2011 Nissan Leaf Long-Term Road Test

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Round Trip Attempt Fail

August 03, 2011

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Our 2011 Nissan Leaf is safely tucked away in the Edmunds, garage, but try as I might I was unable to make the 93.2-mile round trip on a single charge. After a series of unexpected events I had to stop short of my goal and duck into the Edmunds static test lab/photo studio for 90 minutes to add in enough juice to get me through the last 3.5 miles.

It started last night, when I completed my 46.6-mile commute home with 53 miles of additional range left on the meter. Getting back to work the next day on a single charge had seemed so easy, so possible, especially since I had done it previously over a longer distance in a less-sophisticated Mini E.

And then there was our experience running the Leaf on a closed course for 132 miles, in which the predictive powers of the range gauge had been spot-on. A 6.5-mile cushion seemed like more than enough to make it back this morning.

And it might have been, too, if only I hadn't gotten a little too eager/desperate to enter the carpool lane when the 405 freeway started to bunch up around Century Blvd.

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2011 Nissan Leaf SL: Waiting for a Tow (live)

August 03, 2011

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Anyone else here following Dan Edmunds on Twitter? If you are you'd know that he intended to try a round-trip commute from office to home (46 miles) to office (another 46 miles) on one charge.

He didn't make it (I'll let him explain why in another post-- his math was right but there were, as happens in real life, some unforeseen occurrences which he's tweeted) and is currently waiting for a tow on the 405. "I should have made it with no problem. I had a 7 mile surplus and I never drove faster than 53." reads a text he sent me seconds ago.

**The tow truck driver just drove past him. And with no turtle showing, he's going to risk the 5 mile drive to our photo studio**

** He's made it to the studio-- not our office-- thanks to a sub-freeway speed and ample use of four-way flashers**

Mike Magrath, Features Editor @ (---) miles of range (but no flashing turtle)

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2011 Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt: June and July Fuel Economy Update

August 02, 2011

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Yes, this time you get two months of fuel consumption data for the price of one. I was busy moving last month and plum forgot to update the electricity and gasoline consumption stats for our 2011 Chevrolet Volt and 2011 Nissan Leaf.

June highlights:

Our Volt went the entire month without gassing up until the bitter end. It could have gone well into July, but we called it in on the last day of June to top it up with 5.42 gallons so I could close out the month and make the calculation. Over some 604 miles, the apparent mpg worked out to 111.5 mpg. Of course only 186.4 of those miles were covered with those 5.42 gallons, so the real gasoline fuel economy was 34.4 mpg. This is possible because we plugged it in a lot in June, as evidenced by a rockin' 69% Utility Factor. These all-electric miles, 417.6 of them, came courtesy of 148 kWh of purchased electricity.

Meanwhile, the Nissan Leaf ran 262.6 miles on 74.9 kWh of juice, and that's pretty much it. Say what you will about the relative merits of these two cars, but the all-electric Leaf is a lot easier to keep tabs on because a constant 100% U.F. is guaranteed.

Now for some nice tables.

2011 Chevrolet Volt

Best

Worst

Average

Electricity (kwh/100 mi)

20.6

58.4

34.0

Electric Range (miles)

54.6

23.5

38.4

Gasoline (mpg)

42.6

21.8

33.9

2011 Nissan Leaf

Best

Worst

Average

Electricity (kwh/100 mi)

22.0

53.8

33.7

Projected Range (miles)

104.0

65.8

85.2

Observed Range (miles)

76.7

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Max Range Round Trip

August 02, 2011

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The dash predicted 99 miles of total range when I left work in the 2011 Nissan Leaf this afternoon. Things look much the same now that I'm home, and it seems like I have enough remaining range to risk NOT plugging in an attempt to make the return trip on the same charge.

Should I go for it?

