My 280-Mile Single-Day Nissan LEAF Roadtrip

By · April 23, 2013

N. Cal. Nissan LEAF Road Trip

I did something last weekend that was completely normal and uneventful for most Northern California motorists: I drove a car from San Jose to Sacramento and back. The only difference was that I was driving was a 100-percent battery-electric Nissan LEAF.

One of the recurring objections to pure battery electric vehicles is limited range, so I set out to Sacramento to see if the 2013 LEAF's real-world range (and the region's charging infrastructure) would be an onerous task, or smooth sailing. Full disclosure: Nissan offered me the use of a top-of-the-line loaded 2013 LEAF SL (MSRP $36,910 before incentives) for this medium-distance day trip, utilizing the current CHAdeMO Quick Charger in Northern California.

A Zero-Emissions Yogurt Excursion

The itinerary would take me from my house in San Jose, to Elk Grove, Calif., a suburb of Sacramento, 140 miles away. The first Nissan DC Quick Charger in Northern California had just been installed at Elk Grove Nissan. Here’s the important part: My wife wanted me to pick up a particular type of yogurt for her, which is only available at a few stores in the Sacramento Delta area. If EVs are ready for prime time, shouldn’t I be able to add errands like this?

The 280-mile round trip would be primarily freeway driving in 85-plus degree weather. In a conventional car, this trip would take about two and quarter hours each way.

I left the house with a full charge on the LEAF at 7 a.m. and proceeded northeast on highways 101 and Interstate 680 toward Sacramento. Traffic was already getting heavy with the usual weekend Tahoe traffic, and for the first leg of the trip, I averaged about 62 m.p.h. My first stop for recharging was in Concord at the Concord Hilton Hotel at 60 miles. Hilton has installed two Blink CHAdeMO Quick Chargers, and five of the slower Level 2 chargers that are available for anyone to use.

I arrived at the Quick Charger at about 8 a.m. and plugged in to charge with the car indicating that the battery had 21 percent capacity or 22 miles left in it. While the car was recharging, I went inside the hotel, used their facilities, had a cup of coffee and relaxed and read the paper.

The car was done recharging 32 minutes later, and with 85 percent capacity, I was back on the road again by 8:30 a.m.

Escaping Notice

I proceeded onto Interstate 680, then to Interstate 80 moving along with traffic that was getting heavier. I set the cruise control to 65, and settled in the slow lane. Nothing out of the ordinary so far. In fact, the LEAF is all but invisible on the road, with no one giving me a second glance despite the fact that I was cruising along in traffic, and using absolutely no gasoline.

When I left the Concord Hilton, I still had about another 80 miles to go. At freeway speeds I was going to end up a little short, so that would require a short stop in between Concord and Elk Grove to get just a bit more charge.
The next charging station was in Vacaville, Calif., at a city owned Park-and-Ride that is right off of the Freeway. That station has both a CHAdeMO Quick Charger and several of the 240v Level 2 chargers available at no cost to the public.

Unfortunately when I arrived in Vacaville at 9:00 a.m., the Quick Charger was offline, but the Level 2 Chargers worked just fine. I had driven 33 miles from Concord to get to Vacaville—that’s 93 miles from San Jose—and still had 42 percent battery capacity or 35 miles of range left. So I just needed enough of a charge to add about 15 miles of range to the car. I decided to charge for 30 minutes on the L2 chargers and see how far that would get me.

Against the Wind

I got back on the road again at 9:35, this time with only 65 percent capacity and 47 miles to go. Traffic on I-80 was becoming more and more congested, and traffic was slowing to about 55 m.p.h—great for the LEAF. The slower you go, the better range you get. Unfortunately the slower speed was offset by a strong headwind, and it seemed like the car was using more energy than what I had expected. Luckily, when I got into Sacramento proper, I had to turn south, so the headwind that I had experienced coming into Sacramento, turned into a great tailwind, and I regained most of my capacity losses.

At 10:30 a.m. I rolled into my destination, Elk Grove Nissan. The last trip segment had pretty much used all of my battery capacity leaving only 7 percent of the battery when I arrived.

N. Cal. Nissan LEAF Road Trip

While I was at Elk Grove Nissan I used their Nissan-Branded CHAdeMO Quick Charger, and brought the car back up to 85 percent capacity in 33 minutes. The Earth Day festivities at Elk Grove were great, but by 1:30 p.m., it was time to hit the road for the return trip.

