By on May 18, 2011

Our second day with the Leaf gave us a chance to really dive into the charging realities of driving an electric vehicle. Most of us are used to filling up our car when the tank is empty or well on the way to empty. If you are shopping for an electric car, throw this mentality out with the oil changes. Think of your car like a 1990s cell phone: plug it in often if you want to be able to use it later.

If you are considering buying a Leaf, you’ll need to buy a 240V charging station unless you can manage to drive under about 45 miles a day and spend a full 12-hours charging at home. The cost of the 240V home charging station is about $2,200 including “average installation costs.” Fortunately our tax dollars are hard at work, so Leaf buyers qualify for a 50% tax credit on the charger installation and Nissan is kind enough to roll the installation into your Leaf’s financing. If you live in an apartment, condo, or some other place where you don’t have the ability to install a dedicated charging station, you may want to campaign with your landlord or homeowner’s association to get charging stations installed before you jump on the bandwagon.

As I got home late the night before I was only able to charge the Leaf for 8-hours. As soon as I awoke I whipped out the iPhone to monitor the Leaf’s charge remotely. The car indicated it had gained 31-miles worth of charge overnight. Since I don’t have a garage out here in the woods, the low nighttime temperatures of 39-degrees made our 120V charging rate a bit slower than I had observed the day prior. To help conserve power on my commute I used the iPhone app to turn on the heater in the Leaf and get things warm before I got underway.

Since the Leaf contains no engine and the battery and motor generate relatively little heat, Nissan employs a 5kW resistive heating element instead of a heat pump like GM’s EV1. The decision to not use a more efficient heat pump probably lies in cost as Nissan would have had to include a resistive heating element anyway for buyers in northern climates where temperatures drop well below freezing. Fortunately this heater can be run directly off the power coming from the charger so that you can start heating the car before you get in, thereby extending your range. Nissan informs us that the heater consumes approximately 1,500-watts when running in this mode regardless of whether it is plugged into a 120V (Level 1) or 240V (Level 2) charger.

Once underway it was obvious I had some tough decisions to make. My preferred freeway (I-280) to work goes thru hill and dale and is more roller-coaster than highway; this constant hill climbing has an adverse effect on range so I opted for the flat route along the bay. Having successfully lasted 20 hours without becoming stranded, my range anxiety was starting to wane, but only slightly through no fault of the Leaf. The problem was that I could not charge the car completely the night before. If I had a 240V charger in my driveway, 8 hours would have given me 120+ miles based on the way I had driven the Leaf up to that point. My local Nissan dealer informs me that essentially every Leaf they have sold has gone out the door with the 240V charger, so it would seem this is not an issue for most buyers. Let me say this now, the Leaf is not for everyone. If you live somewhere that you can’t charge it at home, or at work, buy something else.

I drove to work using ECO mode to conserve power which the Leaf primarily does through dialing back on the heater performance, dulling the accelerator pedal input and cranking up regenerative braking when you lift off the accelerator pedal. The effect is different than I had expected, but it was not as obtrusive to me as some reviews would make it seem and it improves range by a supposed 10%. I had initially thought I would drive to work sans-heater but 8-miles into my journey I realized my jacket was not in the car and I decided being warm for a while was worth the risk. As I rolled into Burlingame, it became obvious that my moderate use of the heater had taken a toll on battery life as the car indicated only 32 miles left.

Trip distance: 53.6

Average speed: 47.9

Travel Time: 40 min

Average miles/kWh: 5.8

Range Left:  32

Temp: 42-53 degrees

Once at work, the charging cable came out again for another day of across-the-sidewalk-charging. Anyone know what the fine for that is in California? Let us know in the comment section.

Today everyone at work had figured out that I was the one driving the odd little car with the extension cord coming out its nose. I was anticipating that my co-workers would be intrigued, want to look it over, play with the knobs, and in general treat it like the release of a trendy new Apple product. I was wrong. Actually, the vitriol was kind of surprising, and perhaps indicated a hurdle that manufacturers will need to overcome before EVs gain widespread adoption. The most common complaint among passengers was “what if I needed to stop somewhere after work” and secondarily “what if I decided to take a road trip on the way home.” I suppose they are valid points for some, but if your daily commute is 30-miles, and you had a 240V charger at home, you could run all manner of errands on your way home without issue. And really, who actually decides to take a road-trip on the spur of the moment on your way home from work on a Wednesday afternoon? If you do, correct us in the comment section.

Out on the highway the Leaf drives like any other economical mid-size sedan. The steering is fairly lifeless and handling is unspectacular due entirely to the low-rolling resistance tires essential for long range. The suspension is tuned for a moderate ride, neither floaty, nor stiff and the chassis remains composed over a variety of road surfaces from gravel to pot-holed-asphalt. The relatively high curb weight (for an efficient vehicle) of 3,400lbs no doubt aids in the Leaf feeling more substantial than you would assume. The low positioning of the battery in the car makes moderate corner carving possible, but it is unlikely that most drivers will treat their Leaf in this fashion. Eco hoons however will be strangely amused that the eco tires allow for a decent amount of front-wheel-peel on their way to an observed 17.7-second (77MPH) quarter mile.

Range anxiety had by this point turned into “charge anxiety.”  At noon a quick check of the battery via the CarWings iPhone app showed I had a range of 42 miles. Since my 53-mile trip home consumes 68-miles worth of electrons due to the climb up the hill, it was looking like I’d be stuck at work for a long while, so I started hunting for the often touted free charging stations.

If you’re lucky enough to live around a 440-volt “Quick Charge” or “CHAdeMO station, then the Leaf will charge from essentially empty to around 80-percent (56-102 miles depending on your driving style) in 30 minutes. Unfortunately when I used all the online charging station tools at my disposal, I was able to find only 539 CHAdeMO charging stations in the world, 532 of which are in Japan and none in California at the moment. I am told however that there are quick charge stations being planned. Currently the quick-charge port is only available as a ($700) special-order option on the Leaf SL.

With a federal tax credit for companies to install charging stations for use by employees and customers of 50% of the installation cost up to $2,000 per charging station along with other state and local benefits and utility rebates, expect to see stations cropping up at a workplace near you. Since this was not an option, I decided to lunch in South San Francisco where I found a free charging station. This turned out to be a dubious exercise because although the 240V (Level 2) charger charges faster, the 11 mile round trip cancelled out the faster charge leaving me back at square one. However, it did prove to me that if your destinations have level 2 chargers, then you’ll be no worse off for your errand running.

Trip distance: 11.1

Average speed: 24.3

Travel Time: 23min

Average miles/kWh: 4.9

Range Left:  42 (1:10 of 240V charging)

Temp: 55 degrees

Worried about making it home, I again resorted to a public 240V charging station, this time I sensibly chose one that was only a 1 mile detour off the way home. After almost two hours of hanging out in Cost Plus and watching DVDs on my laptop in the back seat of the car, the ChargePoint kiosk showed a 4kW charge had been transferred to my battery. Driving the Leaf gently this meant an additional range of 20 miles. The cost: $156 of shopping at Cost Plus, $1 parking fee, $0 for the electricity.

