NISSAN LEAF REPORT for July 2014

solarcharging714UNCA

We have been driving our Nissan Leaf now for almost 11 months now and you are probably asking: Do we still like it after almost one year of EV ownership? What do we like about it? What don’t we like about it? Has it saved us any money?

Here are the answers.

Leaves7.5.14Do we still like it and why?

Absolutely, wholeheartedly and positively: YES!

What do we like about the Nissan Leaf:

For the last 10+ months it has been a wonderful vehicle that gets us around quickly, quietly and cleanly. It continues to be a joy to drive and we always look forward to driving it because it is fast, fun and easy to drive. When we are forced to drive Godzilla, our 1999 Toyota 4Runner, it continues to seem like an archaic, sluggish, noisy, smelly old fossil compared to the smooth, fast, responsive, clean, green Nissan LEAF.

fogleafI love the fact that the Leaf needs virtually no maintenance. Since I have had it I have only had to check the air in the tires and rotate them twice and wash it a few of times. As far as the old Toyota–I have had to change the oil/filter twice (I use fully synthetic, bio-based, American sourced and produced GOil) and those oil changes cost me almost as much as it has cost to power the Leaf for four months! Recently I had to replace the water pump and timing belt on the Toyota for a grand total of $650! That would power the Leaf for almost TWO YEARS at our current cost of electricity!!!

Issues

The Leaf has experienced no problems related to the mechanics and systems of the car. The only mishaps being two road hazard incidents that were out of my or Nissan’s control.

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 Tire trouble in Cherokee, NC.

Seat comfort.  The one major complaint I have about the Leaf is the design of the drivers seat–I still do not find it to be very comfortable although I have adapted to it a bit more. The non adjustable head rest is too far forward so I had to turn it around so that I did not feel like my head was forced forward all the time. It would also be very nice if the seat had a lumbar adjustment as well. This is more than likely my problem because no one else that has driven it has had any issue with the seat.

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Has owning the Leaf saved us any money? Let’s look at the totals for a clearer picture.

Mileage driven from August 26 2013-July 13, 2014.

Total all electric miles: 11,951 miles

Average miles/month: 1138.2

Average miles/week: 284.6

Average miles/day: 40.7

Electricity Usage from August 26 2013-July 13, 2014

Total KWh electricity used: 2,727.6 (sources: 80% mains trickle charge at home, 20% on the road from level 2 commercial charging stations and 120 volt outlets at work and friends’ houses)

Average KWh used/month: 259.8

Average KWh used/mile: 4.0

Cost/KWh: $.09

The below electricity usage histogram is from the Carwings telemetric monitoring system.  Units on Y axis are KWh.

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Electricity Cost to Operate the Leaf August 26 2013-July 13, 2014

Total 10.5 month electricity cost to operate Leaf: $245.48 (2727.6KWh x .09/Kwh)

Note: The average ONE MONTH cost to operate the Toyota 4Runner is: $253.42!

In other words it costs us less to operate the LEAF for 10.5 months ($245.48) that it does to operate the Toyota 4Runner for ONE MONTH ($253.42)!

Average cost/month to charge Leaf:$23.37

Average cost/day to charge/operate the Leaf: $0.77

Average cost/mile/day to drive Leaf: $0.03/mile

The next histogram shows distance traveled and energy economy tracking as recorded by the Carwings EV monitoring system over the last 10.5 months

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Comparisons Before Leaf/After Leaf 

Before Leaf estimated cost to operate/maintain/repair our previous cars,  a 1999 Toyota 4Runner and 1998 Honda CRV, for the same 10.5 month time period: $4200 ($400/month x 10.5. (Toyota 250/month and Honda $150/month (fuel + maintenance + repairs)

Before Leaf Toyota/Honda average cost/day to operate: $ 13.33 ($400/30)

From this point on I will focus on the before and after Leaf cost to operate only the Toyota 4runner.  This is due to the fact that we purchased the Leaf to replace many of the miles driven in the Honda CRV and the Toyota 4runner.

Before Leaf average Toyota miles driven/month: 1357.14 (1357.14/19mpg = 71.42 gallons x $3.50 per gal. = $250)

Before Leaf average Toyota miles driven/week: 339.28

Before Leaf average Toyota miles driven/day: 48.46

Before Leaf Toyota average cost/month: $250

Before Leaf Toyota average cost/day: $ 8.33

Before Leaf Toyota average cost/mile: $ 0.17

thedealisdone

Enter August 2013.  

