Bye-bye, gas station

Will Prust hasn't shelled out any money at a gas station in over a month.

After getting on a waiting list last year, he picked up his new all-electric Nissan Leaf six weeks ago.

"Driving past gas stations is the coolest thing," said Prust, who is one of the first people in the Rogue Valley to get the vehicle.

The Nissan Leaf is part of a new wave of mass-manufactured electric cars being released by major automakers. Some are all-electric, while others are electricity/gas hybrids.

Prust has a Blink brand residential charger in his garage that will recharge his Leaf in four to six hours. The charger can be set to run at night, during off-peak hours for electricity use.

With a control panel about the size of a fuse box, the charger has a plug that resembles a gas nozzle at a gas station.

Prust just lifts a small panel at the front of the Leaf and plugs it in.

The control panel lets him know that in the weeks he's had the car, he's used $10.90 worth of electricity — or the equivalent of 28.42 gallons of gas.

With gas prices in the Medford-Ashland area at about $3.90 a gallon this week, that amount of gas would have cost $110.83 at current prices.

The Nissan Leaf, which can carry five adults, is more expensive than a similarly sized gas-powered car.

Prust is leasing his Leaf, which would retail for $34,000 with the mix of features that he chose.

The federal government does offer a $7,500 tax credit that lowers the out-of-pocket cost. Prust is getting the tax credit in the form of lower lease payments.

The 220-volt home-charging station cost $2,200, although a $1,000 federal tax credit offset the cost.

The Leaf does come with a standard plug-in that can fit a normal 110-volt home outlet, but recharging would take 21 hours, Prust said.

He keeps a standard plug-in kit in the trunk of the car in case he runs out of energy while away from home. He's heard a few horror stories about all-electric vehicles running out of energy on freeways.

"The biggest drawback of the Leaf is its 100-mile range. That scares some people," he said. "But the average American drives less than 100 miles a day. This car will not get across the country, but it will do all your daily errands and get you back and forth to work."

Prust opted to lease the Leaf instead of buy it because experts predict improved battery technology could extend its range two- or three-fold in the future. At that point, he could trade in his Leaf for an improved model.

Prust and his wife also have a Toyota Camry for longer trips. He

Prust and his wife also have a Toyota Camry for longer trips. He said the Leaf would work best for a household that also has a car that can run on gas.

Inside the Leaf, the dashboard has a small screen that can display a wealth of information — including locations for the nearest public charging stations.

Although stations have popped up in Eugene and Portland, the screen says "No data available" for the Rogue Valley.

But in May or June, ECOtality plans to begin installing public charging stations in the Medford-Ashland area, said Caitlin Cieslik-Miskimen, spokesperson for the San Francisco-based company.

Working with $115 million in federal stimulus money and another $115 million in private investment, ECOtality is teaming with government agencies and businesses to build 14,000 electric vehicle charging stations in six states and the District of Columbia.

Cieslik-Miskimen said the company is working with Oregon stakeholders to select sites for two different kinds of charging stations. One type, similar to Prust's home system, can charge a vehicle in four to six hours. Fast-charging stations will be able to charge vehicles in 30 minutes, Cieslick-Miskimen said.

Prust said the Leaf always attracts attention when he goes out.

"People have stopped me at traffic lights and in parking lots. Pedestrians wave and I've had people on the freeway pull up to the side of the car and just drive alongside for miles, watching," he said.

"As gas prices go through the roof, I think more and more people will start thinking of alternatives."

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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