Before you answer, consider this:

  • In normal usage, no one in the office has driven this machine more than 76.7 miles on a single charge before wussing out -- and that was me. If I am able to make it back I will smash that record with something like a 92.8-mile run.
  • The Leaf's official EPA range rating is 75 miles, but that's on a combined basis; it's not a maximum.
  • We have run out of juice in this machine before, and it wasn't any fun. The range meter doesn't seem to have any sort of pessimistic safety margin built in, either.
  • I do have a AAA account in good standing.
  • My trip home today included the perfect amount of traffic -- I was never able to go over 60 mph and I spent a lot of time going with the slightly retarded flow at 35-45 mph.
  • I'll have little or no traffic tomorrow morning unless I leave later than usual in an attempt to catch a little, or I can choose to run with the trucks in the right lane to keep my speed in check.
  • I will not need headlights or air conditioning tomorrow morning.

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Range is Always a Concern

July 29, 2011

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This week is the first time I've driven our 2011 Nissan Leaf home from the office. One direction is 40 miles. I figured this was just too far and the remaining trip range (47 miles) supports my assumption. Now I could probably gamble and make it back without a refresh, but I'd rather not. I need to plug it into the wall. And according to the IP, that will cost me 11 hours. Based on this scenario I could'nt make it through a typical week without a second car.

My commute is probably longer than the average Leaf driver. But if I had a 240V charger at home and the office, the Leaf becomes a feasible mode of transportation for my weekday grind. I didn't expect that.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 3,144 miles

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2011 Nissan Leaf SL: Miles to Recharge

July 20, 2011

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I like this icon that Nissan came up with to represent "fuel" in the electric Leaf. They took the classic gas pump image, which is a familiar icon to all drivers, and added a plug hanging off the side. Very clear. You know immediately what this icon means.

In the picture below you can see the Mini E had an image of a battery for its icon. I like the Leaf's better, although the Mini E's took up a lot less space. What do you think?

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2011 Nissan Leaf SL: Drinking It Up at The Office

July 07, 2011

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I spotted this new Nissan Leaf in the Santa Monica parking garage of our office getting nourishment from the wall. That outlet is 110V so it would take 21 hours to charge the car to full from empty. I hope the owner either lives close by or the battery was only partially depleted.

In any event, although he must have arrived early to snag a space near an outlet, this guy was able to make the Leaf work as his daily commuter.

So in your face EV naysayers!

And although I usually like most cars in black, the Leaf ain't one of them.

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer @ ~2,900 miles

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2011 Nissan Leaf: First Time

June 30, 2011

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This was my first time driving the Nissan Leaf. I'm not sure what took me so long to try it. I liked our electric Mini E very much but for some reason I've been avoiding the Leaf and the Chevy Volt.

Driving the Leaf is very similar to driving the Mini E. Full torque as you put your foot down. The same whirring noise. The range per charge is similar at 100 miles. The regenerative braking is less aggressive in feel but it recoups a lot of power on the fly.

At first I was a little concerned. When I got into the Leaf the range stated 100 miles. Before I even pulled out of our lot it was at 98. And by the time I exited our parking garage and stopped at the red light on our corner, I was down to 93. But as soon as I got on the freeway and was coasting along at around 45 mph in mild traffic, I started to gain back estimated range. At one point I was almost near my exit and the range meter read 101 miles. I thought I might make it home with more than I started. But as soon as I got into stop-and-go traffic, the range started dropping. By the time I got home (total trip 20.5 miles) the range meter read 83.

The Leaf had plenty of juice enough for me to drive home, drive to dinner last night, run some errands this morning, and get me back to the office with about half its charge left.

I'm not crazy about the Leaf's interior. It's pleasant enough but I wish Nissan had designed it to be more normal looking. The Mini E looked just like a regular Mini Cooper except for the lack of a back seat. But it had pretty much the same gauges. Nissan seemed to go the Toyota Prius route with the Leaf. It has a special little shifter and a layered dash that feels miles away. I'd rather it look and feel like a normal car.

I had to consult the manual to figure out some of the cryptic icons. Some of them seem repetitive. I was concerned about a red triangle warning light. But it was just telling me that the parking brake was set. There is also a parking brake light. Plus, there's the range meter, the power meter, and in the top section of the dash another meter that calculates your usage on the fly. Seems like overkill.

