Friday, May 10, 2013

Driving Nissan Leaf

After closely following the resurgence of (all) Electric Car in last few years, I thought of trying one; no, not buying but renting one.

Yes, there are just 2 companies which rents the electric cars: Hertz and Enterprise. The problem with Hertz is you would never know which make and model you will end up getting & from which location. Enterprise on the other hand shares its locations where you find one and then you can call the rental center to reserve one for you.

Currently Available (All) Electric cars in the market

As you might know in US there are only a few "pure" electric cars available:
Make/Model  (Year: 2013)
EPA Range in miles
mpge(city/highway/ combined) in miles
EPA Size Class
MSRP after $7500 Fed credit
Nissan Leaf
Ford Focus Electric
Mitshubishi i-Miev
Tesla Model S (60-kw)
Honda Fit EV
Small wagon
smart fortwo electric drive coupe
2 seater
Toyota RAV4EV
small SUV
Epa data came from, price from & Smart car price from here on 5/10/2013

EPA calculates the range as
Rangeepa = 0.7 * ( 0.55 * Rangecity + 0.45 * Rangehighway)

So in reality your range should be about 35-45% higher than the Range shown above.


I rented the Leaf from Baltimore downtown location. The doesnt' show the electric car  option but when I called them I was told that I should reserve that as 'premier' car which after corporate discount for home use coupon turn out to be $48/day including damage waiver and other basic insurance.


The car fully charged showed a range of 107 miles (just when I rented) which dropped to 42 after I reached a destination 47.9 miles away loosing 56% of charge. Meaning 56% of charge should have given me 107 * 0.56 = 60 miles of range but it gave me only about 48. But to be fair, it was mostly highway driving.

Next Day I couldnt' charge it very well on my tickle home wall socket. & I mostly drove locally without paying much attention to my charge.
The third day I charged as much I could achieving 86 miles range & then drove to 66.7 (364.7-298.0) miles and the range dropped to 65 miles to 21 miles. This was mostly city driving. So range and actual miles driven were mostly in sync.

So in short, if your city and highway driving is almost half-half mix than you should get within 5-7 miles of the range shown on dashboard i.e/ about 100  miles of driving  per charge (in eco mode).


Charging on regular 110V household takes for ever; something that Nissan & even other sites very cleverly chose not to express. In my calculation a full 100% charge from an almost depleted level would take around 24 hours.  On a Level 2 charger (fortunately we have plenty of them around the MD/DC area, thanks to semaconnect and blink network mostly free unless the garage charges a parking fee) which gives a 220V and 30A current, this reduces to 5.5-6 hours. DC charger which this particular Leaf was capable of handling thru its quick-charge port, could reduce the charging to about half an hour or less as it pumps 440V DC @50KW, but there are very few ones close-by for me to try and see for myself.

Driving Experience

Car drove nicely with very little to no sound. It has 2 driving mode, regular and eco. In both the modes however you would feel the the scarcity of  power while accelerating. But once I got used to it, it wasn't  something that  bothered me or was a problem overtaking or merging on highways. 


The car was comfortable with all the bells and whistles that you expect from a $20-$30K car range including  XM, Navigation, Climate control, cruise control, power everything etc. etc. Its 5 seater is kinda cramped though in the back especially if you are having a child seat. Being a hatchback  design, trunk space was OK too, almost like Toyota Prius.

Economy vs. Savings

The fuel economy data for owing an electric car is well published, nevertheless I wanted to do my own calculation. So here it goes:

This car:
Our electricity rate :  11.79 c/kwh (My Pepco May 2013 bill, generic rate available at  peak rate consisting of distribution, transmission +generation * tax)
Leaf Battery Bank Size: 24 kwh
$ amount to fill Leaf: 24 * 0.1179 = $2.83
useful miles it can drive on full charge : 100
fuel economy: 2.83 cents/mile

Gasoline car:
mpg assumed: 35
Local Best Gas Rate; $3.50 (5/10/2013)
cost to drive a mile: 10 cents/mile

Nissan gives a 100,000 warranty on battery. Assuming that's the life of battery is, 
Savings over lifetime = (10-2.83) * 100,000/100 = $7,170
Not doing the Oil change should bring about $700-$1000 savings as well as any state income tax credit for EV, but I am cancelling that out since level2 charger installation also costs money.

Since after Federal Tax Credit, Leaf price is almost in the price range of any regular gasoline car, the above gas savings (not to mention the maintenance cost) can be treated as pure savings.


In conclusion this is a good daily commuter car if your work is not very far which could save one a solid gas money. Having a 100+ miles range takes away the 'range anxiety' that is generally associated with electric car. After your work, you can still do plenty of running around before heading  home and you will have enough juice left. A level 2 charger is a must though otherwise you wont' be able to drive everyday. For a little DIYer type, creating a Level 2 charger point is not very complicated; just pull a 220V line from your main using a AWG-10/2 copper cable to your garage & a 30W circuit breaker and connect it to a Level 2 Charger kit available for about $1000 at amazon. 
But for my specific case in which I have a daily commute of 90 miles city (or 102 Miles if I take a longer but faster highway route), I can just about it with this Leaf. 

So, guess my search for a good Electric car (or a job little closer to home), is still not over :(


  1. I commend you for trying out the LEAF. We have two of them and they are working out wonderfully for us.

    I would just say that by your own calculations you spend about $9 in gasoline per day on your commute. Driving a gas car you would emit AT LEAST 5 1/2 tons of CO2 annually.

    Take a look at a Tesla Model S.

  2. Yes you are right in your calculation and that's the reason I want to switch to EV.
    Model S is too expensive for me though. Wish that Leaf/Spark just up their range a little bit and then I am all in :)