Wow - Thank you for this interesting account. It seems that a consumer driving this car has to do a fair amount of planning and be able to measure temperature and distance without the car (such as with apps on a mobile device - be careful about reliabilit there). I also appreciated the other home charging options. I was rather concerned about you having to put the short cord on a (flammable) "cardboard box on a garbage can" to support the electronics box. Glad you were safe. I know that this article speaks to a technical audience, but I'm curious to know about the car interior, the ergonomics of the dashboard, and steering/gears, and the ride itself.
Aside from the electric drive system, the Leaf is a very capable subcompact-class car in terms of driving and handling. Thus in this class, cloth and plastic are the norm on the interior, but very well done as to look and "feel."
The controls and the cluster and center-stack display screens were easy to use and interpret, with a minimum of going to the owners manual (mostly to learn more about system functions from an engineer's point of view).
"a consumer driving this car has to do a fair amount of planning"
That is certainly a key problem with EVs. The automobile has given us two generations of suburban-living people because it provides freedom to do anything any time you want. EVs come with so many constraints that it is hard to see them ever becoming mainstream.
Just as well too. Power generation and supply can cope with tiny numbers of EVs, but if, say, 20% of households were to use EVs that would add a huge load to the grid. There just would not be enough supply to charge large numbers of EVs overnight and there would be many people waking up to a flat battery.
We took delivery on our Leaf about 10 days ago. My wife and I both love it. It is a very quiet, comfortable, friendly and capable car, perfect for daily in-town use. We don't really think about range very much, since even an 80% daily charge has been generous for a roundtrip to work plus errands. Think of it as a cellphone with a full battery every morning.
Which charging system are you using, the 110V trickle charger or the 220V dock for faster charging? Also where you live, what climate extremes may influence your Leaf's performance?
Perhaps you can update us on your experience with the car in the future.
I'm using a 240v dock which can charge at the Leaf's full rate (3.3kW or so). We've also used it during the day a couple of times to add a little charge as a buffer before going out again. 120v charging can work OK, but is a little too slow to be really helpful for those occasions where you want to add some range with a spare hour charge mid-day.
I'm in the San Francisco bay area, so climate is not particularly an issue - although heating the car does use noticeably more range than cooling.
The car seems to drive and handle much nicer than a Prius (at least the previous generation, haven't driven a new one yet).
Maybe I'm missing something: 3.3KW charger, 1HP = 750W so allowing for conversion losses, just add a 5HP wankel engine (about the size of a toolbox) and you have a hybrid. Hybrids DONT need the IC engine involved in the power train, just use them to top up the battery as your'e driving. A wankel that size should run 5-6 hours on a gallon of fuel. Just go down to any camping store and look at portable gennies - they use, frankly, primitive engine tech, produce 10-15KW, I've carried smaller suitcases.
My Audi has a 250BHP Diesel, I average 40MPG (British gallons) but for 95% of my driving, I guess I'm using about 10HP.
We need to break the mental link between maximum power output (at full RPM) and acceleration.
Honestly, the accounts are what anyone would have expected, for an all-electric car. Perhaps the range is a little bit better than what previous attempts achieved, although even that is not certain. At freeway speeds, range seemed to suffer. What would it have been ultimately?
The bottom line continues to be the same. These all electric cars are only really effective as a second car. We own only one car. While most of our driving is around town, sometimes we do go on trips. Even a fairly regular trip we take to Baltimore, for dinner in Little Italy, maybe one hour each way, would not be possible with this car.
I'd like to see a practical car, with a hydrogen separator, to extract H2 from fuel, running a fuel cell and an all electric drive train. That would remove the battery dependency. These battery electrics, as long as they have been around, just don't sound very different at all.
According to Ryan Chin, "Tomorrow’s automobiles will be increasingly utilized in cooperative or shared-use models. The emergence of car-sharing and bike-sharing schemes in urban areas in both the United States and Europe have established alternative models and markets for fractional or on-demand mobility. Zipcar, the world’s largest car-share program, has grown from just a handful of cars to a fleet of 6,000 cars and 275,000 drivers in 49 cities in just under 10 years."
Thanks for detail information on new Leaf.
I had one query. Do Leaf has interlock system for power cord? i.e. when power cord is connected to car, car will not start or at least move? This is for safety reason that, in hurry, you do not drive with cable attached to mains.
It seems that US Government is providing very good subsidy for promoting electric vehicle. But the amount itself is very high, it will be trouble to continue it for long time. Although it is US Government anything is possible for them.
