Nissan Leaf: My thoughts after a semester

It's been an eventful few months. But not because of my car. I sold my troublesome car and upgraded to one that requires no maintenance or fuel stops.

I'll start from the beginning. You can read my first impressions post about where this all began, but I'll also summarize the situation here:

Car broke, didn't want to pay to fix something that would keep breaking, that thing was a fuel hog, decided to buy an EV because of virtually no fuel or maintenance costs.

I'm going to organize this post into a format that both summarizes my thoughts and answers the implicit questions you probably have.

Range, range anxiety, and stopping to charge?

The Leaf is our city car. It takes us from home to work, home to the grocery store, even home to downtown for events. For that reason, the range hasn't been a problem. For times when I want to leave the city and visit my family up in Jacksonville, I hitch a ride with Ivey and her ICE (yes, that's what us EV users have resorted to calling what you would call "a car" -- stands for Internal Combustion Engine) up the interstate.

I could theoretically take the Leaf up to Jacksonville, but I cheaped out and bought the version without quick charging, so it would take about four times as long to get up there. Leaf buyers, do yourself a favor and get the QC version. Or a Tesla. Yeah, get the Tesla. (Read: 200-300 miles range vs. my 80-100).

Anyway, point is, my range anxiety problems aren't bad, because I use this thing as a city car, which covers all my driving except for Jacksonville trips.

Charging

As I often tell people, this car is like a cell phone. You don't take your phone to a lithium station and pour more juice into it, you just plug it in while you sleep and use it the next day.

The same goes for the car. My work has a nice solar charging station that I park a few times a week, and as my boss described it, "You drive to work, park under this thing, and by the time you leave for home, you got a free tank of gas." It's routine and automatic, and results in me almost never having to worry about it.

That being said, there were a handful of times last semester that I stopped at a public charger. Most times were due to UCF closing the charger without warning (football games, construction, etc). Some times were just because I like waving the EV flag.

Last semester had an unfortunate trait to it where my apartment was on the second floor with no feasible way to plug in my car at home in the event I needed to, so anxiety was not non-existent. After moving to a place on the ground level and buying an extension cord, my anxiety has completely vanished.

But at the end of the day, the only time my car ever gave a low battery warning was on the way to a charger. Once.

The car itself

Things I like

  • It's fast. It doesn't look fast, but it'll 0-35 quicker than any other city car, since there's no transmission, no gears to shift, no engine to rev, etc. Instant torque, straight from the motor to the tires. That becomes very important when trying to get around people at lights.
  • It's quiet. My BMW was loud, mostly due to the convertible top being bent. The Leaf is aerodynamic and has no engine, thus trips can be almost completely silent. I've had plenty of "but I like engine noise!" comments, and I understand them, but I'll echo what my brother said after taking my car for a spin: "There's something actually very sweet about just silently accelerating quickly."
  • The interior is pretty awesome. To sell an EV, Nissan cooked in all their "premium" feel into a economic car, so I've got around-view parking cameras, comfortable seats, heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, remote climate control (read: from an app on my phone), touch screen stereo, etc. It's pretty dang nice.
  • The handling is awesome, since the batteries add a ton of weight to the bottom and, idk, physics and stuff. It takes turns well.
  • Regenerative braking. Two points about this: First, accelerating in a car without this causes all motion of the car to be converted in heat when braking. This means if you speed up to 50mph in a gas car, only to see the light turn red, you lose all your energy. In a car with regenerative braking, like a hybrid or pure EV, you gain 30%-70% of this energy right back into the battery. Sweet. Second, the Leaf, other EVs (especially the Tesla Model S) have a "B" mode where the car will automatically regen brake when the accelerator is let off. This means the "gas" pedal decides my speed, not my acceleration, and letting off on the accelerator will slow the car down substantially. People who drive manual cars have experienced a similar concept when engine braking. I like this mode because it makes slowing down and easing off a lot easier, and it means my car will already be slowing down by the time I press the brake in when I have to sudden stop. Seems like it could be a nice safety benefit.
  • Electricity is cheap. It costs me $0 to charge on my school's solar. When I pay at a public station (read: much higher rates than at home), it costs me $1-$2 to charge fully.

Things I don't like

  • The navigation system is lame, so I usually use my phone.
  • Wish the range were 50% better
  • The butt, though Ivey has stated on record the following: "I like the big butt."

The butt of a Nissan Leaf

Bottom line

Overall, it's a pretty sweet ride. Maybe an eye-sore for some, but it looks like something I would drive, and I think it's a nice ugly-cute cheeky thing.

It's functional, and for me, it's told the same tale to anyone who has driven an EV full time: The future is this. Much less maintenance, the ability to derive fuel from any source, more responsive driving experience, and an overall smoother, quieter, faster car. The Leaf is a manifest to this.

For me, it's definitely a city car, and does poorly for long trips, something Nissan, Tesla, and Chevy have all vouched to fix in their 2017 models. But for someone who always drives in the city, it's been an amazing experience to drive all electric for the last few months.

It's upon us, and it's a good thing. You might not think you'll like it, but I think you'll find you will in time.

Little comment about gas prices

Dumb finance blogs that like tricking you into selling your stock, along with equally dumb internet commenters, have expressed concerns about why anyone would want an EV when gas is sub-$2 a gallon. I'll leave this two bullets:

  • It's not about money. Electric is a better driving experience overall.
  • If gas can drop $2 in a few months without warning, isn't it just a little scary to be a slave to its arbitrary value?

Thanks for reading. Feel free to ask any questions ;)