Driving the Electric Nissan Leaf (Interview)
Donn Davy is a green building consultant, who with his wife, just purchased an electric Nissan Leaf. He generously agreed to the following interview.
Q: What are your personal impressions of the Leaf?
My wife and I love the car, and we vie for time to drive it. It feels quiet and peaceful to drive it. We both don’t feel good about driving gas-guzzlers anymore.
Q: What interested you in it initially, and why did you buy it, compared with other fuel-efficient vehicles, such as a Toyota Prius or Chevy Volt?
We planned on getting an electric car years ago. They are best for the environment, and we try to live in an environmentally friendly way. We have solar panels on our house, and we knew we could use them also to power an electric car. (We are nature lovers and amateur botanists.)
Q: Do you do all the battery charging at home, or are you able to find charging stations while traveling?
There are not so many remote charging stations available – normally we plan our driving so we have enough charge so we don’t need to charge other than at home. We have used remote charging at a Point Reyes restaurant, a church in San Francisco, and a college in Oakland using standard outlets.
Q: How long does it take to charge the battery to full when it has been depleted?
It depends, though we have never depleted it fully. Five and a half hours is the longest charge for us, and we charge in the middle of the night. The car actually calculates when to start charging, and we set the charger to turn off at a certain time. For 110 chargers we get about 5 miles of driving time for one hour of charging, and at 220 maybe 3-4 time as many miles for the same charging time. There are fast chargers available up to 80 percent of a full charge in 30 minutes, but they are not widely available, and not open to the public in our area.
Q: Reports put the range at 60-100 miles. What kind of range have you been getting?
Exactly that. If you are driving 70-75 on the freeway you probably will get about 60. The lower end of the range is for the freeway speeds. It has a lot of power and pickup, and will go 90 mph. Driving carefully with a blend of freeway and city miles, and using the Eco Mode to drive carefully, I have driven 80 miles, with 15 left over on a single charge. After the battery gauge indicates it is empty, there could still be 15-20 miles left. We think with careful driving we might get over 100 miles.
Q: What would you say to someone who is new to electric vehicles and home charging about how to make the transition?
My advice is nothing – you just do it, what you consider is whether your driving requires you to go further than 80 miles. If it does, then you need another car. This car is a commuter car. If you only occasionally go farther, why not rent a car when you need to go farther? It will be far cheaper than owning a second car.
Q: What has been the biggest win so far in purchasing an electric car?
The biggest win is we feel really good about our contribution to the environment. The biggest thrill is driving past gas stations and knowing I will never use them. You can go about 40 miles for a dollar’s worth of electricity. My solar panels on my house, over a year, actually produce more electricity than it consumes, but it appears so far we might need some electricity from the grid as well to charge the Leaf.
Q: I sat in parked Leaf at an electric vehicle fair, and was impressed by the roominess for a small car. What are some of the things you like most about it so far?
We like the concept – we are driving a chic, stylish and environmentally friendly vehicle. It actually has more space for passengers than our Forester (Subaru). It is comfortable, and roomy.
Q: How much of the sticker price did the rebates reduce it by, and which rebates apply to your Leaf?
It is the most affordable car we have purchased, after the rebates: $34,000 minus a five percent dealer discount, then a $7,500 federal rebate, plus a $5,000 check back from the California government. After all the rebates and discount it was only $21,000.
Q: What is the lifespan of the battery pack?
Warrantied for either 8 or 10 years.
Q: Is the car insurance the same as a gas-powered car the same size?
The car insurance is approximately the same.
Q: What kind of improvements would you like to see to the Leaf?
More range – closer to the range you are used to with driving gas-powered cars. Soon there will be quick charging stations though all up and down the West Coast. The predictor of how many remaining miles you have is very inaccurate – it is based on the last ten minutes of driving, like if you have been driving uphill, it predicts little is left, but that is not indicative of your whole trip. The quick charging port is in a configuration that may not be adopted in the U.S., it is the one used in Japan. So my quick charging port might have to be changed. It has great pickup, and corners well, but it feels heavy, and is heavy because of the battery pack. In five years, full charging faster than filling up at a gas station might be possible. I do recommend the car for purchasing or leasing, and all the other Leaf owners I have talked to are every enthusiastic.
Image Credit: Tennen Gas