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Our Electric Car is More Fun to Drive

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Pieter Broucke next to his Nissan Leaf, powered by his rooftop solar
Photo credit: Nat Blackford

Source: Nathaniel Blackford, Middlebury College

Pieter Broucke has been working at Middlebury College, where he is a Professor of the History of Art and Architecture, since 1995. He lives with his wife and kids in a small 1500ft2 house. A few years ago, when their roof needed replacing, they put on a metal roof and covered the south side with solar panels. The solar system was oversized for their needs, but rather than put all that extra energy back into the grid, they decided to try out an EV (electric vehicle).

Excess rooftop solar electricity? Go EV!

They chose the Nissan Leaf, but decided to lease instead of buying because of how quickly electric cars have been improving. That was two years ago and now Pieter describes owning the car as being like “owning a vacuum cleaner.” There is very little maintenance: no gassing up, no oil changes and overall there is just less that can go wrong. This means less worrying, but also lower upkeep costs. While some talk about the negative environmental impact of batteries in EV’s, Pieter says they have a fraction of the environmental impact of gas and diesel cars. Pieter described how he had a hard time convincing his wife to lease the Leaf, but then they went for a test drive. She loved it, and so did their kids, who now prefer to drive the Leaf. As Pieter said: “It’s so zippy and peppy.”

Range anxiety? Ranges and charging stations are increasing every year.

The biggest thing to worry about is how far you can drive before you need to charge up again. Pieter said that his Leaf has a range of 80 to 90 miles depending on the temperature, but that newer versions may have a range of 120 to 200 miles. The range hasn’t been a problem for him, since it can easily get him to and from work. There are also charging stations going up all over Vermont, which make driving an EV more feasible.

Or...look at a plug-in hybrid

Like many Vermonters, the Brouckes don’t have only one car. Pieter admits that it would be pretty challenging to have an EV as your only car, but says that for two-car households, one car should be electric. “It is just so feasible and viable,” he said, although “there are high upfront costs.” But the Brouckes don’t buy new cars. When the time came for their other car to be replaced, they bought a used car. But not just any used car– this time they bought a plug-in hybrid Prius.

A plug-in hybrid Prius is like most hybrids except that you can charge the battery externally, which allows you to use the battery more while you are driving. The result is that they can go significantly further on a tank of gas. The Brouckes car has just come off a 3 year lease and they were able to buy it for half of what the new car would have cost. Because this car can run on gas, they can use it for longer trips when the Leaf would be really inconvenient.

Pieter said that the reason for making these changes and investing in electric vehicles came from his two children. He wanted to make sure that they had a good, clean environment to grow up in.

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