Other than the inability to use the Quick Charger in Vacaville, the trip so far had been completely unremarkable. The LEAF performed perfectly, and I was able to drive at the speed of the traffic with confidence.

Getting Home All-Electric

The return trip was much the same, freeway traffic in Sacramento was very congested and slow, but once out of Sacramento, it was flowing smooth, and at the speed limit. I drove the LEAF at the speed of the traffic with no issues at all.
On the way back, I stopped in Vacaville to charge again. With the benefit of a tailwind, I would have had just enough charge to make it back to Concord, but since I had to stop and pick up my wife’s favorite yogurt at a grocery store within walking distance of the public chargers, I hooked up to a Level 2 charger for a 30-minute charge.

The Vacaville-to-Concord segment was completely uneventful, and while I was on my final Quick Charge of the trip in Concord, I did some shopping at the REI adjacent the Hilton. By 4:30 p.m., I was on the road back to San Jose, and arrived home by 5:30.

Reflections

My round trip was 280 miles and my average energy economy to drive that distance was indicated at 3.7 miles per kWh. That added up to 75 kilowatt-hours for the total trip. I currently pay $0.15 per kWh for electricity so this trip theoretically cost me $11.35, or about $.04 a mile. But in reality, all of the in-route charging was free, and I only paid for the charge between my home and Concord, which was about $3.50. So the entire trip only cost about $.0125 per mile.

The trip added only about an extra hour to the journey, and while the recharging network worked for me, it is still a fragile system that is going through growing pains, which for the novice EV driver could be frustrating.

Since last year, there has been exponential growth in charging infrastructure, and 2013 and beyond will continue to see the build out of the public charging network. Its reliability will continue to improve. But despite this rapid growth, the public charging infrastructure is struggling to meet the demand of the rapid growth of plug-in vehicles.

In California, EVs are quickly becoming ubiquitous. Their novelty has worn off. They are everywhere, as commuter cars, daily drivers, and for many owners, their only car. Based on my drive this past weekend, I can say that EVs are a legitimate mainstream option in California. And as California goes, so goes the rest of the nation.

Comments

· · 4 years ago

I've done stuff similar to this in my tesla roadster with only one intermediate charge stop since the car will go around 240 miles as is. The level 2 charger gets me enough juice in a few hours to get me home on 'sparks'. If an empty gas car can run on fumes, then I guess its sparks for an EV.

But I'd much much prefer a larger battery, since all this nail biting is uncomfortable, wondering if I'm going to be stranded or not.

· · 4 years ago

What a pleasure it must be to drive an "S" and know you can drive 125 miles at freeway speeds and not run out of fuel; It's worrisome to wonder if your intended intermediate 60 mile fueling stations will be open for business or not. A range-limited Leaf is not a pleasure to drive on long trips, especially in mountainous terrain.

· · 4 years ago

Although I thnk this is a great example of how far we have come with BEVs, but there are still few thing to note:

1. "The 280-mile round trip would be primarily freeway driving in 85-plus degree weather". "7 a.m. and proceeded northeast on highways 101 and Interstate 680 toward Sacramento. Traffic was already getting heavy with the usual weekend Tahoe traffic, "

I call BS on this one. There ARE NO MORE TAHOE traffic at all right now. TAHOE is in a LOW SEASON right now. Especially with low snow condition and warm temperature. This is from someone who drives weekly during the ski season to tahoe from SF Bay Area with yearly season pass to Heavenly. If you leave at 7am, there shouldn't be any major traffic. You will EASILY cruise at 75mph. My typical drive from SF to Tahoe is about 3.5 hours. SJC to South Lake Tahoe typically take about 4 hrs to 4.5 hrs at MOST. (unless you get stuck in one of those Friday evening before long holiday with good ski condition traffic).

2. "At 10:30 a.m. I rolled into my destination" So, you started at 7am and the so called 140 miles trip took about 3.5 hrs. In long distance travel, a trip of this size should take about 2.25 hours at 70 mph. So, it took about 50% longer. Now, you also choose to take the "LONG WAY" there b/c of the location of the DC quick chargers. A faster/shorter way to get to Elk Grove is to use 680 up 580 East and then either I-5 or US-99 up. It will save you AT LEAST 20-30 miles. Google map can easily verify this for you. So, your need of using the charging station have forced you to take the "long way" there. Especially since you were so wiling to join the "Tahoe" crowd.

3. "I can say that EVs are a legitimate mainstream option in California".