About those costs: at the moment electric cars are something of a novelty, and with political pressure to do “something green” many municipalities and businesses provide free charging meaning if you were willing to play your cards right, you might only rarely pay for electricity. Even at California’s high electricity rates a quick scan of my bill shows that the 260 miles we put on the leaf over 3 days cost $8.52 of which I only bore $3.20 of (54kWh total). Put in perspective, at 4.50 a gallon for regular, a Prius would have cost me $26 for the same three days. If I were able to commute daily in the Leaf I estimate my yearly energy costs would reach $886 per year of which I could manage to only pay half if my employer picked up part of the tab. The Prius would consume $2704 and I’d be hard pressed to find a free gasoline pump while I shop. Because the EPA is insane and feels the need to give the Leaf an MPG number, its 106 city, 92 highway and 99 combined. Should that mean anything to you? Nope.

As I pulled out of the parking garage I realized that my two hours of free charging would now mean I would have to use my headlamps on my way home for at least part of the journey. It also meant that instead of spending an extra two hours at work charging at 120V I should have hopped down to the free 240V station earlier to suck off the public teat. Since I had carpooled to work, I had a slight detour to pick up my fairly unhappy carpool mate who was not all that amused with my “I had to charge” excuse. With the car showing 70 miles to empty, I was concerned because my gentle driving habits had caused the car to believe a less-than-half-full battery could propel me farther than half the Leaf’s quoted range. Ginger driving and climate control off were the order of the evening.

As I crested the top of Highway 17, the Leaf estimated our range at 5 miles. This was pucker time. 5-miles of level driving remained before we could pick up some charge on the down-hill run. As we rounded the corner onto Old San Jose Rd the Leaf announced the battery was “very low.” As the last 6 miles of my journey involved loosing 1,000ft of elevation the battery had recovered to a 12-mile range by the time I hit the gravel road and cruised home parking-lamp-only. Thankfully my arrival home was early enough to book a solid 9 hours of charging if I could convince my boss to let me arrive late the next day. Had this been my Leaf I would have let it lick its wounded battery in peace for 24 hours and driven another car, but since Nissan wanted their car back the next day I just had to wait until it would make it back to Nissan’s fleet company.

Trip distance: 59.9mi

Average speed: 32.6 mph

Travel Time: 1:50

Average miles/kWh: 4.9

Range Left:  12

Temp: 65-52 degrees

Nissan provided the vehicle and insurance for this review.

Checkout the other instalments of our Leaf trilogy:
2011 Nissan Lead: Day One
2011 Nissan Lead: Day Three


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157 Comments on “Review: 2011 Nissan Leaf: Day Two...”


  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    Entirely way too much work. Dragging around 200 feet of extension cords. Searching for charging stations. Killing two hours to get barely enough extra charge to limp home on parking lights? A two day write up obsessing over the next charging station like a crack addict looking for a fix.

    What I read is someone who deeply wants to love the Leaf, and makes a lot of, “it’s OK, it really isn’t that bad,” positioning for what seems like a complete boondoggle. IF you had the 240V charger. If your employer had one. If you lived closer to work. Well I don’t want to take detours on my way home so no big deal for me, if, if, if.

    Way too much trouble for me, I can’t deal with so many if’s.

    • 0 avatar
      dancote

      The reason you can’t deal with so many “if’s” is because you never got a proper education.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        The reason you use redundant terms in your sentences is that you never got a proper education.

      • 0 avatar
        izzylee

        For me I commute 20 miles twice per day. (10 out 10 back) With a quick charger I’d be good. $2000 (for charger) is a small price to pay for FREEDOM from OIL and GAS!!!

        I lived in Portland for years with one car, my feet and the train and it never seemed to bother me, the price of gas. However, out here in Colorado I found this great house with a great view but guess what? The gas prices aren’t so great. Add to that I need to watch the deteriorative effect of oil and gas production (and fracking) on local communities in Northern Colorado and Wyoming and all of a sudden going out of my way to consolidate trips and be efficient with my driving, (something I already do to afford the gas I have to buy), doesn’t seem like a big deal at all. Guess its just a matter of priorities.

        2012 YEAR OF THE ELECTRIC CAR!!! VOTE WITH YOUR DOLLARS ; )

    • 0 avatar
      kingofgix

      This is like reading the tale of a frustrated lumberjack trying to cut down a Sequoia with a nail file. The Leaf is a tool that has an application, just not every application. Choose the proper tool for the job!

      All the tales of searching for, and waiting for a charge are meaningless. Tell me how far the cars goes on a charge, with the heater on. If I need to go less far than that in my daily commute, then this could be a good car me. Otherwise, its not.

    • 0 avatar
      protomech

      It’s more like reading Kon-Tiki.

      Crossing the ocean on a raft is an awe-inspiring display of pounding a square peg into a round hole.

      So is charging at home on 120V and using a partially-charged 70-mile EV to drive a 106 mile round-trip commute. Plus detours.

      Alex’s review is well-written, and interesting. The hoops he jumps through add a fair bit of tension to the tale. As he points out, however, noone that buys these cars is relying on 120V charging to get the job done. Noone wants a fair bit of tension added to their commute, and there will be none for those whose commutes are well-suited to current mainstream EVs.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m wondering why he could not simply plug his car into his 220v stove or dryer outlet for the purpose of this temporary test.

      As he points out, this wouldn’t have been too bad an experience if he’d had the 220v charger, and essentially all Leaf buyers will have one. So this article greatly exaggerates the leaf’s problems, which is a pity.

      D

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        He probably could plug it into the 220V outlet, but a) it might be a stretch, and b) the Leaf’s 220V charger uses a SAE J1772 connector, not the NEMA-whatever (I can never recall) that dryers use. Nissan could provide an adapter, but they probably don’t want people killing themselves trying to use it.

        This makes some sense, by the way. That’s a lot of power, and you want a safer connector than the bare-bladed NEMA one, especially when you think about all the awful places this connector will be used and how frequently, whereas you almost never unplug your dryer or stove.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Gotta love the adventure! Anxiously awaiting part 3!

    I-280 is a great drive and a great back-door to the City than 101. Real pretty drive. Ca. 17 is real fun sometimes, too. Been on that route a few years ago. Several times.

    EDIT: This is a nice real-world test, even if it is the Bay Area, but for a 53-mile-each-way commute, it isn’t practical, at least not right now. However, this part of the country and others like it is where the infrastructure for this particular mode of transportation will take off and possibly make a difference. At least you are using this car like real people would on a daily basis. Well worth making note of.

  • avatar
    OhioPilot09

    I just thought about losing power at your house…half the country or more is prone to power outages especially during the rainy and snowy parts of the year. That could essentially make you stranded at home if this was your only car.

    I do really want to make a good case to own one but after reading this it makes it harder harder to justify the hastle.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Guy a second generator from Honda – one for the house, one for the Leaf.

    • 0 avatar
      izzylee

      Part of my master plan buying a LEAF is to purchase a couple solar panels online from Belgium…very cheap…hire a local contractor to throw them on my roof, buy enough battery storage to use as a back up and use the solar to charge the car on the daily.

      In truth, we could all be self sufficient this way. I think that is probably why the concept is not getting much love in the press and why articles like this one greatly exaggerate the LEAFs troubles. Who buying a LEAF wouldn’t have the money for a quick charger?

      THEY really don’t want us walking away from the gasoline…

  • avatar
    mazder3

    Please excuse my stupidity, but what are all of the circles for in the gauge cluster? oooooooooooooo?

  • avatar
    twotone

    Public transportation is a far better option than the cost and effort involved with one of these “cars.”

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      Maybe not. I think it’s a bit silly to pick somebody who lives 53 miles from work to do this short review, but a 53 mile commute by public transportation probably isn’t exactly a cakewalk to arrange either.

