How much does it cost to drive a Nissan LEAF?

by Ernie Hernandez on June 19, 2012

Dollar sign

Monthly electricity charge to drive a LEAF

As many of our loyal readers know by now, we have had our LEAF for over a year. We picked it up on March 25 of last year and to date have accumulated the grand total of 7,577 miles – or about half of what many Southern California commuters accumulate in only 12 months. One of the most often asked questions is “How much did your electric bill go up?” The short answer is – Not much. Here is the longer answer.

San Diego Gas & Electric installed a second meter in our home to accurately measure the electric uptake of the LEAF. The only equipment downstream of this second meter is the Blink electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), which most refer to inaccurately as a charger, but which is really just a charging dock for the car. It provides the right connector through which to pour the electrons with appropriate safety measures in place. Below is a table in which the monthly electricity charge is tracked for the last twelve months billing cycle:

Monthly electricity cost to drive our LEAF
$10
$17
$13
$20
$15
$20
$18
$26
$17
$19
$19
$18

The $26 month was over the holidays, as we did a lot more shuttling around to see family members and friends (and get all of that Christmas shopping in). If you drive twice the amount that we do these figures should be doubled. Also, we are participants in an EV experiment being conducted by SDG&E. EV owners that chose to participate were provided one of three experimental rate structures offered by the utility. Vehicle owners had no say in which rate structure they were placed. We were fortunate to receive the lowest rate, which is roughly $0.08 per kilowatt hour from midnight to 5:00AM, which is when we have our LEAF timed to charge. Your local utility may offer similar EV rate structures with time of use (TOU) rate plans to optimize power generation equipment usage.

As we wrote in April, our first year maintenance cost was zero. In the comments of the linked article is more information on the maintenance schedule provided by Nissan. There are two maintenance schedules provided – Schedule 1 (More Severe) and Schedule 2 (Less Severe). Unless you live in Yuma, Death Valley, or locales that salt the road in winter, Schedule 2 will do just fine. Service writers will (almost) always recommend the more severe schedule. Some may offer a Premium plan as well. They also recommend changing oil every ninety days in a gasoline powered vehicle which is both unnecessary and wasteful. With new car margins shrinking due to more informed consumers, dealerships from all manufacturers are looking to maintain profitability in any way they can. Unless you feel that there is a specific need to change the brake fluid (a Schedule 1 item), it likely does not need to be changed on an annual basis.

If you have had your LEAF for awhile now, and are comfortable sharing your average monthly fuel cost (with perhaps a comment on how much your gasoline fueled vehicle cost to drive the same distance), please feel free to leave a comment below, as many will be looking to this article as a resource in helping them to make a purchase decision.

We don’t believe that cost of ownership is the primary factor in your decision to acquire your LEAF. But it is a factor that you will consider when making your decision. Our hope is that this article will help bring some clarity to this decision point.

Other articles that you may find of interest:

Cost to drive a Nissan LEAF compared to a gas powered car (found here)

Department of Energy chimes in on cost of driving an EV (found here).

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

John P June 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Ernie,

My electric bill actually went down. I don’t have a separate meter for the LEAF, but did get the timed pricing plan from PG&E (I live in San Jose). Of course, with the better pricing, we run the dishwasher, clothes dryer and anything else we can after midnight along with the charge for the LEAF.

I to have about 7,000 miles on the car (picked it up on April 30, 2011). I would have had more like 12,000 but I got sick and have been on disability for a few months. When I called the dealer to schedule the one year service, the woman on the phone told me it would take 4 hours due to this being a major service. I told her I would have to call back to reschedule. When I do make the new appointment, I will take your advice and ask for only the maintenance 2 and then only what is absolutely necessary.

Thanks,

John

Reply

Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) June 20, 2012 at 5:36 pm

John, thanks for the feedback. Good luck with your one year service.

Reply

Tom K June 22, 2012 at 9:53 am

Although I have not tracked my electric bill since I purchased my LEAF in May 11′, I estimate a mInimal increase, if any. I installed a hot tub about the same time too. Note, I charge away from home at least 50% of the time with 20,000+ miles so far traveled… ;-)

Reply

Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) June 22, 2012 at 11:00 am

Tom, thanks for the input. That is another thing to keep in mind. At least for now there are many places to charge currently that offer EV charging as a service. We do not know what the future holds, but as the various charging networks continue to grow and expand, and more retail establishments (malls or individual businesses such as Walgreens and Ikea) start to offer EV charging stations some will remain free for customer use and some will charge a fee. By taking advantage of these stations, we can minimize our own charging expense while supporting those businesses or entities that are supporting the growth of the EV community. This is truly an ever evolving development that each of us can support individually.