I would like to see at least some variant of DMFC which works with hydrocarbons like petrol/diesel, fitted to serve as a continuous, always on charger to the Li-ion batry pack. plus it will be great if it can accomodate a secondry batry-pack (like our laptops). not to mentions a stylish(but detachable) solar panel on rooftop will only enforce its green credentials, apart from stretching the range.
Well, maybe if you calculated the savings from significantly reducing our dependence on fossil fuels you would realize that it could help us meaningfully to reduce our debt. Just a thought for all budget cutters who are against any type of spending or government investment in our future.
Simon...when artificial subsidies are used dislocations in the economy are created. This is not natural market forces at work and usually results in destruction to the economy.
You do not reduce debt by adding more debt. I don't think that ever happens.
In this case it might be good for Nissan and its stockholders but bad for the American taxpayer.
It drives me nuts. A friend dropped by in a Volt the other day and asked if he could plug it in. I said why don't I just buy you some gas instead? Then I asked how much Obama paid him to buy it. He said $7,500. ANY time I see solar panels, etc. I think the F'in government stole my money to give it to someone rich enough to pay $30K or so for their end of the installation.
As for the shortness of the 110 charging cable. Why not use an extension cord to bring power closer to the vehicle?
I'd think an extension cord would be mandatory to be carried with the vehicle in case you run out of power. An extension cable could be used in an emergency to bring power from a nearby building (with he owners permission of course) charging long enough to get you to the next commercial charging station.
The cable wasn't short, just the distance from the power electronics box on the cable to three-prong plug. And Nissan says users should never use an extension cord with the charger, just the power cable they provide.
What a shame. I was already planning to be able to run to the closest 7/11 store, with a long extension cord trailing behind, connected to my garage outlet. Save my battery charge that way.
Hey! I did that with my electric mower!
Bert that's a good one! I just had a mental image of dozens of EVs driving around with extension cords dragging behind them for those quick trips to the corner store.
I don't know how big the trunk is, but perhaps you could fit several hundred yards of heavy-duty cable in there :)
The power conditioning electronics are in the box on the charging cord, which is quite substantial to handle the current flow. Many home extension cords could be of a smaller gauge, or have cuts or defects so as to pose a hazard.
The battery capacity is 24 kWh, so you can figure out how much it would cost based on your electricity rates. (Nissan says the nationwide average is $0.11/kWh.)
When doing the sums for figuring out the travel costs, don't forget to amortize the cost of a replacement battery. Depending on various factors this will typically be far more than the cost of the electricity.
Yes pure electrics like the Leaf are perhaps currently best suited for use as a "second" car for multi vehicle families, but there are many of those in the US today. So that is still quite a large market segment for Nissan and other car makers to exploit. If, in the future, the price comes down by about 30% I predict they would become very popular.
It would do me just perfect.
But I'm in Europe, so we have 240 volts generally available, or if we're lucky the 440 volts.
BUT, when it comes overhere, the price will twice that of the US, if the past is anything to go by,
Actually, 230V is also common in US homes. It is used in all the heavy appliances, like electric stoves, clothes driers, and water heaters. We have 230V available in the garage too. Hefty 3-prong connectors.
But that leads to another problem. Apartment dwellers have no place to plug these in, unless apartment complexes install electric distribution systems throughout their garages and outside parking areas.
I'd love to have an electric for my around the town driving. But your description of short trips and always topping off reminds me of using a laptop with an old battery. Whenever using it on battery power, I probably spent more mental energy worrying about finishing or finding an outlet before the involuntary shut-down than I di about the project. Perhaps with more use, that nervousness would diminish.
Bigger problems that I see are that it's too expensive for an around-town second car. (of course, "too expensive" is relative) Further, if you're a street parker in a big city, where the car would otherwise be in its prime, charging may simply not be available at all.
Not good enough, I don't think. Who wants to be stopping at the very least one time each hour, on a trip, to do something as cumbersome as swapping a large, heavy battery? In fact, look where the batteries are typically installed, to keep the car stable. Low and centerline. What a chore!
If electric cars are going to make a dent, they have to be convenient and multipurpose. Otherwise, we'll be repeating the Segway hype. A niche product.
The 220V dock DBG uses (see his comment above) for his Leaf goes a long way in relieving the "range anxiety" caused by the long time to charge with the trickle charger. You're right about city parkers needing access to a charge as being a concern in many places.
I would love to have a car with electric drivetrain, but I can't get very excited at all about battery electrics. And share schemes, like zipcar, except for the most urban of city dwellers, who otherwise would be taking public transportation or the occasional taxi anyway, I don't think would be a solution with significant impact. I just don't see Americans latch on to that in a big way.
We should start a campaign: "Get the battery out of electrics!" Do that, as Toyota tried years ago, and I'll start to salivate.
