Since 2006, when I first took a group of over 20 friends to see Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth on opening night, I’ve been tracking my household’s carbon footprint.

Try as I might, I couldn’t get rid of the carbon dioxide emissions from our gasoline-fueled car. We switched from a minivan to a subcompact (a much smaller more efficient car), we tried driving less (this was hard), we even started an e-bike shop, but our personal car-based emissions remained around 6,000 pounds.

Last month, my partner mentioned leasing an electric car for $39 a month. Initially laughing this off, I agreed to consider a few electric cars. For a entertaining synopsis of the electric car market in the US, see the documentaries Who Killed the Electric Car? and the more recent Revenge of the Electric Car.

We first visited a Smart Car dealership. Then a Nissan Leaf dealership. Then a Kia Soul dealership. Each car was larger, more luxurious and more expensive than the last. The $39 a month deal evaporated.

I asked my friends, and friends of friends about their electric car experience. Here are a few…

  • Johanna, another Philadelphian with a smart fortwo electric drive for about a year and a half says: “I love it. No garage, and no driveway so we installed a charging station curbside. Our usual electrician did the work after getting a permit from L&I (Licensing & Inspection). We also applied to PPA (Phila Parking Authority) for a designated EV parking spot. Our EV gets about 75 miles to a charge, so it’s more than adequate for commuting to work, running errands, etc. The smart only takes 110 or 240 – aka level 1 and level 2 chargers.  it can’t take the level 3, so we can’t use this for long trips. Also, the range drops in winter, due to the cold weather sapping the battery, when I get about 45 miles to a charge. Our electricity at home is wind power from the energy co-op, so that sure beats using gasoline!”
  • Marion, a friend with a Nissan Leaf documented her experience in It’s a Leaf!
  • Kathy shared a story about a price conscious shopper chasing down his Nissan Leaf: Why I bought a new Nissan Leaf electric car 2 hours from home, 8500 net cost.
  • Mom’s Organic Market, I learned from Alison, offers their employees access to charge plug-in electric vehicles plus a 15% subsidy towards the purchase of a hybrid vehicle (up to $3,000) or electric car (up to $5,000). What a place to work, huh?
  • Dennis loves, loves, loves his Chevrolet Spark EV.
  • And John M, when he visits our bike shop, speaks well of his wife’s American made Chevrolet Volt (electric with gas backup) with curb-side charging station. And dreams of ordering a Chevy Bolt (all electric) for himself.
  • Robert, an electrician, has been busy installing charging ports through-out the city. It seems  plenty of other people are switching to fossil fuel free transportation.

Knowing our driving pattern, which was typically one person, sometimes two in a car; knowing we’re in a city with tight parking spaces – we decided on the smallest, most affordable car. The one with the most cute factor. The smart fortwo electric drive was it! Large Image (optional)_253

We’ve always purchased our cars and were ready to trade in our subcompact with only 42,000 miles for the smart fortwo electric drive. However, we learned that the Federal government offers a $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles. Looking at our prior year tax return, we realized we probably wouldn’t qualify for this credit, and opted to lease the car instead. With the lease capping our usage at 10,000 miles per year, this seemed perfect since we’d only driven about 9,000 miles last year. With just a $150 per month lease, this felt so affordable that we’ve put down a deposit and await a call from the salesperson to come ’n get it!

By shifting from gasoline to electric, our fuel costs are expected to half. The Federal Government’s Fuel Economy page has a great comparison of various models.

What will this do to our household’s carbon footprint? Well, since our electricity is the EcoChoice100 from The Energy Co-op (100% renewable from PA wind), we’ve just shed those 6,000 pounds. Swoosh!