Reply

Leaf Ericsson July 27, 2012 at 2:17 pm

No Leaf but, but I am wondering about the charge for charging. There are several semi-convenient charging stations within range of us (Oregon) and I stopped and checked one out (ChargePoint.net) and it uses a credit card thingie. However, there is no indication of how much I would be charged to energize my EV. Electricity is cheap here, about $0.07/Kwh,residential, so it should cost less than $2.00 to “Fill ‘er up”. Does anyone have any info on how much these charges might be?

Reply

Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) July 29, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Leaf – welcome to Living LEAF. Each provider sets their own rates, and you normally must join their network prior to using their charge equipment. Currently some providers provide access at no charge while others charge a fee. Once you have selected a provider network, you can find their fee structure by clicking on their map of charging locations, select a charging point, and typically the fee is provided.

Reply

Joe October 23, 2013 at 7:02 am

Did you get a tax break on your LEAF? I hear some states offer money back. Just curious. Great article thanks.

Regards,

Joe

Reply

Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) October 23, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Joe – Welcome to Living LEAF. California (where I live) is one of the states that offers incentives to acquire an alternative fuel vehicle. Here is a link to those states that offer such incentives:

http://www.afdc.energy.gov/laws/state

Reply

Carl Fiorica March 11, 2014 at 12:34 pm

We just purchased a 2013 Leaf (Leased it actually). It looks like you have good numbers for cost. As a better comparison to a gas-powered car…could you calculate the cost per mile? My snooping around on the web shows that it should be around $0.03/mile for the leaf, while the Jeep we traded in averaged about $.018/mile.

Thanks!

Reply

Ernie Hernandez March 12, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Carl – Welcome to Living LEAF. Interestingly, the cost of electricity varies more dramatically around the country than does the cost of gasoline. Still, the cost of driving a LEAF, or any electric car, is dramatically cheaper per mile than any gasoline vehicle. That said, your number of $0.03 per mile is easily attainable by many – which makes the lease option of this vehicle so tantalizing. Many have never looked at LEAF acquisition from that perspective, but as more of us tell our stories, the word will eventually be heard by those that would benefit from driving one. Perhaps I’ll revisit this topic in a future article. Thanks for your feedback!

Reply

Carl Fiorica March 14, 2014 at 12:37 pm

I too am in San Diego and I do need to make a correction to my earlier post…that should read $0.18/mile (not $0.018…I’m sure you figured that out). That was actually a key point to convincing my wife to go along with the purchase. If you factor your current car payment with a new car payment and then factor in the “daily driving” cost (that’s what I call it). For us it came down to driving about 600 miles/month which meant that the Jeep cost $108/mo and Leaf will cost about $18/mo to drive. (If you are charging from Solar…that drops to basically $0) Factor in monthly car payments and the Jeep costs about $350/mo and the Leaf about $320/mo. Who doesn’t like saving money?

Reply

Phil Mallonee March 24, 2014 at 2:41 pm

What is the experience on “other” costs. On my Versa my costs run 1) Car Payment, 2) Insurance, 3) Gasoline. How do insurance costs for a Leaf generally compare? I see a lot of focus on the $/mile measurements (which is a good thing), but what about the rest of the costs – partularly the capital (car price) costs and the fixed costs (insurance). How do you get data for something like a 5 year cost of ownership?

Reply

Ernie Hernandez March 29, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Phil – Welcome to Living LEAF. Insurance costs vary dramatically based on location and driving history, but generally LEAF is no more to insure than a similarly sized car. Some insurance companies offer discounts to electric car drivers. Look for an updated article soon on this topic.

Reply

Phil Mallonee March 31, 2014 at 3:08 pm

I had read a concern on the subject of insurance earlier because of higher replacement costs and smaller pools of insured autos. I was curious how this was bearing up in the real world. I guess in addition to the 5 year cost of ownership a 10 year would be even more interesting. I know the battery over the long-haul is a question, but it would also be interesting to see the capital versus operating expense totaled up over those periods. 5 years just about gets through the payments and the next 5 years is where you make that investment back. I would love to see Electrics get to where thy pay on economics alone.

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: