We have been driving our 2012 Nissan Leaf for 3 and 1/2 years so it is time to report on this, our grand experiment, of owning and daily driving the planet’s first mass produced all electric vehicle – the Nissan Leaf.
Charging up at a local BrightfieldTS solar charging station.
Before we get into the report let’s look back over the last three years.
In my first report after purchasing the little blue electric car I outlined the adventure we experienced after purchasing the car and driving it across central and eastern Tennessee. A couple of times during the entire ordeal I asked myself – was this a wise choice? Was this a total mistake? What have we done?!?! But after we made it home and I looked at how little it had cost us in electricity charges to cross Tennessee and how much I loved passing gas stations I realized that if we could adapt to the new vehicle it would save us thousands of dollars each year in fuel costs and that was just the cake – the very sweet free range organic icing was the list of environmental and health benefits offered to anyone who makes the switch to driving electric.
In my second report at three months and 6500 miles, we had settled into loving the little EV and had come to the realization that driving electric was truly a better way to drive. As I reported at the end of the article; “By buying the Leaf we have saved money (around $500), reduced our carbon footprint by eliminating almost 952.95* 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.” *To date we have saved almost 12,000 lbs of CO2 from being dumped into the atmosphere!
The third report came at 11 months and around 15,000 miles and I couldn’t wait till the end of one year to let the world know how much we love this car!! “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!”
And now for the Three Year Leaf Report
It has been 3.5 years and 45,000 miles and overall we do still love the little electric car. It is as fun to drive as it was on day one. It continues to cost us very little money to own and power. It continues to perform (in most respects) as it has for the last two years however, it has experienced a few issues and we have discovered a few quirks and limitations that must be reported.
We continue to drive the car daily to and from work, to town, and to visit nearby cities and sometimes even journey out of state (but not that far out). On average I drive the car around 1000 miles per month with an average electricity cost of around $30-40/month (or less). As in the past I continue to drive the car on all types of roads and in almost all weather conditions from hot summer days to torrential rains and snow covered winter wonderlands and the little car continues to preform admirably. The Leaf has become our car of choice for our longer local trips since it is almost free to fuel and drive. Our other vehicle, a 2013 Honda Pilot, is driven much more rarely and most often only for the shorter trips and for hauling loads, pulling a trailer, and the very rare long distance trips over 100 miles.
On the road to work in winter.
Carrying Capacity. As for the carrying capacity of the car it is perfect for us for daily commuting back and forth to work, trips to the store, movies, dinner out, visiting (local) family and friends, and wherever else we need to go. However, for the purposes of my nonprofit organization it barely serves me simply due to the fact that I really need more carrying capacity – about three times the space in the Leaf would be perfect. I suppose I am a bit of a special case since I am always toting boxes of things, tools, gear, animals, and such to and from work to home and to my wildlife and nature presentations and classes all over the region. For the last three years, out of necessity, out of not wanting to drive a gas powered vehicle to my presentations, and by wanting to provide a living example to others that a life driving an EV can be done – for most of my trips I have almost always managed to shoehorn all that I need to into the LEAF although it has not always been easy or comfortable.
What I really need for the business is an all electric small van such as the Nissan eNV200 but sadly it is currently only available in Europe and Japan. Read my blog posting about this van and please comment if you could use one for your business and maybe together our voices might in some small way influence Nissan to bring this wonderful small van to the USA.
Note: Recently I have been thinking about shipping one over the ocean or the possibility of converting a gas powered NV200 into an EV using the drive-train and battery(s) of a LEAF – I wonder if it could be done? Anyone out there have any ideas?
Charging: Since we have owned the car we most often charge it with the Level 1 charging cord that comes standard with the car. At the end of the day we park it on the car port or in the garage, plug it into the nearby 110 volt outlet, and let it trickle charge overnight and it is always ready to go in the morning. It is just soooo much easier and soooo much cheaper than stopping at the gas station, I just can not explain why so many people are so reluctant to do it and after a couple of recent less than safe and secure events I have witnessed at gas stations – read all about them in two of my recent blog postings here and here – I am even more happy to pass up the gas.
On a few rare occasions I have returned home after midnight and plugged in the Leaf only to find it still charging in the morning. This has never been much of an issue for me as my office is only 12 miles away and anywhere else I may travel there are many different charging options available if needed.
If I have a distance to drive after work I will charge the car while at work via a second L1 charger that was given to me by EV club member, friend, and superhero for wildlife and nature conservation, solar power, and EV’s Bob Harris of Black Bear Solar Institute –
THANK YOU BOB!
Charging while at work at possibly the planet’s only “Chicken Coop” Charging station that will soon be solar powered by my classroom’s solar array making the Leaf also solar powered and truly zero emission 🙂
My students and I, with the help of friends Jim Hardy and Bob Harris, completed phase one of the classroom solar array on January 20th, 2017.
Read more about it in this post on my nature blog .
When the electrical wiring and battery storage is complete this solar array will produce 5.3 kW of solar power! That is enough clean, renewable, site-produced electricity to power many of our classroom’s electric loads as well as the Nissan Leaf! Below is a diagram of how it all will work.
Read more about our classroom solar project and how you can support the final phase of its construction and/or our other nonprofit renewable energy, wildlife and nature conservation and education projects.
Charging on the road: When I am out and about in the community I most often make use of the local charging network that consists of over 100 charging stations spread out all over my region. The growth of this network was slow at first but due to efforts of local EV and renewable energy owner/advocacy groups such as Black Bear Solar Institute, Brightfield Transportation Systems, Land of Sky Clean Vehicles Coalition, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the Blue Ridge EV Club, and Charge Transylvania County and support from local businesses, educational institutions, and forward thinking individuals – the network has seen rapid growth over the last two years. Recently Earthfare and Brevard College added charging stations with many more on the way!
Most recently Duke Energy announced plans to add over 200 L2 charging stations to the North Carolina Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) network! This is a wonderful development and while it will expand our driving range it would be even better yet if Duke would install solar or wind energy systems alongside these charging stations to offset their use with renewable energy. Maybe Brightfield Transportation Systems and FLS Energy will join forces with Duke Energy Renewables to make this happen!
Take a look at the current state of the WNC charging network on Plugshare.com! Keep in mind that each location may contain from one to several individual charging units allowing for several vehicles to charge at a time. While you are at it check out Plugshare.com for your city and see how many charging stations are near you!
In March of 2015 I witnessed firsthand as the first DC Quick (DCQC) charger went online in Asheville, NC. In the months following, several more DCQC units came online along with many more Level 2 units and finally the area’s first Tesla Supercharger was installed in December of 2015. This expanding EVSE network has opened up the roads even more to those of us who drive electric and as far as my daily errands, business trips, and even a few longer range visits to see friends in neighboring communities, we can now use my EV to travel almost anywhere I once traveled with a gas vehicle.
Charging Timer: For the first two years of Leaf ownership I would most often set the Leaf’s charge timer to charge to 80% to increase battery life. Over the last year however, due to the premature battery degradation issue I will go over in more detail later, I have been forced to charge to 100% more often. I am not happy with this fact at all but the fact remains that if I need the extra range to take care of my errands after work or on weekends I will charge to 100% out of necessity. I have been able to work out a charging scheme that serves to give the battery more time to cool down and not charge to 100% as often. How it works: upon my arrival at work at 9 AM I usually have about a 50-60% SOC. I will then plug in and trickle charge to 100% during the day. The car will often stop charging around 2pm giving it around 3-4 hours of cool down time. At the end of the day I will run my errands on the way home and as the terrain is almost all downhill I will not use as much power. When I arrive back home I will often park the Leaf with a 75-80% SOC on the battery. I then let the battery rest overnight without charging when ambient temperatures are cooler.
During the colder weeks of winter (these are getting few and farther between due to anthropogenic climate change aka global warming ) when the temperatures are below 40F, I will most often park the Leaf in my garage so the battery will not be subjected to the lower temperatures of winter. This practice not only gives me a few more miles of range but the car is warmer when I get in so I only need to use the seat and steering wheel warmers on the drive to work. I very seldom turn on the heater/defroster unless it is below freezing or the windows are fogging up.
While these techniques will hopefully slow the battery degradation somewhat, I do have to plan my charging sessions a few days in advance so I will be able to be sure I will have a full battery when I need it.
These adaptations are acceptable to me but I suppose I am a special case. Many people would not like all the compromises I have made. For many in our fast paced, instant gratification, jump in the car and go society, having to stop and think to plug in a car much less think about the car’s range, battery health, temperature, and other parameters would just not be acceptable – even though we are already accustomed to plugging our smartphones and other devices in at night – this would just be one more step that many are not willing to make. This is yet more real world evidence why a 200+ mile range EV is much more practical than one that will travel less than 100 miles. With a 200+ range EV almost none of this would even be an issue, anyone could travel anywhere they would normally travel AND now that the fast charging network is in place and growing nationwide we would be able to travel to all of the more distant destinations for which we are forced to use our only remaining gasoline powered vehicle.