Traded in 1998 Honda CRV for 2012 Nissan Leaf SL

After Leaf total Toyota 4Runner miles driven (10.5 months): 9210

After Leaf average Toyota miles driven/month: 877.14

After Leaf average Toyota miles driven/week: 219.26

After Leaf average Toyota miles driven/day: 31.32

After Leaf Toyota fuel cost from August 26 2013-July 13, 2014

$1911.00

After Leaf Toyota maintenance costs: $750 (new water pump, new hoses, antifreeze, timing belt, oil and filter x2.)

After Leaf 10.5 month Toyota total operational costs: $2661.00

After Leaf Toyota average cost/month: $253.42

After Leaf Toyota average cost/day: $ 8.45

After Leaf Toyota average cost/mile: $ 0.26

Fuel savings

Total fuel saved during 10.5 month period: 546 gallons/$1911.00

After subtracting power cost for Leaf: $1434.52

(Fuel $1911.00 – $245.48 Electric Cost ) =

$1665.52 saved!

Car payment offset: $350.67 x 10 months = $3682.35 payments – $1665.52 savings = $2016.51 out of pocket!

NOTE: If you find that any of my calculations are off please do email me because I am only human and I will be the first to admit that I do, can, and will make mistakes.

fastchargingDRIVING ELECTRIC IS A “NO BRAINER!”

The numbers show that the cost of operating our Toyota 4Runner has gone up a bit.  This is due to an expensive repair and several long distance trips out of state on family issues that were out of the range of the Leaf.  However, even with those factors considered and because we are only driving one gasoline powered vehicle, and the fact that we use the Leaf for almost all of the local trips within its range (unless the trip involves hauling a load or pulling a trailer), we have already saved almost $2000 in fuel costs in 10.5 months of EV ownership and applied that extra $$ to our Leaf car payment!

After the Leaf is paid off we will be saving even more!

leafteslaSharing a level 2 charging station with a Tesla Model S

Had we continued driving the ageing Honda CRV and Toyota 4Runner together we would have burned around 725 gallons of gasoline, spent over $2530 more in gas, possibly incurred several hundred dollars in repairs and belched out ~13,700 lbs of CO2* and other toxic greenhouse gasses into our shared atmosphere!

*1 gallon of gasoline burned emits 19 lbs of CO2. Source: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/contentIncludes/co2_inc.htm

By going fully EV we have saved money, reduced our carbon footprint by eliminating over 7000 lbs** of CO2 from being eliminated into the atmosphere and gained a maintenance free car that is fun to drive and seems to be very well thought out and well constructed…and we have more time to “stop and smell the roses***” while our EV charges.

 **Based on the Carwings telemetric data collected by the Leaf’s on-board efficiency monitoring system that compares the size of the Leaf to a comparable sized ICE cars tailpipe emissions.

***Go to the movies, out to dinner, shopping, have a pint a the pub…and/or have a pint while dressed like a pirate…

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Wow! All great reasons to love the Nissan Leaf EV be ye a scurvy EV driving pirate or a regular person!

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EV Note: How did we calculate our Leaf’s energy costs?

We use a Kill-a-Watt Meter!

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More good points about the Leaf!

Acceleration.  While it may not have the speed of a Tesla, the Leaf does take off from a standstill with amazing quickness.  As a friend once said “wow, it really sets you back in your seat!”

Handling: We continue to love the way the Leaf drives! It is quiet, smooth and very responsive on and off the pavement–and it is really surprising how well it continues to drive on gravel roads and ford shallow creeks.  Speaking of creek fording check out this video form an Leaf driver in England–all I can say is WOW!

And another one from Nissan

Cruse Control: I love the cruise! I consistently use the cruise to squeeze as much range and efficiency out of the Leaf.  Using the cruise lets the computer decide how much power to apply from the battery to the motor or, to the battery from the motor/generator when while coasting downhill so the car operates more efficiently.  The cruise also allows a set speed with more regen on downhill runs–this is not possible without using the cruise due to the increased drag from the generator unless the grade is very steep.  I have noticed that when the computer “drives” I always come out with more range at the end of the day.

Appearance: The quirky, cool, futuristic look of the leaf really lets me get my geek on and I love the Blue Ocean paint!

Sound: Or lack thereof…the Leaf is so quiet!  Other than the sound of the Leaf piercing the wind and the tires on the road the only sound it makes is a distant high pitched whine similar to a jet taking off in the distance.  This sound is not obtrusive in any way with the windows up or down.  In fact it is a unique and pleasant sound that I enjoy hearing because I know that the sound of the Leaf is the sound of the future.