All in all, I liked driving the Nissan Leaf. I would have signed it out for the weekend but it's a holiday and who knows how far I might want to go.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 2,714 miles

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2011 Nissan Leaf SL: First Production EV to Climb Pikes Peak

June 27, 2011

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This weekend was the 89th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and, for the first time, a series-production electric vehicle made the climb. And behind the wheel was none other than our very own Scott Doggett. Unfortunately our long termer couldn't make the trip to Colorado Springs, but Nissan had one at the ready.

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2011 Nissan Leaf SL: AAA to Offer Mobile Charging

June 22, 2011

Leaf AAA.jpg Edmunds Auto Observer is reporting that the American Automobile Association (AAA) will be offering mobile charging for EVs that run out of juice.

Details are limited at the moment, but Auto Observer speculates that the charging will most likely use the faster Level 3 chargers. Level 2 chargers, which require eight hours for a full charge, would not be a practical solution.

Not all EVs and not all Leafs have a plug to accommodate a Level 3 charger. The "Quick Charge Port" (left plug in the photo above) is a $700 option only available on the Leaf's higher SL trim level. A 30-minute charge from the 500-volt quick charger can bring the battery to within 80 percent of a full battery.

The AAA program is scheduled to launch later this summer in a few select cities. We're hoping Los Angeles is one of them, just in case we have another incident like this. A 30-minute charge would have given us plenty of battery power to get back to the office and avoided the hassle of having the car towed.

Would you be more willing to purchase an electric car if more of these AAA trucks were out there? Would it help alleviate your range anxiety?

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 2,602 miles

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2011 Nissan Leaf SL: New Charging Options

June 21, 2011


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The cost of the 2011 Nissan Leaf is complicated by many factors that subtract and add to the purchase price. One cost, the home charging station, is frequently quoted as being $2,000 for the purchase and installation. I'm getting ready to receive my own personal Leaf so I got an electrician to come look at my wiring system.

The electrician was a hip, young dude who's owned the Toyota RAV4 EV for years. After looking over my electrical panel he said, "You know, there's another option which could save you a ton of dough." Save money? Okay, I'm listening.

"You don't really need a home charging station," he said. "You just need a 240 volt connection and then you can modify the cord that comes with it to charge at the higher voltage." And how much is that? He said he would replace my old, corroded circuit breaker system and install an external 240 volt outlet for $900 parts, permit and labor. (Installing just the 240 outlet would be much cheaper.) My only other expense is $239 to modify the cord included with my car so I can charge from the outlet at 240 volts.

Last night, I took the Edmunds.com Leaf home and plugged it in on the 110 volt connector inside my new box (our cord isn't modified to use the 240 plug). In the morning, the Leaf was completely recharged and showed a 104-mile range. This dropped quickly, of course, but when I got to the office, after covering 32 miles, I still had an indicated range of 62 miles.

The electrician said he frequently goes to visit his parents in his RAV4 EV and their house is outside his comfortable round-trip range. To solve this problem, he installed a 240 volt charging outlet at their house. His car is charging as he visits with his folks. A nice solution that essentially boosts the range of his EV.

Philip Reed, Edmunds senior consumer advice editor @ 2,589 miles

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2011 Nissan Leaf: It's Gaining on Us!

May 24, 2011


Turtle Leaf.jpg

This photo is red meat for EV haters who say that electric cars are slow, dull and nothing more than a flash in the pan. Meanwhile, I'm going to be leasing one this summer so I drive the Edmunds Leaf often to make sure I really want to buy into a new lifestyle.

As Scott Jacobs points out the Leaf isn't really that slow, needing only about 10.2 seconds to get up to 60 mph. But it feels faster since it's quiet, seamless and delivers instant torque.

Meanwhile, I continue to justify my decision by saying the Leaf is the only car (aside from a Honda Civic GX or Tesla) to get me into the carpool lanes. Since the range is greatly improved by driving at speeds from 45 to about 65 mph, I'll leave later to let the carpool lanes load up a bit. Then my 62-mile round trip will leave a little wiggle room for a lunch-hour adventure.

