Glenn Groves from regional Victoria shares his journey from a V8 Chevrolet IROC-Z Camaro to a fully electric Nissan LEAF via a Toyota Prius hybrid. He contacted me through the Nissan LEAF Facebook page. I have written about people’s love of the V8 Camaro previously. Glenn covers it from a previous owner’s perspective, and now an EV owner’s perspective. The rest of this article is by Glenn Groves (with only minor edits).
By Glenn Groves
Hi, I saw your post on the Nissan LEAF page. I drove an IROC Chevy Camaro for 15 years; then a comfortable but gutless early Prius hybrid for about a year; then bought an EV, a Nissan LEAF, about 6 months ago. I have done around 17,000 km in the LEAF since then. The experience of V8 to hybrid to EV might be quite relevant.
I first saw the Camaro while driving to work. The car was sitting in a front yard, facing away from the road — and I spent the next few days admiring it as I drove past. A few days later it was parked facing the road, and I became very upset — ‘that beautiful car has been damaged!’ It turns out the previous owner had driven the car into a tree, fortunately at low speed, damaging the front. I bought the car damaged, and spent twice the purchase price over the next few months repairing it.
When it was fully repaired, I picked up a family member and went for a drive. After about an hour it was clear I had to head home and get out of the car, as the car was causing me physical pain, and the pain would not stop while I remained in the car. My face was hurting. I could not stop grinning, and much like going to the gym for the first time can cause underused muscles to complain, whatever muscles are used when grinning like crazy for hours on end were not used to that experience.
I was careful to not exceed the speed limit, but the Camaro did reach the speed limit with rapidity. It also had a beautiful firmness, smoothness and confidence about it. A beautifully engineered work of art that could be driven.
There were compromises; the fuel bill was enormous; the seats were so low that I kind of fell into the car and climbed out of it; the doors were so long and thick that I had to channel my inner limbo dancer to get in and out of the car in a tight parking spot; and the engine noise left me worried that I might be virtually declaring a noise war on my neighbours.
15 years later, someone decided that eating their burger was more important than driving safely, and ran into the back of the Camaro. The repairer did a terrible job, leaving unrepaired accident damage, even unrepaired structural damage; the insurance eventually agreed to write it off. Even if the accident had not occurred, by that stage it was high mileage and near end of life anyway, unless vast amounts of money were spent on a major restoration.
The car cost me about $15,000 to buy and repair initially. I had it for about 15 years, and was paid out about $15,000 at the end. My journey with the car started due to damage at the front of the car, and ended due to damage at the rear of the car. A kind of symphony of symmetry; a palindrome in petrol.
An EV was my first choice for replacing the V8 Camaro; but I did not want to spend much at the time. A plugin hybrid was my second choice, but again, I did not want to spend the amount needed. I ended up buying an early Toyota Prius, being the closest I could get at that time to an EV for the money I was willing to spend. I liked it when it was driving on electric only; but that was not much of the time and not for long. And it was, amazingly, horribly gutless. By my calculations it did 0 to 60 in eventually seconds.
I decided to spend the extra money and replace the hybrid with a full EV. I have been travelling regularly, but not long trips — no more than one and a half hours each way — and after several months chose a second-hand Japanese import 2018 Nissan LEAF with “high mileage”; it was literally about half the price of most other EVs, and still had the range I was after … for all usual trips, anyway.
The LEAF had around 170,000 km on it when I bought it — and over the next eight months I added nearly 20,000 km to it, still on the original battery. The LEAF is known as one of the worst cars for battery degradation — mine still has 83.6% battery health, so it still has about 83.6% of the range it had when new. If this rate continues, the LEAF will still be usable at 500,000 km for short journeys. And other than pothole damage (oops), it is still in beautiful condition.
EVs like palindromes too — the LEAF hits 188,881 km. Apparently, I spend more time driving than cleaning the LEAF.
The LEAF has instant get-up and go — the performance, at least at lower speeds, is similar to the Camaro; though, to be fair, I never pushed either car truly, really hard. The Camaro had wide wheels and tyres, the LEAF currently has skinny wheels and tyres, so the LEAF does spin the wheels easily if I push it hard. The LEAF’s response is instant. And I am not waging an unintentional noise war against my neighbours.
There are many differences between the V8 Camaro and the LEAF; I always felt drained at the end of a journey in the Camaro. Happy, but drained. The constant droning of the V8 not only cost my neighbours, it cost me. I feel much more energised at the end of a journey in the LEAF. The LEAF feels more like I am gliding above the road than driving on it, it is beautifully smooth and quiet; a bit like my daily moment of Zen. I budgeted about $50 a week for fuel for the Camaro; I charge the LEAF at home, and it has increased my home electricity bills by about $60 a month, so the “fuel” for the LEAF costs about 25% of the fuel for the Camaro. The Camaro was surprisingly affordable to service, but the LEAF essentially needs no servicing other than accidental damage (damn you, potholes, damn you.)
There are some compromises; the LEAF has about half the range of most EVs. It was also about half the price of most EVs. I live regionally, and the charging network is not sufficient yet for a shorter range EV for some journeys. It is improving, and at the current rate of charger installations, within perhaps one year there should be enough chargers in regional Victoria for the occasional longer trips I would like to do. Charging away from home is currently sometimes convenient and sometimes inconvenient. It has a huge payoff — every moment of driving is beautiful, quiet, and smooth, and I arrive at the end of a journey feeling happy AND still with energy, unlike the Camaro.
If given a choice again between the V8 Camaro and the LEAF, I would choose the LEAF every time. Though, a Camaro converted to electric might tip the balance of the scales back again. I expect the price of converting an ICEV to an EV to keep dropping, so one day I might be back in a Camaro, just electrified. One day….
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