I feel certain that soon, the day will come when our dreams of a 300 mile range EV van/utility vehicle will be realized. On that day we will trade our fossil fired Honda and say goodbye to gas forever and then our family will be 100% free of the grip of big oil and on that day we will all grin that EV grin as we drive away passing gas into the sunset 😉
Driving Range. Since purchasing the Leaf in the late summer of 2012 we have steadily lost driving range. All vehicles, no matter the fuel used, loose driving range as they age – but in our case it is happening faster and this is not “normal.” In one of my first blog postings – the 2000 mile report – I noted that the car had an estimated driving range (from the GOM) of around 80 miles but its real world range was around 70. Today that range has been reduced to around 55-60 real world miles. Even with this reduction in range I have almost no issues getting where I need to go. According to my research this reduction in range is a bit more pronounced for our Leaf than the majority of 2012 Leaf owners have experienced. This suggests that the traction battery in my Leaf may have been damaged before I took over ownership of the vehicle. I have no proof of this, it is only speculation based on available facts. Read more about this issue later in this report.
Long Range Trips. Now this is a different story. I have taken several long range road trips that have really tested the capabilities of the little blue car. The most memorable being my first excursion over the mountains back in the days before we had the ever growing EVSE network that we have today. With my Leaf being a 2012 model it came standard with a 24 kWh battery pack with an EPA estimated range of 84 miles. This is a relatively small battery by today’s standards (think Tesla!) and over the first two years of driving the car it provided my vehicle with a real world driving range of around 70-80 miles. This driving range was great for daily commuting but for long range trips beyond 75 miles the old “range anxiety” monster began to creep into the picture. Then last year I embarked on this mis-adventure that ended in the Leaf having to be towed (by a stinky diesel – yuk!) to a charging station due to an exhausted battery (it was all my fault)!
Then there was my most recent close call in December of 2016 when I rolled onto the car-port with ZERO range remaining on the “guess-o-meter” and an 8% SOC as reported by LeafSpyPro- that was a close one!
I was really pushing the edge of the envelope due to the battery degradation issues the car is now facing…read more about this later.
Outside of my recent range related experiences the future looks great for the Leaf and the other new long rage EV’s coming on the scene. Many of the planet’s automotive companies are accelerating EV projects, research laboratories are ramping up battery chemistry research and development with some amazing results hitting the roads and the Tesla Gigafactory is now online and pumping out batteries as you read these words. The the 2016 Leaf has been out for over a year with a 107 mile driving range and in the next few months Nissan is rumored to be releasing the Leaf 2.0 with a possible driving range of over 200 miles – read more about it here and here and the test mule story here and here!
The upcoming new Leaf, the recent release of the 238 mile range Chevrolet Bolt, the Hyundai Ioniq with 124 mile range (soon to have 200 mile range), and the upcoming release of the new Volvo and Volkswagen EV’s and the much anticipated and highly reserved Tesla Model 3 with a stated driving range of 215 miles (but knowing Elon it will probably top 250 or have different battery options from 215 to maybe around 300…only time will tell) as well as the Nikola 1 and could this be a teaser of the Tesla Truck? Then there is the recent news that SMART is ditching gas altogether and offering all their USA and Canadian vehicles in electric only! Then there is the news that Volkswagen has committed to 30 all-electric vehicles by 2025 and that Volkswagen will be investing 2 billion dollars in new EVSE infrastructure in the USA- wow! And check out what Audi America President recently said! All these are wonderful developments that will forever erase the fear many drivers have of “range anxiety” and I am very hopeful and excited to see what the future holds for the EV.
Since owning the Leaf there has been very little maintenance to conduct on the vehicle. Outside of a couple of flat tires, a couple of worn suspension bushings (probably due to the gravel road I drive daily), a strut that sprung a premature leak and needed replacing, a new cabin filter (that I changed myself and blogged about), new wiper blades, and 2 sets of tires, so far the only big issue (outside of the battery capacity) was the replacement of the Braking Control Unit and master cylinder/booster assembly. If not for the warranty this would have been a very expensive repair! The fact remains that none of these issues were related to the vehicle being an EV and all of these things would have happened to any vehicle no matter what fuel was pushing the vehicle down the road.
Getting a new set of shoes – I use the Yokohama 580
To date the Leaf’s electric drive system has worked flawlessly and had no issues (despite the reduced range related to the battery degradation).
One odd issue we experienced was due to lack of vigilance of the operator.
During the spring of 2016, due to an emergency in the family, the car was parked for a few weeks with about a 80% battery charge. During this time the LeafSpy Pro’s OBDII adapter remained plugged into the diagnostic port of the car. The adapter was on and using a very small amount of power and the car was parked in a dark area where the rooftop solar panel could not get any solar exposure to power the OBDII adaptor and maintain the 12 volt battery. These factors conspired to drain the car’s 12 volt battery. The flat battery caused the car’s computer to loose its settings which threw all manner of things out of whack resulting in a $300 out of warranty cost to identify the problem and then reprogram the system-what a bummer.
