2011 Nissan Leaf Long-Term Road Test


2011 Nissan Leaf SL: Not Made for Emergencies

April 06, 2011

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I signed out the Leaf about an hour before I was notified that I had to return home to tend to a very sick pet. My heart sank. Besides the fear of losing a beloved furry companion, I was filled with dread because the Leaf probably isn't the best car in an emergency. What ifs. All sorts of what ifs popped into my head as I stood in front of my desk. What if I need to travel further than I had planned? I was paralyzed, sweating profusely. After a few choice expletives under my breath, I grabbed my stuff and bolted for the door.

I got to the Leaf, just as Riswick was getting into the Volt. I was a mess, I didn't really know what I was doing with the Leaf. I unplugged it, and hopped in. Riz scampered to the front of the Leaf and shut the charge port door that I forgot about. We flashed a quick thumbs up to each other and I was out of there like an F1 pit stop; a very, very slow pit stop.

Traffic. At 3:30 in the afternoon. This is not what I needed. I kept my cool, but this gave me far too much time to ponder the worst case scenarios. More what ifs. The freeway was crawling at a walking pace, so I switched to Eco mode just in case I needed more range later. The Leaf's crypt-like silence may be calming for some, but at that instant, it just made me feel alone and isolated. Get me home. Please, just get me home.

My mind lingered long enough on range anxiety to realize that this should not be someone's only mode of transportation -- solely for times like this. A while back, my father had a heart attack and I rushed to the hospital in my Lotus. I think I set a new urban speed record in the process. I'm not saying that a sports car is the best vehicle when a crisis breaks, but something reliable with a decent amount of range is.

In seismically active Southern California, the Leaf would be one of the worst choices when the big one hits. Power would likely be out for weeks, so charging is out. That means getting around just got more complicated. In the event the shaking gets bad, I have some power inverters so I can use a car as a makeshift generator and I usually have more than a half tank of fuel in the cars/bikes. This obviously would have limitations if the leaf were the only car in the driveway.

Back to the present emergency. I got home and loaded the cat in the carrier. The Leaf's crypt-like silence seemed like a good thing on the way to the vet, as the little guy didn't need anything to stress him out any further. No word on what ails him yet, fingers crossed. Perhaps I should sign out the Volt until I know for sure.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

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