I am 20 Years Old and Owning an Electric Car has Changed My Life


It was a blistering summer California day on the 5 highway. My dad and I were having a lengthy conversation about life. We were specifically discussing goals and how you have to sacrifice a lot to achieve them. Often times your goals are not realized through multiple bouts of success but rather many hardships that end at a viewpoint that overlooks everything you’ve gone through. All those hardships suddenly create a magnificent view that’d make anyone stop and admire. At the end of the discussion I made a decision that any sensible cash straddled university student would make, I decided to buy a car. Not just any car, an electric car. I remember it was my junior year in High School when the first Nissan Leaf was revealed. I fell in love with it immediately. I told myself, at the time only joking, that it was going to be my first car. Now entering my junior year in college it truly was going to become my first car.

This would be a good point to preface my reasoning to buy an electric car because this is not the car you would normally see a 20 year old driving. I have yet, in the 4 months of owning my Leaf, to encounter a young person like myself step out of a leaf. It’s always someone twice or three times my age.


Reasons

I had been driving a 2003 Mitsubishi Outlander at the time of my decision. It got about 23 MPG on average. My school, Cal State Fullerton, was only about 11 miles away but over time all the traffic, searches for a parking spot and meandering around for lunch add up. In total I was spending about $280 a month on gas. Which wouldn’t have been all that bad if I hadn’t been already driving extremely conservatively to keep it under $300. Driving conservatively hinders a few things for me. Firstly, I am an avid photographer and adventurer. I love explore new places, usually spontaneously. This became problematic when a trip to Downtown LA for photos (24 miles away) would end up costing me nearly $10 per trip. If I had to sit in traffic, which is usually the case if you live in LA, it became even more expensive. Secondly, I wasn’t able to go to school as much I liked too. I would want to go to the gym in the morning but that meant at least two round trips. It’s also impossible for me to study at home. I’m a rare breed of creature that needs his relaxing/home space and his work space separate. Therefore I usually live in the library or Starbucks until midnight. This requires multiple trips home for food. My limit on gas expenditure, which was necessary at the time, was also beginning to severely limit my life.

I realized I had two options:

  1. Stop using my car and move to an apartment on campus for relatively the same amount I was paying in gas.
  2. Get a new, more efficient car that allowed me to travel and go to school whenever I please.
Me jumping over Clara after having recently picked her up.

I decided to go with option 2. I had always wanted to give an electric car a shot because I enjoy being an early adopter of new tech. It intrigues me and I’m gifted with the patience of a hibernating bear which is very much needed with any first generation tech device. I went online and found myself a White 2011 Nissan Leaf for $14,800 that had the miles and color I was looking for. The minute I saw her I knew it was perfect! I headed that same day to Santa Monica Motorcars because I’m as decisive as I am patient. Once I’ve analyzed all the pros and cons and made up my mind about something, it’s very hard to deter me from that mindset. Almostobnoxiously so. I gave her the name Clara as a nod to the Doctor’s companion in Doctor Who. Since she’d be my companion throughout a few years in my life, it was only fitting. She drove like a gem and it was love upon the first, very silent, rev of the engine. She looked sleek and was all mine. This gave me some confidence which can be seen or interpreted as a minor way in which this huge change helped me.

Most college students would shy away from the thought of owning an electric car. Perhaps because the electric car industry comes off as extremely elite and expensive or perhaps it’s because the only electric car seen as ‘cool’ so far is a Tesla. Either way, I’m here to dispel those rumors. Are there some inconveniences? Yes. Does it require some extra planning sometimes? Yes. Quite frankly the thing I’ve come to realize with an electric car is that it requires patience and some sacrificing of your time. The thing is though, as a college student, what I have the most of is time anyways. The monthly payments for my car total about $278. Rather than see $280 go into a gas tank and literally be burned up I invested that into a nicer, more efficient car. Here’s everything that investment has gotten me.


As I prefaced, I cannot study efficiently at home and now that I can go to school whenever I want, my grades have improved dramatically. (I even wrote a piece on studying recently) Being able to go to campus more often has also allowed to me expand my social group on campus. It’s allowed me to explore more and experience new places like never before. A trip to LA now only costs me the cup of coffee I buy. As someone who wants to move to NYC, seeing the light rays hit the US Bank building during sunrise empowers my soul and keeps me alive for a week more. As a result of my exploring I got new partnerships and ad requests on instagram thus bringing in some revenue. Clara had the largest impact on my career though. I was able to start my own Social Media Consulting firm and help small businesses. I love the brand side of digital/social marketing and all the firms near my house were agencies. Now having an electric car I searched LA for internships and I landed a Social Media Internship gig with a non-profit in El Segundo called Team Rubicon. It’s almost a dream job for me which is giving me incredible experience and a steady income that would have never been possible before when 50% of that paycheck would’ve gone to gas.

I’m not trying to hail the electric car as the second coming of christ but it’s up there. An electric car is not yet for everyone but I do hope some students consider it. Most buy a car in the price range I bought my used Leaf in anyways. It’s the 15th of October and I’ve driven nearly 750 miles so far. Astonishingly, I’ve only paid $5 for all the electricity required of those 750 miles and that’s because it was part of the parking fee at the beach. The electric car is here to stay and they’re only going to get better. As people who hardly ever drive more than 50 miles, sans road trips, the electric car is indeed an amazing first car. I couldn’t think of a better companion to travel the hardships with and some day overlook them on that glorious viewpoint. With that I say, allons-y.

David Gamboa

Medium || Twitter || Instagram

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated David Gamboa’s story.