Two thousand kilometres in to our "love affair" with our Nissan Leaf, I thought it was time to write a summary review of the experience. The family has been driving the car for the past month or so, and I have spent hundreds of hours reading and re-reading as much information/reviews/tips about the car just to get a handle on this massive piece of technology.
Why the Leaf?
To be honest, this whole journey into Electric Vehicles came with my attempt to purchase a 2018 Chevy Bolt. But since many consider this EV a compliance car meant to satisfy government mandates in California (and similar States), it is poorly marketed and distributed in Ontario. I tried for three months to secure a Bolt, only to be told that I needed to put a deposit down in February 2018 in the hopes of perhaps securing a car in June of 2019!!
I then looked into the amazing Tesla Model 3, but their difficulties with ramping up production to meet demand, and by having my focus set on a Bolt, I missed the chance to get in on the day one orders. All of this means, that my family could have been waiting more than two years to get the car.
Why the hurry? My wife's 2007 Honda Civic was getting a little "long in the tooth", and while we considered limping along for at least another year, a failed master brake cylinder, convinced me that "old faithful" would start costing the equivalent of a car payment a month as 11 year old parts started to fail. This model's well known paint issue also made our car look like it had vitiligo, and was not indicative how well we keep our vehicles maintained.
When you factor in a very attractive $14,000 rebate from the Ontario Government for an electric vehicle, it made it the time to start thinking about this type of technology as our "daily driver" to help compliment our ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) Kia Sorento. The fear that the governing Liberal government will be defeated in the upcoming June 2018 election, and replaced by "we hate everything that we don't understand" Conservatives, only added to the push to get an EV car ASAP.
Range is important to us, as we live approximately 200km from Toronto, and needed a car that could make that trip once a month (give or take). Our daily commute is well within the range of most EVs, including the Hyundai Ioniq, but its small battery was a turn off. Similar cars, such as the Volkswagen e-Golf were also hampered with other issues that just would not fit into our lifestyle.
The 2018 Nissan Leaf was not even in the picture at the start of this whole process. I tripped across some very favourable reviews, and the fact that the car was "available soon" and with a 40kWh battery (240kmish range) made it very attractive. An impressive test drive at Waterloo Nissan pretty much sealed the deal. There is a bit of a story on the purchase itself (and how I managed to get the car months earlier than originally expected) that will be saved for a future blog posting.
The Experience with Scarlet:
We named our 2018 Scarlet Ember Leaf SL "Scarlet" as a result of having to give the car a nickname in the Nissan Connect EV app. We tried to be creative, and only intended for Scarlet to be a temporary name, but here we are a month later and it has stuck.
Before I list the pros and cons of the car after 2000km, I'd like to stress that anyone thinking about buying the Leaf should reserve all judgement about it until they climb in and actually drive it. Of all the vehicles I have owned, including a few sports cars, I find the Leaf (and the e-pedal) the most fun to drive. I originally bought this car as my wife's daily driver, and I am reluctant to allow anyone else to touch the wheel (incl. my soon to be driving 16 year old daughter).
-HEADROOM. I am 6ft8, and I have more room in this car than the Sorento (it reminds me of how awesome the headroom was in my 2003 Beetle). That said, there is no way anyone over the age of 8 is fitting behind me in this car. I know it's sold as a 5 person vehicle, but in reality it seats 4 comfortably, or if they are above average height...maybe 3?
-E-PEDAL. It took a few minutes to get used to, but I love the e-pedal. I have set it as permanently on, and never want to drive this car (or any other one for that matter) without this feature.
-PRO-PILOT ASSIST. I know it's only a small step towards autonomous driving, but Pro Pilot (when it is working...more below) is fantastic. This is the way cruise control should have always been!
-COOL FACTOR. Being one of a very few in my area with an EV, it makes you a bit of a celebrity (ok, I like to think it does...) Every day someone asks me questions about the Leaf, and I use it as an opportunity to educate them on the benefits of saying goodbye to an ICE vehicle. The Leaf is also incredibly sexy looking (especially with my Xpel Ceramic tinted windows).
