After the first few wintry weeks cruising Seattle and the Eastside in his cherry-red, electric-powered Nissan Leaf, Jon Hoekstra has discovered only one design flaw: No heated seats.
As for the pluses: "It has swift, smooth acceleration, seats four adults comfortably and is very quiet," he says. "It does everything you expect a car to do -- it just does it without gas, tailpipe pollution or engine noise."
Hoekstra and his wife, Jennifer Steele, were among the first in the country to drive home a Leaf, the first mass-produced sedan powered entirely by electricity. Several hundred others in the region are still eagerly awaiting a Leaf of their own.
"I can't wait! I can't wait!" says Barbara Joyce, of Snoqualmie, whose blue Leaf is scheduled to arrive in the spring. "They're not rolling off the line nearly as quickly as I would like."
More than 300 local motorists ordered a Leaf for delivery in 2011, and thousands will be delivered this year nationwide, says Matt Goldstein, electric-vehicle sales leader at Stadium Nissan of Seattle.
Curious about electric cars?
- • Drop in on a meeting of the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association, which meets the second Tuesday of each month.
- • Visit MC Electric Vehicles in Seattle, the Green Car Company in Bellevue or Go Green on Bainbridge Island. These dealerships sell electric-powered cars, trucks, scooters, bikes and recreational vehicles from smaller manufacturers.
- • Add your name to e-mail lists of dealerships that specialize in electric cars (such as Stadium Nissan) or on automakers' websites (such as ford.com or chevrolet.com/volt) to stay up to date on developments.
- • Follow the work of the West Coast Green Highway Initiative.
"A lot of them have been waiting their entire lives to drive an electric car," Goldstein says of his customers. "A lot of them have memories of the oil embargo and are happy they don't have to rely on foreign oil."
For Cathy and Tom Saxton, of Sammamish, the Leaf will be their third electric vehicle, joining an electric-powered Toyota Rav4 and a Tesla Roadster in the garage.
"We sold our last gas-burning car last summer," says Cathy Saxton. "The reality is, going to a gas station is a real nuisance. An electric car is like a cellphone: you plug it in each night, [and] it's ready in the morning. Can you imagine having to go to a gas station to charge your cellphone?"
Barbara Joyce, Cathy's mother, decided to follow suit and order a Leaf, but not before months of carefully documenting exactly how far she drove on her trips between Snoqualmie and Des Moines, Kent and Safeco Field. She found that the farthest she went in one day was 70 miles, well within the Leaf's advertised range of 100 miles on a charge.
"It's a great, great step forward, and actually a step back," Joyce says, noting the prevalence of electric cars in this country in the early 1900s. "Personally, I think it's the car of the future -- but we'll see."