So, all in all, in 3.5 years/45k miles of ownership of this little blue EV we have had to spend less than $400 out of pocket on maintenance. Granted this was because the vehicle was still under warranty and if I had to pay out of pocket for the brake system repairs it would have been over $2000 not counting labor! But again, those repairs would have been similar for any newer car no matter what fuel it operated on so the EV nature of the vehicle was in no way at fault. Some may say that it would be more cost effective to just drive an older fossil burner to save money. I beg to differ. Considering that during the same time fame my 1999 Toyota 4Runner (a great vehicle for its time) cost us close to $3000 in repairs and $3000 in gasoline and oil so the Leaf was by far the more cost effective option – even with the monthly car payment.
The old Toyota 4Runner- a great vehicle that ran on the wrong fuel.
That has all changed now that the 3 year 36k warranty has expired. The great thing is that the power-train/EV systems are still covered by a 5 year 60,000 mile warranty and the traction battery has a 8 year 100,000 mile warranty so I am good for a few more years/miles on those key EV systems. I suppose it is inevitable that a few years in the future, if/when I have any more issues with the little car, I will be doing my own repairs. I have no problem with this because I am a tinkerer and I love to fix things.
Amenities (bells and whistles).
The stock Leaf is clean and refined enough for the everyday driver and is feature rich enough for the driver interested in keeping track of the car’s primary systems. However, for the data and technology junkie like myself, I believe the features could be improved and refined to offer more EV systems and performance data for those drivers that want a wealth of information about their vehicle’s systems in situ and over time. An improvement would be to include more information on the car’s systems such as a user selectable monitoring screen showing a graphic representation of the vehicle with all systems highlighted in a semi-transparent view. Each system would be selectable by the driver either via a touch screen or a BMW i3/Nissan style joystick-like knob and/or a voice recognition interface to allow for less distractions while driving. Once the driver selects a system a new window or info bubble would open showing details of the selected system for example; if the traction battery is selected the info window would display metrics such as SOC, GIDS, TEMP, Charge/Discharge/Regen rate/stats, hours in use, faults,alerts etc… This system could be used by the driver to monitor all vehicle systems and in the event of a fault or failure a warning message would be prominently displayed on the main screen accompanied by an audio warning by the EV-SIMDAS.
Suggestion: EV Systems Information Monitoring and Driver Alert System (EV-SIMDAS).
This system would constantly monitor all systems of the vehicle alerting the driver through audio and visual warning alerts of the current issue. This system would be user customizable with several choices of skins and fonts as well as various voices and languages for use with the SIMDAS and vehicle navigation system. Users may also download unique customizable themes and packages of their own choosing or create their own and upload them into the system themselves.
I like the design of the interior of the car. It is of what I would call mid-range quality. Although it has held up well to my daily use, I have also been very careful and tried not to damage or soil it. My biggest issues with the interior are as follows;
- The annoying and possibly dangerous reflection in the windshield from the dashboard. This happens on sunny days and is almost mirror-like in quality. The remedy would be a dark colored, non reflective surface.
- Odd sounds from the glove box area and dash panel while driving over rough surfaces. This is only audible when the music is off. It is a tiny yet annoying repetitive “rattle” or “chatter” that only goes away once the road smooths out. The only way to stop it is to open the glove box. It is not an item in the glove box so I believe it to be a loose fixing behind the dashboard. This may only be an issue affecting those of us who drive their Leaf’s on rougher roads as I have yet to speak with anyone with a similar problem so it may only be my problem.
- The seat design. I have never found it very comfortable and constantly find myself trying to adjust it for better comfort. The problems I have with it are that the lumbar support area is much too “sunken in” and the headrest is too far forward. To remedy both of these issues I built up the lumbar region with a piece of 1.5″ foam placed under the seat cover and I reversed the headrest. This helped my unique situation but as this is my preference, others may find it to be just fine.
- Navigation system. The nav system needs to be more feature rich and user friendly.
- Audio. This system has worked very well for me for the most part.