Check out this video of what the Leaf really sounds like under the hood–very cool!

Ease of use: The Leaf is as easy to use as your smartphone…actually it is easier to use than most smartphones.  It is as simple as unplug, drive, plug in, sleep, repeat.

Winter: Heated seats and steering wheel. I love these features about the Leaf–I hardly ever turn on the heater!

Summer: I usually drive with the windows down but when I do use the air conditioning it works quietly and perfectly. Even on the hottest/coldest days I keep the temperature set at 70F and the AC draws very little power yet cools the interior nicely.

Climate control timer: a truly wonderful feature that pre-heats/cools the car while plugged in to mains power before leaving for work in the morning. I use this primarily in the winter to warm up the car before heading to work.

Stereo system: Great stereo sound that you can truly hear because the car is soooo quiet! The system perfectly syncs via Bluetooth, to my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 where I am able to access over 2000 songs that play in a truly random order.

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Well done Nissan and Carlos Ghosn–the visionary behind the Leaf!

More on Ghosn and the Leaf here.

Backup camera: what an amazing feature–I use it every time I put the car in reverse. The 2014-15 Leaf LE has a 360 degree camera that shows everything around the vehicle–a great safety feature for sure!

Regenerative braking: This system allows the car’s electric motor to act as a generator when the car is braking or coasting with the power generated feeding back into the battery for extended range–amazing!

Over the last 10.5 months I have regenerated a total of 23,437 Watt Hours! (according to the Carwings monitoring system)

At first that sounds like a stupendous amount of free power however, Watt Hours are not Kilowatt hours. Once we see that 1Wh = 1000 KWh we discover that although the Leaf did generate 23437 WH that then converts to 23.4 KWh of electricity for a whopping savings of $2.11. When we then divide that by the Leaf’s cost/mile to operate of we find that the Leaf gave back just over 70 miles of gravity assisted free Leaf produced power. Although at first that does not seem like much, it is $2.11 and 70 miles more than the Toyota (or any ICE vehicle) has ever or will ever give back in its entire lifespan. If this trend continues then I estimate that at the end of one year the Leaf will generate over 80 miles free range and close to $3.00 in electricity savings and that is good news for sure! EV’s give something back–internal combustion vehicles engine (ICE) vehicles only take giving nothing back but a very expensive ride, loads of waste heat, leaking fluids and toxic, life poisoning emissions.

On one particular excursion I made a documentary of my travels through the Blue Ridge mountains of Western North Carolina. On this journey I travel through remote areas of the mountains where not an EV charger, or gas station for that matter, can be found. Watch the journey below !

Leaf Improvements?

I can think of a few for Nissan to contemplate:

Audio system: While the stock stereo system is excellent, the new Bose sound system is truly incredible! I have also changed my opinion on the Leaf’s Bluetooth audio sync system that I reported on in the three month Leaf Report. At first I believed it was an issue of the car but now that my Samsung phone syncs perfectly, I believe it was an error in the Droid Razr, not the sync capabilities of the car.

Carwings: an interesting and informative system but it could be more accurate and user friendly.  If you have or are planning on acquiring a Leaf and you are a techie who loves data and knowing all there is to know about your Leaf’s health then you should consider picking up the Mycarma myEV datalogger that I blogged about a few weeks ago.  I will have one on my Leaf as soon as it is produced! The myEV was recently funded on Indiegogo and will be available this fall!    

Navigation system: overall well done but it does need some updating as well.

Charging system: I believe that the Leaf would benefit from an optional rooftop solar array covering the entire roof of the vehicle and possibly even the hood as in my badly Photo-shopped concept idea below.

solarleaf

With the current advances in lightweight, flexible, high output solar technology and even solar paints, this would be a great addition especially on vehicles used in sunny areas. Imagine the loads of free power you could generate with this feature while your Leaf just sat in the sun drenched parking space all day while you were at work. Obviously it would not charge the Leaf’s battery to full capacity but it could only help just as the regenerative braking system does and both systems working together would be able to supply the vehicle with even more clean, renewable, free energy! In cars equipped with the rooftop solar option Nissan could also add USB charging/AC power ports inside the vehicle so that a person could charge their USB powered phones, tablets, cameras and other devices while the car was charging on solar power. I believe this should be an optional feature because some people would not be interested in it aesthetically–but other “geeky tree huggin’ dirt worshipers” like myself would jump on it in a heartbeat. Also, for Leaf owners who park in garages or under trees or live in areas where it rains a lot or is often overcast this feature would not be of much use.

