A Reader Review Of The Nissan LEAF (w/Video)

A few weeks ago, we published an article penned by Mike Winger, a happy Chevy Volt owner and Gas2 regular reader. At the conclusion of that article we invited other readers to submit their electric car experiences and we heard from Caleb Hey who lives in Austin, Texas. He is the proud owner of a Nissan LEAF he wanted to say nice things about. He has also made a video about his car that you can watch at YouTube. Here’s Caleb’s story.

Nissan LEAF owner review

The first time I ever thought about owning an electric car was when I watched the movie Who Killed the Electric Car. It wasn’t until 2011 that I actually saw an EV. It was this strange little hatchback with the phrase “zero emission” on the back. A subsequent Google search told me it was a Nissan LEAF. My curiosity was piqued. After I watched Revenge of the Electric Car in 2014, there was no turning back. I knew my next vehicle would be electric.

In 2015, I switched careers from freelance videographer to fulltime employee with a startup company in Austin. No more driving to Houston, Dallas  and  San Antonio for video jobs. From that point on, my commute would only be 12 miles from home to work and back, which made driving an electric car a much more practical choice. At that time the Nissan LEAF still had the longest range for the price, so that’s the vehicle I decided to get. Within a week I had sold my Nissan Juke and was leasing a brand new 2015 Leaf all before my first day of work.

I soon discovered the LEAF was ideal for urban commuting. I could charge the battery to full at home overnight using the standard 110 volt EVSE cable that came with the car. Most of the time I could go two days between charges. I soon learned that winter has a big effect on range. Texas is far from the coldest region but there were plenty of days when the car warned me that the outdoor temperature was near freezing. When spring and then summer arrived, my full range was restored and I was able to go three days between charges.

Looks aside, everything about the Leaf was a delight. The inside is quite roomy and comfortable. The heated seats that came standard even on my base S model (not so in the 2016 Leaf) were both a joy and an energy drain during those winter months. The silent electric drive was so peaceful! For a long time it actually made traffic more bearable. The instant torque was fun and responsive, although as time went on I began using Eco mode with the strongest regenerative brake setting to maximize driving efficiency.

Maintenance is next to nothing when you drive an EV. I was elated not having to worry about oil changes, spark plugs, belts, radiator fluid & antifreeze. And with regenerative braking, even replacing brake pads is a rare occurrence. I’ve had a couple tire rotations at this point and that’s it!

To this day I’ve never grown tired of plugging my car in at night. Nor do I miss going to smelly gas stations, especially during cold weather. Although  my wife and I were initially surprised by the $40 increase in our monthly electric bill, it was still less than I had been paying for gas previously. Granted I traveled much more before but taking advantage of off-peak hours has kept our electric expenses lower. It didn’t take long for me to feel a little hypocritical about using “dirty” energy to power my car, so soon enough we subscribed to a clean wind energy program through our utility company. This increased our electric rate a bit, but I feel the minimal expense is well worth the gain of cleaner air and fewer greenhouse emissions.

I should confess that without my wife’s car, there was no way I could make the LEAF work for all my travel needs. I did encounter range limitations outside of commuting but those were few and far between. As a musician I do have to travel beyond the city limits on occasion and that means taking my wife’s Corolla for gigs and leaving her with the LEAF. Fortunately we never had an issue where both of us were traveling long distances separately. If you already have two vehicles and are considering an EV to replace one, I’d say it’s a no-brainer. But for those hoping to make an EV their only mode of transportation, the decision can be a little trickier.

It’s been almost two year since I got my LEAF. It has certainly lived up to all my expectations. I simply cannot even consider a non-electric vehicle after driving one. I can reliably get 80-90 miles in the city but I am eager for the next range boost in battery technology. Something like the Chevy Bolt really has my attention, although the 2nd generation Leaf may be revealed soon as well.

Of course there’s excitement for the Tesla Model 3 and for good reason. I’m a practical guy, though, and I really just need an EV that gets me where I need to go and has enough room for groceries, music equipment, and eventually children. So it’s exciting to see automakers competing in this very niche market. However it’s up to us the consumer to expand that market and get enough EVs on the road to make the actual impact we know they can in mass numbers.

Please take a moment to watch Caleb’s video about his LEAF for more information about what it’s like to actually drive an electric car. The more we know about EVs the less unusual they will seem and the more likely we will be to actually purchase or lease on for our own use.

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.