Morna Erwin considers herself an "eco nerd." That's why the retired attorney was happy to buy one of the first Nissan Leafs in Knoxville, Tenn., last year to support the fledgling electric car industry.
Her husband, Lee, had a different approach.
"I will adopt green technology if it makes economic sense," the administrative law judge said.
Their 2011 Leaf has worked on both fronts.
The industry is growing, with hundreds of new jobs being added in Tennessee as production of the vehicles is set to begin at Nissan's Smyrna plant by mid-December.
The Leaf has also proven cost-effective. Morna Erwin, who earned her undergraduate degree in accounting at Auburn University, said she's kept careful track of the numbers. Its fuel costs, she said, are equivalent to driving 150 miles for less than the price of a gallon of gas.
As affluent baby boomers, the couple also fits the demographic pattern for most Leaf customers.
"It's funny because people might assume that the market would be for young people who are into technology," Morna said. "What they're finding is that it's appealing to a little more of an older market."
She's 59, and he's 66.
According to Nissan, the average Leaf customer is a college-educated boomer with an average income of $125,000 a year who owns a home with garage space for their car's charger.
The customer base is also strong in Tennessee. Lee Erwin noted that while California has three cities equipped with public charging stations, four Tennessee cities provide the service: Knoxville, Nashville, Chattanooga and Memphis.
With a range of around 100 miles, the Erwins have never had to use a charger aside from the one in their garage. He drives the car from their home to work, which is 10 miles each way. The car has a roughly 100-mile range.
The sticker price for the couple's Leaf was $34,000, with a $2,500 rebate from the state. They also received half the maximum in $7,500 in federal tax credits, plus Nissan gave them a free charging station, which normally costs around $2,200.
Both say it was a good investment.
"We worked hard all of our lives, and we're comfortable," Morna said. "But we try to spend our money on smart things."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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