Monthly Archives: June 2013

Field Days Conundrum

The county fair.

The county fair.

We’re only about four weeks away from what is arguably the biggest event of the year here in this part of Vermont—the county fair, known as “Addison County Fair and Field Days”, or, in the vernacular, just as “Field Days”. Field Days is the quintessential county fair—carnival rides, a Ferris fair horseswheel, kids showing cows and goats and all manner of other livestock, baking and canning competitions, horse and oxen pulling, hand mowing, antique farm equipment demonstrations, cotton candy, cast-iron-skillet tossing, logging exhibits, ridiculously-bad-for-you fair food, farm equipment dealers with displays, karaoke contests, etc, etc, etc. (I know it’s not proper to use “etc.” more than once, but sometimes it just seems to fit). The fair is five days long, and culminates on Saturday night with a tremendous fireworks display. Good times for everyone, and a hearty display of the kinds of values that we’re going to need going forward—an appreciation for the land and nature, community, family togetherness, volunteering. We buy “season passes” and usually go over every evening for the five days. fair jarsThe kids enjoy the rides and food and hanging out with their friends, and I enjoy, in fact, really enjoy, having a beer or two at the designated “beer tent,” put up by the local brewery, eating some BBQ ribs from the rib place, and then (here’s the “conundrum” part)—watching the demolition derbies and tractor pulls. I can’t think of two activities more diametrically opposed to concern for the future of the planet than demolition derbies and tractor pulls. Demolition derbies, somewhat akin to modern gladiator fighting, are veritable celebrations of destruction and waste, and both the derbies and the fair tractor pullpulling are almost religious devotions to the fossil-fuel era. But I grew up in that era, and paid for college by working in a machine shop rebuilding the very engines that power both, and have raced cars and driven street machines with enough horsepower to light up the tires. Continue reading

A Middle Ground for Agriculture

chickens

I read that book I mentioned the other day, (post: “My Feminine Side“) ; it was really good—funny, honest, poignant. I was laughing so much reading parts of it that my kids were looking at me funny. rurally screwed(And she writes a blog, at rurallyscrewed.com). The book was a great read; an exploration of those questions we all ask ourselves about our lives. And, many aspects of the author’s story were almost freakily similar to mine and my wife’s—I was the guy with the pickup from the west (Texas, in my case), who was mechanically inclined and could fix anything, and an officer in the military, she was the one getting letters from Iraq with little stick figures on them and wondering what to do with her life while I was deployed, etc, etc. But the part that pertains to sustainability is the author’s experience moving to a rural place and raising chickens. We, too, moved to a rural place and raised chickens. And in our case, turkeys as well. We too built the mobile yard coop that turned out heavier than expected, we too used the electric mesh fences, we too have killed and gutted and dressed the birds, and gathered and washed and sold the eggs. So, I knew exactly where she was coming from. And when she talked about barely breaking even, I knew what she was talking about. Continue reading

Just Keep Pushing

Dora in real life-- a "regal tang".

Dory in real life– a “regal tang”.

I’d like make a difference in the world, to do my part in helping to fix what I see as humankind’s dangerous path of environmental destruction that threatens to get far, far worse before it gets better. The long-term trend lines for just about everything— greenhouse gasses, habitat destruction, soil erosion, groundwater depletion, species extinctions, the list goes on—are frightening.

But I was thinking, maybe my efforts are not enough. We have these huge problems, and I’m not sure enough people are paying attention. I’d like to be doing more. I write, I show one of the Leafs to someone just about every day, I try to live my own life intentionally, and in ways that will help to shift the system. But I was at a large gathering of friends and relatives the other day, and was looking around at the crowd, most of whom I know, and was thinking that we have an awful long way to go. The problems of people or the environment in faraway places, or problems that won’t fully manifest themselves for decades, just aren’t foremost in most people’s minds.

People are pretty distracted by things that are trivial in the big scheme of things. We live in a world of information overload, and the information is often designed and focus-group tested specifically to gain and hold our attention. Every business out there would love to capture your attention. Every author, every blog writer, every charity, every corporation, every movement, every religion, every movie studio or television producer—all wanting your attention, your money, your efforts. At the same time, we’re as busy as humans have ever been. Most of us, in the wealthy world, and the U.S. in particular, are probably busier than we have to be; caught up in consumerist patterns and a quest for material possessions. All of this makes it hard for any message to gain traction, and that includes the environmental one.