I support EVs. But only 1 BEV is currently good enough to go "mainstream" with its capability. That is Tesla S. It can go anywhere in the state in 1 day. Too bad that it is a bit pricey for most of the buyers. But Leaf isn't good enough for most people.

Let us use Tahoe as an example. How much longer do you think Leaf would take you to get to Tahoe from SJ? That is a drive that any family can easily make in 4 hours with other cars. Leaf would take you at least 8 hours. And the last portion of it is very scary since the last 50 miles are all uphill. Any Leaf with 4 adults going uphill will be lucky to get 40 miles range climbing from sea level to over 8,000 ft in the next 50 miles in the cold weather.

Now, the same applies to SF-LA trip. That is about 360 miles. You would have to stop 5 times mininum to get to LA from SF at hwy speed. Driving on I-5 takes a lot of energy due to high speed (most people drive faster than 70mph on I-5) and the climb over the Grapevine, assuming that you can get the perfect charging locations. Also, driving down US-101 would give you a very hilly terrain. Typical drivers can easily make the SF to LA trip in 6 to 6.5 hours. It would take at least 3 hours longer to do the same trip in the Leaf. You just turned a 6 hours trip into 9 hours. Stopping for 30 mins for every 60 miles or about 1 hour of driving.

This is why we need a longer range BEV such as Tesla S or a longer range PHEV/EREV.

· · 4 years ago

There's healthy skepticism and then there's ModernMarvelFan.

The answer to the traffic issue is that Saturday was Picnic Day at U.C. Davis. Picnic Day activities draw 125,000 people to Davis each year. The parade started at 9am, so I am not surprised that traffic was slow.

With respect to the comment that "Leaf isn't good enough for most people," it's my turn to call BS. Most people don't need to drive 280 miles per day. Studies show that the average American drives 35-40 miles per day. Thus, the LEAF IS a perfectly valid vehicle for these people. For those infrequent occasions when driving demands exceed the range of the LEAF (after taking into account convenient fast charging), "most people" can either fall back on their second (internal combustion engine) vehicle or rent a vehicle.

With that said, I am not anti-long range BEV/PHEV. It's just not clear that folks should pay for, and cart around, excess batteries that they may only infrequently need. However, if the Lotto gods cooperate, there will be a Tesla Model S in my driveway some day.

· · 4 years ago

I call BS on the whole idea of using 'pure' BEVs for long distance travel. It is not enough to prove you CAN do it. You need to prove the majority of the driving public would WANT to do it on a regular basis. Some day there may be no choice. But today while there is, to say that "EVs are a legitimate mainstream option in California" and elsewhere is to seriously mislead people who don't know what they are buying.

Incidentally, for people who do this kind of traveling only occasionally, there is another less expensive option than the Tesla Model S - the GM Volt. Bur people should do the math and determine whether even a Volt makes sense or whether they should just go with a plain old hybrid.

· · 4 years ago

Agreed, bytrain. Gary should be applauded for being able to carefully plan and execute such a long distance EV endeavor, not belittled for the lack of owning a far more expensive electric car with superior range. This isn't a slam to Tesla owners but, rather, a "thumbs up" to anyone who can occasionally take their EV beyond what most folks with similar cars are willing to do.

Here in Arizona we have Jerry Asher, a Tucson-based Leaf owner who spent mid January to late February traveling to all 15 county seats in our state to spread the viability of EVs in places that have never seen one before. One victory of this year's adventure (a similar one was undertaken in early 2012) was to convince city officials in Nogales, the city that straddles the Mexican border 80 miles south of Tucson, to install the first public EVSEs in that part of the country. There is already one Leaf owner down there (we communicate with him regularly on the EV Tucson Googlegroup.) More will follow.

· · 4 years ago

What utter nonsense. If you are a hobbyist, (head of a leaf owner's club) or desperately trying to validate the (questionable) decision to buy the leaf, then I guess a meticulously planned little trip to nowhere special is one way to produce a story.

BEVs are not ready for prime time, unless you are headed to a car rental outlet or are being followed by a tow truck. And this INCLUDES Tesla.

Until a car can go WHEREVER you want, at any time, BEVs will remain a novelty.

Otherwise, WHY would Nissan keep lowering the prices on leafs??

· · 4 years ago

@Dave7133

Yeah, that's why I'm most interested in the very low end leaf. Its very low priced, is kinda low tech (slower charger, incandescent headlights, etc) but it does have the same 24 kwh battery.