The numbers from my most recent commute are encouraging. I left the office with an indicated 88 miles of range. After traveling 31 miles to my house I had 61 miles of range left. I ran errands after dinner and arrived back in the office this morning after traveling a total of 72.5 miles with 14 miles of range remaining. So the predicted 88 miles was looking like an actual 86 miles of driving.

Philip Reed, Edmunds senior consumer advice editor @ 2,376

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2011 Nissan Leaf 'Runs Out of Juice' During Top Gear Filming

May 16, 2011

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Top Gear fans in Lincoln, England, got a chance to live the dream and walk among their idols when the Top Gear UK team stopped into town to film an episode. TV hosts Jeremy Clarkson and James May enlisted the help of the townspeople when the 2011 Nissan Leaf they were filming ran out of juice and needed to be pushed near an outlet where it could be charged.

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2011 Nissan Leaf: The Bitter End -- Real-World Edition

May 09, 2011


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So this is what the Monday after a weekend with the Leaf looked like.

Sigh. Full story after the jump.

Friday evening. The car board comes around, so that the editors can each select a car for the weekend. I sign up for the Leaf -- I don't have a lot of driving planned, and figure the quiet weekend will be a good match for the Leaf's limited range.

Anyway, the weekend winds up being more social than I'd anticipated, with the Leaf heaving and stopping through West L.A. and even inching its way into Hollywood's perpetually congested streets. By the time Monday morning yawns and stretches, I've put 53 miles on the Leaf's odometer -- almost all of that from city driving. As I'm pulling out of the carport on the way to work, the Leaf's distance-to-empty (DTE) gauge is showing 13 miles.

Thirteen miles. No cause for concern, I reason. After all, I live only seven miles away from the Edmunds nerve center. Should be able to get there with a few miles to spare.

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2011 Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt: April "Fuel" Economy Update

May 06, 2011

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Once again it's time to update the fuel and electricity consumption logs for our 2011 Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf. At the shop, our Coulomb level II charger records the number of kilowatt-hours (kWh) consumed during each battery recharge.

What you see above is a Kill-A-Watt EZ, the home unit we use to measure the number of kWh needed to recharge away from the office. Each car carries one.

Here's what it all means with April added in...

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Average Use Patterns

May 05, 2011

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Are you the owner of one of the 1,044 Leaf hatchbacks that have found a home in the US since the car's launch in December 2010? If so, maybe you're wondering what your fellow Leaf owners are like, and how they interact with the car. Nissan has a few answers.

Via Carwings, the spyware telematics system that's standard on all Leaf models, Nissan has compiled aggregate data regarding the use patterns of the first Leaf owners. Here's the dirt:

-The average trip length of these early adopters is 7 miles
-Most charge on a Level 2, 220-volt charger at their homes
-The average charging time is 2 hours and 11 minutes

Reports Nissan: "Leaf owners are a combination of conscientious environmentalists and tech-savvy individuals. They are highly educated, have excellent credit, and are in the nation's top 15 percent for household income."

Any Leaf owners out there? Do these stats jibe with your own experience?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Driving It To The Bitter End

May 04, 2011

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We've all been curious since Day One; you've asked for it, we've wanted to do it. Now, at last, we know how far our 2011 Nissan Leaf can go on a single charge. And we also know what this electric car goes through as it slowly convulses and dies at the side of the road.

This last point is why it took so long to arrange this test. Crapping out on some random road or freeway with unknown emergency parking and uncertain traffic simply wouldn't do. Sure, we could have done it at 2:00 am somewhere, but the video would have been a little, shall we say...dark.

Besides, we were going for distance. To do that we would need to drive the Leaf slowly for miles and miles of uninterrupted miles with no traffic. What we needed was a big oval test track, a place where we could set the cruise, settle in and run the most boring laps imaginable while the Raptor and its rescue trailer sat in the shade, waiting for a radio call.

For no other reason than it sounded about right, we chose 35 mph as our test speed. We've heard tales of a Tesla running some amazing distance, but they supposedly did it at something like 17 mph. We'd shoot ourselves if we had to drive that slowly for an estimated 9 or 10 hours -- without cruise control, mind you, because it won't work at such a snail's pace.