So I was feeling as if I didn’t have enough power to change things. BUT, then I realized that, by my very own definition of how this needs to go, that I’m not saving the planet all by myself. Like I outlined in my post the other week, “A Potential Path Forward”, one person can’t do it alone. A thousand people can’t do it (though they can certainly make a difference). It will take millions. My metaphor in that post was of people pushing on a ship like the Titanic and trying to turn it. I can’t forget that I’m just a single person, pushing. So, to channel Dory in “Finding Nemo”—Just keep pushing, pushing, pushing…

Image credit: snehit / 123RF Stock Photo

Update 1 July 2013– My daughter has informed me that the character in “Finding Nemo” is “Dory”, not “Dora”. I have changed the post. :)

My Feminine Side

Prettier than power lines and electric motors.

Prettier than power lines and electric motors.

Had a bit of time to spare in Middlebury earlier, and stopped by the library to use their computers. But, the computers were all occupied, and I didn’t have my laptop with me, so I picked up a novel from one of the front displays. “Rurally Screwed: My Life Off the Grid With the Cowboy I Love”. I’d like to say that it was the “Off the Grid” part that caught my eye, but it was probably the good-looking legs on the cover photograph. Anyway, I sat down in one of the easy chairs and started to read it. Interesting; an autobiographical account of a trendy city girl and fashion editor from Manhattan who meets and falls in love with a cowboy in Montana while on assignment. I wouldn’t mind finishing it; perhaps it appealed to my feminine side.

But, I don’t live in Middlebury, so I can’t check books out from their library. So this brought to mind something I’ve been wondering for a while—should I get an e-reader, like a Kindle or Nook? I could order a “real” copy of the book on Amazon, but if I had a Kindle I could download it in just a minute, then and there, and then I wouldn’t have to wait. Some of my kids at school have them, and seem to like them. And, pertinent to this website, would an e-reader be better or worse for the environment? So I did a little web-searching when I got home, and apparently they would indeed be better. Here’s a column from The Green Lantern that lays it all out. Short version, taking everything into account, it appears that e-readers “break even” in terms of environmental impact somewhere around book number twenty.

E-reader.

E-reader.

So, I’ll consider this. I’d rather not complicate my life with more gadgets, and certainly don’t want a fully-connected digital leash/smart phone. But, I’ve been reading The Economist online, but I much prefer the “real” magazine. This isn’t just because it’s on paper, I just prefer browsing the full version; I feel like I miss half of the magazine when I click on this or that story on the online version. This is true of Time magazine, or any of the other ones I read online. But I don’t really want a paper copy of every magazine every week; it just seems like a tremendous environmental cost for the few minutes I might spend with any particular issue. But, I suppose I’d like to read The Economist, or other magazines, in color. But the “e-ink” screens work fantastic in full sunlight, but are all black and white. I can’t stand reading on the computer LCD screen outdoors—it just doesn’t work well. Some issues to figure out.

Perhaps a bigger issue– I really like my paper books. Back to whether or not our belongings are part of our identities, perhaps this is in no case more true than a person’s books. When someone comes to my house, they can peruse my bookshelves and get a pretty good idea of who Taborri Bruhl is. Plus, I like writing in the margins of books when I read, and, I like having those books that I like around to reread. The latter of which I suppose can be done with an e-reader; perhaps it’s just yet another paradigm shift.

My wife just saw my title; she said I don’t have a feminine side. I’m not sure whether to take that as a compliment or as an insult.

Image credits: aleshyn / 123RF Stock Phototommaso79 / 123RF Stock Photo

This is Interesting…

Power lines--not pretty but necessary.

Power lines–not pretty but necessary.

(slightly technical post)

From time to time I have mentioned DC power transmission lines in my posts, and I was discussing this with Mr. X. We both had a very similar question—why is it that AC power transmission won out over DC, back in the 1880s, and yet today there is this new push to use DC for long-distance transmission? We both had a vague idea, and turns out we were both right, but I read more about it, and the details are quite interesting.

Short version—back in the 19th century, Thomas Edison was pushing for the development of a DC grid system, and George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla were pushing for an AC grid system. Due to one basic fact, the AC system won out over time—it was easier to transform AC current into high voltages, and high voltages suffer exponentially lower losses during long-distance transmission. A simple transformer with a different number of windings on the two sides will step AC current up or down quite efficiently, but to change DC from one voltage to another essentially required the DC current to power an electric motor, the output of which drove another generator which was wound to produce DC output at a different voltage. Losses were higher, and these DC systems, with their moving parts, had much higher maintenance costs. So the AC systems won out, and became standard the world over. Simply put, systems needed high voltages for transmission, and much lower voltages for actual use for power or light, and this was only practical at the time with alternating current.

