Skip to comments.Nissan Leaf a comfortable, fun car to drive (For 50 Miles - Then it Dies!)
Posted on 02/14/2011 8:28:45 AM PST by Responsibility2nd
The all-electric Nissan Leaf is now officially on sale, advertised as the first mass-market battery-operated car on the market.
It uses no gasoline and has no tailpipe emissions, because it has no tailpipe.
And even though it's battery powered, like a golf cart, it's a real car, fun to drive, with comfortable seating for up to five people and styling that's mainstream, not quirky like some of the hybrids and earlier electric cars.
For many, this even will be a practical car, one that can meet their everyday transportation needs especially if they live, work and shop within a small area that doesn't require a lot of driving.
It's well-equipped, too, with standard features such as a navigation system, Bluetooth phone connection and automatic climate control amenities once found only on luxury cars.
Some might argue, though, that its price qualifies it as a premium vehicle. It lists for $32,780 (plus $850 freight), before a $7,500 federal tax rebate and varying state tax incentives that can lower the price in some areas to the low $20,000s.
Nissan is making plans to build 150,000 of the Leaf annually at its assembly plant in Tennessee, beginning in late 2012, a number that certainly would qualify the car as a mass-market vehicle if all of those could be sold.
For now, the cars are built in Oppama, Japan, and the plant's capacity 48,000 Leafs a year is so limited that the cars so far are only trickling into the United States. Since it went on sale in December, only about 100 have been delivered to the more than 8,000 U.S. customers with firm orders.
But the key question remains: Will the Leaf ever be accepted by enough consumers to earn status as a mass-market vehicle?
Only time will tell, but after a week of attempting to use the Leaf as my daily driver, as a suburban commuter car, I have my doubts.
Range anxiety? It's no myth. This is the term used to describe the uneasy feeling one might get while driving a car that won't budge after its battery runs down, which in the case of the Leaf is supposed to be up to 100 miles after a full charge.
To help you gauge how much time you have left before the battery goes dead, there is a digital miles-to-empty readout on the Leaf's dashboard.
Only once during my test, though, did that meter ever read as much as 100 miles. That was the morning after I received the vehicle from Nissan, and after I had kept it plugged in all night to a 110-volt power outlet in my garage. If you actually buy or lease a Leaf, you're expected to fork over about $2,000 for a 220-volt charger, which supposedly can recharge a completely depleted battery in about eight hours.
But in the absence of the higher-voltage charger, the Leaf's battery must be topped off using the 110-volt charger, with a cord about 18 feet long, which comes with every Leaf. There is also an indicator on the dash about how long it will take to recharge your Leaf at 110 or 220 volts, depending on the current state of the battery.
Also coming later on is a network of commercial 440-volt fast chargers, to be installed at places such as Cracker Barrel, Walmart, Costco and convenience stores, to top the battery off in about 30 minutes. None of those chargers are available yet, however.
When my tester was almost out of juice, the dash meter showed it would take 20 hours to reach full charge at 110 volts, or eight hours at 220 volts.
Leaving my driveway the first morning, with 100 miles until empty showing on the dash, I thought I was well prepared for my 26.4-mile commute to work and felt that I also would be able to get back home in the evening without having to do any charging while at work.
Here's the real scoop: By the time I got to the interstate highway that leads to my downtown office the entrance ramp is about 2.5 miles from my house the miles-to-empty readout had dropped from 100 to 81, indicating that I already had used 19 miles of the battery's power.
By the time I got to work, the meter read 51 miles left, indicating I had used almost twice the actual miles I'd driven. Luckily, I'd had the foresight to bring the charging cord with me; I'd almost left it at home, believing at that time that I would have plenty of juice to get to work and back, and maybe even take the Leaf out somewhere nice for lunch.
At work, I found a 110-volt outlet attached to the building, in a company parking lot, and plugged in the Leaf. And when I came out nine hours later to drive home, the dash meter showed 77 miles left to go.
I went straight home, and when I got there, the meter was all the way down to 27 miles 50 miles lopped off for the 26.4-mile commute.
OK, I thought the next morning, let's try this again. But wait after charging all night in my garage, again at only 110 volts, the meter showed just 67 miles until empty. With more than a little trepidation, I set off for work again.
Surely, I reasoned, I'll have enough power to get home again if I keep the Leaf hooked up to power at work all day.
When I got to work, though, the meter had dipped all the way down to 16 miles, and bells, lights and a warning voice all told me I was low on battery power as I drove into the parking lot.
Like a dummy, though, I decided to take the car with me to lunch, driving it about 10 miles and interrupting the daylong charge.
So there I was, at 6 p.m., ready to drive home with an electric car that was showing 35 miles to empty, with a 26.4-mile trip ahead of me.
Add to that these conditions: It was dark; snow was falling; and the outside temperature was in the mid-20s.
When I turned on the Leaf's heater/defroster, just as I drove onto the interstate near work, the dash meter immediately dropped from 34 miles to just 29 with 26 miles of driving ahead of me. Using electric heat, which is necessary because there is no gasoline engine in the Leaf to provide heat from the radiator, severely compromised the range of the car.
I turned the heater off. There was nothing I could do about the headlights or windshield wipers, but I figured I could live without heat for the next half-hour or so.
