Tom Ross: College professor’s new all-electric car the 1st Nissan Leaf in Routt County | SteamboatToday.com

Tom Ross: College professor’s new all-electric car the 1st Nissan Leaf in Routt County

Jeff Troeger

— Who knew that the Kelly Blue Book's green car of the year for 2013 could accelerate like some sport coupes with traditional combustion engines?

Retired Colorado Mountain College professor of business and economics Jeff Troeger took me for a test drive out on Twentymile Road on Friday afternoon in his new, all-electric Nissan Leaf, and that little white car with the sexiest headlamps in the industry can jump to it!

An unofficial YouTube video clocks a Leaf accelerating from 2 to 47 mph in 7.2 seconds. And it accelerates rapidly from higher speeds, too.

Of course, acceleration is not the reason Troeger purchased the little car that hums down the open road without giving off any emissions. Although retired, he still teaches courses in CMC's new sustainability program and needs to walk the walk. And besides, the Leaf is really quiet to drive. So quiet that he's having to pay careful attention to the speedometer.

"'I'm always going 10 miles per hour faster than I think I'm going," Troeger said. "There's no engine noise. There's no wind noise. There's no feedback!"

To be accurate, the car has a backup beeper that sounds like space bells, and when the driver is keeping it below 20 miles per hour, the Leaf assumes that it is in a parking lot and makes a gentle whooshing sound to alert pedestrians.

The Leaf's battery charges up in four hours for people using a 220 volt source of electricity, according to http://www.edmunds.com. The owner plugs the charger into a little port in the car, right where its nostrils would be if it were an animal.

The advertised range before it needs charging is 100 miles, but that can vary with the outside temperature, Troeger said. He hasn't yet gained the confidence to set out on a round trip from Steamboat to Craig and back. So, the answer is, "no," he never will drive it to Denver. He purchased the car in Greeley in part because the dealer there offered free delivery within 1,000 miles.

The same dealer checked the computer database and said he could find one other Leaf in Aspen (figures, right?) but none in Routt County.

Professor Troeger has driven the car sparingly since bringing it home. So far, his wife, Sue Mizen, and adult son Matt are spending more time behind the wheel of the Leaf.

There's something you should know about Troeger: He still rides his bike to work at CMC and back from his home near Whistler Park, something he's been doing year-round for years.

"The greenest car is the car you leave in the garage," he said.

Troeger decided to acquire the Leaf on a two-year lease because he fully expects that within that time frame, Nissan will have found a way to increase the range of the car.

Edmunds reports that there are three levels of Leafs — or is that Leaves? — for consumers to consider. Troeger selected the middle-of-the-range SV model with a suggested price of $31,820. He negotiated the price down to less than $30,000. Buyers who purchase Leaf outright and don't lease the car can take advantage of a federal $7,500 tax credit and a Colorado state tax credit of as much as $6,000 that greatly reduces the cost of the car, Troeger said.

Nissan estimates that drivers will spend $500 on electricity annually to drive their Leaf 15,000 miles. You could think of $500 as the cost of 10 or 12 tanks of gasoline depending on the size of your tank. But with a small gas-drinking SUV in his garage for longer trips, Troeger said his family never will put 15,000 miles per year on their electric car.

Of course, economy isn't the only quality that attracts Troeger to the Leaf. He likes the blue glow from the little gear shifter that looks like a computer mouse, the full navigation system, the Bluetooth setup that lets him place phone calls by voice command and especially the iPhone app that allows him to set a timer that warms the interior of the car automatically in the morning.

Did I mention that green cars are also luxury cars?

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com