Sunday 15 September 2019

How driving an electric vehicle is helping this dad put his kids through college

Putting your kids through college can be an expensive business but what if someone told you that buying a brand new car would help?

Normally that kind of investment puts an additional strain on your family finances but buying a new Nissan LEAF actually helped Renato Valenzuela to save money. In fact, he goes so far as to say that his new car is “costing me nothing to drive.”

It’s hard to argue with that assessment when he reveals that it’s cost him just €2 to do 18,000km since April.

Renato and his wife Joy are originally from the Philippines but they now live in Lucan with their three children, Lourd (19), Edward (16) and RJ. (13). Lourd is second year student in DIT, where he is studying Aviation Engineering.

“We’re like every other family,” explains Renato. “We have a household budget. I have one kid in college and two at secondary school. We want to make sure that we are not over budget on our monthly bills and outgoings.”

That’s where the Nissan LEAF has made a massive difference. The couple have lived in Ireland for 18 years and Renato typically commutes up to 640km a week to the Breedon brick plant in Kingscourt, Co Cavan, where he works as a products controller. Driving a fully electric car means that he no longer has to pay huge fuel bills just to get back and forth to work.

“I drive an average of 3,500km a month,” he says. “I got my LEAF last April and have put nearly 18,000km on the clock in five months. It has cost me just €2 to do that distance. I’m saving €360 a month and €4,320 a year in fuel costs.”

“I have a home charger but that is for emergencies if the public charging station in Lucan is not working. I’ve only charged twice at home which cost me less than €2 so the car is costing me nothing to drive. It’s saving me money.”

With savings like that, Renato can’t understand why more people aren’t driving electrical cars to reduce costs. Despite having a long distance to drive to work, he’s never had a problem with range or with keeping his car charged.

“It’s 80km each way and 160km from home to work and work to home. I do that four times a week, so that’s 640km. The boys play basketball and other sports so I’m also driving some more around Lucan and to places like Celbridge, taking them to training and games.”

He tends to take advantage of free public chargers to keep the LEAF topped up. It’s free, easy and there are a couple of options that are on his way home.

“I usually charge the car on my way home from work so that it is ready for the trip to work the next morning. There is a charger at SuperValu in Lucan and, if that’s busy or not working, I can use one near a hotel in Clondalkin. It costs nothing to use either one and charging is quick and easy.”

There’s no issue covering his daily commute to and from Cavan on a single charge, but he always makes sure he has enough to cover any eventualities.

“I never charge fully and always charge to 90pc to 95pc to try and save the battery life. On average for that, I would get 260km driving on national roads. I know my driving distance only requires 60pc charge, but I put in a bit extra in case I get unexpectedly held up by a road traffic incident”.

His hours of work can vary so the Nissan LEAF’s high-tech safety features also come in handy when he’s driving home in the wee hours of the morning after a long shift. The car’s intelligent driving technology takes the strain out of driving and offers some nifty features to assist the driver.

“The lane departure and blind spot warnings are very helpful,” says Renato. “I like that the steering wheel vibrates to give you a warning and keep you safe on the road, especially when you are driving at night.

“I also like ePedal if I’m tired after work. I can accelerate and brake with one pedal. It works perfectly. I was very careful about using it at the start, especially when it came to roundabouts but, once you get used to it, it’s fine and it makes driving easier.”

Renato originally bought the LEAF after a recommendation from a friend. He took it for a test drive, liked what he saw and subsequently took the plunge. He’s now a convert to the cause, as is his wife Joy, who prefers his LEAF to her own car when Renato’s not working. With the money they’re saving helping them to fund their children’s educations, it’s a win-win scenario for everyone.

Making the switch to electric isn’t just about working towards a cleaner, greener future. For the Valenzuelas, it has improved their driving experience and the financial savings are helping them to build a better future for their family. 

To find out what it’s like to drive the world’s best-selling electric car, we talked to Nissan LEAF drivers in Ireland. Discover how making the switch to electric helped one Kildare-based family make huge savings and how a businessman traded in a convertible for his Nissan LEAF. We also talk to a taxi driver who defied expectations about EVs and busy grandparents for whom the LEAF hit all the night notes.

To experience electric driving and learn more about how much you could save by switching to driving a 100pc electric Nissan LEAF, book your test-drive today.

Sponsored by: Nissan LEAF

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