Saturday, October 11, 2014

After a decade of driving Priuses, I'm ready for an affordable all-electric car

I'm raring to go all-electric.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

I'm ready for an affordable all-electric car, but the world's auto industry isn't ready for me.

I've owned four Toyota Priuses since 2004, and now drive a red 2010 model with less than 41,000 miles on the odometer.

But 15 years after Honda introduced the first hybrid car to the United States, followed a year later by the Toyota Prius, neither Japanese auto company produces an all-electric model with a range of 200 miles.

The 2015 Nissan Leaf, with an MSRP of $29,010 for a basic model, has an EPA range of only 84 miles -- a nail-biter, judging from my recollection of renting one for the day from Hertz in San Francisco, where customers often ran out of juice and the rental agency had to send out a flat-bed truck to retrieve the vehicle. 

That Hertz agency stopped offering the Leaf in 2012.

Here is what I said about the 2012 Leaf in a post on my food blog, Do You Really Know What You're Eating?

I rented the all-electric Nissan Leaf sedan from Hertz for one day, and when I picked it up in a downtown San Francisco garage, the instruments said I had a 98-mile range.
But in the end, I got only 39 miles out of the car, and that required charging the batteries for 3 hours and 40 minutes in my cousin's garage. The charge added "12 miles" to the car's range.
"To avoid draining the batteries, I didn't use the air conditioner or play the radio. Of course, the car is quiet, but its optimistic range added an anxiety level akin to running out of gasoline and being stranded far from a refill.


The Leaf's range hasn't changed much since the car was introduced in the U.S. in December 2010 -- this from the second-biggest car company in Japan.


The 2014 Toyota RAV4 EV, which has a Tesla powertrain, has an MSRP of $50,700 and a range of 100 miles, but is available only in California.

Toyota has expanded the Prius line, adding smaller and larger models,  and a plug-in hybrid, which has an all-electric range of only 11 miles. That's not a typo: just 11 miles.

I've been planning to buy a Tesla Model S with a 60 kWh battery and an advertised range of 208 miles for $69,900 without options. But I don't consider that "affordable."

With 302 hp, the car is said to do 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds. Nice to know, but I'm part of the "cruise-control" generation, and usually drive at or a little above the speed limit.