To us, 35 mph sounded like a reasonable slow speed, something that reasonable people might actually average in a suburban setting. Something our drivers might stand a reasonable chance of staying awake for.

How far did our 2011 Nissan Leaf take us at a steady 35 mph? Find out after the jump.

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2011 Nissan Leaf SL: I Win

April 29, 2011

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Watching Mark and Dan struggle to count trees recently was fun, but I win.

I got all of the trees the first day I spent with our long term 2011 Nissan Leaf SL back in March. What can I say, I like games. As soon as I read the manual and found out the max number of trees (four small, one big) I was determined to get it IN THAT DRIVE. It took some miles and a whole lot of pointless driving, but it was almost too easy. Like a really unrewarding final boss in a video game, it was just ...over.

We need a tougher sequel.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor, Edmunds.com

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Happy Tree Friends

April 19, 2011

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Sorry Mark. Here is photographic proof that the 2011 Nissan Leaf can grow more than 1 large and 3 small trees. Check out the forest I had going after a semi-slow freeway ride home a couple weeks back: four grown, working on number five. Oh yeah.

What is the maximum number of happy little trees the Leaf can grow? We plan to find out in a little test we're cooking up for next week.

Bob Ross would love it.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing and One-Upsmanship

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Christmas in April

April 19, 2011

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Our Honda Insight gave us flowers. The Fusion Hybrid grows a patch of leaves. The Nissan Leaf? Trees. I like these visual incentives. It makes driving like an octogenarian tolerable. I attained the first tree pretty easily; within the first seven miles of my drive home. By the time I hit 10 miles, I had a tree-and-a-half. According to the owner's manual (which appears to be printed on recycled paper), the display maxes out at three mini trees and one big one. I'm on a mission to someday get all four.

Now I'm wondering how much fun we can make these incentives...

Maybe we can start with a cartoon of a regular guy. As you drive more eco-friendly, he begins to transform into a hippie -- his beard gets longer, his clothes goes tie-dye. Keep going, and maybe his old lady appears and at the final level, they start freeform dancing.

Or maybe we go with a middle-eastern despot. The more eco points you earn, the angrier he gets; ending with cartoon steam jetting from his ears.

We can also think up some visuals for when you're not driving economically. I always thought that the Ford Fusion Hybrid's leaves should burst into flames and rain down in ashes when you lose one. Maybe our hippies start giving you the stink eye like you just harshed their buzz, and our oil despot begins to smile demonically, greedily rubbing his hands together?

Ok, maybe the trees are a good idea after all.

What would you like to see as an eco-indicator?

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

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2011 Nissan Leaf: How To Get To Fontana

April 11, 2011

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Our 2011 Nissan Leaf is headed to our test track at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. Technically, it can make the drive from Santa Monica to Fontucky on a full charge, but the distance is such that it would arrive with precious little juice left for testing.

Since our standard procedure is to test all cars with a full gas tank and/or a full battery, the journey has become a two-vehicle, two-step process. Step One consists of the Leaf spending the night at my house getting juiced up. Step Two involves our 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor and a U-haul trailer, both of which stand ready and waiting nearby to drag the Leaf and its fully charged battery out to the track tomorrow morning.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing at 1,741 miles

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Campgrounds Cure Range Anxiety

April 06, 2011

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One of the things that can make electric cars a no-go for many is the fact that since the nationwide charging network still has some growin' to do, you could find yourself struggling to find a charging station on longer journeys. Well, there's one solution for that problem that you may not have thought of: campgrounds.

Turns out that most campgrounds and RV parks are equipped with 240-volt hookups that allow you to fully charge electric cars like the Leaf in just four hours. There are a few campgrounds in Maryland that are already marketing this service, to accommodate EV drivers visiting Washington DC from cities in the north. The cost for a four-hour charge seems to run between $8.50 and 10 bucks.

You'll need to bring your own adapter in many cases, but as more and more campground owners start marketing this amenity, it's expected that increased demand will result in the building of designated EV pedestals.