In all actuality, though, once DC current has been stepped up to those higher voltages, it is actually the more efficient of the two for long distance transmission. This is due to two basic characteristics of AC transmission that cause losses. The first is something called the “skin effect”, whereby the outer surface of an AC conductor actually carries the bulk of the current. The effect is significant with higher currents and voltages and larger wires. As you increase wire size, the mass of the wire goes up faster than the surface area, so you get less and less actual capacity gain with bigger wires. Doubling the weight of an AC conductor does not double its current carrying capacity. (They can get around this by using braided wires, but they aren’t practical for lines that are hundreds or thousands of miles in length). The second problem with alternating current is that every time a current is introduced into a wire, it creates a magnetic field. That magnetic field has to be “charged up” as the power begins. Unfortunately with AC, the power “begins” sixty or more times each second. These losses are called capacitance losses, and get worse as the conductors get closer together. In undersea cables, where the conductors are housed essentially side by side, these losses are so high that AC transmission almost doesn’t work, and most undersea transmission cables are built to use DC. But even with overhead line systems capacitance losses are present, and limit the effective range that AC power can be transmitted. In general, it can be transmitted for hundreds of miles, but not thousands.

Fortunately, much has changed since the 19th century—today it is quite possible to change AC to DC, and vice versa, and to transform DC power into different voltages; mechanical devices are no longer required. Long distance, high voltage DC (HVDC) transmission corridors have already been built; there are several in the U.S., quite a few in Europe, and the longest two in the world, both well over 1,000 miles in length, in China and Brazil.

This modern capability is important, because in the sustainable world that we need to move toward electrical power is going to be far more prominent than it is today. Most renewable power systems generate electricity, be they solar, or wind, or hydroelectric. And much of this power generation is NOT produced where it’s needed. (Just one example—the windiest parts of the U.S., the Great Plains, are not where the big cities tend to be.) So, in the future we will use more electricity as we phase out fossil fuels, increasing amounts of that electricity will be from renewable generation, and it will need to be moved long distances. Thus the need for DC transmission.

Image credit: aarrows / 123RF Stock Photo

Free Lunch and the Holy Grail

Beautiful things...

Electric motors, beautiful things…

We had a charging glitch with the cars today—my wife plugged the red one in at work, but came back after eight hours only to find that it must not have been plugged in right, and hadn’t charged at all. So, after work I took it to Middlebury to one of the public chargers, and put my bike in the back and rode the seven miles home. A great ride. It had rained earlier in the day, and the weather was cool, and the sun was shining huge sunbeams out from under the retreating clouds, and everything was about as green as it can ever be. Quite bucolic, with the farms and the fields and the Adirondacks in the distance. I wish I had taken a camera.

So I rode along thinking about the energy the Leafs use. They go about 4 or 5 miles per kwh of charge. To put that into perspective, our solar panels make about 3,000 watts in full sun, or 3 kwh’s. So, in an hour the panels make enough power to propel a Leaf, which is slightly heavy at something like 3,500 pounds, somewhere between 12 and 15 miles. As I pondered the effort it was taking to propel 190 pounds (me plus bike) for half that distance, this seemed quite impressive. To move a weight that is approaching two tons for a distance of 15 miles, with the sunlight that hits a quarter of our barn roof in just one hour—that seems like a free lunch. Continue reading

Another 25 Gallons

The Neuton

The Neuton

Well, another one of those unexpected-homeowner-expenses—our lawn mower finally gave up the ghost, I think. This was probably breakdown number ten; I’ve been patching it up for years and years. Here’s my wife’s facebook post—broken mower

So, I decided to replace it with an electric mower. And one with a battery, not one with a cord… I had seen a few models at Lowe’s the other week, ranging from $150 to $350. But, we drove up there only to find that they were completely sold out, and back-ordered; apparently the mowers are selling like hotcakes. This is good for the planet, but wasn’t good for me. Home Depot didn’t have any cordless models, so I dropped by the DR Equipment store in Vergennes—bingo. They sell Neuton brand electric mowers, which I had actually heard of. So, this was the epitome of buying-without-research—we got there at 11 minutes to closing time on a Friday before a holiday weekend, with a wife at home who was pretty determined to mow, and mow soon. (She does the bulk of the lawn mowing). They had two models, basically large and medium, so I immediately told the salesperson that I’d take a large, at $399, and ten minutes later I was a Neuton mower owner.

