First Week Nissan Leaf Impressions

Front of my 2014 Nissan Leaf SV

I've had my Leaf for a week now, so I suppose it's time to explain my initial reactions.

Why I went electric

The necessary prelude, in tl;dr form: I had a '95 BMW 325i convertible previously that my parents bought for me in high school. It was a beautiful car and I loved driving it, but my commute was racking up huge gasoline bills, and I'm pretty sure several large maintenance items will be required over the next year. The time to sell it was now, and the car to buy was one that used no gas.

But Jonathan, you're 19! How can you afford that?! Considering the costs of maintenance and gasoline, this car is no more expensive each month than my internal combustion engine. If you spend more than $200/mo on gas, this car will break even, and your money will go towards something other than dinosaur goop.

Demonstration

Here's quick video of how the car drives, and other random cool features I like:

Things I like

  • The car doesn't use gasoline, and because my work has a solar charger, the marginal cost of taking a trip is almost 0. In other words, I pay a flat amount each month for a car, and how many trips I take does not affect that. Think of it like an unlimited plan for your phone.
  • The car accelerates and maneuvers very smoothly and quickly
  • Almost zero wind noise (especially compared to my old convertible)
  • Driving inefficiently on occasion does not cost me anything, because my electricity comes from the sun.
  • Stop and go traffic wastes very little energy, because the car absorbs 70% of the locomotion back into the battery when I hit the brakes.
  • The car has a very unique shape and many curious stares

Things I do not like

I'm still in the honeymoon phase, and I researched the car very thoroughly before buying, so there aren't a lot of surprises. But for the sake of making a list:

  • I now dislike gas powered cars

The smell of exhaust, the roar of 10% of the energy being converted into sound, the heat, and the drivers who feel the need to rev up their engines at the light, as if to solidify to me their insecurities about how my zero emission car can still out-drag their V8.

It's like going from 320i to 1080p. You can't go back.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How far can you go? How long does it take to charge?

Officially, I can drive 80-100 miles in the city, and 50-60 on the highway. If that sounds inverted, remember that this car has no problem with stop and go traffic, and thus more speed means more energy.

I don't think in those terms, though. The car is an electronic device, like a cell phone. When I'm not using it, I plug it in, and the next time I use it, the battery has more juice in it and I can drive along my way. If I know I need to drive for a while, I'm sure to charge it fully up and drive efficiently that day, just like how if I'm going to be out late, I charge my phone up and avoid browsing the web when I don't need to.

I'm in a fortunate position where my commute is significantly less than the car's capacity. If you drive less than 80 miles a day, or have a charger at work, range becomes fairly unimportant.

Q: How much does the electricity cost?

It's supposed to be the equivalent of owning an 108mpg vehicle. In my case, the electricity comes from the sun, so it's free to drive. Thanks, UCF!

Q: But electricity uses fossil fuels, and producing an electric car requires gasoline, too. Your car is pointless and you should just use gas.

This isn't a question, but if you have some intelligent points and research to back them up, I'd love to pick your brain and learn your stance. Shoot me an email. Consider this, though:

  • This car is the equivalent of driving an 108mpg car. Even if your electricity comes completely from gas, you're still doubling the rating of the most efficient gas car.
  • This car can be powered with solar, wind, nuclear, natural gas, gasoline or coal. The ability to be agnostic with this allows humanity to switch completely to clean energy.
  • This car has zero emissions. Whether or not you believe in climate change, or the cause of it being humans, remember that exhaust is highly toxic. We don't want our kids breathing that. Here's a sampling of Orlando's air after one week [1]:

Several rags used to clean my white car, soaked in soot from the air around us

  • Gasoline cars also require fossil fuels to be built. Why use gasoline to power a car that already has a debt to the environment?
  • We don't know how much oil there is in the world, but we know it's a cause for conflict, environmental disasters, and uncontrollable prices. On the other hand, when the world goes electric, we allow everyone to switch to completely unrestricted sources of energy.

We have a giant sphere of energy above us, always giving us free unlimited energy. But instead of pursuing that, we stick with "good enough" and continue to use archaic ways of fueling our cars and homes because nobody wants to take a hit and pursue a better future.

Conclusion

I'll end this with a paraphrase of my boss:

You come to work, park your car under this thing, and by the time you leave, you have a free tank of gas. When you put it in those terms, why don't we all do this?!

Nissan Leaf SV

High Resolution CC-By shots on Flickr