Nissan's Electric Car: the LEAF.

my nissan leaf

This is the soccer mom's EV choice: the Nissan electric car, which we all know as the Nissan LEAF.  Yes, I've got one too now. (Love. It.)

What makes moms like me prefer the Nissan electric over others, like the Chevy Volt? Well, I can't speak for all of us, but for me, cost was certainly an issue; and I wanted a real electric car, not a hybrid.  I admit, the Chevy Volt is a serious series hybrid (and it's awesome), but it's still a hybrid. I wanted electric.

So before I bought my LEAF, I went prowling around the Internet looking for first impressions of the Nissan electric car. I know people are out there driving them now. so I wanted to know: Do they like them? Is the range meeting expectations? Are they fun to drive?

My first stop was sort of a blogged experiment at Automobile Magazine.

The magazine got hold of one of the first Nissan LEAFs, installed a high-speed charger at work, then sent the car home for a week with one of their writers - different writers every week - to give their impressions of "Living with the Nissan LEAF". They're car people, not electric car people, so take their impressions with as many grains of salt as you like.

  • New Skill Set.
    "I was given the keys to the Nissan Leaf on the Monday immediately following a weekend with a Chevy Volt, so I was already in electric-car mode." Oh? I think getting into electric car mode takes years of practice, not days, my fellow lead-foot. But carry on.
  • Trip Planning.
    "I figured I'd spend the week carefully planning every trip to avoid getting stranded." Is that so? And who's gonna do that in real life? Not this girl. In case someone missed it, I'm just not that organized.
  • Range Anxiety.
    "Indicated range is an elastic estimate that changes seemingly minute to minute." Which means it's practically useless. And anxiety-producing. There is a readout on the dash which informs you of your miles traveled, and then when it starts getting low, lets you know with increasing aggressiveness that it's time to recharge. As if you didn't know. I'm already anxious enough, thank you, Nissan, I really don't need your help in that department. Nissan only piles on more anxiety by never letting you forget your battery state of charge and delivering the state of charge news in terms of miles left 'til Armageddon. When you start out with a full tank and deplete 10 EV "miles" in 2 actual distance miles, and that changes every minute you drive, how could you NOT get anxious? You've known what a mile is your whole life, and now Nissan is defining that familiar term somewhat loosely, to say the least.
  • Battery Drains.
    Second stop was a report on a long test drive by a CNN Money writer who brought the Nissan electric car home with him to drive the family around for a period of time without plugging in. He discovered that climate control (and multiple passengers, probably) really affects your range - and not for the better. Even in the mild climate of the Pacific Northwest, I think I'd take the optional cold weather package with my Nissan LEAF. It's less than a thousand dollars, and provides nice things like:
  • Battery heater;
  • Heated front and rear seats;
  • Heated steering wheel;
  • Rear seat heat duct;
  • Heated mirrors.
  • The battery heater, I understand, is an automatic thing that only kicks in at extremely low temperatures. The rest of the package, though? I'm thinking that stuff would come in handy when trying to avoid draining your battery pack to stay warm.

  • Home Charging: Good.
    The third stop was a Motor Trend blog where the writer was experimenting with taking a Nissan electric car home to his apartment for a week with no outside charging capabilities. He was going to see if he could do it. He got off to a rollicking start with Day 1, but alas, Day 2 was nowhere to be seen. I can only surmise that the experiment didn't go well. With a 21-hour charge time (!) on a 110 volt plug-in, I'll definitely be installing that high speed charging port in the garage.
  • Update: The long charge time is long gone!  Worst case scenario is 8-12 hours or something like that.  I don't know exactly how long it takes to go from empty to full on a 110 volt outlet with my LEAF, but no matter how drained it is at night when I plug in, it's full in the morning.  I don't have a level 2 charger at home, but I don't really need it.


    Here are the specs for the Nissan LEAF that I got from Automobile Magazine:

    • Base price (with destination costs): $33,600 Price as tested by Automobile Magazine: $33,930 Available federal tax rebate: up to $7500
    • Standard Equipment: Normal, high-techish late-model car stuff. (If you want the gritty details, you can get it here.)
    • Nissan-rated range: 100 miles. EPA-rated range: 73 miles. Heavily dependent on your girlyman EV driving skills. Nissan tried to help as best they could with "modes".  A, ECO, and B.  A is just normal.  Eco is more aggressive regen braking, and B is like eco on steroids.  If you really want to stretch your range, drive in B. 
    • Estimated charging time: Level 2: 4 hours. 110-volt outlet: 8-12 hours. DC fast charge to 80%: 30 minutes. 
    • Powertrain: It's got an AC motor and lithium ion batteries. 80 kW AC synchronous motor 24 kWh lithium-ion battery 3.3 kW onboard charger 120-volt portable trickle charging cable 240-volt home charging dock Optional 50 kW DC fast-charging port
    • Front-wheel Drive.
    • Transmission: No transmission, if anybody's surprised by that. Single-speed direct-drive.

    Why the Nissan LEAF for Me?

    I didn't choose the Nissan electric car because it's a better car than the Chevy Volt or other electric cars that are for sale out there now. (And no, Nissan isn't paying me!) It's a personal thing; at the moment, it's the best electric car for me.

    Like I said, I'm a mom, so I guess it's not surprising that I'd choose a mommymobile, right?

    Read more about a Nissan LEAF that runs on sunshine.

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