Anna Edey and her Nissan Leaf

The founder of Solviva drives Currier to Vineyard Haven.

Vineyard resident and noted solar designer, Anna Edey, picked me up at my house in Oak Bluffs in her 10-year-old Nissan Leaf. We drove to her house on Skiff Avenue in Vineyard Haven, which she will soon be converting to be totally solar powered and energy self-sufficient. (More about that in a follow-up story later this year.) 

Now in her mid eighties, she filled me in on some biographical details of her life. Born and raised in Sweden, Anna was traveling through Europe with her family in her late teens, when she heard the sound of boogie-woogie piano music wafting out of a little cafe in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris — an event that would eventually lead to a profound change in her life. 

She and her family went into the cafe to check out the music. There, they met a young man (who had also been drawn in by the music) who turned out to be a summer resident of Martha’s Vineyard by the name of Mait Edey. A recent graduate of Princeton University, Mait had come to Paris to write and live on a houseboat on the Seine. He and Anna struck up a relationship and would later go back to Sweden, get married, and move to the U.S. in the late 1950s. It took a while for Anna to adjust to life in the U.S., since it trailed so far behind Sweden environmentally. “There was smoke belching out of chimneys, and trash everywhere, and all these enormous cars,” she recalled.

two people sitting on a couch and talking
Geoff Currier visits with Anna Edey in her living room. – Photo by Randi Baird

In 1971, Mait and Anna bought thirteen acres of the Norton farm in West Tisbury, where Anna hoped to build a sustainable farm (called Solviva), where they could grow their own organic food and eventually convert to solar energy and reduce dependence on heating oil and propane. Anna even designed her own non-polluting waste water management system. 

In 1974, Anna and Mait separated, and Anna stayed on at Solviva. In 1979, the house burned down, and Anna became even more committed to living sustainably, and learning how to live with only solar energy, and this became her life’s work. She’s currently building a new home on Skiff Ave. that’s fully solar heated, without the need for any heating oil or propane.  

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Anna was also an early adopter of electric vehicles. In 1994, she bought an all-electric car from a gentleman in Gay Head who had converted it from an old 1981 Honda.

As might be expected, Anna was also an early adopter of electric vehicles. In 1994, she bought an all-electric car from a gentleman in Gay Head who had converted it from an old 1981 Honda, with the option for full refund if it did not provide reliable transportation. It had too many flaws, so she returned it. After Nissan revolutionized the concept of the electric vehicle with the introduction of the Nissan Leaf in 2010, she bought a new 2012 Leaf. It far exceeded her highest hopes: For ten years, nothing ever went wrong with it, and in all that time, it didn’t require a single servicing. 

Then, in 2022, her Leaf was side-swiped by another car, and to her immense grief was declared “totalled.” Anna knew she wanted another Leaf. Seeking one with the best battery and the best price, she found a used 2014 Leaf selling for $10,000. Realizing what a bargain it was, she found and bought one more — a 2013 selling for $9,000. 

“I haven’t bought a gallon of gas since I bought the original Leaf, eleven years ago,” she said. “And there has been zero servicing on the cars, except tires, windshield wipers and washer fluid, because electric cars have so few moving parts relative to cars with internal combustion engines.”

Anna gets enough energy to charge the cars from just a regular 120 volt outlet. She simply plugs it in when she gets back home, and it’s fully charged in the morning.

She says there’s no need to spend $2,000 for a 220v charger, and also no need for a garage; her Leafs have always been fully exposed to the weather, and have always been 100 percent reliable. Nothing has ever gone wrong with them.  

“It’s the perfect ‘Island car,’” Anna says; for long trips off-Island, she prefers to take the bus.

Facts on the Nissan Leaf:

electric car charging port
– Photo by Randi Baird
  • Vehicle type: Front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback.
  • Transmission: 1-speed direct drive.
  • Base Price: $37,445. 

Nissan has announced that it will discontinue production of the Leaf in 2024 in order to focus on their new EV, the Nissan Ariya. But Anna points out that you can buy a used Leaf for around $10,000, and they last seemingly forever, so it’s not as if the Leaf is going to just fade away. 

And if you need longer range, get a new long-range battery for it.

To purchase Anna Edey’s books, Solviva or Green Light at the End of the Tunnel contact her at [email protected].

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