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.
But this review is hilarious. If this had happened to me, I would have called my wife to come get me (in a real car) and called Nissan to come pick up that dead POS off the side of the road.
What a POS. If you want a small cart that gets great mileage that is about the same as the stupid “smart” car - Get a Ford Fiesta. It has exceptional safety ratings too.
Buy a golf cart. It’s cheaper. And it will plug into a standard 110v outlet.
Well yes, driving around in an electric go-kart can be fun, but most people prefer their vehicle to be both useful and fun.
If I was going to get an economical Nissan, I’d get a Cube. Yeah, they look weird, but I rented one last November for a road trip to South Carolina and I was amazed. I thought I’d hate it. I fell in love with it. It’s a box on wheels, but that gives it immense amounts of room inside. The seats are comfortable, if you don’t have rear passengers you’ve got lots of cargo room, it drives great, and it’s amazingly maneuverable.
The best part? It’s a Versa underneath, which is a good platform, and despite being a fairly heavy and boxy car, it did 33 mpg on the highway and well over 25 around town. That continuously variable automatic that Nissan uses takes some getting used to, but it’s actually *more* economical than the manual. Amazing.
Forget the Leaf. It’s nothing but a gimmick.
Shoot, you could buy TWO Ford Fiestas for less than the price of one Nissan Leaf.
I’m not knocking EV technology. I believe one day they will be able to mass produce an electric car that can meet the demands of normal driving. But they ain’t doing that now.
And to make matters worse, our marxist government is subsidizing with taxpayer dollars the sale of these glorified golf carts. And that is what pisses me off the most.
And are you really saving energy? You’re just moving the fossil to energy conversion from under your hood to a plant somewhere miles away. Sorry, this will not work for me.
I wonder how his employer feels about him using their electricity to charge his car?
Reading this article reminded me of internet speed claims. It is never as good as they claim it is supposed to be. Well, ALMOST never.
I wss thinking I might pay ten grand for one of these things. After reading what happened in real world driving. I would not buy one at any price, unless I thought I could resell it for more than I paid.
If these become really popular, expect to see a LOT of them dead on the side of the road as people overestimate how much juice they have.
My commute is 45 miles... One way. Sometimes, that 45 miles will be done in sub-zero temps. Unless it’s run via an on-board nuclear reactor, ANY electric vehicle will lack the performance I require.
Wonder how much this "quick charge" shortens the battery life?
I prefer my pickup.
I can get hundreds of miles out of a tank of gas (More if I fill both tanks) and carry a thousand lbs at the same time. Then there’s the added advantage of being able to stop a any typical gas station, fill up and go again within minutes.
Sure. No tailpipe.
If you need a small car that gets good gas mileage, a we all may thing summer with gas prices, the Fiesta is a good choice. I would love good electric cars aka coal cars but anyone who uses rechargeable batteries knows they do not last. In adddition, china has locked up many o fthe rare earth elements needed to build this stuff.
Meanwhile, my Corolla has a real-world range of 350 miles per charge of its "energy cell", and I can recharge it in about 5 minutes.
And using the heater/defroster or air conditioner doesn't significantly reduce its range.
Oh, yes: it cost about half what Nissan wants for a "Leaf".
Can’t get you to work and back? Well what the hell do you expect for just 30 grand??!!! Besides, good dedicated leftists aren’t supposed to worry about those icky, mundane things like making a living, are they?? And being stuck in a snow storm 5 miles from home should actually be a BLESSING for the environmental whackos in the crowd. It’s communing with nature, isn’t it??!!
It IS hilarious, and will be even more so when the greenies get stranded (OK, I hope it’s not in a bad area).
My electric scooter is like the above story as well — way less real range than advertised. But I basically never ride it more than walking or local transit distance, and in good weather. No complaints given that scenario!
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