Published Friday May 29, 2015: Updated October 17, 2015
Ever since I was a little boy, I dreamed of driving a futuristic car that wasn’t noisy, polluting or dependent on any fossil fuel. Electric cars, (powered by renewable energy) satisfy that requirement. Unfortunately at the time and in big-oil conspiracy-theory fashion, not a single, major, modern car manufacturer offered electric cars to the public.
In 2010, the Nissan Leaf came out and changed all of that. It cost around $34,000 but the waiting list was years long. While I was willing to pay for it, I was too impatient to wait for it.
So I vowed, "If they won’t sell me the car I want, I’ll make it myself.”
My lifelong dream of driving an electric vehicle came true on August 15th, 2011. I have been driving an EV of one form or another, ever since.
Toyota Pickup EV (2011 through 2012).
Today (2015), several auto manufactures now offer pure electric vehicles. Thanks to Tesla and Nissan, the EV log-jam has broken free. While most automakers still have their brains high and impaired on gasoline vapors, slowly they are beginning to realize that times are changing and they need to change with them.
I absolutely loved my Geo EV. It was my baby, (my chitty-chitty bang-bang) that I rescued from the junk yard and transformed, with my own two hands, into a reliable, uber-efficient electric car. I had every intention of driving it as long as it never failed catastrophically. Odds were, the chassis would probably rust apart before the motor or battery needed to be replaced.
But now (in 2015), commercially available EVs are hitting the used car markets in abundance. They are down-right affordable. I envy my wife’s white Nissan Leaf, (with its powerful induction motor, climate controls and abundant safety features). I told myself, “if the Geo EV failed catastrophically, I would go out and buy a Leaf that very same day.”
The problem with that statement is I don’t permit anything electrical or mechanical that dies, to stay dead. Computer, vacuum cleaner, lawnmower, car or whatever. I fix them and bring them back to life. It’s kind of my nature and hobby. It’s entertaining, it’s practical and it’s just what I do.
Several months back, the Geo had its motor speed controller go out. To some, that would fall under the definition of a catastrophic failure. But as it turned out, a new controller arrived that same day and the Geo was back in business, hours later.
A buddy of mine who sales Nissans told me about a deal where top of the line, used, super-low-mileage Leaf SLs were coming off of their leases and selling for around $15000.
Gas savings alone makes this a no-brainer. Add in all the maintenance savings and oh boy. If I didn’t drive an EV already I would jumped on that deal in a heartbeat.
Not even I can convert an old gas car into an EV, with similar performance and features for that price.
As luck would have it, (on January 29, 2015, literally two days after hearing about the used Leaf deals), on the way to work, the shaft coupler on the Geo EV decided to give out. I never did get around to completely optimizing the new controller. That probably caused, or at least contributed to the shaft coupler failure.
On the side of the road, (about 4 miles from home), I removed the motor and assessed the damage. The shaft coupler had sheered 4 bolts and 8 rivets, splitting itself into two sections. It would take me about an hour to fix, unfortunately I didn’t have a rivet gun with me. I called Cheryl and she took me home in her Leaf.
While repairing the shaft coupler, I thought long and hard about whether or not this latest repair should be considered a catastrophic failure and the end of days for my beloved Geo EV. I said to myself,
John, you have proved your point! Yes you can drive an EV, everyday to work. Yes this is a trivial part to fix, but you are living below your privileges driving the Geo EV every day. You deserve to drive a nice, affordable and safe Nissan Leaf.
My sister Vera has also said the same thing to me countless times, ever since I convinced her to get a Leaf. “John, quit living below your privileges and go buy a Leaf."
I couldn't bear to retire the Geo broken so I fixed the shaft coupler, put it back on the Geo EV and drove it back home.
A few hours later, Cheryl drove me into Salt Lake in her Leaf and dropped me off at the Nissan dealership. Two hours after that, I was driving home in a used 2012 Nissan Leaf of my very own. It was even the same color of Leaf that I originally wanted back in 2009 when they were first announced.
I initially considered keeping the Geo around for sentimental reasons but after driving the Blue Leaf for a couple of weeks, I decided to part out the Geo EV through selling it.
Some things are worth less as a whole than the sum of their parts. This is true for old computers and popular, old car models. I call this phenomenon “reverse synergy”. I sold all of the Geo’s valuable parts, (BMS, motor, charger and the LiFe batteries still in the prime of life).
I also sold all the original Geo parts, (transmission, doors, tires, hood, etc). The remainder I sold as scrap metal.
What remains of what wouldn't sell.
All proceeds from selling the Geo parts went toward paying down the Leaf purchase.
Update: 10/17/2015: My original plans were to drive this little Geo until the chassis rusts and then put the batteries and parts into another chassis and drive that one until it rusts. As is the case with depreciation, you never get out what you put in to it. Most of the value is achieved through the use of the thing. After buying the batteries, driving ~17,500 miles on them and selling them, the batteries ended up costing almost 10 cents per mile instead of 2.5 cents per mile, (had I used them for their entire life span). Oh well, that's still well worth it in my opinion. Not to mention the experience and education was priceless.
Death and Burial
It is an on-going tradition in our garage that the old vehicle chassis is cut up, hauled away (inside the new car) and then sold for scrap.
The Geo EV hauled the Toyota EV pickup’s parts and now the Leaf hauls the Geo's parts away.
Here is a video of what's left of the Geo at the recycling yard. It's cut up in pieces in the pile of metal in the foreground.
GoodBye Geo EV
Some may consider this sad and morbid but now all the Geo's parts will live on inside several other EV conversions. I got a fair price (considering this niche market) and now our garage has more room in it too.
Our two Leafs, Edith (left) and Raj (right).
"OK Leafs, I expect you two to be on your best behavior. You both know what happens in my garage to mis-behaving cars right? Understood? OK carry on."