      Which means the winner is… drum-roll… just buy a regular frigging car like everybody else.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        No, the winner is to question the logic of a 53-mile daily commute. That’s the real problem. If you have a 10 mile commute, the Leaf’s range anxiety is a non-issue. The cost, of course, is a different matter. But a 10 mile commute will do wonders for reducing your gas costs.

      • 0 avatar
        dcardno

        Bunkie:
        No, the winner is to question the logic of a 53-mile daily commute…. If you have a 10 mile commute, the Leaf’s range anxiety is a non-issue.”

        I struggle to not be abusive in my response. If you live in the real world, manufacturers have to provide product that customers can actually see value in (I appreciate that this does not apply to you, Bunkie). If we all lived within a 10 mile commute, then Ford / GM / Toyota (etc) could sell us all bicycles when we came in to the showroom looking for cars (note to Bunkie – in the real world, they don’t even think about trying this). North American cities are laid out in a way that means that a 50 mile or 75 Km commute (each way) is not unusual – car makers can either develop for that market, or not. Decrying the market, or (Bunkie, note this) bemoaning the facts of life is not very helpful.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        North American cities are laid out in a way that means that a 50 mile or 75 Km commute (each way) is not unusual

        http://www.bts.gov/publications/omnistats/volume_03_issue_04/html/figure_02.html

        Only 8% of Americans commute more than 35 miles and 51% commute less than 10 miles.

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        My commute is about 8 miles round-trip for work. But if something breaks at work, I sometimes have to drive to off-site locations that would give me serious range anxiety issues. The Leaf looks like a good idea for people that are lucky enough to just be able to stay local to your dwelling. Personally, I’ll keep my TDI since I only have to fill it about once a month and there are plenty of quick charge diesel stations around. Maybe they’ll figure out a way to increase the range to the 200-300 mile range on a charge. That would work out much better.

      • 0 avatar

        The author of this review lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

        Despite the tiresome housing crash which is so much in the news, there are probably no homes costing under US$1 million within 10 miles of his work.

        (I used to live in Southern California and feel his pain.)

        D

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      53 miles by public transit is pretty much de riguer for Greater Toronto, which is why GO Transit is so heavily used.

      Could this work in such an environment? Maybe, but mostly for people who have a separate car for longer distances, which is most people. Remember that this is one of the first cuts at this kind of technology, and it’s already way the hell more practical than hydrogen, and not a lot less than CNG.

      • 0 avatar
        Robstar

        I took public transport once to see a friend, as an experiment from Chicago -> Joliet (~ 52 miles door to door). It took about 6 hours to go 50 miles and the last 2 miles I had to walk, taxi or call him to pick me up.

        Hopefully Toronto isn’t like this.

        The drive would have taken me 70 minutes or less, flat.

      • 0 avatar
        jaje

        Really? – I’ve taken the train from Manhattan, IL (further south than Joliet) to downtown Chicago and it took only an hour and a half including the taxi trip. If I would have driven it would take about the same time and I’d have to fight to find parking. I paid more but then on the train I had time to work.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Six hours would get me from Toronto to Montreal by train. That’s terrible!

        Fifty miles is generally an hour-long trip anywhere within GO-land. I could see it taking more if you were going from spoke to spoke (say, Oshawa to Georgetown) or from a bus-only section (Peterborough), but even then it wouldn’t take six hours.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        Gas in Toronto is roughly twice what we pay in the States, so of course Public Transit makes more sense.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        Gas in Toronto is roughly twice what we pay in the States, so of course Public Transit makes more sense.

        VERY roughly.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        Today gas costs 1.29 a litre =5.20 USD per US Gallon. $66 CDN fills an Impala from almost empty. So Americans are paying..half that?

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Mikey; In the Cincinnati, Ohio area, gas today is $3.80 USD per US gallon.

    • 0 avatar

      Public transportation would be a better option if some other people rode it. And it would be a “far better option” if it weren’t so wasteful. Digging out the light rail in San Jose would free enough money to lease every rider a BMW X3!

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Yeah maybe, but if you live and work anywhere along 1st street, you’ve got it made – even convenient to pay off your bail bonds if you have any outstanding! (you only get that last line if you live/visit there!)

    • 0 avatar
      izzylee

      Sure, if you have public transit. What if you don’t though? If you have a commute that is less than 100 miles per day you have now reached a break even point. Your paying nearly 350 per month on gas and with decent credit this car is only going to cost you that much tops. All you need now is a couple of panels on your roof and your at net neutral!

  • avatar
    carve

    I’d like to see inductive chargers in mats, or buried under parking spots. When you pull a parking brake, a little paddle with an RFID tag can drop onto the ground and pick up charge and put the bill on your card without you having to do anything.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      An inductive charger that could deliver the kind of juice these things require would have all sorts of nasty side effects and would be massively expensive.

      I think a couple of standardized big bendy metal contact strips that you drive over would do the trick. Safety systems would be fairly trivial to incorporate into the process.

      Nothing beats metal-to-metal contact for charging.

      • 0 avatar
        carve

        …until your cat walks under your car :)

        The EV-1 used an inductive charger.

      • 0 avatar
        M 1

        carve, I actually went back and edited my first sentence to say something like “a broad-area inductive charger”… specifically because the EV-1 used an inductive plug. Apparently that edit didn’t save properly.

        But there is a big difference between a plug with a fraction of an inch of plastic sheathing the metal, versus something that’ll just crank out power over a general area so you can pick it up with your floor mat or whatever.

        As for cats, I can think of no better place for them.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Inductive charging is hugely wasteful, unfortunately.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        There are patents afoot for tuned induction coils that are over 80% coupling efficiency even at 3 feet distance – so that may show up in the future.

    • 0 avatar
      dcardno

      Inductive charging would be cool. Of course, no one in North America has ever complained (much less sued) about the (imagined) effects of electro-magnetic fields, so there should be no risk in introducing such technology.
      /sarc

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        That’s the good thing about the new coils – the higher the efficiency, the lower the amount of stray fields. Still, we get “dosed” with stray electromagnetic fields from so many sources at so many frequencies these days, it will be difficult to determine health effects – I would posit that emissions from a personal cell phone are probably the worst, as by design, the proximity to the user is the closest, and the high frequency is able to deposit more energy into living tissue; whereas 60 hertz electric power has much less ability to do so because of the low frequency.

  • avatar
    Bridge2farr

    As many have said, just get a Volt.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Yes, I said that. Wouldn’t it be funny if GM, like Toyota years ago with the original Prius, is onto something that will only prove to be the “why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?” idea with the Volt? Time will tell.

      The original Prius was laughed at in the beginning. The Leaf will find a niche too. I refuse to discount any new technology because it just doesn’t “seem to fit” right now.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    So much time spent hunting for charging stations… what a waste. California is probably one of two states that will have many free charging stations in the future. I couldn’t have this car with the limitations like this.

    • 0 avatar
      WRohrl

      California is alse one of the states least able to currently afford to put in free charging stations…And Northern California (at least PG&E country) is also one of the most likely parts of the country to experience power outages due to long-term neglect of the infrastructure (as an even alluded to by a previous poster above)

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Alex’s daily driving needs are only barely being fulfilled by the Leaf. But there are thousands of drivers who don’t need to drive as much as he does on a daily basis, or for which the Leaf will suit their needs perfectly.

