Thursday, July 30, 2015

Leaf me alone!

On my way home from work this morning, my back was hurting, so I stopped a few times along the way to take a break from riding. It just so happened that my last stopping place was the Nissan dealer on route 72. Just out of curiosity, I peeked into the windows of a used Nissan Leaf. Of course, Rowlf the Dog looking at one of his cars is enough to get any car salesman up out of his chair so I was soon greeted by one such gentleman and was allowed a test drive.

From the outside, the Leaf presents itself differently depending on the viewing angle. From the front, it's not too bad until you get a good look at the headlights. From the back though, it's just plain freaky looking. I know a lot of the quirkyness of the looks comes down to aerodynamics, but it just doesn't tickle my artsy side.

The vehicle in question had all the options, including heated leather seats, a leather wrapped steering wheel, GPS and all that fun stuff, making it a nice place to sit. The seats were not electric, but then in an electric car, it's better that way.

No key is needed, as there is an "intelligent key fob." Yes folks, it's Skynet. Anyway, a press of the start button and lights come on and there are a few bings, then eerie silence. The dashboard display appears fairly normal except that in place of a gas gauge, range is displayed. The "shifter" is a little knob that is moved from the center to the left then forward or back to engage a drive mode. There are no gears as such since the Leaf uses a CVT, just like a scooter.

Once in drive, the vehicle moves forward when the accelerator is depressed, much like a normal car, but unlike a normal car, the eerie silence continues. It's spooky. It's also very easy to overdo one's speed since there doesn't seem to be any feedback to the "gas" pedal as there is in a regular car or truck. The lack of a "vroom" is also disconcerting. That said, the car does pop right up into traffic and goes well on secondary and primary routes. A brief stint on the highway and I discovered just how easy it is to find oneself going faster than expected, due to that lack of feedback from the accelerator.

The brakes were very good, even with 26,000 miles on them. They were more grabby than in most vehicles, probably due in part to regenerative braking.

The ride was surprisingly good for a small car. With my back acting up, it was an excellent day to see how good the suspension was. Even over railroad tracks, it seemed to absorb the bumps well enough. Compared to the Prius C I've written about before, it was near cloud-like.

So, that said, there is the price. A new one will cost around $30,000, without all the options. That's a lot for a car the size of a sardine can. The used example that I drove was listed for $17,000, which is still a lot. Granted, it had depreciated by nearly half the initial cost in two years and 26,000 miles which seems excessive to me. But all that taken together, let's compare it to a scooter.

According to the sticker, the energy cost to run a Leaf is about equivalent to getting about 140 mpg while a 150cc scooter gets around 80 mpg. A leaf costs 30 grand new, while a 150 cc scooter can be had for around 3 grand, one tenth the cost of the Leaf. Now, let's be fair, the Leaf is a fully enclosed car with four wheels while a scooter does not provide much, if any, protection from the elements, or elephants should one happen to be caught in a pachyderm stampede. That said, we'll get back to the numbers. At the moment, a gallon of 93 octane premium gasoline costs about $3.09. taking that as about the median of what gas has cost for the last seven years I've owned my Kymco People 150, I've paid about 4 cents per mile and have put a bit shy of $1,000 into the tank after going 24,000 miles. In initial cost and fuel, the vehicle has only cost me around $4,000. If I drove the Leaf 24,000 miles, I'd be looking at an equivalent cost of about $530 in energy (If I follow their logic), but with an initial outlay of $30,000+ for a new one, a scooter is still more cost effective by miles and miles (funny, yes?). Even with a used Leaf, the cost is still staggeringly bad compared to a scooter, and with a $6000 or more replacement battery every ten years, it makes absolutely no sense at all. Even compared to my Jag, the cost benefits in fuel don't add up. To take it one step further, repairs for my Jag in the last two years have been around $2,000, making the total outlay for the car including fuel around $12,000, still ahead of the Leaf under the same usage, and I couldn't use the leaf for more than commuting, but the Jag and the scooter will both make it the 320 miles to my home in Massachusetts in less than a day. The Leaf couldn't do that with its 80 mile range.

Don't get me wrong, I loved driving the Leaf. It seems nimble for a compact, and I could live with it for a daily driver. It's a nice little car and if the initial cost and cost of replacement batteries were lower, I could see it as a secondary car for commuting only. As it is, the numbers just don't add up.

So, I'm definitely going to say, Leaf this one alone.

Friday, July 24, 2015

memory lane

Most of my riding lately has been local, but in the last week I've been riding over to the area near the mall because that's where the military recruiters offices are. Anyone who's been paying any attention to the news is by now aware of the sad events last week in Chattanooga TN, and that many citizens have been quietly and calmly keeping watch over recruitment offices, hoping to prevent a recurrence. I've been doing what little I can to help.

This got me to thinking, since I'm armed while standing watch, when didnI learn to shoot, and I remembered getting my first BB gun when I was ten and my dad telling me, "Always keep the barrel pointed at the ground until you're ready to shoot. Never ever point it at another person. It is not a toy." I'm sure he said more than that, but it's so long ago I can't recall.

Then I remember Mr. Osowski. I don't recall his first name, but he was a former CIA agent to whom I delivered papers when I was 14. I don't remember why, but for some reason he took a looking to me and would take me fishing, and to the firing range. So it was from my dad I learned basic gun safety, and it was from Mr. Osowski that I learned to actually shoot.

We spent hours at the range. It was there I grew to love lever action rifles. It was there I fired a .45 for the first time. It was there I learned to be accurate with my shots, and added to the advice from my dad the wisdom of a man who had served in the military and in the CIA.

Those are memories I will treasure.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Just two dogs out for a ride

For a while I have had a deep yearning for something rather silly to augment my riding experiment. Someone sent me the following picture on Facebook:

Which I found hilarious. So, I went looking for one, but the only place I could find that sells anything of the sort, Iron Horse Helmets, was sold out. They did have an alternative though.

And that works for me.

Yes folks, it's Rowlf the Dog, though for the sake of avoiding copyright/trademark infringement, they have it labeled simply as "Dog."

So, I got the cover today and it fits well over my helmet. There are a couple issues, the first being that it completely obstructs any vents on the helmet, though this is solved by removing the face-shield (which makes bugs up the nose an issue), but I often run with the shield up anyway, so it's no huge change. Secondly, the nose is a bit in the way at low speeds, but it pops up and out of the way upwords of 50 mph.

It seems well made, though not perfect, and it was allegedly made by hand right here in the good-ol' U.S. of A.

Maggie enjoyed a ride to Lancaster Honda to get some oil, and it was observed that we were observed by several other motorists and pedestrians who found the sight quite humorous.

We shall see how it holds up and in the meantime, I shall enjoy the silliness of it all.