Electric Car Review: Nissan Leaf

A MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader explains why she loves her Nissan Leaf in this electric car review.

| GUIDE TO GREEN CARS, Summer 2012

  • Silver Nissan Leaf
    Electric car benefits are plentiful! The Nissan Leaf has better gas mileage, regenerative engine breaking and a quick pick-up.

  • Silver Nissan Leaf

I first heard about the Nissan Leaf a couple years ago. I was intrigued by the new technology and even more interested in having a vehicle that didn’t need any gas. For about a year now, Nissan has been introducing the electric car to the public with “drive events,” which is exactly what it sounds like. They have a display area set up, explaining the mechanics of the car, the features and answer any questions people may have. After taking the tour, they let you drive a Leaf. Getting behind the wheel completely sold me on this vehicle.

Electric Car Review: Buying an Electric Car

Just before this drive event happened, I had added up our fuel receipts for just over two weeks and it amounted to over $400. This tour came along at the right time; I was motivated to do something about getting our gas bill down. At the time, my husband had a Nissan Titan with a 36-gallon tank, and I had a Honda S2000 that required premium fuel. Within weeks of attending the drive event at Nissan headquarters in Smyrna, Tenn., the reservations opened up and I put my $99 reservation fee in without hesitation.

The buying process was interesting. Instead of going to a car dealership, a buyer puts the $99 reservation fee in, “builds” their electric car online, picking the color, features, trim line, etc. and, also, picking the dealership that the purchaser wishes to deal with. The buyer is kept apprised of the progress via email from Nissan. My wait wasn’t too long. I put my reservation money in of May 2011 and received my Nissan Leaf in early September 2011. There are many people that have put in reservation money over a year ago and they are still waiting. Nissan is rolling out the electric car in “tiers” of states, a few at a time. The infrastructure needs to be in place in order for this to succeed.

The EV Project

When I purchased the car, I also signed up to be a part of the EV Project which is through the federal government. I got a free home charging unit and an L2, in exchange for them monitoring my electrical usage. I cannot tell you how nice it is to roll the car into the garage and just plug it in. A charge takes about four to five hours, depending on how much of a charge it needs. It is so convenient to plug in and forget about it. There is the option to put the car on a timer, but I don’t drive the car consistently enough to warrant that. It is a great feature to have for those that do the 9 to 5 gig, Monday through Friday.

I charge it, on average, about four times a week. If I run errands around town, it doesn’t need to be charged daily. A hard habit to break is paying attention to the ups and downs of gas prices as I drive past gas stations. I have to keep telling myself that I don’t have to worry about that anymore with this electric car. Currently, we are paying $0.06/kWh to our utility company. (My hope is to have solar implemented, although with the current cost of solar, I think I need to find a previously unknown rich relative to help out or win the lottery.) We leased the car Sept. 4, 2011 and the electric costs, thus far, total about $58. (September 2011: $20.04, October 2011: $16.36, November 2011: $13.26 and, as of Dec. 20, 2011: $9.20). The average nightly charge runs about 70 cents. It works out to about 4 miles/kWh. We have about 3,300 miles on the car. As an aside, we installed an electric hybrid water heater (our whole house is electric) this past spring that saves, on average, about $30 per month on our electric bill. Even with the cost of charging the Nissan Leaf since September, our monthly electric bills have been less each month this year than last year.

Other Electric Car Benefits

The Nissan Leaf also has a feature where you can preheat or precool the car while it is still plugged in, thereby not draining any electricity to get it warm or cool. I have only used the preheat feature once and it was nice getting into a toasty, warm car on a day in the 20s. Our weather here is just changing and getting colder, but I haven’t noticed a significant loss of energy to keep the car heated so far.

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