Parked amid the delivery trucks and buses at Intercity Transit headquarters Thursday afternoon was an all-electric Nissan Leaf sedan, the first to hit the road in South Sound.
David Laur, 51, of Lacey, took ownership of the electric vehicle Jan. 18 after it arrived in the first West Coast shipment from Japan. The much-anticipated zero-emissions vehicle is built with enough power to travel the freeways with its gasoline-fueled counterparts.
“The first five were delivered to Western Washington dealerships the same day, but I was the first one off the lot,” Laur said of his $34,500 purchase at an Auburn Nissan dealership.
Laur, who is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit for buying into the next generation of automotive technology, said he has been waiting for this day for several years.
He has owned less-muscular electric vehicles and still has a Toyota Prius hybrid. But the all-electric, high-performance Nissan is what he wants to drive.
“It’s clean with no emissions and environmentally friendly,” Laur said. “But what’s really important to me is that every dollar I don’t spend on gasoline stays home and helps the United States economy.”
Laur showed off his electric vehicle to several IT employees, including bus driver and electric car enthusiast Joe Lambrix and IT general manager Mike Harbour.
“We’re looking at all-electric vehicles in our future,” Harbour said.
Peppered with questions, Laur was armed with answers.
What’s the range on a fully charged battery?
The Nissan Leaf is rated at 100 miles per charge, but that can drop to 70 or 80 miles per charge when other electrical equipment – think heater or air conditioner – are running, Laur said.
“If you need more than 80 miles – don’t buy the car,” he suggested.
The vehicle is equipped to plug in to slow, medium and rapid electric chargers that can recharge the battery in 30 minutes to several hours. Laur plugs his into a three-pronged electrical outlet in his garage at night.
There is a more than $100 million program under way using federal stimulus money to build an electric vehicle charging station infrastructure in five regions of the country, including the Puget Sound area.
Ecototality North America, the company building the network of charging stations, has teamed with Nissan North America, which is deploying about 4,700 Nissan Leafs in the five-region test market, including 900 in the Puget Sound area, in a two-year pilot project designed to pave the way for a growing mobile fleet of electric vehicles nationwide.
The first of about 50 Olympia-area charging stations will be installed starting in March, and the entire Puget Sound network should be in place later this year, said Rich Feldman, Pacific Northwest regional director of Ecototality North America.
“It’s timed to coincide with the roll-out of the vehicles,” Feldman said.
What does it cost to run the Nissan Leaf?
Laur estimates the cost will be about 3.2 cents per mile, compared with 10-11 cents for a gasoline-powered vehicle rated at about 30 miles per gallon.
How long do the batteries last?
Laur has an eight-year, 100,000-mile battery warranty. But Nissan officials have told him to expect the compact lithium-ion battery pack to lose about 20 percent of its range after five years and 30 percent after 10 years.
By then, Laur and other electric-vehicle proponents hope advances in car-battery technology will greatly reduce the cost of replacing the batteries.
How does the car perform?
Laur describes the vehicle as responsive, easy to drive and equipped with an electronic dashboard that gives the driver plenty of instant feedback on the battery-charging system.
The vehicle accelerates from zero to 60 miles per hour in about eight seconds.
“It’s got plenty of get up and go,” Lambrix said.