- Hands free Bluetooth audio/phone and voice recognition system. The Nissan Info-tainment system allows my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone to connect flawlessly to the system allowing me to stream music and podcasts from my device. The hands-free phone system works very well allowing me to make and take calls while driving. However, the voice recognition system (at least in my car) has some serious issues. When I use the system to make calls while driving it frequently takes the system several tries before it recognizes my voice and takes the appropriate action. I have had a Nissan technician look at the issue and they have found no problems with the hardware so I believe it is either my voice (low chance of probability), a software issue (low chance of probability), or combination of environmental factors such as road/tire noise not present during testing that are conspiring to manifest the problem (high chance of probability). I have tested the system while the car is stationary and, while the voice recognition system works a bit better that while driving, it continues to have issues with voice recognition. I do not believe my regional accent is the problem because my 2013 Honda Pilot has a similar hands free phone system and it works flawlessly never misinterpreting my commands. So there you have it Nissan – something else to work on for the upcoming new LEAF.
Since I first laid eyes on the Nissan Leaf I have loved its sleek, futuristic design. From the swept back, aerodynamic look, to the unique headlight pods and the distinctive tall, narrow LED taillight assemblies – the design speaks of unique form following function creating a one of a kind beauty that is very fitting for the planet’s first mass produced all electric vehicle.
My Leaf deep in the Pisgah National Forest
I only have one real issue with the exterior of the Leaf.
- The windshield wipers make a horrible chatter when the rain is light or misty. I have tried “RainX” and other similar products without results. I have replaced the blades – without results. I have taken the vehicle to the Nissan dealership on several occasions to have this looked at but they have found no issues and say all is working well. If that is the case then why the chatter?
If anyone out there has any ideas on how to remedy this issue please do contact me.
Other suggestions for Nissan to consider.
- Remove the “mickey mouse ear” side view mirrors and replace them with HD cameras (similar to what Tesla and others are working on). This would serve to make the Leaf safer by eliminating blind spots while driving and parking, it would reduce aerodynamic drag thereby increasing efficiency and driving range, and it would streamline the look of the vehicle making it even more distinctive.
- Offer a wide angle rear view mirror similar to the Chevrolet Bolt. (I know it is technically interior but it is used to view the exterior…)
- Offer an optional rooftop/hoodtop solar array consisting of lightweight high efficiency solar cells embedded in a hardened possibly glass matrix similar to what Tesla Energy is working on for homes. I wrote about this idea in the Three Month Leaf Report and even came up with this badly photo-shopped image…
…but now I believe it could be incorporated into a roof/hood design that would be less visible yet produce many thousands of miles of added range per year and therefore even more in fuel savings for the owner, a further reduction of greenhouse gas emissions for the planet, thus a win-win for all considered…well except for the maybe the fossil fuel companies but hey, I can live with that 🙂 This concept is not just a geeky idea that fell out of my brain…others are working on it as well enter the Sion from Sono Motors a crowdfunded solar powered EV!
Our Leaf is a 2012. It was built in Japan in 2011 before Nissan started making the Leaf and its battery pack at it’s Smyrna Tennessee manufacturing facility. Therefore, its battery is a first generation unit that is more susceptible to high temperature related degradation. This was an unfortunate problem discovered by several early Leaf owners in areas with hot climates which resulted in a lawsuit directed at Nissan. This lawsuit spurred the implementation of the generation 2 “Lizard” battery that drives all Nissan Leaf and eNV200 vehicles to this day.
When we purchased our Leaf it only had 1200 miles on the odometer. We were told by the dealership that it had been a one owner car and that owner had worked for Nissan and driven the vehicle to promotional events. After a few months the Nissan rep then turned in the vehicle to be put up for sale where it then spent several more months sitting on a Nissan car lot until we purchased it. During its several months of down time it sat on the hot parking lot in central Tennessee baking in the summer sun. Was the battery fully charged during this time? Was the car used/test drove much at all? Due to the low mileage I doubt it.
My hypothesis is that due to the vehicle’s low usage, time spent in summer high temperatures, and possibility of sitting in that heat in a fully charged state – that all these factors may have caused the car’s traction battery to suffer premature damage resulting in the reduced range issues I am seeing today.
Since day one I have kept detailed records of the car’s driving data. For the first two years I used the mycarma myEV vehicle data logger and associated app. It worked pretty well for awhile but started having connectivity issues a little over a year ago so I switched to the much more stable and data rich Leaf Spy Pro unit.
On June 8th 2015, when the car had 25,527 miles on the odometer, I noticed that the first battery capacity bar was missing. The myEV device was reporting that the battery health was at 89% and the guess-o-meter estimated that I had 74 miles of range in drive. The first capacity bar returned and dropped away repeatedly for the next several months but did not remain absent until almost 5 months and almost 5000 miles later at the end of October 2015 when it returned one last time and then was forever extinguished with around 30k miles on the odometer. When this happened I noted that the vehicle was continuing to estimate my driving range at 74 miles in drive and 80 in ECO. This capacity loss hardly affected my travels in any way.