Seeing as this car needs more range, I'm quite surprised PIC has not done on article on ENGINEER's 4 and 8 kwh trunk mounted battery packs ($5395 for the big one). I've mentioned on the NYC taxi article, that those vehicles will need the 8kwh pack as a minimum for NYC.

· · 4 years ago

I didn't know this was considered a feat. I've done it many times in my 2012 Leaf. I live in Stockton - so Vacaville (or San Ramon) is the perfect distance from my house for a DC Quick charge - and then on to the bay area. There are DC Quick chargers in Santa Clara, Palo Alto, San Mateo, etc., where I can charge for the return trip home.

By the way - I was at the Elk Grove event - I saw your car Gary. The new Elk Grove charger allows me to drive to the Sacramento area (and back) - a trip I've already done a couple of times.

The naysayers will never be convinced, but there's no need to convince them. Perhaps they prefer the smell of gasoline ;-)

· · 4 years ago

Why not use a volt instead of a leaf. Same electric only range most of the time and convenient use of the range extender on occasionnal longer trip. Possibility to go on vacation trip once a year and electric only for going to work back and forth and small shopping in your neiborood.

Can we fast charge a volt with chademo.

· · 4 years ago

@gorr,

No, Volt doesn't have a fast charge option. If it ever did have one, it wouldn't be CHAdeMO. It would be the SAE combo plug, which GM endorses and plans to use on their Spark EV.

· · 4 years ago

I'm amazed at how many people here are clueless regarding the significance of this or, worse (as duly expressed by the likes of dave7133,) actively dismissive and possibly hostile.

None of the naysayers here have said a single thing about the pollution caused by the manufacture and use of gasoline. It's all about their personal convenience of going anywhere, anytime . . . living in the present and not thinking about the future. Of course you can go anywhere, anytime in a gas car. You've got about a century of built-up infrastructure to allow that to happen. Go ahead . . . take the easy way out (while you can,) but don't slander those who are wanting to fully step into the 21st century with potentially pollution-free motorized transportation and making it easier for others to follow.

The people who are pushing the limits of their EVs with clever driving techniques and advocating the installation of additional EVSE in places that don't currently have it are the ones who are finally going to get us off oil. Unfortunately, we've got a contingent here that questions the value of getting off oil in the first place, or is blissfully unaware that it's a problem at all.

To answer your question, gorr. No. The Volt is not equipped with any sort of Level 3 DC fast charge plug. That's why it needs an ICE to go long distances. It's a marvelous car for today, but interim technology until (not if) better batteries show up. If future iterations of the Volt were to include a fast charge plug, it would invariably be an SAE Combo, as shown in this PIC article posted just this morning . . .

http://www.plugincars.com/slowly-safely-combo-plug-coming-127067.html

· · 4 years ago

Hi Ben,

Good to have a chance to continue this discussion! If you are including me in the ranks of the naysayers, my reply is we (probably all of us) want the same thing - get off oil, etc. We just differ in how best and fastest to get there. IMHO we can take 'the choir' for granted. It is the congregation we want to bring to salvation. And the quickest way to return them to a life of sin is to make goodness and virtue an unpleasant experience. For anyone willing to take the EV plunge - and I include the Volt in that category - it is CRITICAL that first experience be a good one!

In practice, that means helping them make a good choice - including 'none of the above' if with the current state of battery technology there is nothing out there that's a good fit for them.

· · 4 years ago

To benjamin nead, thanks for the anwser. Me too i want to get rid of oil and nat gas. but battery actually cannot replace diesel engine in big tracter-trailer truck as the power and long distance travelling is too big for battery, also these trucks don't stop very often seeing 8 to 10 hours a day of work. smart use of batteries with added benefit, like the volt, seam a better realistic solution for the convenience that is actually needed by a certain margin of drivers. Don't forget familly travelling in summer with 4 passengers and luggage, that's a scene we often witness. some say that a fast charge is not recommended so it implie that the volt with only 110 volt or level 2 charging, and the 16 kwh battery is only use for 8 kw/h last longer. Some leaf owners have experienced more battery problems then volt owners. can you assume a transition, why is it so guilty to use gasoline if 99.7% of cars still use it. A volt owner can do 70% of his travelling miles on pure electricity, so it isn't bad, it's still a big improvement, he keep his battery longer, this is also a compromise.

I really hope that they someday invent a powerful compact light cheap, reliable, easy to maintain, durable, nice , non-polluting battery.