According to Zipcar's PR
"According to a Frost & Sullivan report, depending on total distance driven, a car-sharing program can save members up to 70 percent of their total transportation costs. In addition to cost benefits, the same report found that on average in North America, each car shared replaces 15 cars on the road. Because vehicle miles traveled per driver is reduced almost 50 percent when car owners switch to car sharing, the change reduces CO2 emissions and resulted in 482,000 fewer tons emitted in 2009 alone."
Simply confirms for me that electric cars will supply a niche market in densely populated areas. My base model '05 Jetta (Mk IV) cost me $15,500 out the door taxes, tag, title, etc. I've driven it just over 100K miles. Changed the oil every 5K miles and put on one set of Michelin HydroEdge tires. That's it for maintenance. If I were driving a LEAF, I'd be into a new battery pack by now. Ouch. That won't be cheap. I have purchased 3,525.395 gallons of gasoline for $9,408.60 and driven 102,719 miles as of the last fill-up. That is a lifetime average of 29.1 miles. Not too shabby. Given the price of a LEAF or a Prius or Volt or whatever, I've been driving for FREE, no in fact, my car is paying me to drive it.
Bert22306, the car you want already exists, the Honda FCX Clarity: http://automobiles.honda.com/fcx-clarity/drive-fcx-clarity.aspx
Now, that's a car I could probably use as primary mean of transportation.
An interesting review - and the second one in a row I've read that started with a dead battery. I guess the first thing that journalists and family members will need to learn is to charge the car before handing it over.
Batman, thanks for the pointer, but not quite. In the post your are referring to, I agree that I wasn't clear enough. An H2 tank would seem to be enough to be rid of the battery. But in a previous post, I mentioned having a hydrogen separator on board, and a regular fuel tank.
The problems with using stored H2 as fuel are that there is no distribution network and that H2 is really hard to store. For that matter, it's also hard to transport. It requires high pressure tanks, and it will find its way out of them before too long. Simply because H2 molecules are as small as they come. So, just like the car in this story started out with a dead battery, let the H2 car sit a while and you'll find yourself with an empty H2 tank.
A really nice scheme, instead, would use some kind of liquid fuel, and perhaps a steam reformer. Or some other way of separating H2 from the fuel, right on board the car.
Then from there on, it's like a hydrogen fuel cell car.
Unfortunately, that is the way it is with H2 powered vehicles. The base facts:
1. There are no H2 wells, you have to get it from something else. If you reform it from hydrocarbons, you waste the carbon as CO2, and you might as well have burned it in the first place. If you want to disassociate water, then you take a huge loss in usable energy just to get the hydrogen.
2. There is no good way to store H2 for a vehicle. High pressure tanks are a probable menace, LH2 is problematic at best, with limited shelf life, and it takes considerable energy to take STP hydrogen, and get it to either of these storable states.
3. Once you have hydrogen, you need to be able to use it. Fuel cells are extremely expensive (makes the Lithium batteries look cheap!) and require very exotic materials and temperatures. Just burning it makes very little sense.
So, you have a triple threat to ever getting these things out for actual use by the public besides green PR campaigns!
Nissan gets a gold star for doing what everyone "thinks" is ideal and ignoring the nay-sayers. I know plenty of people who could easily handle the mileage limits but I'm not one of them! Perhaps it's possible to put a gas powered generator in the trunk to charge the battery whilst driving!!! Or you could mount it on the roof!
Article much shorter than I expected. Would like to have heard some words about how it handled, accelerated, stopped, etc. But it makes little difference, I drive 42 miles one way to work and I will drive my 94 minivan till the wheels fall off. It only has 238,000 miles on it.
It seems cars like these are for the smarmy better-than-you crowd anyway because they ain't affordable to buy or repair. You need a 2nd mortgage to put batteries in them.
After doing considerable development on the Myers NmG, I find myself on a Vectrix Maxi-scooter. The NmG (Sparrow) on lead-acid was viable perhaps only in the northeast and west coast high density areas. When we went to Li-ion (now a few years on the road, in customer's hands) it suddenly became very viable transportation for south east surburban sprawl. Unfortunately my youngest daughter outgrew the trunk by middle of first grade! My search for a two seat electric finally lead, this February, to the Vectrix - perhaps the most polished EV yet delivered. My daughter, now in middle school, is thrilled to come and go on the bike. After twenty years away from motorcycles, I'm also having a blast. I retain the option of driving the truck on rainy days but have huge incentive not to. Daily commute in the truck? Presently $7.50 to $8. Daily commute on the Vectric - 35 cents. I can do this at least tens months out of the year. And what about replacing those batteries? Well, I bought the Vectric as new old stock after confirming there was someone to warrent the five-year-old-in-the-warehouse battery pack ( for two more years.) Problem is the new ones are Li. Shaves 50 pounds, half second off the already convenient zero to 60 time, and about 60% better range. Can I really bear to wait a several YEARS for the Ni-Mh to die???