On 12/11/15 I started using Leaf Spy and discovered that when charged to 100% my battery stats were as follows;
On 7/15/16, with the odometer reading 38,400 miles, I turned on the car only to find that in less than 8 months the second capacity bar was missing
Leaf Spy reported the following stats when charged to 100%
I promptly took the car to Nissan for a check up and they said all looked normal and the battery checked out OK with a five star rating (whatever that means -meh). The Nissan representative did state that my car has the 100k mile extended warranty on the battery and that it would be repaired or replaced if the battery capacity drops below 9 bars.
Since that time I have seen a steady decrease in the range I can drive my Leaf. In fact the numbers below from Leaf Spy Pro indicate the ongoing degradation of the battery.
Average statistics of the car’s battery as reported when in a fully charged state by Leaf Spy Pro for the month of December 2016.
From these numbers I believe I can predict that I may loose the third capacity bar when Leaf Spy reports the following;
If the car’s mileage is a factor in when capacity bars drop then it seems that, for my driving conditions, around 8k miles has elapsed between the loss of the first and second capacity bars (as measured after the first bar dropped away entirely.) These data suggest that I could look for the third capacity bar to drop at around 46,400 miles and since my car now has over 45k miles on its odometer it may not be very long before I loose the third capacity bar.
So to recap it looks like if the battery keeps degrading at the same rate as it has for the last 1.5 years then the car may loose it’s third capacity bar at GID’s 197/kWh 15.1 and fourth capacity bar at GID’s 186/kWh 14.3 and if mileage is a factor then the car could loose its fourth capacity bar by around 54,400 miles! If this is the case then that number is well below the 8 year 100k mile battery warranty provided by Nissan (as noted in the 2012 warranty booklet provided by Nissan).
Only time will tell and whatever it reveals I will be sure to report on within the pages of this blog.
The Renewable Connection. The purchase of the Leaf was a great inspiration for the classroom solar energy project that my students and I are currently constructing to power most of our classroom’s electric power loads and the Leaf! The ability to produce your own power for your classroom/office/home AND fuel for your vehicle cannot be understated. In fact, I have built an entire core class around the concept of producing your own renewable energy to power your lives and your vehicle(s). Within the next few weeks my students and I will complete our classroom solar array and soon will be producing site generated clean electricity and the Leaf will then be charged by the sun! This practical application of renewable energy coupled with electric vehicles can be implemented by anyone, anywhere and together we can work together to end our dirty, destructive addiction to fossil fuels.
My LEAF at a local solar farm that provides clean energy for over 400 homes!
I have written many posts about all the reasons why I love my Leaf and most of them center around not using toxic, life and ecosystem killing petrochemicals to move me from place to place, not fueling climate change, and how much money I have saved by owning this little EV. Some of my favorite stories are listed below –
EV Ownership cultural ups and downs
There are many cultural hurdles to be experienced when one drives an EV. These are undoubtedly different depending on what parts of the country/world in which you live. In my corner of the world I encounter the best and the worst of both worlds for example.
A “coal roller” intentionally shortening his life. Photo from the internet.
Since then I have had a few instances where “doubters” “nay-sayers” “luddites” and even a few truly good people who just do not have all the facts and/or are resistant to change have attempted to make their position known with several different tactics (that all stem from lack of knowledge) with some of these encounters actually ending with the instigators learning something, walking away with a more open mind, and possibly even driving away in an EV!
2-Road rage/highway bullying. This has happened on countless occasions where I am driving along minding my own business only to look in my rear view mirror and find a large pick-up truck (often with a confederate flag, don’t tread on me, or other intolerant, fringe-focused, close minded front license plate reflected in my rear view mirror) riding three feet off my bumper often with the headlights, “fog” lights, LED light bars on high beam.
Photo from the internet
It is not that I drive slow, I try to abide by the law and routinely drive no more than 5mph over the speed limit – road and environmental conditions depending. Furthermore, we EV drivers know that our cars are much faster than ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) powered vehicles and if I wanted to do so I could simply press the accelerator to the floor and silently disappear into the distance before the perpetrator knew what had happened. But no, I do not let the small-minded knuckle-dragging bullies driving the ancient vehicles of yesteryear intimidate me so I maintain my speed, I stay calm, focused, and watch as a very predictable series of events almost always unfolds (just like with the childish, posturing schoolyard bullies I dealt with as a youngster); the perpetrator rides my bumper long enough to read the badges on the car that say “Zero emission” and “100% electric” and then may take note of the decals that read “No Tailpipe” and “Proven by Science” and “Question Fossil Fuels – Go Green” at which point (if they are able to read) they may realize that the vehicle is electric and (as in my experience) many of the stereotypical big truck driving rebel flag waving, prominently displayed gun rack sporting types often seem to see progressive things, like this little electric car, as a threat to their freedoms and all that they stand for and of everything they do not understand or are unwilling to even try to understand. This erroneously ignorant outlook then often labels the car and its driver a threat to the toxic lifestyle that they have been taught to propagate, perpetuate, cherish, and for some even worship. These “lunatic fringe” types appear to loathe and fear anything they do not understand when accepting that “different” thing would open up so many unique possibilities for growth and possibly wealth – yet they choose to wallow in their own ignorance and aggressively tailgate the little EV – so very sad.