    All of the conditions that make Leaf ownership ideal – living close to work, work having a 240V charger, owning a 240V charger yourself, having that charger insulated from fluctuating weather, etc. – should already be met BEFORE considering buying a Leaf.

    In other words, don’t buy a Leaf if you have to rearrange your life to live with one. And until 440V Quick-charge stations are a common sight on American roads, owning a Leaf is going to be hard anyway, due to the limits on driving freedom it imposes on its driver.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      It should be mentioned that quick-charging a lithium ion battery is deleterious to its lifespan and performance, and should be used for emergencies only. Nissan agrees with this; it’s simply a matter of battery physics.

      Imagine running an ICE on starting fluid only instead of gasoline, and that’s the picture.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    All the fretting about range and charging is because your commute is too far. I appreciate these reports, and it does a great service describing what life with the Leaf is like when pushed to the limit.

    But for my 18-mile round trip commute, the Leaf would be perfect.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    The first gas station opened in 1913, 5 years after the first Model T was sold. Range anxiety is not new. Obviously electric cars aren’t the solution for every situation (like 53 mile commutes), but that doesn’t mean they don’t make sense in some situations. Or that they won’t get better.

    • 0 avatar
      charly

      Roads outside the city were really bad so range anxiety wasn’t an issue

    • 0 avatar
      Vladimir

      Gasoline was widely available across the United States prior to 1913, however, along with other products like kerosene, alcohol, etc. in general stores, hardware stores and even pharmacies. Sure the available quantities might be relatively small compared to an actual gas station, but it allowed you to make it to wherever you were going and then some. Nobody was driving 53 mile one-way commutes in 1913.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    This thing would certainly need my daily driving needs (10 minutes to work; do some grocery shopping; I own a garage and the 110V would even do) on 90% of days. For the other 10% I’d need a real car. I would rather buy a GTI though for the money :)

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    Nice write-up.

    I think there are really two take-aways from Alex’s experience.

    1) If you plan to get an EV, a 240V home charger is essential. Just plan on it, and factor it into the total cost of your purchase. I sure as heck wouldn’t buy an EV without one. Otherwise you are going to be permanently trickle-charging your vehicle.

    2) At 53 miles each way, Alex’s commute is almost certainly too long for the Leaf. The only way you realistically could make it work is with a 240V charger on either end, and faithfully plugging it in at each destination. With that commute length, you have virtually no room for error. I think a better commute length would be a maximum of 50 miles round trip…which should still work for a lot of folks.

  • avatar

    Just imagine the infrastructure would be there…
    Outlets to charge your car everywhere, fast, cheap and clean, powered by wind & sun. Powerful, regenerative batteries, lasting forever (almost).
    Would be nice, wouldn’t it?
    Won’t work? Think positive! Dream on.

    • 0 avatar
      healthy skeptic

      Most of what you say will probably come to pass in the next 10-20 years…except wind & solar. I think they’ll continue to increase, but would have a very hard time providing more than 20-25% of our energy by 2030. Right now it’s about 2%, mostly from wind.

      The rest still has to come from somewhere else.

  • avatar
    Tree Trunk

    The good news is the Leaf drives just like any other plane vanilla mode of transportation.

    The bad news, having a long commute with no access to a heavy duty charger will lead to some frustration. Surprise, surprise.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Ugh. What a waste on so many levels. The buyer is paying extra for a largely useless vehicle just to appear green, having to ignore the reality that the electricity used likely came from a coal fired power plant. Then on top of that, the buyer is turned into a leech on society, stealing electricity from friends and employers, and mooching off the rest of us for tax credits on the car and the charging stations. Stop the insanity!

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      Agreed, in addition drivers of the Leaf and similar vehicles circumvent fuel taxes used to pay for maintenance of roads, bridges, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      cmoibenlepro

      Other countries outside USA use other sources of energy than coal fire power plants.
      Where I live is near 100% hydro power.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Unfortunately, our strain of insane ecoweenies killed hydro-electric power expansion decades ago. There’s always some organism or other that can be used to block building a dam, and don’t forget the impact on the wetlands!

      • 0 avatar
        probert

        @CJinSD and then I woke up

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        probert,

        Try learning something. It will change your political outlook. Hydroelectricity is down to supplying 5.7% of US electricity and of the 25 major hydroelectric dam projects underway zero of them are in the USA.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      A leech on society, like everyone who got a commercial vehicle tax credit for driving a stupidly large SUV?

      Or for that matter, someone who drives a vehicle largely powered by foreign oil, leading to government and military involvement in foreign affairs? Say what you will about coal, but it’s largely domestic-sourced, isn’t it? And it might be an irrelevant argument anyhow – isn’t it safe to assume that a fair number of early Leaf owners would be the type to invest in clean energy for their homes?

      Also, useless for you doesn’t mean largely useless.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      dwford,

      Leech is the first word to pop into my head when I hear about people who want their self righteous ignorance subsidized. Perhaps the SUV driving victims of lefty vandalism will take a lesson from ELF and MoveOn by committing acts of retribution against electric car trash. They’re just too obvious targets for people sick of daily assaults on logic.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      But the funny thing about “green” thinkers is that they attempt to think HARD about the consequences of energy choices, and these concerns actually drive a healthy debate about the true costs. Something that has been totally absent from the oil/coal driven energy policies of the past. If we’re so worried about “our children and grandchildren”, we have to realize that the greatest burden that we can leave them is a declining environment and a dependency on a dwindling resource, thus rendering them slaves to the whims of the powerful.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The greatest burden we can leave our children is a centrally planned economy. Try to find some unrevised history sources for the last century and don’t enslave another generation over Karl Marx’ failure to comprehend economics and human nature.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        You keep carping all you want; when the true ‘slavery’ is being bound to the past, and fearing that anything that strays from the way things have been is somehow ‘subversive’.

        We should embrace the dynamism of this change, and reject the ‘social engineering’ conspiracy theories. We should be proactive, not reactive, realizing that this ship of energy dependence will take a long time to turn, and that monied interests aren’t concerned about the future, just the next quarter. It’s government’s job (as elected by the people) to look to the future and ensure the survival and health of our democracy.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        I hope that you never gain any real power, that “slavery is bound to the past” thing is pretty chilling. I think that some other people have used something similar and it didn’t turn out so well for most of their subjects. You can’t create a new man or a new energy paradigm with breaking a lot of things. You ought to try a little reading of history not collectivistic theory, central planning is deadly for many people and has been through history. What makes you think you could do it better?

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        I’m not the extremist here…

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Quite honestly, for me this wouldn’t be a bad type of vehicle to consider as a second car. I do carpool with someone right around the corner, but the roundtrip mileage is 22 miles with about 50/50 city/highway.

    For me alone, that is just over a gallon a day with a 98 Acura TL (avg combined 22mpg), or at current prices $21/week.

    With a newer compact car (avg combined 32mpg*), it would be about $13/week.

    Electricity rates in Idaho, with Idaho Power, are 6.53 cents/kWh in winter and 6.99 cents/kWh in summer (minus $7 rebate on metered AC useage-which you don’t need AC often). I’m not going to calculate that quickly.

    I guess it would be break even to run an electric car for commuting than a compact except for the differentiating cost of monthly payments…let’s say $300/month* for a compact gasser vs $350/month for a Leaf. But then you’re not using fuel or oil, which could have it’s benefits. The major downside is obviously the vehicle is limited to around town trips, while the compact gasser is optimized for highway travel as well. Now, it’s definitely cheaper to keep the old Acura running and enjoy it for quite some time. But, everything has to be replaced, and this Leaf gives another type of option for someone like me to consider. As will other EV 4-doors that will be coming out.

