I’d like to do the math.

I went to a Nissan dealer tonight. Apparently an eight-year-old Honda with 111,000 miles on it is due for replacement, maybe. I don’t need another cargo-hauling hatchback; we have our diesel wagon for that if necessary. So, I can focus on economy and ecology if i want. With that in mind, I went to look at the all-electric Leaf, because the Mini dealer down the road closes at 6 PM on Tuesdays.

Apparently the Leaf has a battery life problem; after three years, battery life drops to about 75% of new, and on a car with a nominal ~80 mile range to start, that loss is noticeable. So, apparently they’re leasing a lot more Leafs than they’re outright selling.

Does the Leaf ever make sense on economics alone? Or, what is the premium I’m paying to be green, or what am I betting the price of gas will become?

An eighty-mile range means this is just for running around town; I can’t imagine a trip marked by two or more stops a day to recharge the battery, and besides, there aren’t any chargers along the Beartooth Highway. If I’m paying a lease on a $30,000 car that may have 50% residual value after three years, how much does that monthly payment cost compared to the cost of financing a $22,000 car over three years? What kind of gas mileage can the gasoline powered car get to make up the difference in cost of financing? What else am I forgetting in the math?

The cool factor is compelling, and maybe in three years there will be a new generation of electric cars with better batteries at the price point. (Tesla, please?) Or maybe in three-years I’ll be a gas-guzzling Libertarian who wants something completely different.

Any way you look at it, the math is different.

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