We chatted with Sophie about buying and owning a second-hand Nissan Leaf and how that’s working out for her family.
Check out the video for Sophie’s interview highlights, with more details below.
Hi Sophie, we’re keen to pick your brain about your second-hand EV experience, tell us, what made you decide to buy an EV?
We decided to get an EV because we had two petrol cars and one of them died. We then thought we’d try being a one car family and do our bit for the environment and save some money. But after three months of getting public transport, we could see it wasn’t working.
I’ve got small children who are four and six – I need to try balance the day care run with pick and drop off. It was taking up to two hours to get the bus 12 kilometres. We just couldn’t make the day work with one car and my work introduced free EV charging, so it made sense to get an EV.
Why did you choose a second-hand Nissan Leaf in particular?
After looking online, we quickly realised that the only EV in our price range, which was 10k, was a second-hand Nissan Leaf. I spoke to a colleague who has one and she raved about it. As a Research Scientist, of course I started researching by joining Facebook Groups, reading articles and watching videos of people giving advice who’d bought them.
How did you determine how much battery range you needed?
We weighed up what we could afford with how far we needed to travel on an average day. The more battery life a second-hand Nissan Leaf has, the more expensive it is, so we decided that an eight bar* Nissan Leaf that would give us around 100kms to a charge would be right for us. And it would still give us several years of use as a local run around.
*The battery life bars on a Nissan Leaf indicate the battery capacity. As the battery deteriorates over time the onboard computer analyses the battery capacity and turns off the relevant battery bars to reflect this. The less bars, the more degraded the battery and therefore the less distance the vehicle can travel between charges. The maximum is 12 bars.
There’s an app you can get called Leaf Spy which connects to an EV using a dongle that gives you a report on the battery health of the EV. Seeing the Leaf Spy report gave us the confidence that the Leaf we were looking to buy had the battery life that was advertised.
How does having two cars, an EV and a petrol car, work for your family?
I use the EV all the time. I work in Lower Hutt, we live in Upper Hutt (Wellington) and the kids go to school locally, so I use it for all our day-to-day driving. We only use the petrol car when we go for longer trips, which is maybe once a month if we go camping somewhere or drive up to see friends in Taupō.
What’s your typical EV charging routine?
At the weekend we charge at home. We don’t have a garage, but we do have a carport, so we got an outdoor plug installed and I charge the EV overnight when electricity is cheaper. During the week I work from home every other day. The days I work from the office I charge there, which gets me enough charge to drive to all the usual places.
On the odd days I need to go further I charge in Petone where there are chargers in convenient places, like the Warehouse and Pak’nSave, so I can top up while I shop. There’s also a fast charger very close to my house so I occasionally use that if I need to.
Meridian has its own EV chargers called Zero, have you used a Zero charger before?
Yes, we love the beach, so we come down to Days Bay quite a bit over the summer where there are Zero chargers, and it works really well for us. The kids can play on the beach, and we can grab a pizza and a coffee or ice cream at The Pavilion. And we can just charge the car while we’re doing that.
We also use the Zero chargers at Richo Sports Centre as my husband is a keen Squash player, so he plugs in and charges while he plays for an hour so – it’s really convenient.
How easy do you find it to use public EV chargers?
Charging is easy, once you’ve downloaded the Zero app and added your credit card you plug in, hit “start” on the app and it starts charging. It takes a bit of getting used to knowing which cable is needed for which kind of car, but once you figure that out it’s easy.
Would you say having an EV has changed your driving habits or routine in any way?
No, it hasn’t changed my driving habits much. One thing that has changed is now that we have cheaper power at night, I now plug the car in when I get home from work. I get the laundry and dishwasher going before I go to bed, so all of that happens overnight now, whereas before it was more at random times.
Also, if I’m going further afield, I do look up where the chargers are before I leave. For example, if I need to go from Upper Hutt to the airport and back, it’s border line if my older Leaf can do that so I do look where I can top up the charge if I need to. But otherwise, if anything, I may drive more than I used to as I don’t feel so guilty driving anymore.
Did you need to change your home power plan for charging your EV at home?
Once I had bought the electric car, the next thing we needed to do was find out if our electric plan was a good one for charging an EV. What we found was that with an EV there are a lot more power plan options, especially ones with cheaper night rates, which work really well for charging electric cars.
What made you choose Meridian’s EV plan?
We switched from a different electric company to Meridian, as Meridian offered the cheaper night rates. Having cheaper power between 9pm and 7am on the EV Plan has been great. Before that we had the hour of free power which I found really stressful trying to do everything in that one hour.
Now we have everything on delay timers, so I just put on the washing, dishwasher and plug in the car and then I don’t have to think about it again; and it has actually saved us money.
We’re now paying less even with charging the electric vehicle than we were paying before when we didn’t have the EV, so that’s been a really big win.
Let’s talk costs – is having an EV saving you money?
We had to get a car loan for the EV, but with the amount we're saving by not using petrol it pretty much has balanced out the cost of the car loan. You drive past the petrol station, and you don’t have to look at it and go – oh no, it's gone up again!
What misconceptions do you think people might have, who have never owned an EV?
One of the things I’ve found a lot of people worry about before they’ve got an EV, or even when they’re new to driving an EV, is the range anxiety. When I first got my EV, I drove it out to the airport which is at its limit and the battery light was flashing at me by the time I got home. But I quickly got used to how far I could drive on the battery I have.
Finally, what would you say to families thinking of buying an EV?
The advice I give my friends is, if you’ve got a petrol car for the longer distances, something like an older Leaf is affordable and is ideal for getting around town. It’s as close to free to run as you’re going to get and it’s a great option for a second car.
"Charging is easy, once you’ve downloaded the Zero app and added your credit card you plug in, hit “start” on the app and it starts charging".
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