· · 4 years ago

@bytrain,

"The answer to the traffic issue is that Saturday was Picnic Day at U.C. Davis. Picnic Day activities draw 125,000 people to Davis each year. The parade started at 9am, so I am not surprised that traffic was slow."

Okay. Fine. But it makes an even worse case for the Leaf. If anyone had known this, they would have avoided that route. So, take 580 E and then use 99 up instead of 680/80 route. But he can't. He NEEDS DC quick charger along the I-80 to get him there. So instead of taking a shorter route with less traffic, he had to choose a longer route with more traffic so he can get charged along the way. How does this make any supporting case for the Leaf as a "legitimate mainstream option in California "?

· · 4 years ago

No, Steven, I don't think you are among the naysayers. But I do notice when I talk to Volt owners (I've conversed with lots of them here) that there is a willingness to say "We've arrived. The Volt is perfect. The problem with electric cars is solved. Time to move onto other things."

Maybe the Volt is going to be the answer for many (certainly not all) in the next decade or so. But I still regard the whole hybrid/range extender idea as interim technology to what we should all be striving for: an electric with better batteries.

A car that has both a gasoline engine and electric motor is going to be more expensive and complex than one that's just battery powered. The Volt appears to work very well but I wonder what it's going to be like after 125K miles or so. The battery will have aged some (maybe less than a non-thermal managed one we see in the current all-electric Japanese cars) but there's also the unavoidable wear and tear on the ICE-related components, as well as computers that keep it all aligned.

Some buy new cars and trade them in after a year or two. I'm one of those who will typically buy these low mileage used ones and never trade them in . . . essentially driving them for the rest of their useful life. If you do this, you tend to notice the sorts of things that wear out along the way and are you forced to replace.

For a while, my wife seemed to have an affection for all-wheel-drive vehicles. They're super cool the few times you want that extra traction on a wet gravel road. But they're expensive to repair when they start to wear out. She eventually figured out that we're not needing the AWD feature (which is not to say other don't) and have been happier with simpler 2WD cars ever since.

Same with the Volt and other PHEVs. Many will be sold at first because a buyer isn't really evaluating their range needs. Like the AWD, the range extender ICE is a "just in case" feature they may never have to use. But that "security blanket" is there and, yes, there are some who can't live with a car that only gets 80 miles on a charge.

We are going to get better batteries. The ones that will be in cars two or three years from now will be better than the ones of today. I'm willing to bet they'll be good enough a decade from now that only the driver who is constantly doing long range driving will consider a PHEV.

Also, gorr, thanks for a very reasoned reply. Even if you're not ready to commit to a pure BEV yet, you're clearly thinking outside the box.

· · 4 years ago

@ ModernMarvelFan,

I think that anyone who tries to make the argument that ANY given car is a do-all end-all vehicle is bound to be proven wrong. Sports cars don't handle off-roading; minivans don't do well in the twisties. I got my LEAF two years ago with a distinct function in mind - local commuting. In that time, I've put on 23,000 zero emission miles. When I need to go further, I rely on the family's second car, a Toyota Prius. If we were constrained to being a one-car family, I would have gotten a Volt.

So bottom line is that the LEAF can be a "legitimate mainstream option in California" if a family has multiple vehicles and uses one solely for commuting. And although I am not willing to do it, some families have decided that an EV would be their only car and that on those infrequent occasions when they need to drive further, they rent an ICE vehicle. Several automakers are now building this option into their EV programs. Chrysler will provide FIAT 500e owners/lessees with 12 free rentals per year. I believe BMW plans to offer something similar for i3 owners/lessees.

· · 4 years ago

@bytrain,

I guess you have different definitions. sports car and minivans don't function the same but they both have the SAME RANGE. If "being legit" require you to have a 2nd car, then it is NOT legit in my book. Of course, that is NOT the point of that Leaf can't be a good car for most household that have multi-cars. It is just giving people a "false impression" that it is "legit" by itself.

The rent program is fine but it is still a pain. You have to "plan" all your trips. In my opinion, a real BEV is something like the Tesla S with over 200 miles range, but cost way less.

Currently, BEVs cost differently based on range. That sucks. That doesn't happen with other type of cars. When they have a 200 miles BEV cost less than $30k, I will be the first to get in line of getting one.

· · 4 years ago

@bytrain,

I guess you have different definitions. sports car and minivans don't function the same but they both have the SAME RANGE. If "being legit" require you to have a 2nd car, then it is NOT legit in my book. Of course, that is NOT the point of that Leaf can't be a good car for most household that have multi-cars. It is just giving people a "false impression" that it is "legit" by itself.