More adjustable driver’s seat: as mentioned before it would be nice if the driver’s seat had a lumbar adjustment and the head rest could be adjusted fore and aft for more comfort.

Battery pack: obviously the battery of the Leaf needs improvement–the day the range of EVs pass the 300 mile mark they will be in all thinking people’s garages. This is the single most limiting factor of this otherwise wonderful vehicle. I have recently seen reports of a possible 150 mile range battery pack option for 2016 LEAF–now that would be a great improvement!

Wind noise:  Due to the aerodynamics and associated pressure differentials created when driving with the windows down, the Leaf can generate some rather unpleasant buffeting sounds that only seem to go away when the windows are up or at lower speeds.  This is not that big of an issue if you have just the front windows down or the front down and back down halfway or all the way…but sometimes, for whatever reason, it gets really annoying.

Tires: The seem rather thin and weak.  Some improvements would be nice.

Conclusions: even with the limited range and other little issues we still love our Nissan Leaf–it is a truly amazing car that has saved us thousands of dollars in fuel and repair costs and we do not regret our EV decision in any way. We are loving our pioneering decision and look forward to many years of EV adventure and savings!

Real world driving in the Nissan Leaf

Below are some graphic representations of some of my usual driving routes.

Home to work and back.  This is the route I drive most frequently.  Note that the last 3rd of the route is all uphill.  One way of this daily commute uses close to 1/2 of my Leaf’s range.  However, on the return trip I regenerate an average of 15 miles of range for most of that decent so that when I arrive back home I have the same or more driving range than I did when I departed work for home 🙂  This is a round trip of 27.46 miles.  No additional charge needed.

workandback

On one of my other frequently driven routes I will drive to work, a nearby town on family business, then return home for a round trip of 49.47 miles.

No additional charge needed.

work.hville.home

This next route takes me to work, then on to one of my wildlife conservation study areas, and back home again.  It is a round trip of 60.75 miles and I usually do charge up to at least 80% while at work for that extra margin of safety.  However, I have driven the entire route without charging because the last third of the route is almost all downhill so I made it home with about 10 miles of range to spare…but that’s a bit too close for comfort.

work.shine.home

Another one of my wildlife conservation projects takes me to the top of a mountain and back down the other side on a twisty, gravel road complete with a small creek ford! I do not need to charge on this route due to the insane amount of regen I garner from the loads of downhill on the second half of the route.

richlandridge

I often visit Asheville on business and pleasure after work.  This is a round trip of 98.81 miles.   It requires me to charge to 100% the night before and then to at least 80% in Asheville before returning home but this is not a problem because there are many level 2 charging stations (and soon a few DC fast chargers!) all around the city so I have never had an issue getting a charge.

home.work.asheville.home

Long day.  One day in June 2014 my travels took me to work, then my wife and I took a trip to a brewpub in south Asheville for a pint and brats while the car charged at a level 2 station nearby, we then drove a 50 mile bat conservation route after dark in remote, mountainous–and very foggy terrain (video will be posted on this blog soon.)  The total mileage for the route was: 117.04 and I had to charge the car three times that day due to the mileage and terrain.  Note: at the top of the route the car was down to 11 miles of range but from that point on the route was almost all downhill so I regenerated over 25 miles of range and pulled into the driveway at midnight with about 25 miles remaining on the “guess-o-meter.”

anabatroute114

Longest distance driven in one day: 126.5 miles one way (not on one charge). This was an epic journey over two 4500 foot mountain ranges with two charging station visits, an overnight trickle charging episode while staying with a friend, a flat tire, a visit to a casino (for the food), a movie, and a total round trip mileage of over 300 miles!  Read all about it in a previous post and watch the video documentary of this epic EV adventure.

MurphyExcursion14

(all route maps from mapmyride.com)

Public charging stations we have used.

BrightfieldTS (1.50/hr and free) Asheville, NC – Solar charging stations

Chargepoint (1.50/hr) Asheville, NC

Blink (DC fast chargers $5.00/charge) Tennessee

Eaton (free) Asheville, Hendersonville and Clyde, NC

Schenider (free) Cherokee, NC

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Interesting and unusual places I have charged my Leaf!

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Beside a Tesla Model S

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In the Anderson Nissan service department.

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At the beer and ice shack at the LEAF festival. *Note-the Leaf festival has nothing to do with the Nissan Leaf and in fact my Leaf may have been the only one there.

