First week with the Leaf

It’s been a week already and we’re still excited to own and drive a Nissan LEAF. We had very high expectations, but the Leaf has exceeded every single one of them.

Range

We’ve driven 546 Km already since taken delivery of the Leaf last Friday. That’s way above average for us. At this rate, we’re on the way to drive more 28K in one year. Nevertheless, We’ve never went back home at night with less than 40 Km of range left. My longest drive in one day was 141 Km, and a bit of Level 1 charging at work kept any feeling of range anxiety out of the way.

Costs

Electricity consumption numbers for the first two days: 33.6 KWh ($3.96) for 198 Km driven (80% city, 20% country roads). Average 5.9 Km/KWh. With gas at $1.207, that’s equivalent to 1.66L/100Km. Quite impressive.

Monday was my first trip to work. The ability to trickle charge at the office is great but makes the cost calculations a bit more difficult. Without the reports from the smart meter, I can’t tell for sure how many KWh went into batteries, but I do know that trickle charging alone is not enough to keep me going during the week. I still need to Level 2 charge at home.

For the first four days, my Level 2 charger used 51 KWh of electricity, or $6.02 (5 liters of gas). With a little boost from IBM’s level one charger, I was able to drive 339 Km, or 1.47L/100Km.

Driving Experience

The Leaf continues to be by far the best car I’ve ever driven. Reminds me the AMC slogan: Silence is golden. And at the same time, I leave every other car behind after the traffic light goes green. Amazingly fun to drive.

Attention

People on the road don’t really notice the Leaf is a special car. I’ve kept a bit of an eye on other drivers and pedestrians, to see their reaction, and there really isn’t one. My friends get  surprised when they see the “electric car” for the first time because they expected something very small or very odd shaped, not a 5-door roomy hatchback.

Room

I had four adults already in the car and they were all impressed by how much space they had inside. Space in the trunk is also not bad at all. At one point we had 3 or 4 gym bags with lots of room to spare. Not a problem for groceries either and if you need more room you can flip the backseats.

Media attention

I gave two more interviews after delivery day. One to a university radio station in Toronto and another to the local newspaper, Kanata Kourier. I took the reporter, Jessica Cunha, for a ride around the neighborhood and nearby roads, while answering all of her questions. I think it was the best interview so far.

Charging at work

We have two reserved parking spots at IBM. They’ve far apart so I can’t always see who’s using the other one. Today I drove by and saw an electric bike charging there. It didn’t prevent an actual car from parking there so I guess it won’t be a problem when someone else at the office starts driving an electric car to work.

I’ve been voluntarily limiting the Level 1 charging to mid-peak hours (7am to 11am). We still have several coal-fire power plants in Ontario used during peak hours so I want to avoid getting dirty electricity from them (the Leaf would cough). In the winter, the time-of-use schedule changes so I’ll be able to recharge between 11am and 5pm.

I get about 7.5Km of extra range for every hour trickle charged at work. Cost for IBM is about 1.4KWh/h or 25 cents/h at mid-peak. If I charge for 4 hours, that’s a dollar. Cheaper than a coffee a day. And we already have free coffee at the office. 🙂

Carwings

Probably the biggest surprise at all. Just the sheer amount of telemetry information saved by the car and available for analysis. You can see your daily driving records, how many Km driven, how much energy used, how much energy regenerated by the brakes, total electricity costs (estimated), your rankings compared to other Leaf drivers all over the world, it goes on and on and on. I started ranked #300 but I recently dropped to #690 with an average energy economy of 9.6 Km/KWh. The champion’s score is 37.2 Km/KWh but I have no clue how he’s able to do that. That would be equivalent to driving 892 Km in one charge, so there’s gotta be something wrong…

Other Activities

I took the Leaf to a charity garage sale the day after it was delivered. People would have to give a donation to get a tour of the car. More generous donations would get a ride around the block.

I was also invited to attend the monthly meeting of the Electric Vehicle Council of Ottawa. I got there 30 minutes before the meeting so that people had a chance to see the Leaf at the parking lot, together with a few other electric cars, mostly ICE cars converted to plugins. It was a bit of a short notice and had another commitment the same night. I was able to speak and answer questions at the beginning of the meeting, and as a token of their appreciation, I was presented with a free one-year membership which I intend to use.

No trips to the gas station

Not much to say here. Probably the best single thing in this whole experience!

