In Nov of 2011, I wrote Why I was Passing on the Nissan Leaf. Well, in March 2013 – we got one – and we love it.
The 2013’s are slightly improved, but the addressed two big barriers to purchase. Overall, we are very happy with the vehicle. We had more or less decided on the Honda CRV. The 2013 Leaf’s started showing up in Feb 2013.
EVs are very practical cars. They are a delight to drive and cheap to operate. There’s debate over how green they are, but at worse they compare to a 30+ MPG car and and best a heck of a lot greener. That largely depends on the source of your electricity. The primary downside of an EV is overcoming the distance limitations – the Leaf can go about 110 miles on a charge. That makes it a city car. My wife rarely drives out of town so it’s perfect for her.
Regardless of how green EVs are today, I believe that gasoline is not a long term solution. It takes time for things to change; infrastructure, attitudes, technologies. In that sense, EVs are more a part of the solution. By buying into an EV – we are promoting the ongoing R&D efforts of a major transition.
Beyond the green issues, and this is important, the car is a delight to drive. It seats five, does well in the snow (very heavy) and on hills. It’s also priced right. The vehicle itself was about $30k, but Nissan was running some nice leases. We are paying just over $200/mo on a two year lease. That isn’t a lot more than what we were paying for gas before. Remember, with a Leaf, you never need to stop at a gas station.
For about the same price, you can also get a plugin-hybrid which lifts the restrictions on range. We looked at the Ford C-Max Energi. That was an odd vehicle, arguably the worst of both worlds. I am not a big fan of hybrids because they are two cars – two drive systems that need to be maintained. Yes, it did offer longer distances, but primarily as a gutless gas car. Its tiny batteries also made it a gutless electric car. I didn’t have the comfort or room of the Leaf either.
The Ford Focus is a nice car – and very similar to the Leaf in many ways. It drives more like a car. The leaf is more upright – drives like a small SUV (it isn’t). The Focus is more expensive, though a nicer car. (the 2013 Ford’s came out lower than the 2012 Leaf’s, so Nissan dropped the price on the 2013 Leafs).
When we looked at the Leaf before, I had trouble getting past the charger. We had put down a deposit on the Leaf, but we couldn’t get very far without an in-home inspection. I had no interest in hiring Nissan to install this charger in my home. With 2013, Nissan dropped the whole charger thing and just sells the car with a 110 v plug-in charger (6-8 hours). If you want a better solution, you are on your own. That was fine with me – we bought one for $800 online. It took our electrician an hour to install it. Technically, the charger is built-in to the car – the wall accessory pumps 240 volts as the car requests. I have no idea why it costs $800. I expect the wall station costs will drop as the segment matures.
So with a lower price and sensible charger – we became owners of an EV. Actually, Lessees – Nissan basically offered a 0% two year lease. That meant my depreciation was clear up-front (another concern with EVs) and it was in-line with other cars.
I’ve got plenty of things to say about the Leaf – mostly positive. I’ll have some future posts to hit on what they nailed and where they messed up. Overall very happy with it. By the way, we went with the mid-trim package called the SV.