My wife was pretty skeptical. Fortunately the battery was nearly fully charged. Unfortunately, the grass was somewhat high; due to broken mower. But the Neuton held its own. We decided that the max height setting (3 inches) was probably the closest match to how we cut it before, and experimented with the discharge chute and with the mulching arrangement. I was surprised with the mulching—I thought it would draw more power, but it didn’t seem to, and left virtually no clippings. (We don’t bag our clippings, unless I’m collecting up material for the compost pile). Even though it wasn’t fully charged, the battery lasted at least 45 minutes, and my wife got about a quarter of the lawn cut.

And, similarly to owning the Leafs—our rural off-grid situation is slightly atypical, and will require a bit more planning than a normal suburbanite might have to deal with. The lawn is largish, and rather than letting the grass grow quite a bit and then powering through it with the 6-hp gas mower, we’re going to have to cut it before it gets really high. But the mower is way lighter than the old one, and you can walk quickly when the grass isn’t high, so this should be about the same amount of total effort. And, we might need to buy a second battery (it pulls right out of the mower; easy) so that we can mow for two hours, instead of one. (My preference would be to go the “Minimalist” route and choose to not have such a big lawn, but I’m getting out-voted on this one). The batteries require at least eight hours to charge, so even with two it will take two sessions to get the lawn cut, no more 4-hour mowing marathons. (Again–I’d opt for a smaller lawn…).

But—I’d guess that we have been using about 25 gallons of gasoline a season, just cutting the grass. Perhaps more; it seems like every other weekend one of us is making a special trip to the gas station in the gas-powered vehicle (pre-Leaf) just to fill up the gas can. Here’s the Neuton handouts that came with the mower—

neuton cards

I suppose these points pretty much sum it up. In the end, 25 gallons saved is a just a fraction of the 1,000 gallons a year we’ll save with the Leafs. But, another step in the right direction. And my wife will just have to live with the plastic wheels.

Image credits: Me

Update: I really like this mower. This is something I didn’t expect; in the back of my mind I was prepared for a constant compromise to be fossil-fuel free in the mowing department. But the more I used it today the more I liked it (I did buy a second battery). It’s lighter than the old one, and way easier to “refuel”; no more messing with funnels and gas. Plus, it occurred to me that the 25-gallon fuel savings, every year, will pay for the mower in about five years. And that’s just not something that happens with a gas mower, period. And I don’t have to wear hearing protection when I mow. Yay.

Update, May 2016: We’re on year four with the batteries, and they’re starting to lose a little of their oomf (technical term). At $100 each, I’m thinking about changing over to one of the new Greenworks lithium-ion 80-volt models with quick-chargers. I’ll make sure the current one gets to someone who will use it…

Wealth 101

Bonafide wealth.

Bonafide wealth.

Mr. X reminded me that it’s hard to think properly about wealth and wealth disparity without understanding the economic aspects of wealth creation. I agree. In fact, as I’ve mentioned from time to time, I think that an understanding of economics in general is important if we want to have any hope of improving the planet. If visions of a path forward aren’t grounded in economic “reality”, then they won’t work, period, and therefore are of no value.

So, an addition to my last post here, I’ll just call it “Wealth 101”. My main point—there isn’t some fixed amount of wealth on the planet. The poor half of the world only has 1% of the wealth, and the richest tenth has 85%, but, the rich don’t have to necessarily give their wealth away for the poorer parts to have more. It isn’t a zero-sum game. Wealth can be created, almost out of thin air. An example—suppose a rural village in some poor part of the world has a hard time getting across a river that divides the area they live in. This makes their lives difficult. So, they decide to work together, and dig stones out of the ground, and build a stone bridge. When they are done, they don’t have any more gold in their pockets, (or Euros, or yen, or dollars), BUT—they’re richer. The bridge will enable the villagers to more efficiently get to and from their fields, and to get their products (and themselves) to and from markets. They have created wealth, and this wealth will improve their lives. The bridge (which is itself wealth) will in turn help make future wealth creation easier, in a virtuous cycle.

The same is true in the rich world. Picture, say, the White-Rodgers plant in Batesville, Arkansas, that makes thermostats for gas-powered appliances. I’ve been there, and have seen this. Aluminum ingots come into one side of the factory, and they are melted down, and cast into rough shapes. They then follow along a series of complicated machining steps, and come out the other end (with the addition of some parts) as finished thermostats. The value of the finished thermostats greatly exceeds the value of the parts and aluminum ingots. It had nothing to do with dollars—it had to do with combining labor and energy with raw materials in a way that created wealth. Wealth was created.