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Another view from the Leaf festival

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At the barn at Earthshine Discovery Center.  If you are looking for a great place to spend a mountain vacation, visit with your school, have your wedding or corporate retreat then look no further–Earthshine Discovery Center is your place!

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Again at Earthshine Discovery Center.  I plug into an outlet located in an Eastern Box Turtle rehabilitation enclosure operated by my company

Earthshine Nature Programs!

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Again at the Anderson Nissan dealership in Asheville, NC.

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Alongside a Chevy Volt while at the movies.

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Trickle charging at a LOVE’S somewhere in Tennessee on my first day of EV ownership. We drained the battery down to 6 miles of range due to highway speeds, high atmospheric and battery temperatures…I had to stop and charge here because I was only about 9 miles from a DC fast charger.

It was truly an epic adventure 🙂

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Trickle charging while watching people scurry about pumping their petrol powered vehicles full of expensive, toxic, dirty gasoline.  My cost: a hour of my time and a $5 donation to a local charity for access to the wall outlet.

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A local equestrian center.

The outlet is free standing beside the pasture…

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At a Hampton Inn in Cashiers, NC–yes, I am plugged into the outdoor lighting pole’s 110 volt outlet.  The Manager of the Inn did not have any issue with my use of the outlet.

hamptoninn714At another location at Hampton Inn.

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The future?

Maybe a solar powered house and car…

solarhomeEV

Leaf Notes of note…

Once I was speaking to an individual about my Leaf and he said “You know, that thing burns coal and is dirtier than a gasoline powered vehicle.”  He said it in a snarky way as if to downgrade my EV and my choice–I believe he was just secretly envious and wanted a Leaf for himself.  I take his comment as a challenge to defend my decision to drive EV.  While it is true that the majority of the electricity I use to charge my EV is generated primarily by the burning of coal and natural gas and the splitting of atoms at centralized power stations, (and a small percentage of hydroelectricity, solar and wind generated electrons) that coal, unlike petroleum products, is locally sourced in the USA–not in Canada, in the arctic, or overseas, as with close to half of all petroleum products used in the USA.  Therefore much less energy is required in the extraction, shipping and refining to make it into a usable product.  So just where does our electricity come from…

2010 grid mix

 Furthermore, the electricity grid continues to get cleaner as new wind, solar farms and solar EV charging stations are going online daily…

solarcharging714UNCA

…so the longer I drive the Leaf, the cleaner it becomes!  In the future I hope to install a grid-tied solar array on my roof which will make my car and home solar powered thereby allowing me to run my car on energy generated on my property–you can not get closer to the source than that (well, maybe if you are in orbit you could). This just cannot be done with a gasoline powered vehicle.

This same person went on to say that the production and operation of electric vehicles is far more energy consumptive and therefore less sustainable that driving a gasoline powered vehicle.  Well, I would say that he may have gotten his information from the linked article below (the author of said article may or may not have been funded by either: the big petroleum powered automakers, the coal and oil industries, and anyone who stands to loose big money when millions of drivers switch to EV’s) :

http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/renewables/unclean-at-any-speed/

I do understand that many of the components that go into electric vehicles may be initially more expensive to mine, process and fabricate for use in an BEV or PHEV however, when those same components reach the end of their usefulness they can then be recycled many times over in succeeding generations of vehicles and other electronic components which will lower their cost and carbon footprint.  Couple that fact with the continued greening of the energy grid and the gloomy anti-EV picture painted by the previous author starts to look much brighter.  EV production also means JOBS!

Nissan Leaf production in Smyrna Tennessee!

Let’s face it, our society is a technological one, addicted to state of the art technology that is based on plug in electronic devices.  The  resources for these devices will need to be sourced somewhere so lets focus our energy on recycling existing resources, rebuilding the energy grid into a smart, clean grid and then lets plug in our phones, pads and our cars and charge onward into the future…

…it is the smart thing to do.

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The following articles and commentary’s stand up for EV’s as we do.

http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/clean_vehicles/electric-car-global-warming-emissions-report.pdf

http://www.technologyreview.com/view/517146/are-electric-vehicles-better-for-the-environment-than-gas-powered-ones/

http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/evtech.shtml

http://www.pluginamerica.org/

http://www.electricauto.org/

http://content.sierraclub.org/evguide/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_vehicle

Here’s George Takei’s take on EV’s

To recap: we love our EV and fully support the EV industry and we believe that a much cleaner, greener, future rides on plug in electric vehicles and we will support it 100%.

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