Somewhere around 60% of car owning households have two cars and around 35% have three or more (Experian Automotive). This sets the stage for a pretty large market potential for all-electrics. The problem comes in when you start with the subtractions.
Apartment dwellers and big city dwellers without easy access to recharging: Someday, perhaps charging stations will be wide-spread enough, but until then, these folks don't really have the option. Unfortunately, big cities are an ideal spot for small electric cars.
People with long commutes are out. Stop and go traffic doesn't eat up fuel while idling as an ICE does, but past a certain commute distance, the uncertainties of range eliminates these folks. If there are sufficient chargers at the work location, this can be mitigated a bit, but currently, supply of chargers is too slim to be practical.
Then you have households where the second and third cars are used by new drivers. This is the prime used car market here. Purchases are primarily driven based on cost of the car. That takes a good portion of these folks out of the picture.
The end result of all of that is that the current and near future market for pure EVs is not all that large. The good news is that will help get EVs out in the hands of early adopters without all of the infrastructure challenges that hold back wide-spread adoption of EVs.
There is a superior battery for EV but Chevron - an oil company - bought the patent on NiMH technology from GM. Toyota made an EV using NiMH in 1995 and Chevron sued the EV out of existence. Chevron refuses to license NiMH for large enough format to power an EV, they hold the patent soley to keep EVs out of the market and to perpetuate their oil profits. A fine example of our patent system at work. The patent expires in 2014.
"There is a superior battery for EV but Chevron - an oil company - bought the patent on NiMH technology from GM. T.... Chevron refuses to license NiMH for large enough format to power an EV"
I thought you were a typical nutcase conspiracy theorist, but cursory glancing around the web shows that there may actually be truth to this. Anyone else know about the Chevron NiMH patents for car batteries?
Looks like a major prohibiting factor for those of us in northern tire states would be cold weather battery performance. -20°F @ 70MPH on the freeway, 30 miles one way to work (37 if I carpool with my wife). I "might" make to work but pretty sure I wouldn't make it home. Not my idea of a good day in dangerous weather.
As we are all going ga ga ove the silent electrics, it is pertinent to think about the source of engery consumption. Is my driving an electric vehicle going to cut the energy and co2 expenditure of the overall nation? Or are we shifting the pattern from individual vehicles to industries which manufacture and supply these batteries and cars?
I too would benefit from a Leaf like vehicle as a second car. Right now my second car is going on 230k and has been paid for many times over and still gets around 32MPG, but given an economical solution I would buy it.
As much as I like the EV concept of the Leaf, At this point in evolution, I like the GM Volt option much better.
What is the best electric car? There are a lot of list, top tens of best electric cars for 2011 and much of them are different. It is afterall a hard decision to make, considering recharge methods, mileage and other aspects. Anyway, i'm looking forward for my new car.. Hope will be an electric one, so ...
Anyway, this is the last list I've visited: http://www.electric-cars-2011.com
This is by far the most in depth and relevant review I have read of the car, as most people focus on the technical aspects and miss out on what is truly important to the consumer – the user experience. Thank you for sharing!
Jon - http://www.caravan-insurance-experts.co.uk/
Driving an electric car for the first time for many people will be a new experience that some may not get used to. Other than the long charging time, some people have to change their driving styles so as not to over tax the battery and engine. They also have to constantly remember to charge their car and take note of the remaining battery life so as not to be stranded on the road without a charge.
Thomas - http://www.carid.com
That is one catch for driving an electric car. Yes, it saves fuel which will eventually save the Earth too, but I find the charging inevitability to be a bit of a hassle. I think many other drivers would share the same sentiment, except those that need the car for short distances only. I need it to drive my husband and I to work after sending the kids to school and I think we need to have it charged more than 10 hours daily if so. That is longer than the number of hours we spend sleeping at night. So, when else can we charge it then? This is also the common reason why electric cars are not so popular as compared to those that run on fuel. - http://www.pmwltd.co.uk
This is by far the most in depth and relevant review I have read of the car, as most people focus on the technical aspects and miss out on what is truly important to the consumer – the user experience. Thank you for sharing!
Mike - http://www.cruckley.co.uk/
Blog Make a Frequency Plan Tom Burke 17 comments When designing a printed circuit board, you should develop a frequency plan, something that can be easily overlooked. A frequency plan should be one of your first steps ...