So what do you do while you're gettin' all charged up? Says Russ Yates, owner of a Maryland campground: "Most people who come to our park to recharge their vehicles come up to our store and buy snacks. Or they get on their laptops and send email. But most of them simply take a nap in their vehicle or they walk around our park and sit by the river."

Any EV owners out there? Ever charged your car at a campground or RV park?

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Community Weekend

April 04, 2011

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I live in West L.A. in a neighborhood that's perhaps less sprawling and more pedestrian-friendly than your typical SoCal enclave. There's a Walgreen's within walking distance (open 24 hours for your 'round-the-clock shopping pleasure) and a Whole Foods just a couple of minutes away. I can get to movie theaters in less than a mile and I can stroll to the eateries of 3rd Street and Restaurant Row if I'm feeling so inclined.

As is often the case, the stops on my weekend itinerary involved destinations that were all within the immediate 'hood -- all within a mile or two. A couple of trips to the grocery store. A trip to a nearby restaurant to get the lowdown from an old friend who recently quit her job. A visit to KMart for a replacement water filter. The weather was on the warm side so I kept the Leaf's air on all throughout.

On Monday morning after the 6-mile drive into work, I had 58 miles of range left, according to the ol' range-o-meter; keep in mind that I'm not set up to charge at my apartment so the car's last charge was at work on Friday.

Electric cars won't be everybody's glass slipper but given the fact that I typically don't have a need for too much range, the Leaf strikes me as being a great little city car for my needs.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 1,613 miles

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Smart Planning for Smart Energy

April 04, 2011

Leaf Charging.jpg A few of the Edmunds editors and I recently visited the "Smart Energy Experience" exhibit at Southern California Edison's CTAC Energy Education Center, in Irwindale, Calif. Since the Smart Energy Experience is a showcase for the utility company's latest advancement in electricity metering and management, we thought it would be appropriate to drive there in our long term Nissan Leaf.

The facility is about 37 miles away from our offices. Round trip, that's 74 miles -- too close for comfort, given that the Leaf's EPA range is 73 miles. With some planning however, we were able to take this EV past its round-trip limitations. Edison's staff said we could use their level 2 chargers and since we planned to stay there for a few hours, we could "top off" before heading home.

The trip to the facility drained about 60 percent of the Leaf's charge. There were three people in the car, the A/C running at 73 degrees and we were traveling at an average speed of 65-70 mph. It was a particularly hot day (about 90 degrees) and we went up a few hills, which further contributed to the battery decrease. The remaining range read about 45 miles when we got to our destination.

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Cruising in "Eco" Mode

March 29, 2011

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The shift lever on the 2011 Nissan Leaf shows that there are two drive positions -- drive and ECO mode. You can put it into ECO mode by moving the gear selector into D twice. The manual says that ECO mode will extend the range by increasing regenerative braking, cutting power to the climate control system and limiting acceleration. I chose ECO mode last night and embarked on my 31.5 mile commute home.

First thing I noticed was that the power was greatly reduced and the Leaf was suddenly no fun at all to drive. It felt like it had been drugged. But I stuck with it to see how much it would extend the range. I don't know if I was imagining things or not, but the predicted range seemed to bounce all over the place more than in the normal D position. When I got home I had covered 31.5 miles but used 35 miles of the predicted 95-mile range. So it didn't seem to extend the range at all.

This morning I went back to using the normal drive position and the Leaf seemed to come alive. I drove around near the office and when I pulled back into our garage I had covered 66.4 miles and had 18 miles left on this charge. So that totals 84.4 miles, which is a little better than we have been getting and better than the EPA's 76 miles of expected range.

So when I get my own Leaf, I won't be cruising in ECO mode, unless it is a choice between that and walking.

Philip Reed, Edmunds Senior Consumer Editor @ 1,496 miles

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Running On Empty (Nearly)

March 28, 2011

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I spent the last few days in our 2011 Nissan Leaf in order to restore the balance of nature after driving a Ferrari FF in Italy. Also because I wanted to. I drove it to and from work a couple of times and wheeled it all around Orange County over the weekend, racking up some 350 all-electric miles or so in the process.

