Green Car Report: Nissan Leaf

A MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader reports on her green car, the Nissan Leaf.

| GUIDE TO GREEN CARS, Summer 2012

  • Cantelow Nissan Leaf
    The Nissan Leaf has exceptionally good handling — because the batteries are down low on the car — and really fast pickup.

  • Cantelow Nissan Leaf

My husband and I bought a Nissan Leaf a little over two months ago. We absolutely love it, and use it for 95 percent of our driving or more, even though we live in a hilly, rural area. The closest charging station is 10 miles away, but we plug it in every night in our garage. The range has not been a problem, as a city about 25 miles away is putting in more and more charging stations — one at a grocery store, another at a movie theater, one near a bike trail, etc.

It is incredibly cheap to drive. We average about 3 cents per mile when we do all the charging at our house (even less when we use outside charging stations, which are still mostly free). The maintenance is considerably less than other cars too, supposedly, though we have not had it long enough to know. After we have a year of use history, we plan to install solar panels to cover our house and car together. (We have already greatly reduced the energy needs of our house.)

Green Car Report: Charging Stations

We have had to be careful about charging stations. The older ones do not work for a Nissan Leaf. Fortunately the new technology J1772 stations have now become standard and do accommodate Leafs and Volts. Many of the old ones are being replaced with the new technology, at least here in California, but it is taking a little time. The best place by far to find new technology charging stations in our area is Recargo.

Most stores with charging stations are marking the parking spaces in front of the station as being for EV users only. But some don’t — we’ve had to be vocal about asking them to do that, because a charging station with no parking in front is useless! Only once have I had a car plugged in where I wanted to plug in, but this will presumably happen more as the supply of charging stations and electric cars seesaws ahead. The lights showed the car was full — so I simply unplugged them, plugged myself in for an hour, and then plugged them back in. There is actually an emerging etiquette where EV owners can put a card on their dash saying when they can be unplugged.

Electric Car Benefits and Drawbacks

Our grown kids like the back seat much better than that of our previous Prius or Subaru. The seat is more comfortable, and they can see out better. We find the trunk space quite adequate. Overall, the car is comfortable, feels solid and “good” and like a “real car” — not at all like an oversized golf cart! It has all the amenities we’ve all come to expect like air bags, navigation, cruise control, etc.

The Nissan Leaf has exceptionally good handling, because the batteries are low down on the car, and really fast pickup. This is really fun, especially if you zoom around in “drive” mode. I usually prefer the more staid “eco” mode, though, because it is more environmental.

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