The rent program is fine but it is still a pain. You have to "plan" all your trips. In my opinion, a real BEV is something like the Tesla S with over 200 miles range, but cost way less.

Currently, BEVs cost differently based on range. That sucks. That doesn't happen with other type of cars. When they have a 200 miles BEV cost less than $30k, I will be the first to get in line of getting one.

· · 4 years ago

@Benjamin,

Nobody claims that PHEV is the "final solution". But it is the BEST solution today for the current infrastructure and battery technology. Cars like Volt will be obsolete when we have comparable BEV that can easily go 200 miles per charge and get a full charge within15 mins anywhere along the major highway. I don't see that happening in the next 10 years. More than 10 years? It is possible. By then, most Volt owners will be gladly to trade in their Volt for the Tesla Blue Star sedan...

Now as far as your other statement goes: "what it's going to be like after 125K miles or so. The battery will have aged some (maybe less than a non-thermal managed one we see in the current all-electric Japanese cars) but there's also the unavoidable wear and tear on the ICE-related components, as well as computers that keep it all aligned."

That is NO big deal. If the Volt is 70% Electric in their ownship, then at 125k miles, its gas mileage is only about 38,000 miles. That is really low for today's ICE technology. I don't know any modern engine that requires anything special at 38K miles beside routine oil change and air fuel replacement. Maybe it is also time to change fuel filter. But that is about it. Computers? Computers aren't any different from the electric portion. In fact, it should do better since the opeating voltage is much lower and less complex. Like I said, most gas cars don't break at 38k these days... Of course, if the Volt is more than 60% gas, then it will be different. But currently Volt owners are about 65% electric on average...

· · 4 years ago

Well done Gary, and thank you for sharing your experience. Stories like this may be "nothing special", except they keep demonstrating how useful, effective and practical quick-charging is, today.

This is key: the only range limitation of a CHAdeMO-equipped EV is its driver's ability (and willingness) to refuel.

Other remarkable point: 280 miles for... $3.50. THREE FIFTY!
Gas for the same trip in a Prius would cost 6x that; a Volt would use more.

"But nobody wants to wait 30 minutes!..." I do.
First, you only quick-charge for how long is needed, 30 minutes is a worst-case, and that time can be used to shop, relax etc.
Next, again, you get _paid_ for it, roughly $16/hour. On top of that lifetime 80%+ rebate on "gas" you get for all the other trips, that is. Plus all the perks of driving electric: instant torque, silence, domestic fuel, low maintenance -- and a likely dramatically lower environmental footprint. Totally worth it IMHO.

· · 4 years ago

This article captures perfectly why I sold my Leaf (after 2 months) and bought a Volt. It is amazing how much the wind makes a difference and I quickly learned to check the wind before planning to make long trips. Also I kept running into broken or ic-ed chargers when I was low on charge. It was just too stressful to drive a Leaf.

On the other hand if I had a daily predictable commute by car I would buy the Leaf again without hesitation. In most aspects it is superior to the Volt.

· · 4 years ago

What. A. Bunch. Of. Overprivileged. Babies.

Honestly. This is what I hear:

"Waaah! I would have to take an extra *hour* to travel..." wait for it! "*280 miles*! It's *intolerable*!"

Christ, I've just lived the past 10 years without owning a car. Actually, no, I've never actually owned a car before now. Before, it was because I was poor and couldn't scrape two pennies together. Then after that, it was for a myriad of reasons (including environmental ones) but *also* because we neither needed nor wanted the added expense. I live 3 blocks from work, and right next to Skytrain. I only ever needed a car about 3 times a year, and I could hire a cab for that. I once had a car salesman tell me "taking transit is good for the environment and all, but it's just impractical". I have two kids under 7, and they would *rather* take the bus than be strapped into a tiny box where they're not allowed to move around at all. I can haul more groceries in my bike trailer than my father in law can put in the trunk of his Buick. How is that *impractical*?

No, you're all just used to the extreme luxury that an ICE car endows you. Before we bought our Leaf, we wouldn't even attempt a trip that far except by Greyhound. And you know what? If we *actually* wanted to take a 4 hour drive into the mountains to go skiing (not that we need to, Whistler is only an hour and a half away, and it's about the furthest ski resort worth going to) that's *still* an option. You all behave as if taking your car to the far ends of the earth is your *only* option. Heck, I've even heard about these things called "airplanes" that will get you from one end of the country to the other in less than a day! That's a trip that would have taken your great-grandfather 3 weeks! I bet you guys are the type that would complain if such a flight were delayed by 20 minutes!

