Nissan Shows Electric Cars Can Indeed Be Economical… Or Can They?

Given that electric cars are still far from mainstream, manufacturers and governments alike are working to make the vehicles as accessible as possible for the most people. Both the federal and state governments offer certain financial perks for purchasing a car that qualifies as being green, to help replace fossil-fuel powered vehicles with more sustainable and efficient units.

Nissan has just about set the bar as far as removing barriers to getting yourself an electric vehicle — with some clever (and possibly a bit advantageous) math, the automaker has shown how you can drive an electric car for an exceptionally low amount of money — provided that 1) the drivers live in states offering tax incentives (for Nissan’s example, either California or Georgia); and 2) don’t need to drive very far in a single day.

Here’s how the math breaks down: for a three-year lease on Nissan’s electric Leaf model, the buyer (user?) puts $1,999.99 down on the spot. Nissan then calculates the total payments (36, one per month) multiplied by the lease payments ($199 per month for the Leaf). Added together, this equals a total cost of $9,163. This is your total expense, and includes the $7,500 in federal credit for purchasing an electric car.

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Next, Nissan takes the average amount that one saves on gas by driving an electric car, calculated by the EPA. The agency figures that this would come out to about $5,550, based on “the average car.” This cost is then subtracted from the total expenses, equating to $3,613.

This is where the math becomes slightly advantageous. Depending on what state you live in, there are certain rebates and further incentives for buying such a car, which can range from $2,500 to $5,500. Therefore, in the best set of circumstances, your expenses for leasing a Leaf for three years will be $0 — or possibly even a surplus. In the worst, expenses over the three years will equal about $1,113 in “out of pocket costs.”