Life with a LEAF

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The day Bob Dylan “went electric” and played a rock-n-roll set at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, the audience was clearly outraged. Playing electric guitar at a folk festival was considered heresy at the time, and Dylan was greeted by a chorus of boos and shouts. Despite the icy reception, Dylan put the folk crowd on its ears and the rest, as they say, is history.

Five months after going “electric” with a 2015 Nissan LEAF, I’m pleased to say that the reception my car has received has been far more favorable than Dylan’s. Despite its quirky looks (the LEAF looks like a devilish cousin of the Mini Cooper), the LEAF has served as a fun and reliable transport, taking me to and from work and errands around town. Our daughter Sonia loves it so much, she’s named it “Leafy”.

The LEAF can travel up to 100 miles on a full battery charge. As my driving is largely limited to work (roughly 30 miles total) and errands around town, I knew that the LEAF would be ideal for my commuting needs.

Five months in, I’m just as excited to own and drive the Nissan LEAF as the day we first drove it home from the dealership. In case the idea of an all electric vehicle intrigues you, I’ve assembled some thoughts and observations I’ve recorded on the ownership experience thus far. This isn’t a review, so your mileage (ahem!) may vary.

First thing’s first: Our Nissan LEAF was equipped from the factory with the mid-tier model 6.6kw onboard charger, which is rather unusual because we purchased the base model. (The base model is normally equipped with the slower charging 3.3kw charger).

On a full charge, my Nissan LEAF can drive up to 102 miles. My daily commute expends about 30 miles both ways, and I charge it every other day. The LEAF comes bundled with a 120V charger; it takes up to 14 hours to fully charge the car. With an optionally available 240V mounted charger (approximately $1000 for parts and installation), the charging time is reduced to only 4 hours. Based on my commuting needs, the 120V charger works just fine.

At the end of the day, I plug the car into the wall to recharge overnight. The Nissan LEAF’s consumption has been negligible, given that my utility bills have been about the same since before owning the vehicle.

The LEAF has two driving modes – Normal and Economy. Normal mode gives you a more “peppy” ride, but is also less efficient in energy usage. Economy mode sacrifices some “pep”, but is more energy efficient. I personally have adjusted my driving habits to Economy mode, and it suits me just fine now. You can toggle between either mode with the flick of a button.

I have only sighted two other Nissan LEAF vehicles in the Tampa Bay area, but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t interested in electric vehicles here. Nearly every time someone sees my car, they stop me and ask questions about charging times, mileage, and what I think about driving an electric car. There’s palpable interest. Once electric vehicles can hit the same range as gas vehicles (roughly 300 miles or so), I think more people will make the switch. For my driving needs, it’s perfect.

In terms of cost, my lease payment for the LEAF works out to about the monthly cost of gasoline in my previous vehicle, a Nissan Maxima. The electricity cost per month is more difficult to pinpoint, but my bills have held steady without any appreciable spike in usage. And I haven’t had to stop by the gas station to pump gas in five months. Plus, no more oil filters or oil changes. Double bonus.

If your commuting / traveling range is under 100 miles or so per day, the Nissan LEAF may very well fit the bill. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bob Dylan owns one.

-Krishna

These beautiful and intelligent people wrote

  • qka
    February 3, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    Those of us up here in the frozen North have to ask: How’s the heater?

    • Krishna
      February 3, 2015 at 2:20 pm

      ah, I haven’t tested that out as much – but it is good. Continuous running heat, Defrost or A/C brings the mileage down from 102 to about 92 on a full charge.

  • David Garcia
    February 4, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    I can’t wait until affordable electric vehicles like the LEAF get that extra milage. Several times a week I have to leave the comfort of my home office for drives between 90 to 180 miles. Just a bit too much range for current batteries.