· · 4 years ago

@TheBraveLittleT...

Your comments really stress to me that the biggest problem we have is cultural. I could go on and on as to why your solutions wouldn't work for me, but the problem stems from the suburban sprawl we call America. We don't have acceptable public transportation, we live (on average) 20-40 miles from where we work, and we frequently live in entirely different cites from our family and friends. This adds up to a lot of traveling.

@ModernMarvelFan,
Having 2+ cars in a single driveway IS mainstream. Everyone is doing it ;). But seriously - a large number of people already have a pickup truck in their driveway for those times they want to haul something to the dump, pick up mulch, or just tow their boat to the lake. You're telling me that it's impractical to have an EV in the family fleet for commuting - a task most people do 5x a week, 50 weeks a year?

· · 4 years ago

"You're telling me that it's impractical to have an EV in the family fleet for commuting - a task most people do 5x a week, 50 weeks a year?"

75% of the American drive less than 40 miles per day on their commute. So, Volt's 40 miles is more than enough for most of them and you don't have switch cars...

Also, Volt allow you to have "unplanned" trips. Sure, it carries an engine around but it still spanks Leaf in performance.

· · 4 years ago

Ben, I don't know about you, but I certainly bought my Volt for a purpose. Without it, I couldn't take a vacation. The roadster is fine for driving around Rochester or Jamestown, but occassionally I have to go much farther. The volt also holds more things with that huge hatchback door, like a 55" TV. Kudos again to Bob Lutz.

Incidentally, I was talking to my Tesla service dude in person here the friday before last, and we had to get some parts from the hardware store for my Roadster, so I asked him if he had ever driven a Volt, and he hadn't, so I let him drive it. When he did, he said he was very impressed. I take that as an honest answer.

· · 4 years ago

Modermarvelfan is just being a negative troll. The Leaf is a great commuter car. Mmf writes a bunch of BS putting someone down when someone shares their experience on a road trip. Who gives a crap what Mmf says. Thank you for the article describing your experiences. Mmf, you should be ignored.

· · 4 years ago

@MysticSeer,

There is nothing that smell more like a troll than a "newly registered" single posting user like you.

If you can't take negative sides of the fact, then you are just an ignorant fan boy....

· · 4 years ago

So much has been said of the Volt, so I'm probably going to just dig a bigger hole for myself, but here goes anyway.

The Volt is fine for what it is: a mostly EV that can go long distances at the drop of the hat. No problems with that. Great technology, actually. But I still think it's going to be made obsolete by better batteries. Whether those better batteries get here in 9.5 years or 11.2, they'll get here eventually.

MMF states that modern ICEs are relatively trouble free and there is a certain truth to that. But I'm not talking about crankshaft bearings or connecting rods, but all the stuff that hangs off the ICE that isn't buried inside the oil-bathed crankcase . . . serpentine belts, ERG valves, catalytic converters, mufflers, hoses . . . the stuff that never lasts "forever."

Owners of new cars don't pay much attention to that stuff because they either trade in their cars before it starts to break or their original owners warranty takes care of it for them for free. It's not just PHEVs (although they are going to have the greatest number of moving parts) but overly feature-laden pure EVs as well.

Which brings me to what Brave Little T is saying. I actually agree - if somewhat cautiously - with much of it. The typical American car buyer always seems to demand more than what they really need and complains a little too loudly about the most trivial issues. Isn't it interesting whenever we see a review of a low priced EV it's always the same thing? . . . the motor whines and isn't dead silent, it's got cloth instead of leather on the seats, the plastic on the dash doesn't have that rubber ducky softness, not enough gizmos and gadgets to keep me entertained when I'm stuck in traffic. It's the "professional car reviewer" aesthetic and it drives me completely crazy.

· · 4 years ago

Different cars and trucks can have different purposes. I own a Yamaha V-Star motrcycle, Ford Expedition, a Honda civic, a new Fiat 500, a new Mustang, and a new Prius. Last night we put 7 people in the Expedition to go to my son's university graduation. No other car of mine would handle that job and it was nice to be together. Only the expedition can pull my boat to the lake. The Prius gets an average of 50 MPG and is awesome around town and for driving long trips. The Mustang is a blast to drive around town and long trips but the MPG isn't as fun. The motorcycle doesn't help when going to the grocery store but works well for going to the bank or commuting to work but only when it is warm enough. The motorcycle isn't comfortable, at least for me, to drive 50 miles to my sister's house to visit. The AC is nonexistent, the radio is nonexistent, and it is just not a comfortabe, relaxing experience. Every vehicle is different.

