Low Gas Prices Are Driving Deals on Electric Cars
One of the best deals right now is for the 2016 Nissan Leaf EV. Nissan is offering new buyers two years of free public charging under its "No Charge to Charge" program. And, it's not the only manufacturer offering free mileage as a purchase incentive.
Hyundai offers unlimited complimentary refueling for its Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle, and Toyota gives buyers three years of free refueling for its hydrogen-powered Mirai. Those vehicles are available for sale and lease primarily in California, in areas where hydrogen refueling networks already exist.
Electric cars are a sensible choice for those who drive less than 100 miles a day -- which is most of us. It's easy to recharge overnight in the home garage or during the day at charging stations sprouting up on corporate and university campuses. A growing number of shopping centers are installing chargers, so you can soup up while you shop, and hotels are marketing chargers to lure guests.
The Nissan Leaf free charge offer is for its 27 top markets, so lucky you if you live in or visit one of these cities where you can recharge for free: Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, Fresno, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Monterey, New York, Nashville, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland (Ore.), Raleigh-Durham, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Seattle, Washington D.C., Charleston, S.C., Charlotte, N.C., Colorado Springs/Pueblo, Greenville/Spartanburg/Asheville/Anderson, N.C./S.C., Jacksonville (Fla.), Miami, Milwaukee, Palm Springs (Fla.), Portland/Auburn, Maine, and Tampa/St. Petersburg/Sarasota.
The free charges are on top of the $7,500 federal tax incentives and additional state tax incentives that vary by state (in California, it's $2,500). That puts a significant dent into the $26,700 starting price for the 2016 model. Another incentive is that EVs get HOV lane access everywhere.
EVs like the Leaf get around 100 miles per charge, more or less. The free charging saves just a couple of bucks, which doesn't sound like much of an incentive until you compare it with gas, even low-priced gas. Even if your vehicle is super fuel efficient, getting 30 mpg, if my math is correct, 100 miles worth of gasoline costs at least five times more.
Leaf owners can download mobile apps to show them the nearest free public charging stations, including locations with fast-chargers that can pump in up to 80 percent of full power in less than 30 minutes.
The 2016 Leaf features a new 30 kWh battery, which Nissan claims has a 107-mile range, and is 27 percent more powerful than its 24 kWh predecessor. It's mated to an 80kw motor that kicks out 107 horsepower and enough torque to get you up hills and out of the merge lane.
But the Nissan Leaf isn't the only affordable EV you can buy. This group includes the BMW i3, Ford Focus EV, Kia Soul EV, VW e-Golf, Honda Fit EV, and the new Chevrolet Bolt. And more EVs are in the pipeline, including new models from VW, Mercedes-Benz, and even from Volvo.
The Leaf is the world's best-selling electric car, with more than 200,000 sold worldwide since it was introduced in 2009 in Japan. It was introduced two years later in the U.S. where nearly half of all Leafs are sold or leased.
The Nissan Leaf is manufactured at the company's plant in Smyrna, Tenn., and its electric motor is manufactured close by, at a factory in Decherd. The two facilities are an important part of Nissan's game plan to produce nearly all Nissan and Infiniti products in the U.S. that are sold here.
EVs aren't for everybody -- I've joked for years that nobody makes an extension cord long enough for garage-less city apartment dwellers like me. I wish I could own an EV, because of their importance as zero-emission transportation, and because manufacturers have made them fun to drive.
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Evelyn Kanter has been reporting on the automotive industry since 1976, when she was an award-winning investigative consumer reporter for ABC News. She was also a reporter for CBS News. Evelyn writes for Continental Airlines Magazine, FoxNews.com, AAA Car and Travel, and has written for the New York Times, New York Post, Associated Press, Copley News Service, Travel & Leisure, Redbook, Family Circle and Edmunds.com. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and lives in New York City.