Art from the internet.
Soon they realize that their pushy bumper riding tactics are not working so they ride right up on my bumper, often weaving back and forth with impatience, until they find a place to pass (even if it is not a marked passing zone), drop their gas guzzling, heavily modified, old fossil burner into a lower gear, and speed by as loud and as garishly as possible cutting it as close as possible to my car as they whip back into the right lane only to linger a moment before speeding off down the road breaking the speed limit as they leave a toxic cloud of exhaust smoke (almost always diesel) in their infantile, ignorance, testosterone filled (they are almost always male), and possibly alcohol fueled wake.* Sadly, some bullies never grow up so there may be no hope for these types but then again…see #3.
*I am fully aware that this description seems very stereotypical yet in my experience it is accurate and I am not exaggerating. I welcome any input/comments from other EV drivers out there who have experienced similar events.
3-Road Respect. I have had a few productive discussions with some individuals who profess to drive big, loud garish 4×4 type vehicles because they need them for their jobs. These hard working folks are not as resistant to change as the arrogant road warrior types described in the previous paragraph. These individuals often initiate the conversation with questions like “Is that one of those electric cars?” or “I heard they are slow like golf carts?” or “Does it really run only on batteries?” or “How much does it cost to charge it?” When I fill them in on the fact that it is fully electric, quite fast, and only costs me an average of $7 to drive around 200 miles they are genuinely interested and often floored that the operational costs are so minuscule when compared to their big trucks. They often retort by saying things like “That is incredible!!” and “My truck costs me several hundred a month to fuel!” and “I think I need to take one of those for a test drive.” or “This would be a great vehicle for my wife and kids!” So I look at it like this – while these folks do drive big gas guzzling trucks they are closet geeks at heart. Many of them seem to be open minded enough to start thinking about the possibility of owning an EV – if only to save loads of money. So hopefully, the more I share my story the more the world will change especially once automakers start making electric 4×4 trucks 🙂
4-Road Ignorance. I have had many individuals come out and say things like “You know that thing burns coal?” or “EV’s are dirtier than ‘normal’ cars.” and “Electric vehicles are slow – like golf carts.” and “I would never buy a car that only goes 70 miles before needing to be charged!” or “That thing is un-American! It does not support the oil we work so hard to defend – I would NEVER drive and EV! and so many more negative comments. We all know that many of these comments stem from total ignorance of the facts (doubters) and often a wanton distrust of anything new (luddites). So frustrating are these encounters that I have even gone as far as putting together several blog postings here, here and here outlining the facts in the attempt to spread some truth to the masses. I suppose I am preaching to the choir in most cases and the people that really need to read these words may never read them…but we can only hope they do because if we do not try to change the system then the system will never change.
However, there have been a many times where I have calmly struck up a conversation with uninformed or ill-informed individuals, offered up a few facts about the vehicle and the technology, given a tour, even given a ride, and in a few cases even let them drive the little EV and in a few instances totally change their views and/or either plant a seed of thought in their opening minds and, as in a few cases, the experience has even sold them on the EV way if life and before I know it they are driving the roads in their own EV! Sadly for some people however there is no amount of reason and/or facts that will ever change their minds. I feel sorry for these people for they are only hurting themselves and making it harder for the rest of us to progress.
Positive EV Encounters
While the negative encounters will happen they do seem to be getting to be fewer and farther between. More often the people I have encountered are genuinely interested in my EV and what it is like to own and drive an all electric car.
For example –
When I first purchased the Leaf I soon showed it to my friend “Jack”. He was in the market for a car and was looking at a Toyota hybrid but after he took my Leaf for a drive he decided to buy one and soon drove off the lot with a new 2015 model! He has since become a great advocate for the technology, attends EV events whenever possible and works hard to promote EV’s, renewable energy, and nature conservation in the community. THANK YOU JACK you are a true HERO and great inspiration to me!!