-BYE-BYE $1.36/l GAS. Pretty self-explanatory. With less maintenance, combined with the fuel savings, most of my reading indicates that I should expect to see $1000 saved for every 10000km driven. During what we expect should be the lifetime of our vehicle, we should save somewhere in the neighbourhood of $16000-$20000 (depending on gas/electricity prices).
-TECHNOLOGY. This is a new model (Leaf 2.0) with a lot of nifty gadgets. I paid considerably more ($5000) over the base S model because of the cool things that the Leaf can do. The technology also helped lower my insurance rates (double check with your broker as there a lot of discounts for modern EV cars and the safety equipment in them). Unfortunately, Nissan has dropped the ball with the roll out of the EV Connect software (at least in Canada). I had to wait for weeks to have them fix something on their end in order for the software to work properly. It is still slow, but the functions (such as pre-warming the car, opening/locking the doors, state of charge, tracking it's movement, etc are all there). Most Canadian drivers experience this same issue...so just stick with it, and remain a thorn in Nissan's side. Eventually, they'll fix it for you :)
Furthermore, last week, one or more of the sonar sensors in my car went on the fritz. This is also becoming a more widely reported problem. While the car is driveable, a lot of the funky abilities, such as Pro-Assist, are not working. My dealer let it slip that there seems to be a problem with the sensor, and they are ordering me the "new version". Whatever that means..and whenever that part will arrive is anyone's guess. This makes me a very angry customer..and one that will keep on Nissan until he gets a straight answer and an ETA.
-RANGE. I drive like a normal person. I don't hypermile, but then again, I don't speed either. But living in this part of Southwestern Ontario we have hills, snow, cold weather, and travel large distances (with very few public chargers (yet)). The advertised 240km range is not something I will experience (despite what the guess-o-meter reports on the dash). Real world drivers, not Norwegians out to prove something, should experience around 200(ish) kms per full charge (assuming there is no head wind that can cut your range by another 30-40%) But again, it is reported by many that it is best to only charge the battery to 80% capacity. Which leads me to...
-BATTERY ANXIETY. Many talk of range anxiety, but I am a lot more anxious about my non-liquid cooled battery and it's potential lifespan. One benefit of living in the snow belt is that while we lose range in the winter, the generally cooler climate means that our batteries should last longer than those who live in Arizona, Texas, Nevada and California. Many users report, in the older Leaf generations, significant loss in range because of deterioration of the batteries to hold a charge (often referred to as "dropping bars"). While the 2018 Leaf has a 160000km/8 year battery warranty, what they don't tell you is that they warranty only guarantees that you'll have approximately 66% of initial range left at the end of that time (so..that 240km potentially becomes 159km)
More than a few users are also upset about the inability for the battery to be rapidly quick charged more than twice a day (which may even prove to be once a day, as soon as drivers in the sunbelt experience a few 45C days this summer). Referred to on Twitter as #rapidgate, this phenomena happened to us on our first trip to Toronto. We quick charged 175km into our trip back up to 100%, drove around Toronto for the day, and then quick charged back up to 100% (at the same charger) on our way home. The second charge seemed to take forever, and while I wasn't monitoring it, it was significantly slower than the morning charge (and it was -6C outside..what will it be like in the middle of summer?)
This way of controlling the heat in the battery pack was not shared by Nissan before my purchase, and I am not pleased at all. I do understand that 95% of my driving will not involve a rapid charger, but unlike many Nissan apologists (or should I say fan-boys?), I do have to drive a day or two a month where I will need more than one rapid charge. Also, the planned 575km trip to visit our oldest daughter in Ottawa this summer will no longer be the grand adventure in the Leaf, but rather the usual $150 in gas round trip in the Sorento. The usual 6 hour trip, assuming the quick charging proceeds as noted in many investigations by EV bloggers could make it over 14 hours one way. That is unacceptable. In fact, the Ioniq that I discounted early on in my explorations could make the trip in less time (because it does not suffer from the slow down in quick charging).