    * = I used a Chevy Cruze ECO for this…I kinda like it. Since we already have a wagon, we don’t need a hatch…but I do want a manual and this has it, along with a turbo. Other vehicle I’ll seriously consider in the next year is the new Impreza.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      36 mpg highway per the EPA and Subaru’s excellent AWD system make the new Impreza pretty compelling. One might find a home in our garage as my wife’s next vehicle.

      And if Subaru builds a hybrid Impreza, we’ll be heading to the dealer to buy one post haste.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        I’m really liking that Impreza, but if they “game” the EPA like every other carmaker has recently, expect the real-world mileage to be less than the stellar numbers listed. Still, even a 20% increase over the old Impreza (certainly possible with the smaller engine and CVT) is well, Imprezzive.

        I’ll be checking them out in the fall, for sure, as I’m in the market for an auto/hatch to replace my manual/sedan.

  • avatar
    djoelt1

    It would work for a second car for perhaps 90% of families in the United States. It would be stupid for a car company to ignore such a large market segment.

    C02 emissions of the electricity this car uses is far less even with coal generation than using gas in a car – we figured that out yesterday.

    Why is the charging station so expensive? I have a 240 60A outlet in my garage; does the charging station do anything beyond limiting the current that goes to the battery?

  • avatar

    $2200 for some fancy plastic charger? That’s a HUGE ripoff.

    Your friendly local electrician can run a 240V outlet out to the garage for a fraction of that. Unless Nissan decided to be huge douches and put a proprietary plug on the thing, there’s no reason why you’d need anything too elaborate.

    If these things catch on, us sparkies might actually have some nice, easy residential work to do again.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    For the plug, you need to wire in an SAE-J1772 plug, which is the Level 2 charging standard agreed on by the car companies. So I don’t think a standard 240 60A outlet would do the trick. Also, I believe the chargers have fancy features like pre-arranged charging times, so you only charge during the middle of the night, when rates are cheaper.

    It is pretty expensive, though. Hopefully, price per unit will come down as adoption becomes more widespread.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      The *problem* is that the standard 240V 60A (clothes dryer) outlet isn’t supported via a smart charger, and that you need to buy an extra, expensive 240V charger.

      The Leaf is pretty fail, IMO.

      When Ford gets around to building a mass-production, mass-sale EV, I hope they do the smart thing and build the charger into the car, with the external bit just being an extension cord that plugs into an existing dryer outlet.

      • 0 avatar
        LimpWristedLiberal

        That’s how it already works. The AC charger is simply an expensive computerized extension cord. All the power electronics are in the car. People have already modified the included 120V charger to work with a dryer outlet and are reporting charge times almost as fast as the dedicated 240V charging system.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        That’s not exactly it. The 240V charger has the AC->DC converter in the car, but you’re still only going to pull about 30 amps through the thing, so it’ll still need hours to charge.

        The 480V DC CHAdeMO port can charge in thirty minutes but the AC->DC converter is at the charge port (because the hardware to get at 480V/125A DC is kinda heavy to lug around all the time). But then we run into the next problem, which is that you’re not going to be able to wire in a Level 3 charge station on a residential circuit. So because you need extra infrastructure support to do better than the 240V rate, having the conversion hardware in the quickcharge station isn’t that big a problem.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Happy to see a ‘real-world’ style write-up on the Leaf. Yeah, it’s got severe limitations, but it’s still practical enough (with the reliability of a major manufacturer) that maybe there will be enough sales (and infrastructure support) to keep Nissan sticking with continual improvements (and the potential of eventual general acceptance).

    It could be the next Prius. OTOH, it could be the next (original) Insight, too…

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      +1 on the “real-world” style write up. The Leaf should find its niche with Greenies who have a house with an attached garage and a more reasonable commute distance.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    I’ll be curious to see how many of these are ordered with nav, given the Leaf’s limited range and the tendency for people to be fairly familiar with their surrounding areas.

  • avatar
    daviel

    This thing just is not practical. Your story just proved to me that the Leaf creates more problems than it solves. I am curious about how the air conditioning performs in 100 degree summer heat. You’re better off with a Vespa IMO

  • avatar
    kingofgix

    This review is like reading about a lumberjack trying to cut down a Sequoia with a nail file. Frustrating, pointless, and completely meaningless in the real world. Choose the proper tool for the job!
    The Leaf is a reasonable tool, just not for the job described in this write-up. For someone with an appropriate commute, the Leaf would be a very reliable, virtually maintenance free, super efficient vehicle. For someone who regularly drives at or near the vehicles range, it is completely inappropriate and foolish.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      The Leaf doesn’t seem to be a reasonable tool for any job – including a short commute. I have a short commute, well within the Leaf’s range. The day I have to tell a buddy that I can’t drive a few miles across town for a beer after work or pick him up in the morning when his car won’t start because my Leaf doesn’t have enough power…well I guess that’s the day I turn in my man card.

      • 0 avatar
        pgcooldad

        +1

        Worst yet, imagine your kid’s soccer practice ending at dusk and you can’t get there to pick her up before nightfall – as you sit at the Piggly Wiggly charging the Ray-o-vac on your Nissan Leach – munching on Funions – and hoping you beat the Pedo-Van.

      • 0 avatar
        Nicodemus

        Absolutely. The whole thing is a joke. I drive about 20 miles round trip to work, so I’m well within the range of the leaf. But whats the advantage? Are they trying to sell me on the economy thing?

        So wheres the sense in paying well over the odds for a vehicle that delivers fuel saving on a trip that is so short that whatever I drive I won’t use much fuel.

        I could buy a decent second hand six litre V8 for a fraction of the cost of a leaf and still be ahead five years from now. The payback on short trips such as mine is woefully long.

        Added to that, the leaf from the write up is a about as exciting to drive as a wheelbarrow.

      • 0 avatar

        If you need to carry one,…

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      Yes, but lest we forget the lessons of the 1970′s…

      Long gas lines, rationing to 10 gal/fillup, even/odd license plate number days, fistfights when a station ran out of gas right when the most angry customer pulls up (who had waited the longest, right?).

      Meanwhile, the Leaf sits away from the fray, quietly charging.

      And it’s all one Mideast conflict away.

  • avatar

    +1 on the real world review.

    My intellect wants to like the leaf. My gut is totally uninspired, and tells me that I would probably have trouble staying awake driving that thing.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    BC Hydro (British Columbia) instituted a 2-tier rate plan for electricity. So people who seek to lower energy consumption by, say, installing a costly geothermal heat pump, or buying a Leaf, will pay the more expensive upper tier rate for this additional power consumption.

    Worse, BC Hydro monitors power consumption, and if it seems unusually high, they report you to the cops. The cops then raid your place looking for pot plants. In a municipality like Abbotsford, the cops are accompanied by all sorts of inspectors, who have all sorts of means to separate you from your house. Even if they don’t find anything, you still have to pay about $5000 for the raid. This is largely irrelevant, but some Leaf buyers may run afoul of this sort of nonsense.

    • 0 avatar
      Canucknucklehead

      And even at the higher tier rate, we still pay some of the lowest rates in the world.

      Your argument doesn’t make much sense since if you replace baseboard heaters with a heat pump, you will save a large amount of electricity.

  • avatar
    jmo

    For someone with an appropriate commute, the Leaf would be a very reliable, virtually maintenance free, super efficient vehicle.

