I love cars, my German grandmother loved cars, my Dad loves cars. It must be genetic. I know an environmentalist should be totally opposed to cars and shouldn’t even own one, so I should be publicly flogged. I accept that. I do ride my bike to work when there isn’t snow on the ground (that sounds impressive until you realize that’s a period of about 5 days) and I have a pretty short commute to work.
I don’t claim to know everything about cars, but I know a good car when I see it! My car is a 2001 and it’s been really good to me but soon it will be time to move on. The biggest issue where I live is that we have about 350 inches of snow here annually and I have convinced myself I need all wheel drive. The fact of the matter is that really good snow tires on a front wheel drive car are just as good as average tires on an all wheel drive car. If I don’t have to have an all wheel drive car, that opens the door to all kinds of possibilities.
The hybrid vehicles don’t excite me enough to want to buy one. They’re either too big, such as the Toyota Highlander, not my style and too slow, such as the Prius, or too small and slow, Honda Insight. I also don’t see the point of buying a giant hybrid SUV that gets the same gas mileage as a pure gas wagon or sedan. The electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt seem intriguing and I may end up with one, but they certainly don’t qualify as a my idea of a dream car.
My absolute dream car is the Tesla Roadster, but it’s a 2 seater with a big sticker price, so my practical dream car (isn’t that an oxymoron?) is the uber-sexy Tesla Model S four door sedan. This car is amazing, though it’s not available until 2012. It can go 300 miles on a charge, recharges in 45 minutes and is fast at 0 – 60 in 5.6 seconds. It looks beautiful on the inside and out and early road tests are very positive. It’s also big enough for families – they claim it seats 7, though I’m having a hard time figuring out how that’s possible. Maybe a family of 7 stick figures. Also, the batteries come in various charge sizes at 160, 230 and 300 miles, so I assume the battery with the highest charge costs more. I have a couple of years to watch this car and see how it performs when it’s introduced into the wild, but so far it looks promising.
The price tag seems steep until you consider that you won’t be paying for gas. If the electricity in your home is through Blue Sky or another alternative energy source, you will save enormously on carbon emissions. The sticker price is $56,400 but that qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit. If you take into account the potential savings on gas at $4 a gallon ($4 x 70,000 miles divided by 20 mpg), then this car is similar to a gas vehicle with a sticker price of $35,000. (I can justify any purchase!). This doesn’t take into account the cost of electricity, but I drive most of my cars until about 100,000 miles so the 70,000 mile calculation is very conservative. If I lived in California or Georgia, I could add another $5,000 tax rebate for a price of $30,000. They’re practically giving them away! (Okay, that’s still expensive for most of us, but we can always dream, right?)
Using that math, a Nissan Leaf is laughably affordable. The sticker price is about $33,000, but once you subtract the tax rebate and potential gas savings, your down to $11,600. If you lived in California or Georgia, you’d subtract another $5,000 for a cost of $6,600. Now, that is dirt cheap. Then again, the Leaf is having issues with it’s battery warning system and is leaving some people stranded. And it’s practical, but to me the sex appeal is sorely lacking. So, I think I’ll save up for the Tesla.
If you’re in the market for a new car, go to www.fueleconomy.gov. This website is an amazing resource about every passenger car, truck and SUV’s gas mileage and carbon emissions. It’s very easy to use and it ranks the cars in whatever order you choose.