But with 20-plus miles still to go, the meter was already down to 26 miles to empty, and I began thinking about how to conserve energy so I could make it home. If I couldn't make it, the only alternative would have been a tow truck because AAA can't come out and recharge electric cars, at least for now.
Once the traffic cleared and the freeway began flowing freely, I moved to the far right lane and set the Leaf's cruise control on 55 mph instead of my usual 70.
With just two exits to go, about nine miles from home, the meter had dropped to 14 miles to empty, and the car once again was telling me that I needed to recharge. I dropped the speed to 50 and watched in the rearview mirror as more frustrated motorists came up close behind before pulling around.
With just six miles until home, the meter had dropped to eight miles to empty, and I began getting really nervous. Is this what they call range anxiety?
The car was getting even more worried about how much juice its battery had left.
Then, finally, I was coming off my exit, heading down the road toward my home, now just two miles away. The miles-to-empty display had flat lined by this time no miles showing and the navigation system asked me if I wanted to find the nearest recharging station.
I answered yes on the touch screen, and it showed me my own address as the closest charging point, 1.9 miles away.
Now down to 30 mph, my feet, legs and hands starting to freeze. I began coaxing the Leaf along.
Come on, you can do it, come on.
I limped into the driveway, plugged the Leaf up in my garage and went into my house to warm up.
Conclusion: The Leaf isn't for everyone, as Nissan Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn already had told me during an interview a few months earlier. And it's certainly not the car for me, with a 53-mile daily roundtrip commute and the need to drive sometimes during the day while at work.
True. Never seen any battery of all types where a quick charge was the first recommended recharging option. Trickle charging is the best for battery life but also the slowest.
Yep. And all that electricity is completely free. No impact to the local power infrastructure, either.
I'd love to have a car like this, but my garage is full of Obama's Skittle-pooping Unicorns.
Wait till he tries to make a commute in zero degree weather. Wonder how long his battery will last then? Also hope he doesn’t get stuck somewhere; he’ll freeze to death.
Can you identify:
A) What sort of works is attached to those smokestacks?
B) What is the chemistry of the plume coming from them?
C) Under what conditions was that picture taken?
I'll give you a hint, though: that plume looks like water vapor, to me.
>>I limped into the driveway, plugged the Leaf up in my garage and went into my house to warm up.<<
Well, they say our standard of living will be going down.
From the side, it’s an Aztek. From the front, it’s like an Alfa Romeo knocked up an Aztek in a broom closet and then the resulting offspring ate lead paint chips.
I agree, it’s pretty hideous, although I saw a review of it and the reviewer couldn’t stop raving about how good it was (as long as he didn’t have to *look* at it, I guess). 180 hp or so out of a turbo 4, all-wheel-drive, good room inside and good handling, it’s just supposed to be a fantastic little hipstermobile. I just can’t figure if it’s supposed to be an SUV or a car. The Cube’s just a chopped Versa engine/transaxle/frame with that weird body slapped on top. The Juke’s completely new. And ugly.
I drive the “original” Scion xB. I’ve owned 28 cars in my life. Everything from beaters to luxury cars to sports cars and convertibles. This is my all-around favorite of all of them. If I ever have to replace it, I will be looking at the cube before I’d look at the “big” xB.
May have to rethink my plan to get a Leaf. I think I’ll shoot for this car instead, with the 300 mile battery pack.
I bought the xB with a manual. It is probably the reason it feels more like an old Mini and less like a gutless economy car. I think the variable ratio transmissions are a great idea, but if they make it feel gutless, well, I dunno.
I hear you. I have a full-size Ram now. Something smaller would be nice for daily commuting and puttering around, and that’s got nothing to do with the environment. That’s just my wallet yelling “you know, something that gets 25 mpg would be a lot better than your 5.2L Magnum V8 that gets 12 mpg and breaks down frequently. Just saying.”
When the truck finally drops dead, we’ll get something smaller. Until then, I keep my old Dodge warhorse limping along.
Since the car was being reviewed, it was part of the job............
That’s with a new battery. Range drops as the battery gets older. Also, power available drops in cold weather. They don’t tell you in the ads that the battery is used to power radio, lights, accessories and heater.
Electric cars pollute. They pollute by using electric power which is generated by using oil or coal. Batteries pollute. Batteries have to be disposed of when they die, and that pollutes.
My commute is two miles. I would not buy this car after what I just read. Not even at $10k
I could actually use a car like this, but I refuse. It’s too expensive, and too early. I’ll consider it, when the cost is low, less than the cost of more flexible alternatives, and there are charging stations where for a modest sum, one can recharge their car.
Bottom line, I’ll never own one, I’ll be long gone before this technology matures.
I actually like that one and have been following the news on it for a while. The price keeps sneaking on up there making it unaffordable for me at the moment. But it’s good to see someone finally taking the electric car idea to the next stage. Hopefully the Model S will lead to better looking, better performing electrics down the road.
Yeah, it’s fun until someone hits you. Then, KABOOM! Those batteries in those cars are highly explosive. I wouldn’t want to be any where near an electric car when it gets hit.
I searched “power plant smokestack” and that image was right at the top of the list. Didn’t dig any further, as I thought it got the message across.
Electric car follies ping!.........
What a nightmare. You pay $32K for a brand new vehicle and you spend your trip in total fear of being stranded by it as if it were a beat-up old Chevy that you got for $1000.
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