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Drive Clean Chronicles: A College Student’s Leasing Solution

Halen, a college student in Ventura, knew he wanted to drive a more environmentally friendly car. He also was interested in better gas mileage because his older 4WD SUV got only 15 MPG, costing him roughly $260 per month to fuel his 30-mile daily work and school commute between Ventura and Oxnard.  

He started researching his options online and came across information about electric vehicles (EVs).  The more he learned about the many benefits EVs provide – including fuel efficiency, elimination of tailpipe emissions, and affordability – the better the option sounded. Although there would be some hurdles to jump – particularly the fact that his apartment complex did not have a charging station – the many benefits seemed well worth it. He decided to go electric. 

Finding the Right Purchase Option and Model 

First, Halen looked into whether he should lease or purchase. He quickly decided that a lease would be ideal due, in part, to rapidly changing battery technologies. In three years, he would be able reconsider his options if there was a better electric car available or if an EV wasn’t right for him. Another advantage of a lease was that Halen would be eligible for the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) rebate of $2500* to put toward the up-front costs, and the monthly cost of the lease would be about as much as he had been paying for gas. 

He then focused on which car to choose. He had narrowed down to three models of battery electric vehicles with the longest range – the Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Bolt, and the Tesla Model 3.  At the time, the Model 3 was not available to lease, and the Leaf had the shortest range of the three options; so, he decided on the Chevy Bolt. He headed to the dealer to get his new car. 

After selling his older car privately, he used some of the money to cover the initial costs of the lease. He also took advantage of Southern California Edison’s (SCE) Clean Fuel Rebate of $450** (which arrived just four weeks later and would end up more than covering his fueling costs for the year). Within about 10 weeks, the $2,500 CVRP rebate also arrived, further offsetting his costs. 

Creative Charging Solutions 

Halen knew he wouldn’t be able to charge at home since his apartment complex doesn’t have any Level 2 charging stations or Level 1 charging outlets in garages or car ports. So, he used PlugShare.com to determine where the publicly available EV chargers are located throughout Ventura County and how much it costs to charge a vehicle at each station.  

He was pleasantly surprised to learn that he would be able to charge for free a majority of the time. Through PlugShare.com, he found many free Level 2 chargers, such as those at the Pacific View Mall in Ventura, where his gym happens to be located, or at the Collection in Oxnard, where he occasionally stops in for errands or to grab a bite to eat. 

Because his Chevy Bolt has a 238 mile range, and he has a relatively short daily commute, he doesn’t need to charge every day. Still, he tries to work in short charging stops while he does errands or goes to the gym. That way, he doesn’t have to take extra time out of his day to fuel. When he wants to charge his vehicle’s battery more quickly, he uses DC Fast Chargers in the EVgo network, such as those at the Pacific View Mall and at the Esplanade in Oxnard. While charging with these is more expensive than at publicly available L2 stations, it is still more affordable than gas. In March of 2019, Halen spent just $20 to fuel his car for the entire month. 

Looking Toward the Future 

Halen has had an overwhelmingly positive experience since leasing his Bolt. He is comfortable with his decision to lease instead of owning a car right now because of the flexibility it provides. When his lease is up in 2021, he’ll be able to decide if he wants to purchase the Bolt or lease a newer battery electric model. With the expanding market’s ever wider range of vehicle sizes and ranges, he’ll have a whole lot more to choose from. He’ll also be eligible to apply for the same grants and incentives, as these incentives are open each time a driver transitions to a different EV. 

In the future, Halen would like to see expanded EV charging infrastructure at multi-family residences so that more renters will have a place to plug in at their home and feel confident about driving an EV. For now, he’s making EV ownership work for his lifestyle and doesn’t mind the extra planning that it takes to cut his fuel costs and drive a cleaner car. 

* The Clean Vehicle Assistance Program is currently not accepting new applicants while they prepare to launch an expanded version of the program in late 2019. Sign up here to be notified when the program is back online, and to receive news and updates about other EV related topics! 

**For plug-in electric vehicles purchased on or after January 1, 2019, the SCE rebate is $1,000. 

Jennifer Hernandez-Munoz

Jennifer joined CEC in late 2018 as an energy assistant. Her focus is creating an Electric Vehicle Blueprint for Ventura County.Before joining CEC, she interned with Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) working on environmental justice issues in Ventura County. This was part of their work with the Clean Energy 805 Coalition.Jennifer has a B.A. in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Jennifer Hernandez-Munoz

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