One month of LEAF ownership – The experience so far…..

It’s a month since I got my Nissan LEAF and here’s a  few points about the experience so far.

  • I’ve gone from merely liking the car to loving it. It drives like a Mercedes.
  • 1,300 miles driven for a total ‘e-fuel’ cost of $40.
  • MPG-Equivilent is 104 mpg.
  • Only one journey was out of the LEAF’s range.
  • ‘Range anxiety’ only bit me once.
  • Longest trip was 91 miles, with e-fuel to spare.
  • We are both using the LEAF for all trips at the weekend.
  • Karen’s car has only had one gas fill-up since we got the LEAF. A fill-up every 3-4 weeks is all that be required.
  • Used free public chargers in Smyrna and Goodlettsville. There are some available outside of Nissan dealerships thankfully. More are needed.

Driving Range

In the first few weeks of ownership, I wondered if I had made a big mistake buying a range limited vehicle like the LEAF. The ‘gas gauge’ went down awfully fast, it seemed I’d be running out of power sooner than I had hoped.

The number of miles remaining as displayed on the dashboard is optimistic, and only achievable under ideal conditions. Learning to ignore what that number says is crucial in removing fear that you’re going to run out of fuel. It creates a false sense of security at the start of a trip only to see that evaporate. A much more reliable number is available on the touch screen panel, which is easily displayed using a  ‘blue’ button on the steering wheel.

Speed has an enormous impact on the range of the vehicle, much more so than a conventional gas car. The impact of the A/C is minimal, quite to my surprise. (Heating in the winter maybe a different story). An electric car is at its most efficient at low speeds and can easily reach over 100 MPG equivalent around town. How far can you drive on a ‘full tank’? It all depends on how fast you drive, if you are on the interstate doing 70, maybe just 65 miles. Around town averaging 30 or less, one can go over 100 miles, maybe as much as 130. The theoretical maximum range under perfect conditions is 180 miles, but you’d have to stick to 12.5 mph to do that. Driving normally I’d say 70 miles is a good conservative estimate of its range.

Charging

Thanks to the ‘Level 2’ charger in my garage, which runs on 240 volts, the car is charged before it’s time to go to bed, typically in 3 hours or less. I use about half a charge going to and from work which is why the charge time is less than the 7 hours often quoted, those charge times are for an empty vehicle. I have found topping off at weekends is a good way to be sure you can go wherever and whenever you want to, even for unplanned trips.

I did use public chargers in Smyrna and Goodlettsville, both of which are free. More chargers at public locations such as restaurants and stores is really needed to make electric vehicles go further than their stated range.

Comfort

Pre-Cooling and Heating the car before a journey is *the*feature I like most about this vehicle. On a very hot day it is great to step into a car that is already comfortable and the A/C doesn’t have to blow like a gale for the first few miles to cool down a hot interior. Activating the climate control can be done via a website or your smart-phone. The car can also be programed to automatically condition the cabin at a preset time, something I have programmed to cool the car down before I leave for work in the morning.

The seats are comfortable, but lack electric position control, I suppose to save weight. The car has ample leg room in the front and very good headroom, tall people should have no problems. The rear seats aren’t as roomy, but adequate for a short journey.

Performance.

The LEAF is no golf cart. It is very quick off the mark thanks to the fact that it’s got full torque at all speeds. Taking off from a stop light is very quick indeed and thanks to traction control it will take off in wet weather as quickly and safely as it does in the dry. One can pass a car comfortably, the car is instantly responsive and looses no time accelerating. At speeds above 55 it is not that quick but is still capable of moderate acceleration when necessary. As a vehicle to get around town it is ideal.

Parking.

The steering is quite light, even at slow speeds making parking/maneuvering very easy. The ‘backup’ camera is very good, and helps you back straight into a parking space, or be sure the pets or grand kids aren’t right behind the vehicle as you back out of the garage. Rain drops can obscure the image, but that doesn’t happen too often.

The car beeps when reversing to alert those around you. It’s a similar noise as tracks make when backing up, only much less noisy and intrusive, you can barely hear it from inside the car. This noise can be temporarily disabled should you not want to make a noise at all.

Entertainment

I had not anticipated that the Bluetooth system would extend beyond hands-free calling for my cell phone. I am pleasantly surprised to learn it also allows audio from a smart phone to be played through the sound system and it is of very high fidelity. No cables to plug in!! Audio o your smart phone automatically plays as soon as the vehicle is started up, no need to fiddle with controls on the phone or the car. I really like the automatic volume control which increases the sound system volume as you gather speed, and quietens it back down when you slow back down.

The XM/Sirrus satellite radio is OK. Not sure I’ll be subscribing to it after the initial 3 months free service is up.

It’s so quiet!!

The first thing one notices when you start driving the LEAF is how quiet it is. Of course there is no engine noise, and Nissan have done a great job in sound proofing the vehicle from wind and road noise. The electric motor is barely audible under hard acceleration, otherwise you don’t hear it at all. The car emits an artificial noise (called VSP) at low speeds to alert pedestrians of the car. This noise can be turned off should you need to be very quiet late at night or early in the morning coming and going from the house. The VSP is always on when you first start-up the vehicle.

Navigation

The Navigation system has limitations, several addresses we looked for are not in its map database. I was glad to learn one can send a destination to the car from your computer using Google Maps overcoming the limitations of the map system. The system works very well as  navigation aid, it turns the radio down when speaking directions which is much kinder on the ears than Google Maps navigation on the android phones. The simulated voice is much more soothing and keeps its directions to a sensible minimum. Google Maps verbal instructions can be too verbose and intrusive. Once one learns to overcome the deficiencies of the map database, the nav system is very easy to use. I like it.

Overall Impression

Driving a LEAF is like driving a luxury car. It is very smooth and very quiet and the performance is excellent. The interior has all the creature comforts most people want in a  car, some features which are quite advanced.

There isn’t much not to like about this car.

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One Response to One month of LEAF ownership – The experience so far…..

  1. thedesertion says:

    I got the 2013 SL. Prior to it, I had a BMW suv. I have to agree 100% that I haven’t lost any of the luxury amenities I was used to. I had to get the SL in order to keep all those luxuries though. I got hooked on leather seats in the BMW and I just felt like I couldn’t go back to cloth. The one thing I think the SL is missing is the electric seat adjustment, as opposed to pulling on the lever under the seat when you want to slide the seat back or forward. Same goes for the back of the seat, I am just not used to pulling a lever to lean the seat backwards.

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