Thoughts after a week with my 2018 LEAF
I picked up my LEAF just over a week ago, and I am very impressed with the car. It has performed just as I had hoped that it would. I will go over my evaluation of points that have been brought up by professional journalists as well as those of more casual but actual owners of past LEAF’s. I have not owned an electric car before, however I was part of the team that built the first two fuel cell busses while working for Ballard Power Systems in the 90’s. It is interesting to think back to comments by Geoff Ballard who did not see the fuel cell as an automotive power system. His thoughts were that it did not have a high enough power density nor could it be built for a competitive cost. Twenty years on this seems to be true. Fuel cell cars are only slightly less of a dream than they were then, and still too expensive.
I really like the looks of this generation of LEAF, although not actually hating the previous styling, I did find it a bit too different for me. That would not have prevented me from purchasing one had it been able to provide for my needs as primary transportation. The range as stated by EPA and WLTP is reachable I believe. Although trying to go 240 km (150 mi) on the highway may induce range anxiety, it is quite usable. Most of my daily driving is around the small town of Chilliwack where the 240 km range should be easily obtained. There are no high speed roads that I need to take to get anywhere I need to go in town so no range anxiety on daily usage.
I did take one highway trip from Chilliwack to Coquitlam, a community in Metro Vancouver. The distance was about 100 km. That was easily done with 53% battery remaining, implying the car could return without recharging. Possibly, but a little close for comfort. I met with my buddy, had dinner and charged at IKEA to 75%. When I returned home I left with 70% on the clock and arrived back in Chilliwack with 22% left. The range is adequate for over 90% of the driving I will be doing and with gas hitting $1.60/ litre in Vancouver the relief from gas prices is amazing and worth any anxiety that may result. I plugged the car in and charged it with the included Level 2 charger and the car was up to 100% when I awoke next morning.
I plan on doing a “Real” test of the new LEAF by taking the Coquihalla Challenge. This is a steep and long mountain highway here in BC that has humbled LEAF’s in the past. The distance from Hope to Merritt is only about 120 km but there is over 1200 metres altitude change. There is nowhere to charge up between the two cities, the speed limit is 120 Kmh so it has been a huge challenge. I will be trying that soon, the weather has to improve as I do not have winter tires for the car. I was thinking of leaving Hope with 80% charge, but that might be a bit of a challenge so will likely charge to 90% or so before attempting.
Some other things people commented on I will try to remember and make my comments on.
There has been endless criticism of not having a telescopic steering column. I have never owned a vehicle that has had one, so I do not miss it. My guess is this feature is one that once you have used it you will not want to do without. Probably so, but since I have not had one before it is fine for me without. I can find a comfortable position with the adjustments that are included.
Some have been critical of the high seating position, however at the advanced age of 66 and my knees telling me I abused them over the years, it is great. I suspect this has something to do with the popularity of cross overs as they really are much easier to get in and out of than their sedan derivatives. My corner carving days are behind me so a slightly higher seating position is just fine.
Interior finish and materials.
I rather like the interior of the new LEAF, it is well built, rattle free and seems to be comparable to my Nissan Titan LE which I have driven for the past 10 years. That interior has been extremely durable. My son has a VW GTI which critics say has the best interior of any small hatchback. I believe that is an accurate statement, however my few times in the GTI I can not say that it is leaps and bounds better.
The seats are very comfortable and on my one somewhat long trip there were no complaints.
One thing a number of people have complained about is the centre council being too high and bothering there legs while driving. I guess I could see that, however my knees do not like long times at the wheel without support, and I find the LEAF supports my leg and knee very well for long times at the wheel better than any recent vehicle I have driven.
My one complaint, and this is for all newer vehicles I have driven in the past while, and that is the head rests for the rear seats really hinder rear visibility. Yes they can be removed and likely will be soon.
High Tech bits
I have used the ePedal and find it superb. I have adapted to it very quickly and it now feels natural. A real blessing for e cars. My wife has a Rav 4 hybrid with a regenerative feature, but the few times I have driven the car, it does not measure up to the ePedal.
The adaptive cruise control is fantastic, it really makes freeway driving MUCH more relaxing. I tried the ProPilot but it was at night and in the rain, so it did not work consistently so I have not got much seat time with it. It seemed to work OK, but it drifted left in right turns and was uncomfortably close to cars in the outside lane. Roads around here are not well marked for this feature so that may have been part of it. Watching tests of the LEAF from Japan and the UK showed how much better their roads are marked than here. This is something that has to be improved in the near future as more and more of these systems come into new cars.
I love being able to set the interior temperature to a comfortable point when I get to the car. What a luxury! This a feature of more than just the LEAF but this is my first vehicle with this feature, and I think it is great. I use the NissanConnect EV for this and it appears to work well. There have been complaints about this app. I have found that to set the climate control or timers it seems to connect almost immediately, however when trying for the state of charge it can take awhile and several attempts to connect. Do not know why, but this is what I have observed. I mostly know what the state of charge was when I have been asking for this info, so not a big deal. It has always connected with 2 or 3 tries.
The heating system is amazing, energy consumption aside. When I first tested a 2018 LEAF it was -6 C out and the heater practically burned me out of the car. I did not know how to check the energy draw at that time, but it did say the range changed a lot with the heat on. I am assuming that at that temperature the PTC was primarily operating however when I checked under the hood the AC lines had ice on them indicating that the heat pump was operating. Since I have my own car now I check the power for the climate system is about 5 to 6 KWs when it first comes on and then drops back to around 1/2 a KW when driving. I assume that the PTC operates at first and the heat pump takes over later. I have Leaf Spy but not enough experience to see if that is so. Maybe later as I learn more.
Power and Handling
The power is certainly “Adequate”. At low around town speeds it is better than any car I have driven. No down shifts to get the power up, just smooth instant power. A trade mark of electric cars. High speed power the one time I have been on the highway was good. Divided highways do not tax a vehicles passing power to any great extent, but it was easily accomplished when required.
I drove mostly at 100 kph with cruise on. That is the speed I like driving any vehicle as it is where I have found they get their best mileage and range. E-cars are likely somewhat different but it is a good speed to eat up miles or klicks in a relaxing drive.
As I mentioned before, my canyon carving days on 2 or 4 wheels are over, but going through sweeping curves and around traffic circles is great fun. The car handles well with out any surprises. Probably what the designers had in mind as this is more a family around town good at everything car, not a high performance vehicle.
Some critics say it’s rear suspension gets upset on rough roads, true, but I have been driving pickups for the last 40 years, so I am right at home with the rear stepping out in bumpy roads. Do not worry it will come back in-line.
Well those are my thoughts after a week with this car. Range anxiety, not really. Range is about the same as my motorcycle, so I can live with it and not worry. Operating costs are already noticeably less than than gas. With gas prices here the highest in North America it is only going to get better.
Do I think I should have gone for the Bolt or waited for the longer range LEAF? No, do not think so. The Bolt has made compromises for that extra range that I did not feel like paying another 6 to 7000. bucks for. The long range LEAF will be about the same price as the Bolt but with more tech. I think the Bolt will really feel the heat when the next LEAF gets here. However I think this LEAF has hit the mark for electric vehicles. If the pre-orders are even close to the amounts I hear, this car is going to have an even greater effect than the first generation LEAF did.