Gadgets

iPhone integration works perfectly. The car connects automatically after you turn it on. You can answer phone calls on the screen, and if you were listening to a podcast when parked your car, that same podcast resumes playing, even with the iPhone still in your pocket! Same for any music. Really neat.

The navigation system is fairly good, with both 2D and 3D views. I’m a bit used to the way Google Maps works on my phone so it takes a while to get used to a different way of displaying things. I also noticed some of the newer streets in Ottawa are still not showing up on the navigation map. Wondering how that will get updated.

I programmed the HomeLink garage door opener tonight and it worked perfectly, but you do have to follow the instructions on the owner’s manual. By the way, I think this is the first car I had that I actually *read* the owner’s manual. Lots of info in there, makes it easier to figure out all those buttons on the dashboard.

The iPhone app also works very well. I’ve turned on climate control a few minutes before I left work, just for fun because it wasn’t any hot, and it was really neat to see it working. It will be very useful in the winter.

Alerts

You can configure the car to send you emails and text messages for different events. The most useful is the one that alerts me if I forget to plug in the car at night. It also alerts me if I leave the car charging at work and the power in the parking garage goes out or someone disconnects the charger.

Come on… Any negatives?

I’ll have to dig really deep to find anything wrong with this car, but I’ll give it a try.

The data access is a bit too slow. We’re used to immediate responses on everything we do online, but getting updates from the Leaf may take 30 seconds to a few minutes. Downloading information from the touch display is also slow — it’s more like an old “Edge” phone browsing the web, not a 3G phone.

I also find the regenerative braking in Eco mode way too aggressive and even dangerous if someone is following you too close. When you take your foot off the accelerator, the car decelerates very quickly, almost like you’re braking. But without the stop lights.

I think that’s all for this week. I’ll try to do smaller posts more often for now on. A week of updates turned out to be a very long list!

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5 comments on “First week with the Leaf

  1. awesome! I’ve got confirmation about my Leaf being delivered next thursday, so far I have gone through a couple of interviews from auto magazines about how I took the decision to buy the car and Nissan is making a lot of noise about the first deliveries specially in social media.
    Nissan’s president in Spain gave me the keys but I couldn’t take the car with me since I still had not completed the payment and the car was not even ready for delivery.

    Now I cannot wait any longer, I ‘m preparing my garage and I’m also a bit dissapointed to know that the parking we use at work (it’s not owned by IBM) has no plans to set up a charging point (almost every other big parking in Barcelona has one and nobody using them)
    I’m happy to see that the Leaf is exceeding your expectations, I think I have done the right choice!

  2. WRT the regen braking negative, when I test drove one, I didn’t mind the regen braking in eco mode in fact it’s milder than what I get in my normal car because I drive a standard, so this really isn’t any different from downshift braking. Actually I found that I prefer a stronger regen braking than even the eco mode provides, you will notice that if you _barely_ touch the brake pedal that the regen goes way up so it shouldn’t be wearing your brakes yet still providing a good strong energy reclaim. I think Nissan did a really great job on the overall drive and braking system, and to me the eco mode was brilliant. One thing I absolutely hated was that they programmed a simulated automatic transmission creep into the car (foot off the accelerator the car creeps forward unless foot is on the brake). Talk about the worst possible first impression since this is something you notice the instant you set off. Apparently it can’t be reprogrammed out. This kind of thing drives me nuts, it’s as stupid as fake ‘gears’ programmed to into cars that have CVTs.

  3. You’re right about downshift braking (it’s been a long time since I drove standard). I was comparing it with automatic.

    Yes, I also notice that you can achieve the same level of regen in regular Drive mode by simply applying some pressure to the brakes. With an added benefit that your stop lights will go on.

    I think the simulated automatic transmission was a strong marketing requirement, so that the regular people would feel like driving a regular (automatic) car. It would have spooked my wife if it didn’t have it. People feel more attracted to it if it drives exactly like their current car, but it would be great if there were some configurable options to bypass it in favor of something more efficient.

  4. Are you *certain* the brake lights don’t come on under aggressive regen after releasing the accelerator? I would be surprised Nissan overlooked this, if deceleration is as rapid as you feel it is. Regen brake light activation is a feature of other EV’s I have read about (Mini-e, ACP E-box, Tesla).

    I also understand that in some jurisdictions it is illegal for the brake lights to be illuminated when the brake pedal is *not* pressed – but North America isn’t one of them.

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