This story was updated to clarify the LADWP rebate applies to qualifying used electric cars.
Turning 16, getting a drivers license and your first car is a right of passage for many Los Angelenos. But what happens when that dream car doesn’t fit with your conservation values? Guest writer and local resident Zoe Guzin shared her story.
by Zoe Guzin
I opened the door of my aunt’s garage to see my future car. A 1963 Chevrolet Corvair with bright silver trim and even brighter red seats – I could not have been happier. After turning 16 just weeks before, I was beyond excited to have such a fun way to get to school and weekly dance classes. Beaming, I closed the door behind me and revved up the engine for the first time. The gauges bounced upwards cheerfully as I pictured myself puttering up tree-lined 5th Street and up towards Larchmont. Everything seemed perfect – that was until I took a deep inhale. A sour mix of gasoline and exhaust filled the garage, spilling out into the street below in a smoky cloud and leaving a toxic haze that stung my eyes. Coughing, I smiled, ”I’m sure that will get better over time.”
Long story short, it didn’t.
Craning my neck to see the smog pouring onto the grey street below as my dad and I bounced across the city streets towards home, I couldn’t help but feel immense guilt set in. My family, being environmentally conscious, had done our best to limit our carbon footprint for as long as I can remember. From a young age, I had been encouraged by my parents to avoid plastic-wrapped snacks, reuse whenever I could, and compost all of my kitchen scraps for our garden. I had always thought of it as a fun family game to find new ways to reduce our impact, as my mom led the conservation branch of the Hancock Park Garden Club and consistently discovered new ways to give a new life to our trash, while my dad was a huge proponent of public transit and his daily bike rides to work. Because of my upbringing, owning such a polluting vintage car felt like an odd note in an otherwise sustainable lifestyle.
Earl, the name I had given my fetid friend, sat menacingly in our driveway for weeks, feeling less like an exciting new chapter in my life and more like a broken promise to myself. Finally, after taking a spin around the neighborhood followed by a familiar cloud of thick grey smoke, I knew that Earl had to go. I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders, knowing that I could put the money from selling Earl into an electric vehicle – a car that would help the planet rather than hurt it. A few weeks later, I found the car of my dreams while searching online – a 2016 Nissan Leaf. Not only did I love the car’s earthy brown color and buglike lights, but it was also made of 25% recycled materials and was completely electric. My family and I were ecstatic to have found a car that was not only environmentally-friendly, but very safe, easy to maneuver, and reasonable.
I have had my Nissan Leaf, dubbed Earl 2, for around a month. Even driving Earl 2 almost daily, I have barely had to plug him in at all! When I do need to give him a charge, he is ready to go overnight, after being charged on a regular outlet. It is important to note, however, that there is an option to purchase an outlet with a higher voltage that will power an electric vehicle to 100% battery within 6 hours. In case of emergency, there is also a quick charge option that can achieve an 80% charge in 30 minutes. However, these are just the charging times for my older model Nissan Leaf. There are plenty of electric cars now that have longer battery life, and may even charge faster, but for my needs, Earl 2 is absolutely perfect!
On top of that, qualified used electric cars are eligible for a $1,500 rebate from the DWP in support of making our roads greener. This made Earl not only an environmentally friendly choice, but a cost effective one as well.
After seeing both extremes, I can say that without a doubt, I am beyond glad I followed in my family’s footsteps and chose a car that wouldn’t harm our beautiful planet. I look forward to many long drives completely smog-free with Earl 2 – he is truly number one for me!
Zoe Guzin is currently a sophomore at Marlborough School. She lives in Windsor Square, where she and her family are passionate about the environment.
Lovely essay, Zoe! Not only are your values and actions praiseworthy , but your writing is excellent too!