    That is what will eventually sell the TTAC skeptics on the Leaf. From an electrical and mechanical engineering perspective the Leaf power train has the potential to be orders of magnitude more reliable than even the best ICE.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      So go buy one.

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      Orders of magnitude more reliable? Have you driven a modern ICE vehicle? They are very reliable for the most part and orders of magnitude better would be pretty much impossible. You may not realize it but you are saying that nothing ever will go wrong with a Leaf. It will, you know that, so don’t pretend that it is the answer to every problem.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        They are very reliable for the most part and orders of magnitude better would be pretty much impossible.

        If Lexus has 100 power train issues per 100 cars, I could see a Leaf having 10 power train defects per 100 cars over the same time period.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        If Lexus has 100 powertrain issues per 100 vehicles? Do you mean over the course of 15 years? Chances are that if the Leaf exceeds all expectations of durability and reliability, it will need a battery in that same window, one that won’t be worth replacing. Meanwhile, I don’t know anyone that has ever had a drivetrain issue in a Lexus. Your arguments seem to be hobbled by sheer ignorance and an inability to separate fantasy from reality.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Chances are that if the Leaf exceeds all expectations of durability and reliability, it will need a battery in that same window, one that won’t be worth replacing.

        Nissan warranties that battery to 160,000km or 8 years. Not too long ago (and hey, it might still be the case) you wouldn’t reasonably expect a Ford, Chrysler, Mazda, any Saab or certain Hondas to make it that far. Even if you don’t see a major mechanical failure in your ICE car, you still might see repairs that, cumulatively, add up to the price of a new battery

        Plus, Nissan will pay you a recycling bounty for your current pack and in eight years, batteries will be cheaper and better anyway, and are much easier to swap than a modern gasoline powertrain.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Which Hondas weren’t expected to last 100,000 miles? As for Mazdas, basically any of the piston engined ones had the potential to last 160K miles before they got in bed with Ford.

        Electric cars still have suspensions, brakes, wheel bearings, and steering components that will be wear parts. They also have boat loads of electronic components that are the things that provide the most service headaches for modern car owners. 8 year battery life doesn’t compare any better with Lexus drivetrain durability that my guesstimate of 10 year battery life did. If electric vehicle technology starts making the sort of advances necessary for them to be anything other than a bloody burden, it won’t be worth spending $900 to keep a Leaf on the road in 2020.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Nissan warranties that battery to 160,000km or 8 years. Not too long ago (and hey, it might still be the case) you wouldn’t reasonably expect a Ford, Chrysler, Mazda, any Saab or certain Hondas to make it that far.

      How long ago are we talking? I expect my ex to continue driving her 230k km ’92 MX-6 for a few more years. It’s in great condition all around, and I’ll be proud of her if she keeps using it until it dies. As a pharmacist, she could afford a much newer car but she isn’t a wasteful person. Timing belts every 150k are a fairly pricey or labor intensive component of the maintenance though.

  • avatar

    This sounds like driving around with the fuel warning light on hoping you dont run out of gas eventually you do

  • avatar
    Jimal

    “And really, who actually decides to take a road-trip on the spur of the moment on your way home from work on a Wednesday afternoon? If you do, correct us in the comment section.”

    I don’t know about road-trips per say, but at my last job I was known to get the occasional “hall pass” from the wife to go to a co-worker’s house for grilling and a few brews, or to go look at an interesting car someone saw on their way to work. In other words, things happens.

    Of course my commute was 46 miles of back roads and elevation changes so the Leaf would be the best solution to that problem anyway. A Volt maybe, but my guess is I would be running on the ICE at some point in my commute. I think I will stick with my Jetta TDI. 51 MPG on my last long trip and it’s paid for.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    You need heat at only 39 degrees and air conditioning at only 69 degrees. Is Alex short for Alexis, or Alexandra? :P

    I could do without those things at those temps, but they are nice to have, and they’re not even considered a luxury in a “normal” vehicle. So it’s understandable that the car is tested using everything that a consumer is used to having.

    If the pre-heater consumes 1500W while charging on a 120V 15A circuit, that doesn’t leave much, if any, power for charging. What is the maximum allowable current draw on 120V?

    Because the EPA is insane and feels the need to give the Leaf an MPG number, its 106 city, 92 highway and 99 combined. Should that mean anything to you? Nope.

    It’s probably as useful as any other EPA rating for determining operating cost. Assuming 90% charging efficiency, a gallon of electricity costs $3.74 at ten cents per kilowatt-hour. From there, it’s easy to adjust for local rates in order to compare with the cost of operating other vehicles.

    It was interesting to read about your experience with the Leaf. You’ve certainly proven that it’s not suitable for your current situation!

  • avatar
    v65magnafan1

    Ten miles north of Toronto, Leaf owners will freeze to death in their cars. Winter tires? No. Reserve power to rock out of a windrow? No. Enough heat to run defrosters? No. How long does the Leaf take to charge at -20?

    Yet, some fools will buy one. Worse, Nissan might sell them here. If they do, they better sell it with a waiver.

    As for the warm western states, soon no money will be available for subsidies. They’ll have enough trouble keeping police and fire on the job.

    Sorry to be so negative, but the holier-then-thou Green movement is a superfluity we can ill afford.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Ten miles north of Toronto, Leaf owners will freeze to death in their cars

      Considering that next to everyone in the GTA has a cellphone, the area is blanketed with towers, and ten miles from Toronto lands you in any one of a number of ticky-tacky suburbs, freezing to death is highly unlikely.

      The only time you hear of people freezing to death in Pickering, Vaughan or Mississauga is generally if they’re homeless and/or impaired by injury or chemicals.

      You can put winter tires on a Leaf just as you could any normal car, and the battery will work (albeit drain faster, just like a gas car would) and the 80 mile “cold” range is more than enough to get you to a GO station, and for many people, enough to get you from much of the 905 into downtown.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    “And really, who actually decides to take a road-trip on the spur of the moment on your way home from work on a Wednesday afternoon?”

    I do, all the time.

    My drive from home to work is 1.4 miles, takes about 4 minutes.

    It’s also surrounded by wonderful, empty mountain roads.

    When the weather is agreeable it’s quite common for my 1.4 mile 4 minute commute to grow to 100+ miles and 2-3 hours due to recreational barnstorming in the roadster or motorcycle of the day.

    So yeah, I actually decide to do this in a regular basis. But I’m also not the target demographic for the Leaf. Although on paper I probably am, now that I think of it.

  • avatar
    Dekinorman

    Wow, I am amazed by the amount of negative comments and green-bashing going on here. Just as much as the leaf is not the correct tool for some, a large pick-up is not the tool for an urban commuter who carries 5 people on a regular basis. Also, a supercar that can exceed every speed limit in 2nd gear, gets horrible gas mileage and range and carries only 2 people is not the right car for some and will never be one’s only car. No need to hate on the leaf because it is not for you. I’d be happy if more people who could use one were using EVs-cleaner air for me and it might make it easier to hear nice exhaust notes on the roads.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I don’t ‘hate on the leaf’ because it is as useful as wooden shoes. I hate that we’re wasting resources and money on this politically motivated folly whether we’re stupid enough to buy one or not. People who take the government up on the subsidy should realize that they are putting a face on our suicidally corrupt regime.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        People who take the government up on the subsidy should realize that they are putting a face on our suicidally corrupt regime.

        Really?