Early in my EV ownership adventure when my Leaf was one of the only ones in town, I was pulled over by not one but two State Troopers in separate vehicles with blue lights flashing. They walked around it as if looking for infractions, then they asked for my license and registration and as they looked up my records they asked me about the car. It turned out that my tag was out of date and the troopers gave me a warning ticket and drove on. I believe the real reason for the show of force from the force was more interest driven and they just wanted to look at this new type of vehicle they were going to be encountering on the roads they patrol.
I showed my Leaf to my doctor and a few weeks later he was driving a BMW i3.
One day I was driving along in my Leaf and received a phone call (piped via Bluetooth through the Leaf’s hands free phone system) and heard a woman’s voice. She and I spoke for a bit about EV’s, I told her the story of the adventures and challenges of owning an all electric vehicle, and before long she was driving the roads in a brand new Tesla Model S!
In another instance another local man, let’s call him “Squirrel” read this blog and soon was driving around in his own white Leaf. He later sold the Leaf and now “Squirrel” happily drives a shiny white Tesla Model S.
In yet another local instance a man, let’s call him “Tad,” was inspired by his conversations with my friend “Jack” so he went out and bought a Tesla Model S! So one could say that if “Jack” had not been inspired by driving my Leaf to buy his own Leaf then the probability is very low that “Tad” would be driving around his very own shiny electric “Intergalactic SpaceBoat of Light and Wonder.”
In one amazing instance I presented an educational nature and wildlife conservation program at a local school. As with all of my wildlife/nature programs I offer up to the participants that one of the ways they can help wildlife and nature is by driving electric vehicles powered by renewable energy sources. On this instance I introduced the student body to my little EV. One of the students was so inspired by the car and my story that he petitioned the school’s directors to replace the campus vehicles with EV’s and to install a solar array at the school to power the car(s) and the classroom buildings! I have yet to hear back on if the school will be making these improvements but even if they do not take that leap, that one student is thinking in the right direction and that makes me very happy. Another amazing part of this story is that the inspired student who petitioned the school to go EV and renewable had, before my presentation, been totally focused on high speed gasoline powered vehicles. Amazingly, after my introduction to EV’s and renewable energy, this student had a great epiphany and totally dropped petroleum as a fuel of choice and became an ardent supporter of EV’s and renewable energy! That is just more proof of the power of a good education and why we all need to work to support these technologies in our daily lives.
Sharing EV knowledge and love with the next generation 🙂
Most recently I coached two separate friends on purchasing EV and a few days later they were both driving around in shiny new 2016 Leafs 🙂
One of the things I am most proud of is the creation of a local Electric Vehicle club. A few months after I started driving electric I noticed that there was not a page on Facebook where people could meet to discuss all things EV – so I created one. It is called the Blue Ridge EV Club and it now has over 160 members from all around the world, all walks of life who drive all types of EV’s and now it has a dedicated website! The club works hard to promote driving electric, living more responsibly, and using renewable energy to power our cars, homes and our lives. Check out the club’s website and Facebook page and feel free to join us and together we can make a difference.
Members of the Blue Ridge EV Club at a local solar EV charging station.
Outside of the limited range, premature battery degradation issues, and other little irritating minutia, we truly love our Nissan Leaf. It is a very well designed electric vehicle that gets us around our community with unique style and very low operational costs while working to lower our impact on the environment. It has connected us with a like-minded group of EV owners who have made our lives richer and open to the future of clean transportation and renewable energy. It has presented me with the opportunity to educate the public and my students on the benefits of driving electric vehicles and renewable energy through my nonprofit wildlife, nature and renewable energy education organization –
So now I ask you.
Are you tired of paying the big oil barons your hard earned money for their toxic and life-destroying product?
Are you tired of the repair bills on your antiquated fossil burner?
Are you are tired of the noise, smell and leaks?
Are you tired of stopping at gas stations?
Are you tired of supporting terrorism through your purchasing of petroleum products?
Are you tired of contributing to the alteration of our climate via the exhaust gasses emitted by your old fossil burner which directly contribute to anthropogenic climate change?
Are you ready to save money?
Are you ready to make a good and positive, forward-thinking change?
Are you interested in helping people, nature and wildlife?
Are you interested in the possibility of making your own clean fuel?
Are you interested in a fun, quiet, ride to work?
Are you interested in being part of a rapidly growing community of like-minded people working to make positive change?
Are you interested in making a difference and in working to make a better future for us all?
If you answered yes to any of these questions then please consider test driving and possibly purchasing or leasing a Nissan Leaf or other EV and better yet going solar and powering your EV on clean, renewable energy generated at home.
You will be glad you did.
Driving Electric + Renewable Energy = FREEDOM