By Steve & Tamami Laser
What’s it like to live with an electric car? We’re talking about pure electric, one that has no gas engine at all, not even on the option list. After driving the Nissan Leaf EV for a week, we’re happy to report that it’s easy to go electric. It’s also fun and affordable too.
Nissan gets a big “thumbs up” for producing the world’s best-selling electric car. To date more than 115,000 Leafs have been sold worldwide.
The EV questions that most people have include “How far can I drive?” and “How do I charge it?” For the 2014 model, the estimated driving range is 84 miles with a full charge.
During our week-long test drive, our range averaged 45 miles. We live in a hilly area and go from sea level to 1,200 feet several times a day. That type of driving consumes a lot of energy.
To get the best possible range, Leaf has an Eco mode that the driver activates by pressing a button. This can help improve range by about 10 percent by limiting output of the electric motor, increasing regenerative braking and managing the climate control.
We discovered that it’s best to use Eco on flat surfaces or when going downhill. Things slowed down quite a bit when we tried Eco on our steep hill climb.
Most owners will opt for Nissan’s home charging station. With this 240-volt wall-mount unit and Leaf’s 6.6 kW onboard charger, recharge time is about five hours. A 110/120V trickle charger takes about 21 hours, and is best reserved for occasional use.
Since we can’t plug-in at our underground parking garage, we had to rely on public charging stations. We used the independent ChargePoint network. The fast-charger at a hotel near our home provided an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes. Since this ChargePoint facility was free, we paid absolutely nothing to drive the Leaf for a week.
Our top-line Leaf SL test car was equipped with the standard 80 kW AC synchronous motor and 24 kW lithium-ion battery pack. With 107 horsepower and 187 ft-lbs of torque, Leaf easily keeps up with traffic on the local highways and freeways.
A single-speed transmission is controlled by a shift-by-wire drive selector that sprouts from the center console like a prop from a “Star Trek” movie. Choices include Park, Reverse, Neutral and B-mode. The latter engages regenerative braking much more aggressively while decelerating to help recharge the Leaf’s batteries.
As the top-line model, our test car was loaded with standard features including leather-trimmed seats, Nissan navigation, Pandora Link for iPhone, a charging timer, heated front seats and steering wheel, pre-heat and pre-cool cabin functions for the auto climate control and Nissan Intelligent Key.
Pricing for the SL starts at $35,020. Our tester added a premium package with around-view monitor and an excellent Bose seven-speaker audio system. Floor mats and destination brought the bottom line to $37,090. Leaf prices begin at $28,980 for the base S model.
However, that’s not really the net cost. A federal tax incentive of up to $7,500 and a potential California state tax credit of $2,500 help to lower the overall cost of ownership.
And remember that you’ll never need to buy gas. How much does it cost to charge at home? Well, there’s the initial cost of the charger, then the juice you use is added to your electric bill. The amount will likely be significantly lower than driving a regular gasoline car.
To help sweeten the deal, Nissan is offering free charging for new Leaf buyers in Los Angeles and other select areas. The “No Charge to Charge” promotion includes Nissan’s EZ-Charge card that provides Leaf owners access to five leading EV charging networks.
For more Leaf information go to www.NissanUSA.com. Visit your local Nissan dealer for a Leaf test drive. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to go electric.
2014 Nissan Leaf press fleet vehicle provided by Nissan North America, Inc.
Story, photos and video ©2014 CarNichiWa