        The idea that we’d try to get at least some infrastructure in place before the inevitable Saudi revolution sends gas to $12/gallon – makes no sense to you?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        You’re right! We should be working around the clock to prepare for that possibility by expanding US oil and natural gas production. It is crazy not to. Instead, we’ve got a villain in the White House who eliminates 28 billion barrels of oil in Alaska from production one day and then goes after west Texas oil drilling in the name of saving an unknown lizard the next. Suicidal behavior, if he thinks his fate is linked to that of the American citizens.

      • 0 avatar
        Dekinorman

        That’s more of a comment on the political situation rather than the fact that nice EVs exist. Plenty of political will and money is being wasted funding our fossil fuel needs, the EV funding is only a small drop in the bucket. I would argue that by purchasing gasoline, you are putting a face on some pretty terrible policies, too.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Instead, we’ve got a villain in the White House who eliminates 28 billion barrels of oil in Alaska from production one day and then goes after west Texas oil drilling in the name of saving an unknown lizard the next.

        With oil a globally fungible commodity, any level of conceivable domestic production will do next to nothing to blunt the massive price spike caused by a Saudi revolution.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        jmo,

        Even if we wound up selling the oil to China, it would still be trillions of dollars coming into the US economy rather than leaving. There is no defending cutting off our domestic oil production. Electric cars are just a distraction for some hopelessly pliable people while our maliciously undermined future becomes the present.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        “Plenty of political will and money is being wasted funding our fossil fuel needs, the EV funding is only a small drop in the bucket. I would argue that by purchasing gasoline, you are putting a face on some pretty terrible policies, too.”

        You would argue that, but you have to play the hand you’re dealt. Good luck picking me out in the crowd. When Obama’s policies inevitably lead to a full-on disruption of our oil supply, you will learn just how wasted our resources were providing for our fossil fuel needs. Have fun starving to death!

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Even if we wound up selling the oil to China, it would still be trillions of dollars coming into the US economy rather than leaving.

        And how does that prevent massive economic disruption when gas hits $12/gallon? Wouldn’t it be better to have additional technology already in the field that allows us to easily tap our coal, natural gas and nuclear reserves?

        Do you think that maybe it’s not such a good idea to have all our transportation eggs in one highly volatile basket?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Our economy wound up petroleum based because it is the best technology. The current volatility is the result of conscious decisions made to turn us from a net oil exporter into a net oil importer.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        The current volatility is the result of conscious decisions made to turn us from a net oil exporter into a net oil importer.

        Huh? Under no possible circumstances is there enough oil in the US to meet current demand.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        “Huh? Under no possible circumstances is there enough oil in the US to meet current demand.”

        Suppose you found out you were wrong about this seemingly central issue? Suppose we actually have domestic sources for at least 343 years supply and that the number of years will rise rapidly as technology for extracting shale oil increases? Would that change your position?

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        rapidly as technology for extracting shale oil increases

        So, you base your entire theory on dubious “shale oil” technology that hasn’t even been invented yet? Maybe you haven’t noticed, but you can buy a Leaf right now.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Producing, upgrading, and refining shale oil into automotive-grade gasoline isn’t really any cheaper than synthesizing gasoline out of coal, and we’ve got lots of coal, too. (You do realize you get, on average, 10-20 gallons of raw shale oil per ton of oil shale, right? And that raw shale oil needs to be “upgraded” to be as pure as crude, so that it can then go into a refinery?)

        Either way, if we start scraping the bottom of the barrel like that, it certainly doesn’t mean that the price of gas will go down.

        We can make gasoline to last us a while (although every time I see “n years supply!” I wonder if that takes into account increasing demand over time) but cheap gasoline is over.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Jmo, give up, you’ve lost. Your sole arguement is that just because we aren’t energy independent right now there is no use in even trying to develop any more energy in this country ever. A can-do attitude like that will get you far in life mister.

        And griping about unproven shale technologies while defending a practically useless electric car is so irony rich that I have to laugh. At you, not with with you.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Mike, I think jmo is saying that we can become energy-independent if we stop saying that energy == gasoline.

        I mean, really, what’s more likely to advance quicker: faster-charging, higher-density batteries, or shale oil refinement that actually approaches profitability?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I wasn’t completely reliant on shale oil in my estimate. USGS says we’ve got another 116 billion barrels of oil under federal lands, some say it is more like 680 billion based on USGS’ track record. 116 billion is about 17 years supply at current rates, 680 billion is almost 100 years. Green River formation contains about 8 trillion barrels of shale oil, 1.8 trillion accessible with current technology. 10% of that is 25 years worth of oil for the US. People have been trying to improve batteries for over 100 years. How long have we been trying to extract oil from shale? Which is likely to see more rapid advancements, a mature technology that has seen huge investments for marginal increases or an emerging technology? In our current economic climate, what makes more sense? Throwing money into a bunch of scams that are unproven at best and knowns to be fraudulent at worst, or maximizing domestic production of an existing technology that creates wealth, has existing infrastructure, and produces revenue for our financially bankrupt government instead of funnelling it to a bunch of megalomaniacal political cronies?

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        “People have been trying to improve batteries for over 100 years. How long have we been trying to extract oil from shale?”

        Four hundred years. Shale oil was used as lamp fuel in 17th century Italy when whale oil was getting expensive and they didn’t yet realize that liquid petroleum was by far easier to get at. Modern shale oil refinement is, how did you put it? “Unproven at best.”

        Look, you were ranting earlier about “we picked the best technology!” but the best technology was liquid petroleum, and the tap is going to run dry soon. If we really need a replacement to be compatible with our existing gasoline infrastructure, Fischer-Tropsch is way more likely to be profitable than oil shale.

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        No he’s not. He is a bitter-end Malthusian. It’s all going wrong and there is no point to trying to help ourselves, Chicken Little is alive and on TTAC. Like it or not, and you won’t carbon based fuels are the present and the forseeable future. All that energy in batteries you brag about comes from carbon you know.

        One more thing for all you battery lovers, how long have electric cars been around? Over a hundred years and in all that time battery technolgy has moved forward very little. Life is better but weight and charge times aren’t. I would much rather place my future in the hands of developing shale technology that has been made some real advances in the last 20 years.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        aristutle,

        That explains all those shale oil powered flashlights, shale oil powered laptop computers, shale oil powered cell phones, shale oil powered digital watches, shale oil powered fork lifts, shale oil powered calculators, shale oil powered hand tools, shale oil powered trolling motors, and shale oil powered radios I’ve spent my life observing the power limitations of. Too bad nobody ever tried to address the weight and lack of energy storage density of batteries. Oh, wait a minute, I bet they did.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Yeah, I know, it’s not like there have been any significant advancements in battery technology in that same timeframe. Well, I mean other than affordable lithium batteries. I guess those are important. That whole lithium-iron-phosphate thing, was that recent? Does that count?

        I mean, if only we had batteries dense enough and cheap enough to power a remote controlled helicopter that you can buy for twenty bucks from some random kiosk at a mall. That would be unthinkable. No, wait, sorry, that’s at every mall in the United States; it was only unthinkable twenty years ago.

        Look, the Leaf is already at the point where you can charge it in a half-hour, if the appropriate infrastructure is in place. This is a retail product right now. Where’s your oil shale? Where are the plants processing 2000 pounds of rock to get four gallons of gasoline, profitably?

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        There is no defending cutting off our domestic oil production.

        You don’t think it might be a good idea to save some domestic supply for when oil is truly expensive?

