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Posted: 1:28 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011

Clark explains his purchase of the Nissan Leaf

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My purchase of the Nissan Leaf highlights the mass of contradictions that is key to who I am. There are some things I do that are so economical and I'm so careful with money. And then I do other things that are so out there.

The Leaf is basically a Nissan Versa turned into an electric car, with a price tag that's bumped up from $14,000 to $35,000 because of what the battery costs. In addition, I'm going from a vehicle you can fill up anywhere to a vehicle where if I go too far, I can't get back home! (The expected driving range is between 73 and 112 miles on a single overnight charge.)

Looking at it from a dollars and cents viewpoint, my decision to buy the Leaf is idiotic. But new car technology that reduces our nation's dependence on foreign oil has been my Achilles' heel for a long time.

My favorite three-wheeled car

Back in the late 1970s, when I was 24, I took some of my money and put it into a private placement as an investor in a company called HM Vehicles Freeway. Located in Burnsville, Minn., the company manufactured the Freeway -- a three-wheel vehicle that ran on a 12-horsepower Tecumseh engine and got 100 miles to the gallon, all while going up to 75 miles per hour on the interstate!

HM later went bust by the early 1980s and I lost my money as investor. But at least I had one of those funny three-wheeled cars and used it as my main transportation for a couple of years!  Actually, do you remember the Ralph Nader book Unsafe at Any Speed? Well, my Freeway was unsafe sitting still!

Pioneers get slaughtered, settlers get rich

It's been my longtime passion that we as a country work on being energy independent, so that nations that hate us don't have us over a barrel. But pioneers get slaughtered and settlers get rich in this territory.

I'm definitely one of the pioneers anytime a new car technology comes out; me and people like me are the beta testers -- we'll work out the bugs and make them more affordable for you down the road!

You will benefit from the fruits of me running out of charge and being stranded on the side of the road somewhere in my Nissan Leaf, probably on a very cold day! (Current electric car technology doesn't perform well in really cold weather!) So there I'll be shivering in my $8 ski parka. There's the contrast again -- a $35,000 car and $8 parka that I got on Black Friday!

Conclusion

For me, the idea of busting loose of the foreign oil producers is one I love. It's also something I can afford to be foolish on, with the hopes that as country we end up being really smart. There's no telling if it will be clean diesel, a hybrid variant, electric or some other kind of car that we haven't even thought of today that will free us from OPEC.

But the idea we need to create energy independence from those who would harm us (or our wallets, with the price of gas) is a very worthy thing for us as Americans to try to achieve.

Am I going to fall as flat on my face with the Nissan Leaf as I did with my three-wheel car 30 years ago? We'll see. I'm willing to take that chance.

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