(An aside—the best way to view money in this situation is as a medium of exchange. It can be traded for wealth, but the money itself isn’t “wealth”. You can’t eat dollar bills, or clothe yourself with them, or keep the rain off of your head with them).

Wealth can be destroyed, too. Wealth is consumed, it wears out, it rusts away, it becomes obsolete, it is destroyed by war, or natural disasters. Harbors silt up, roads degrade, roofs begin to leak, wood rots. What a society’s people know and are able to do is also wealth. By some accounts, half of the wealth of the United States is in this form; “human capital”. And human capital wears out, too. Workers grow old, or their skills become obsolete.

So wealth levels in a society are a moving target. Wealth is constantly being consumed or destroyed, so it must constantly be replaced. We produce, we train our workers, we invest in education for young people, we update, we repair, we replace.

So why exactly are poor parts of the world so poor, and what can we do about it? In general, they are poor because their systems to create wealth are broken. They are wracked by war, they lack communications or energy or transportation infrastructure, their human capital is lacking due to disease, or malnutrition, or lack of education, or they are plagued by natural disasters, or live in places where their governments fail miserably to fulfill proper governmental functions, and/or steal the wealth that the country produces, or waste it. Some governments impede trade, some fail to protect the rule of law. Unfortunately, wealth creation is easily disrupted; it doesn’t work if any of these things are broken.

This is what makes fixing world poverty so difficult. Fixing just education isn’t enough. Fixing just medical care isn’t enough. Fixing just transportation infrastructure isn’t enough. Countries need all the puzzle pieces to create wealth. And all people need to consume to live, and if a country’s consumption is higher than its wealth creation, then a brutal economic downward spiral begins. Conversely, in the rich parts of the world, wealth creation begets yet more wealth creation, in a virtuous cycle. Both of these are concurrent: cue wealth inequality.

All is not dismal. Economic advances have virtually halved the world’s poverty rate in the last two decades. But, here we have the great Catch-22—the same economic growth that lifts the poor from poverty is what is mushrooming the human footprint to a point that we’re threatening the very water, soil, air, and biodiversity that we all need to survive. Economic growth (that strived-for 3% a year) is exponential, yet we live on a finite planet.

We care about the environment, but caring for the environment, as Mr. X never tires of telling me, is the luxury of a wealthy nation. The desperately poor are just trying to eat and survive, and pesticide use and carbon emissions and water usage enable them to do this. We can’t fault them for that. Because of this, as I mentioned in the last post, they can’t help us save the planet until they have more wealth. But their future economies, like ours, need to be sustainable. So we have a lot to do.

I’ll stop here; there are too many aspects to this issue to flesh them all out at once. But understanding wealth creation is necessary step, I think.

Image credit: pixphoto / 123RF Stock Photo

Blog note: I’ve added a button on the sidebar that will notify readers by email when new posts go up on this site; just type in your email address and click the button if you want to receive notifications. The emails are short—just the new post title, a short excerpt, and a link to click if you want to go straight to the site. Each email also has an “unsubscribe” button, so it isn’t hard to change your mind down the road if you decide that you don’t want to be notified. And as always—your address will not be sold, distributed, or used in any other way. -tb

Pondering Kant

Kenyan girl.

Kenyan girl.

So, I was pondering Immanuel Kant the other day, probably the day I was sitting in the park, with regard to the dilemma we humans find ourselves in. More specifically, his “categorical imperative”, which, if I can explain it properly, holds that we should all act in ways that, if everyone were to act in an identical fashion, would cause the world to be a better place. That’s a slightly simple rendition, but accurate enough for this discussion, I think.

And here’s the dichotomy that I can’t quite resolve—on one hand, I find his categorical imperative to be valid, in terms of a test of morality and ethics; of right and wrong. On the other hand—we live in a disturbingly unequal world. The actions that I might take, in my surroundings, to move toward sustainability and a better future are almost patently not possible, or applicable, for billions of other beings. We can’t all make the same choices. I am fortunate—due to no effort of my own, I happen to have been born into the rich world. (Loosely defined—Europe, the US, Canada, Australia, S. Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Australia). When you divide the world’s population by household wealth, this is where the richest 10% of the world’s population tends to live. This 10% holds an astonishing 85% of the world’s wealth. The bottom half? They hold, cumulatively, barely 1% of the world’s wealth. We’re talking about 3,500,000,000 people, with 1% of the world’s wealth.