  • avatar
    jaje

    I’m not much of a fan of the Leaf or Volt. Too much compromise at this time. However there are customers where these vehicles would be a great fit – and unfortunately the subject here is the worst candidate. You have a 106 mile roundtrip commute through mountains (you live too far from work – that’s just hours of your free time just sitting in a car); you often run errands on top of that long commute; you did not install the quick charger which gave you less than max charge every time you left the house for work; and you work where you do not have easy or safe access to electricity. I’m surprised Nissan did not pass over you and give the car to someone else where this would make sense – such as someone who works from home or has a convenient commute (< 50 mile round trip). Someone who installs the fast charger and has parking at work that is off the street and has easier and safer access to electricity.

    The Volt would work better for you b/c it has smaller batteries and also has a gas engine generator aboard. However, the car you need b/c of the significantly long commute is a small diesel powered car as that will save you the most at the pump and out of pocket.

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    An interesting article and even more interesting comments. Clearly, the Leaf is not for everyone but I could work for many people, myself included.

    I am a businessman and my day involves many stops to visit clients and work sites. Yesterday, I drove at total of 75 km. This is about as much as I ever drive. The longest day I have had this year was 150 km and the Leaf would have had no problem with that based on the figures I have seen published.

    The only way to use this car effectively is in an urban environment and if you have the 240 v charger in your home garage. This means the Leaf would work very well in Japan or here in Vancouver, Soviet Canuckistan. This car would not work well in Southern California where long commutes are the norm.

    Thus the Leaf would be perfect for me and if one came along at a reasonable price, I would buy it. However, even at the very high gasoline prices here in Bolshevik land, I still spend about $200 a month on fuel, which I consider cheap. If I were to go to a smaller car, I could reduce that to $150 pretty easily. Fact is, ladies and gentleman, gasoline is still a screaming deal.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    Sounds like fun, actually, kinda like when im cruisin around on my bike deciding if i wanna take a detour – measuring the amount of energy there is left in my legs!

    Seems that a 240 or larger charger is the way to go. Not having to ever buy gas ever again, no tailpipe, no spark plugs, no oil changes, no filters, no oil leaks to track down, no fuel, oil, or air hoses to fret about, no heater core to leak, no new ehxaust pipes or mufflers, no timing belts, no tune-ups, dear god the mind boggles. Seems that for a few overcomeable obstacles, this is shortly gonna be the way to go. Personally I can’t wait.

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      Yep, no trips longer than the range of the batteries, batteries that get weaker with each charge and limited use of heating and ac. Yeah, sounds great to me. For you a Conestoga wagon would be a better choice actually. All the advantages of the Leaf with none of the drawbacks.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        “For you a Conestoga wagon would be a better choice actually. All the advantages of the Leaf with none of the drawbacks.”

        Uhhh…Beg your pardon? Average 9 – 12 miles a day? Water? Feed? Oh yes, – bring a very large shovel!

        Pretty funny just the same. Boy, this has been a fun series of articles. Can’t wait for installment no. 3!

      • 0 avatar
        jerseydevil

        obviously never owned a horse….they have very real and eye watering costs. And serious range issues as well. And you don’t need to brush, water and feed your leaf… just plug it in. Horses can’t keep up with traffic either, and have no ac at all!

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    The review shows just how much of a niche product the Leaf is. First, owners have to be people who have, not just off-street parking, but garages in which they can install the special 240v charger. Second, owners have to be people who’s daily mileage is less than 80 (accounting for higher consumption in suboptimal weather). A good chunk of those people can — and do — use mass transit. I would fit the profile pretty well (except I have a driveway, but no garage), but this Leaf is a pretty limited-utility vehicle, even for me. I could not use it to visit my 85-year old father in Annapolis (about 50 miles away) or to take a trip to the discount mall in Virginia (about 40 miles away). And, paradoxically, using this thing optimally (i.e. to drive to work every day ~10 miles, fetch groceries and other close-in shopping) the savings come nowhere close enough to justify the purchase of this car over, say, a Honda Fit, which does all of those things plus make the trip to visit my dad, to the discount mall, etc.

    And, if we buy the line of the eco-fascists (that is, those folks who want to dictate individual behavior in the name of “saving the planet”), the net social cost of mandating that everyone drive Honda Fits is far, far less than of mandating that everyone drive Leafs (or subsidizing them and their infrastructure with a variety of tax credits, etc.)and the net energy savings are almost as good.

    IOW, the Leaf is an eco-poseur’s toy and not much more.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      The review shows just how much of a niche product the Leaf is. First, owners have to be people who have, not just off-street parking, but garages in which they can install the special 240v charger. Second, owners have to be people who’s daily mileage is less than 80 (accounting for higher consumption in suboptimal weather).

      So, you mean like 80% of new car buyers?

      http://www.bts.gov/publications/omnistats/volume_03_issue_04/html/figure_02.html

      • 0 avatar
        MikeAR

        Nice trick there, you pulled a random table and adapted it to fit your point of view. Slick trick, one that lots of others have used better than you.

        That proved nothing. A survey of distance to work, have we become such automotons that all we do is drive to work and back? Never taking detours to get groceries and pick up kids, never going to eat or a game after work? Do you disrespect your wife enough to keep her tied close to home with a electric car while you do whatever you want with the ICE car?

        A more believable chart would have accounted for all the miles driven in a typical commuters’ day. You can’t make facts up and expect to win arguements.

  • avatar
    nikita

    My brother drives a CNG Civic daily for his job as a building inspector. Range anxiety is true for him as well (equivalent to 6 gallons of gasoline, less in cold weather). Once you get into a daily routine, if the machine is actually suitable for the mission, it works out just fine. My commute would be perfect for the Leaf, 20 miles each way without convenient public transit, but I cannot justify a dedicated commuter car.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    Provocative article, as evidenced by the big number of comments here.

    I’m a little surprised that nobody’s stated the obvious: the concept of the Volt is fundamentally better.

    Anything positive you can say about the Leaf, you can pretty much say about the Volt. But in a Volt, you can’t get stranded.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      Actually, it has been mentioned several times. Although I’m surprised “the V-word” hasn’t appeared in either article in a non-electromagnetic context…

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      On the other hand, if the Volt is a better fit, maybe you’d be even better off driving a Prius. Proven reliable technology that doesn’t require a tax kick-back to make economic sense.

  • avatar
    MarcKyle64

    I’d rather have the Honda Insight without the range anxiety.

  • avatar

    Admittedly, the author of this article probably should not have gotten a Leaf. His driving pattern does not comfortably fit the car’s rang/charge envelope.

    Ironically, this article should serve as a lesson for those interested in an electric car. Don’t buy one unless your driving pattern consistently fits the range limits with a comfortable margin of safety and/or you have a second car to use when a driving mission exceeds the Leaf’s design.

    I rarely drive beyond the Leaf range and we have a Prius for backup.

    May decide to get a MiEV instead, depending:

    http://biodiversivist.blogspot.com/2011/04/leaf-or-miev-which-should-i-buy.html

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Lots of references to Federal Tax Credits, which translates to Other People’s Money. Add “free electricity” to the list, especially in California.

    When the free ride ends on these tax credits and subsidized free electric stations these cars are going to get real expensive for the owners.

    If the free rides don’t end, they are going to stay expensive for the rest of us.

    I vote (and will vote) to shift those costs back to the environmentally conscious owners of these vehicles so they can do their part by themselves. A special place in heaven awaits them I am sure.


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