A surprising number of people expressed interest in our research into plug-in cars that qualify for HOV-lane access in California, so I thought I’d post a quick follow-up in case it’s useful to others.
I really hemmed & hawed about buying a Tesla Model S, but my frugal Midwestern self came out and we opted to lease a plug-in Ford Fusion. The sticker price was a full $40,000 cheaper than the Tesla, and while it won’t be blowing anyone off the line, I’ve found it smooth & polished—plenty of comfort & tech (voice-driven Bluetooth, nav, etc.) for a commuter car. It felt like a lot more car than a plug-in Prius (same price) and a lot more value than a plug-in Accord ($45k!). And you know what’s faster than a now-traded 350hp Audi? Anything in the carpool lane.
Thanks to our home solar panels (and Google’s), I should be able to make it to work (16 miles away in Mountain View) and back all on electric power, and in theory without burning fossil fuels. If you’re now asking, “Why not ride the Google bus and take a car entirely off the road?,” you’re right, and I plan to do so as much as possible. For the days when that’s not an option, saving 10+ minutes each way will be a godsend.
As for downsides, I’d list only the Ford’s small trunk space, but that’s not a big deal in what’s intended to be a pure commuter car. (We have the 44-mpg Jetta TDI wagon for hauling bikes, etc.) For the pure commuting case we could also have considered the Nissan Leaf*, but the 80-mile range couldn’t get me to SF and back without planning my trip around finding a socket & having enough time to charge up.
Lastly, this is the first time we’ve leased a car, and we figured it made sense given the (hoped for) rate of innovation in electric vehicles. Who knows, in three years Tesla may have delivered a non-eye-wateringly priced car (maybe we should get in line now), and if California has stopped issuing HOV lane stickers by then, we can buy out the lease and keep the car & sticker through 2019.
* One sees many of these at Google, and when I visited Facebook a few weeks ago, a guy told me, “Oh yeah, you can totally tell when people started [pre- or post-IPO]—all the Teslas up front & all the Leafs in the back.”