Bullsh*t to Avoid
-SO CALLED "EXPERTS". Maybe I fall into this category for some? There are many people with "opinions" masquerading as "facts". For example, Pro Pilot/Cruise Control does not negatively effect range. In fact, since the computer is a better driver than 99.99% of the humans on the planet, it's acceleration and deceleration patterns actually are better than what our reflexes and brains can accomplish. Same goes for other "silly" range savers...your entertainment unit does not significantly impact range. Your heated steering wheel and heated seats are actually run off the 12V battery, and as such have no impact on range either. Your heater, even with the heat pump in the SL and SV do have an impact, but then again, did you buy the car to freeze in? This is 2018...surely the creature comfort of "heat" should be considered when establishing range numbers. The impact is quite significant (around 20% to keep my cabin at a reasonable 18C on our daily commute). I cannot comment on A/C yet, as summer seems to be so far away at the moment. (update to follow in another blog entry).
-RANGE ANXIETY. I try to keep my ICE vehicle above a half-tank (something my father taught me). That habit is hard to break with an EV, but you do get used it. When my charge drops below 50%, it doesn't bother me (well..as much..lol). You have to look, and plan for, the entire journey. It takes a trip or two (my journey to Toronto was to help me get used to low % numbers), but you do start to figure it out. You will learn about what your car can do. The battery % in my Leaf drops 5% very quickly..but then seems to level out for the rest of the journey, and is downright miserly during the last 20%. I have never entered "turtle mode", nor do I want to....
-YOU DON'T NEED A HOME CHARGER. Yes, yes you do. The one that comes from Nissan is nice (Level I and II), and comes in a handy carrying case. It is not meant to be used every day. It is meant to sit in the handy carrying case inside your trunk waiting for the day you need to plug in at work, or some other emergency. Find yourself a solid EVSE that fits your budget (avoid the crap off of aliexpress.com). I highly recommend the JuiceBox Pro, as it is somewhat future-proof, well built, and has some nifty wi-fi management tools that you will come to depend on. It cost me $975Cdn, but the Ontario Government rebates will cover half of that (up to $500). The same goes for the installation of a 50amp Nema 15-50p outlet in my garage (the government will cover half of the installation up to $500.) Many Provinces, American States, and EU Countries have similar rebate programs.
-XPEL PRIME XR CERAMIC TINT: ceramic tint helps keep the car significantly cooler in the summer (and with the black leather seats and the energy-sucking A/C this is a sound investment)($250Cdn)
-3M PAINT PROTECTION FILM: this see-through film covers the front part of the hood of the Leaf and stops stone chips ($200Cdn). The Leaf is angled to the road, so I can only imagine how many dings it would suffer without it. Some people cover the entire car, I only did the first half of the hood/charging port. It can be expensive. I intend on covering the rocker panels and front headlights later this spring ($300Cdn).
-WEATHERTECH FLOOR LINER: perfectly shaped to the car and well worth the price to keep slush/salt/water off the carpet ($180Cdn)
-CHROME LEAF: usually I don't put anything on my car, but being Canadian and driving a Leaf, this was almost a "have to" purchase ($10Cdn)
Bjorn Nyland: Tesla S owner who runs an interesting channel on electric vehicles, and has done some research on the battery issues with the 2018 Leaf.
David Laur: Excellent blog from an experienced EV driver.
Electric Leaf Man: Youtube video blog about living the EV life with a Nissan Leaf.
Fancy A BEV Mate?: Ongoing Youtube video blog by a British Taxi driver covering his experiences with the 2018 Leaf
MyNissanLeaf: A discussion forum for all model years of the Nissan Leaf EV.
2018 Nissan Leaf Owners
Canada Nissan Leaf Owners
Nissan Leaf D.I.Y.
Nissan LEAF Owners Group