Since I live 49.5 miles from the office -- a 99-mile round trip -- the availability of a charging at work is essential. There's no way I could regularly pull this off without the ability to top up the battery at both ends, even when driving conservatively.

Why? The EPA lists the Leaf's electric range at 73 miles. Not nearly enough for me. Furthermore, our testing so far indicates the EPA estimate is pretty accurate. Of 28 total battery charges to date, my 76.7-mile run is the best range any staffer has yet managed.

In so doing I went about as far into the low battery warnings as I'd ever want to on a regular basis. Here's how those warnings play out...

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2011 Nissan Leaf: Charge Time is the Challenge

March 14, 2011

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I'm fascinated by the concept of driving around on pure electricity, and I'd love to see the technology eventually work as a real-world alternative to internal combustion.

But beyond the issues of cost and range there remains perhaps the biggest challenge that won't be easily solved -- charge time. When I drove our long-term Nissan Leaf home a few weeks ago the range went from 95 to 24 miles.

That wasn't so troubling, but I did drain over 75% of the battery and I don't have a 240V charger at my house. When I saw the charge time for my 110V home outlet I realized I couldn't leave the house until lunch the following day (I was plugging in around 6 p.m.) if I wanted the Leaf fully charged before driving it again.

That's a loooooong time for a fill-up, and one that the majority of new car buyers couldn't deal with on any regular basis. One solution is to have pre-charged batteries at corner locations, just like gas stations. You drive in, swap batteries and drive away taking no more time than a current gasoline fill-up takes. Let's see if we can make that work.

'Til then these cars are going to have very limited real-world application.

Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor at Large

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2011 Nissan Leaf SL: Serious Commuter Car?

March 09, 2011

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I've been interested in leasing a 2011 Nissan Leaf for my 64-mile-a-day commute to the Santa Monica offices. Among other things, it would get me into the car pool lane at a time when all the Toyota Prii are getting kicked out. And it would certainly cut my fuel costs.

Nissan claims the Leaf has a 100-mile range but the EPA puts that figure at more like 77 miles. That doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room for errands on my lunch hour. Still, it seems doable. Last night I put it to the test.

When I got into the Leaf it said I had 99 miles. I cruised home in stop and go traffic and found I had 54 miles left on the range. I could have plugged in the trickle charger for some insurance range, but I wanted to duplicate the experience of a round trip on a single charge.

I ran a few local errands and took my family for a ride. So when I got back into the car this morning, to return to Santa Monica, the range had dropped to 39 miles. Gulp. Since I don't know the car well yet, I kept my eye on the range and when I pulled into the office there was still 9 miles remaining.

So I made the round trip without serious range anxiety and I enjoyed the car a lot. The good news came when I looked at my fuel cost. Here is my very rough calculation. With a 24 KWh battery it would cost me about $4 for a complete charge, which is about the price of a gallon of gas now. On that charge I could go 80 miles, which is about double the mpg I get in my 2004 Toyota Prius. So one way of looking at it is that I will cut my already low fuel costs in half.

Philip Reed, Edmunds Senior Consumer Advice Editor,

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2011 Nissan Leaf: What Range Anxiety?

March 08, 2011

nissan-leaf-rangemap.jpg

Look at all that range, the Leaf will be fine around these parts. Unless one of us gets the sudden urge to drive to Amboy we'll be fine.

For the uninitiated, this map can be called up in the Leaf to give you a visual reference for how much range you have left. It's actually a bit misleading as the range limits are calculated "as the crow flies" so you're not likely to make it to the edge of the circle unless you have some sort of straight shot. I drove all of maybe 10 miles last night so it wasn't really an issue.

As far as the car itself, I like the overall driving experience. Everything about the Leaf is very simple and straightforward. It doesn't feel quite as futuristic as the Volt from behind the wheel. There's a little less gloss to everything although the Leaf does have an odd little musical chime when you turn it on. Seems like a pretty decent car given the final price.

Ed Hellwig, Editor @ 603 miles

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