The Bitter End -- Real-World Edition - 2011 Nissan Leaf Long-Term Road Test

2011 Nissan Leaf Long-Term Road Test

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

May 09, 2011

nissan leaf towed.jpg
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.

I'm in "Eco" mode, driving like a Pasadena schoolteacher, and I'm almost there. The electric eagle has almost landed when I remember: Hey, on Monday mornings, each editor is expected to lather up the car that he or she borrowed over the weekend. And the Leaf is looking kinda grimy.

The car wash that we typically use is on the way in, between my apartment and the office, about two miles from work. Getting there requires getting off the freeway a couple of exits early and traveling a few blocks north. I guess the detour adds no more than a mile or two to the journey, if that.

By now, the DTE gauge has given up trying to make any predictions -- it's thrown its hands up in the air, offering this not-so-helpful estimate: "---". But I've still got one bar of electricity left on the charge gauge. Should I risk it? I decide to go for it.

A few minutes later, the car is freshly washed, glinting in the SoCal sunshine. I start her up, pull out of the car wash, and get the message shown below.

nissan leaf warning.jpg

Not very encouraging. But I'm almost there. Our office is only two miles from the car wash -- 1.74, to be exact.

A couple moments later, I see it -- the flashing tortoise.


No, not the Takahashi-spawned creation shown above -- one that's even more terrifying. The one you see in the Leaf when it's about to slash the speed and cut the power. The car slows down.

Things don't look good, but I'm still hopeful -- after all, didn't we get about two miles in flashing-tortoise mode in that test we did? I'm in the far-right lane on Olympic with the hazard lights on, coasting whenever I can.

But alas, the flashing tortoise isn't nearly as kind to me as it was to our testing team. After a block or so, the Leaf checks out, at 62.6 miles.

I'm half a block from a major intersection. No nearby spots to push the car into -- nothing to do but call AAA and wait.

The motorists behind me are surprisingly courteous, moving 'round the dead Leaf without vitriol. Ironically, the sole exception is an older woman in a Prius, who lays on her horn. What, no green love, lady?

In a matter of minutes, the AAA tow truck arrives. The driver is a major talent -- he's able to maneuver the Leaf into the Edmunds parking structure with no drama and even gets it positioned close to the charging pedestal.

In the end, there are no hard feelings and I wind up learning a little bit more about the Leaf. Those gauges aren't an exact science in real-world driving (duh!), so on our next weekend together, a DTE reading of 20 will be my signal to guide the Leaf back to the office, slowly and gently, for a charge.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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