The reasons for this are complex, and much argued about. To simplify the argument—are the poor parts of the world poor because the rich people stole their wealth and exploited them, or are the rich parts of the world rich because they learned to create wealth? There is truth on both sides, but, taking everything into consideration, I think the preponderance of the evidence points to the latter being the more influential force—the rich world has learned to create wealth. And this system of wealth creation (very short version: liberal democracies, industrialization, and the market system) has impacted virtually every human on the planet. The system has created prosperity. It is this wealth creation that has enabled the food and materials production that now enables 7 billion people to exist. But we are now becoming victims of our own success—all 7 billion are putting pressure on the planet in ways that can’t be sustained. There is fault enough for everyone—from the poor in Kenya cutting down the Mau Forest to make charcoal, to the Vietnamese shrimp farmer impacting stands of mangroves, to U.S. citizens powering their McMansions with power from coal and blithely driving their Hummers to buy latte’s from Starbucks. This ever-increasing population is the root cause of much of the inequality and poverty in the world—it causes economic gains to be diluted in poor countries as those gains are spread to ever increasing numbers.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure we can achieve sustainability on the planet without also making more progress toward equality. If nothing else, the desperately poor (something like a billion people live on less than $1.25 a day, the world’s unofficial baseline for poverty) have far too much to worry about to help try and save the planet. The homeless mother of three in the Sahel who struggles to find drinkable water isn’t in a position to help us effect change. In fact, just the reverse—we need to help her, and others like her. We can’t become truly sustainable until all people on the planet can live meaningful, secure lives. Fortunately, the same monetary and demand power that will push the world toward sustainability can also be used to push the world toward a fairer distribution of wealth. I need to think about this; I don’t think I have enough answers. Fair Trade products are a step in the right direction, but there are surely other ways we can push the world toward a fairer distribution of wealth.

But we don’t have this more equal world yet. Right now, I live in my world, and the poorly paid sweatshop worker lives in his, and the desperately poor, in places like Mali and Chad, live in theirs. So, as we begin, Kant’s categorical imperative doesn’t quite seem to apply. The rules I need to follow to move toward sustainability are different for me than they are for the poorer people on the planet. I need to not put herbicides on my lawn, but for the poor in the world this is a truly nonsensical proposition. For that mother in the Sahel, even the idea of wanting a lawn is probably close to ludicrous, let alone pouring drinkable water onto it by the thousands of gallons. So perhaps we need a simpler rule. Perhaps Ghandi’s famous quote, “Be part of the change you seek”. Though our actual actions might vary greatly depending on our circumstances, I think that that basic rule is one that Kant would approve of.

Image credit: photopiano / 123RF Stock Photo

 Link to UN household wealth charts: http://www.wider.unu.edu/events/past-events/2006-events/en_GB/05-12-2006/

We’re Not Actually Rich

 

The new fleet...

The new fleet…

Yes, we leased a second Leaf. No, we’re not actually rich, in fact, I’ve never had a new car in my life, and suddenly we have two within a few weeks. But I wanted to post this to underscore something that I suspected a few weeks ago, and have now confirmed—leasing and driving a Leaf costs roughly the same amount as driving my old beater Suby when you factor everything in. And, the math holds equally for Leaf #2—leasing and driving two Leafs (“Leaves”? This has been an argument around the dinner table) is roughly the same monthly expense as driving our two older cars. I won’t repeat all the numbers, but the base model Leaf (the S) starts at $199 a month (with $2000 down, for a 3-year, 12,000 mile/yr lease). No maintenance required (it’s under warranty for the entire lease period), no gasoline required. Again, for most people who spend more than we do anyway for transportation, they might actually come out ahead.

So, a few random details for those Leaf-inclined, or just curious—

—We have a slightly unusual situation with our off-grid house, so during short-daylight times of year, or rainy weeks like this one, we will use public charging stations more often. Due to this, we ended up with an SV and an SL, because we needed the larger, 6.6 kw on-board chargers. But I think I’d recommend this for just about anyone who might use public chargers from time to time—the SV lease is about $25 more a month, but probably worth it. The SV also has more powerful regenerative braking, as well as a bunch of dashboard gizmos that I didn’t actually want or need. But the larger on-board charger is important, I think. Continue reading