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Post oil: In oil country, maverick Nissan Leaf driver gives up gas

Something new and a bit odd is happening here in Texas, where history and the economy are so tightly interwoven with oil: Some drivers are ditching their gasoline vehicles and turning over a new leaf – literally.

“I love my Leaf,” writes William Jones, an Austin physician, in a blog of the same name devoted to the virtues of his new Nissan Leaf.

Dr. Jones’s luxurious yet gas-gulping Lexus has been collecting dust in the garage since he brought home the all-electric Leaf, which has no gas tank at all.

Charging his Leaf in his garage at home, Jones uses a heavy cord attached to a pistol-grip handle to connect with the multipronged charging port in the car. The other end connects to a fast wall-charger. Or, if he chooses, he can charge with a typical – if slower – three-prong plug outlet. Because he’s also signed up for Austin’s “green” electricity program – juice generated by West Texas windmills – he gets a guilt-free, comfortable day of gliding around town. It’s a “zero carbon footprint that costs me about 3 cents a mile,” he says. “What’s not to like about that?”

Still, for the time being, Jones is hanging onto his Lexus for the occasional road trip that goes beyond the Leaf’s 100 mile-per-overnight-charge range.

A self-professed lover of “hot cars,” he says the Leaf actually beats the Lexus for peppy acceleration and quiet ride. And, its air conditioning is stronger than the Lexus’s. He wrote recently that it was so chilling it made “my fingers uncomfortably cold…. This while the car was sitting dead still on baking asphalt that was probably 110 degrees [F]. Now that’s what I call good AC!”

He explains, while taking a reporter on a recent ride, that “the amount of energy expended on air conditioning is really minuscule compared with what’s needed to push this car around.”

So what’s with those little pine tree icons glowing in the left corner of the dash?

“If I drive sensibly it starts growing these little trees,” he says with a “hot car”-lover’s hint of disdain for sensible driving. “I like helping the environment; that’s why I buy wind power for my home.

“But,” he says, stabbing the accelerator with his foot, “what I really like is how frisky this car feels.” And the instant thrust is enough to throw the reporter back in his seat.

Easing off the power, he notes the indicator showing energy flowing from regenerative braking to the battery.

“I probably love this car most because I don’t have to buy gasoline,” he says. “I’m old enough to remember gas [station] lines. Everyone that is selling us oil, except maybe the Canadians, hates us. Now, no matter what happens, I won’t be standing in another gas line.”

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