First things first – these are my own personal opinions/experiences and I am presenting them as such. I have been leasing a 2012 Nissan Leaf since October 2012.
People ask me all the time if I would go back to an ICE (internal combustion engine). I get the usual little jabs like “when are you going to get a real car again,” and so on, but the truth is, there is no way I would ever go back to a gas powered car. Having said that, an EV is definitely not for the faint of heart, until you get past the range anxiety and fully understand how far you can really go. In addition, the Leaf is not a family car, because of the limited range. Battery depreciation is real and if you have a commute that is more than 30 miles one way and you do not have an ability to charge at your workplace, I would advice against the Leaf.
So what makes an EV so great? Hm, there are many things that make the Leaf the best car I’ve ever owned. BTW, my Leaf is a girl and her name is Knopfette (German for button/buttonette). Knopfette really packs a good punch. Like all EVs she has great torque and accelerates without problem and can rival some muscle cars quite easily; especially going up hill. Accelerating going up is just as effortless as accelerating on even ground. Plus, imagine a world in which you will never, ever need an oil change again and where running your car will cost you about $10 a month; or less! There are no maintenance fees either. The first check is at 7,500 miles and the second one at 15,000. You just plug in and go, that’s it. And yes, you can plug in anywhere, as long as you have a long enough cable.
Overall, this makes the Leaf the cheapest car I’ve ever owned, and the most environmentally friendly. If you want to look up the whole thing on recycling lithium batteries, please go right ahead. No, they are not ending up on giant landfills and no, they are not worse for the environment (which is an argument most gas guzzler owners love to throw out). Really, do your research and you will learn why an EV truly is a technological wonder and contributes greatly to the reduction of carbon dioxide.
Also, the Leaf has many other cool options that allow me to start and stop charging from my phone, as well as start the air conditioning in summer, or heater in winter. Up here, in Northern California, you will find charging stations pretty much anywhere. All major companies have them as well and a lot of the charging stations are free to use! How long does it take to charge? From empty to full it takes about 10 to 12 hours on the trickle charge (a regular 110V outlet at the house), about 5 to 6 hours on the 240V charging stations and about 40 minutes on the quick chargers most car dealerships have. I usually do not run her all the way to empty, so charge times are less if you are not all out of juice.
As I said earlier, I have driven Knopfette for over 2 years now and only once came close to running out of charge, resulting in me having to stop at a Nissan dealership and recharging on the quick charger. Other than that, I have never run out of charge and made it anywhere I wanted to go.
Driving an EV does require a different way of driving and it takes a little bit of getting used to, if you want the most distance on your charge. First of all, the harder you accelerate, the more power you use. The faster you drive on the freeway, the more power you use. Adding AC also drains power, so this does not make for a good time in hot weather – if you have to go over 20 miles one way! However, if you just drive around town, you won’t run into problems. Also, when you coast or go downhill, you start to regenerate power again. Sometimes this results in no power use whatsoever/you ending up with the same range of miles at the end of your ride than the one you had when you started. The Leaf, and most of the EV models have an eco mode, that allows for lesser power use when you are just driving around town. I use it all the time, unless I am on the freeway. I have a short work commute, so usually I can easily drive on one charge all week. I cannot think of a better around town or short commuter car than my Knopfette.
So what do I do if I want to go longer distances? Nissan had a program (not sure if they still offer it) that I really like. Twice a year, you are entitled to get a gas car, if you have to drive a long distance. I used this option to drive from San Jose to Los Angeles when I first moved up here. If you want to go from San Jose to Santa Cruz or San Francisco, you will have to charge up your car once you get there. You will not make it back on one charge! This is not a problem, as both cities have charging stations everywhere, but it is a bit of a nuisance, especially in the beginning, when you can’t truly gauge range on your car yet.
Overall, the Leaf makes for a great driving experience. The car is super quiet, roomy, has great features and doesn’t cost you anything to run, really. I do hope that by then end of 2015 they will come up with better ranges for the Leaf, or that maybe I can afford a Tesla by then. But the truth is – once you’ve gone to an electric car, you will never go back to a gas car.