)

First––let’s just get this out of the way as well––The Red Ninja is still certifiably awesome. I still love it, love it, as does everyone else who rides in it. But our move resulted in some unexpected changes. Since I transferred from the suburbs to the middle of town back in February, my commute is no longer nearly an hour but now just about six minutes, eight in traffic. The nearest grocery store is no longer ten minutes away, it’s forty seconds. Ninety seconds if I want to go to the fancy place.

This has been, as you might imagine, life-changing in a variety of excellent and beneficial ways. I’ve gained an hour and a half of not-drive time every work day! Also, I no longer have to charge up my car every night; sometimes, if I’m not driving all over the place for errands or social outings, I charge it up every three days. At our new house we have exclusively wind power for our electricity, and so it feels like my car is powered by air.

The unexpected consequence, though, is that because I’m not driving long, steady distances on the highways every day, my battery range actually registers as less on a regular basis. In the suburbs, I would charge up my car fully every night and have a posted range of 95-106 miles on the battery in the morning. On a typical day when the weather was mild, I would get home from work with under 50 miles left on the range. (My commute on a day with no errands or carpool was about eighteen miles.) And now that I’m not in the car much at all? My typical fully-charged range registers at 85-90 miles. I’m still using far less energy overall, but I thought it was worth noting that the longer I drive at moderate speeds, the more muscular the range ends up being. Even now, living in town, if I spend a day driving all over the city and then charge up overnight, the next day I can still get a morning range of over 100 miles. The efficiency with which I drive, how well I maintain a steady speed near the speed limit and such, does still impact battery performance.

Another thing which affects the battery’s posted range is the climate control system. If I’m blasting the air conditioner, because Houston is hot in the summer most of the time, then that eats up battery more quickly. (We saw this last summer, too.) And predictably, in the winter, when we made liberal use of the seat warmers and heater, well, that depleted my battery more quickly as well. Although people who haven’t lived here don’t always know this, Houston has several months in the year which are quite mild, most of the time. Most years: March can be cold or temperate; April and sometimes May are quite pleasant; late September through Hallowe’en are downright delightful, weather-wise. And in years when we have a mild winter (like this past one) or a mild summer (like we’re in for now), it’s even nice during the extremes.

When the time came, several months ago, for my car’s regular maintenance, I took it to a Nissan dealership (not the one I bought it from, but one closer to me), because electric vehicles need to be serviced by people who know them well, and my lease specifies I use a certified expert technician. Not a problem for me. So with a gas-powered car, my regular maintenance might include an oil change, transmission flush, brake service, tire rotation, etc. etc. etc. and cost me between $75 and $200. (At least with the cars I’d owned before.) I was concerned at first that my routine maintenance might be on the expensive side because it’s an electric car, specialty specialty blah blah blah.

Not so. As we already know, oil changes, transmission flushes, belts, etc. don’t exist on this car, and so I didn’t have to do any of that. Instead, my car’s check-up was $19.95 and took less than an hour.

It’s time to get another maintenance call this summer, which will include tire rotation and battery service. It will be interesting to see what that entails and how much it costs, when the time comes. You can be sure that if it’s notable, I’ll write about it here.

***

To read the entire Electric Car Diaries series, in which you can experience vicariously the sometimes astounding and sometimes entertaining story of how I ended up with this car in the first place, what its features are (from a practical standpoint), and what it’s like to drive it, please click on the links below.

Episode 1: Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

Episode 2: It’s Been A Week

Episode 3: Fingernails That Shine Like Justice

Episode 4: My Other Car Is A Valkyrie

Episode 5: No News Is Good News

Episode 6: The Inspection

Episode 7: My Lease Is Up

Electric Car Diaries: My Other Car is a Valkyrie*

Now that I’ve had The Red Ninja for almost a couple of months, it seemed appropriate to discuss, for those of you following along at home, what it’s really like, from a logistical (and to some extent financial) angle, to own an electric car like the Nissan Leaf. If you’ve been reading the other Electric Car Diaries (here, here, and here), then some of this information might already be familiar to you.

I still love this car. It’s enjoyable and comfortable to drive, and every time I pass by a gas station, I smile a little to myself. (Not smugly, though. Nope, not at all.)

Whenever someone finds out I have an electric car, the first question is almost always about the range on the car: how long can I drive on a single charge? An excellent question. Continue reading “Electric Car Diaries: My Other Car is a Valkyrie*”

Electric Car Diaries: It’s Been A Week

So I’ve had my Leaf for about a week, and to say the learning curve has been steep might be overstating things. The car really has been fun and not all that difficult to work with. There have been a few things, however, that I wish I had been aware of before I’d bought it.  Continue reading “Electric Car Diaries: It’s Been A Week”

Electric Car Diaries: Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

If you know me moderately well, you know that the environment is one of my chief concerns. Its dilapidated state terrifies me. I do a lot of little things daily in an attempt to reduce, reuse, and recycle, to spread the word and lead by example, but sometimes it feels like I’m really just cancelling out some of the thoughtless or destructive behaviors of the people around me who don’t seem to care. It feels painfully, heart-breakingly Sisyphean. Well, this weekend I did something that will make perhaps my largest impact to date. I  Continue reading “Electric Car Diaries: Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is”