I drove a Tesla and what a blast that was. But getting in and out sucked. Being so low to the ground sucked. It wasn't comfortable. But it was fast, 0-60 in a reported 3.9 seconds. But it's use is limited too. It can't pull my boat. It can't take my family to dinner, and vacations are not possible either. It would have to be a commuter car with other cars waiting in the driveway. My friend drove it from San Francsco to Las Vegas. This was 3 years ago or so. He would stop at RV parks to plug into 220v. He dd it for the experience but it was painful!

I would love to have a Leaf. We could use it for 90% of the driving we do. My wife and I work within 5 miles of home. We could do our grocery shopping, going to the bank, going out to eat, etc. Although it would be fun to have, my wife would not put up with the limited range and would need to keep the Prius for going out of town. My daughter will take the Fiat to college soon. My son will take the Civic to med school soon, leaving us with the V-Star, Mustang, Expedition, and Prius. Adding a Leaf would maybe make us have to give up the Mustang or the Prius. I'm not giving up my Mustang. My wife could not live with just a Leaf. I would love to have a Leaf but it would have to be an extra car for my household.

When I go to the home office in the Bay Area the other company in the building gives employees a Leaf for $100 a month. They have a row of charging stations on the first level of the parking garage and as you can imagine there are a lot of Leafs in that parking lot. I think it would be ideal if I lived in CA and could commute to work in a Leaf, charge it while at work, and drive it home and around town for errands. My wife's car would have to be a Prius or an ICE of some sort. A plug in Prius would dramatically increase our MPG and allow us to burn less gasoline but still allow long distances with quick fill ups. A plug in Prius would really be awesome but I like the idea of dumping the ICE and its transmission and weight.

The Prius gets such great mileage that filling up is just not an issue. We can take a 500 mile trip without worry. It is a car that really works for our situation. I can't justify the extra cost of the plug in Prius and my wife would not plug it in or unplug it anyway, but I think it would be really cool to be in electric mode for short trips.

I'm excited to see EVs on the road and expect them to improve. I believe this is just the beginning for EVs like the Leaf. I can't wait to see where we are in the next 5 or 10 years.

· · 4 years ago

@ModernMarvelFan: "75% of the American drive less than 40 miles per day on their commute. So, Volt's 40 miles is more than enough for most of them and you don't have switch cars."

Absolutely true. The Volt is a fantastic feat of engineering, with just the right mix. GM absolutely did their homework and got it right.

That said, you completely ignored my statement. The discussion is whether the Leaf is a mainstream-ready vehicle, not whether the Volt is a competitor (or even a better option). You have done nothing to discount the fact that the Leaf is extremely practical as the primary car of a multiple car household. And having a multiple car household is extremely common. Mainstream even. MysticSeer's story is an extreme example of that.

· · 4 years ago

@Benjamin,
"but all the stuff that hangs off the ICE that isn't buried inside the oil-bathed crankcase . . . serpentine belts, ERG valves, catalytic converters, mufflers, hoses . . . the stuff that never lasts "forever."

Well, sorry to say that none of that stuff you mentioned here would fail in less than 60K miles or 10 years.

Serpentine belts are usually less than $20 and last about 10 years. It is easy to change. I can do it on most cars in less than 5 mins. ERG values don't fail in less than 100K miles and I have never changed it on any of the cars that I had (most of them had over 160k miles before I sold them). Exhaust such as Cat/Muffler last a long time these days. Many of them are made with stainless steel and don't need change with proper operation the life of the car. Hoses usually last 10 year and 150k miles as well. Sure they don't last forevever, but most MODERN day well made engine easily last past 100k miles before anything is needed. We are still unsure if any of the CURRENT day batteries would last that long. Sure, GM offers 10yr/150k miles warranty on the Volt battery. But we would just have to wait and see.

Don't get me wrong. This arguement doesn't mean that I support ICE over electric motor. I just want to point out that many EV supporters tend to argue for the "worst" possible case of ICE based on 20 yr old data. A very designed electric powertrain is far simpler and will last 2x to 3x longer than a typical ICE powertrain. That is a fact and I totally agree with. But most people don't own cars longer than 10 year and 150k miles these days...

· · 4 years ago

@MysticSeer,

Tesla S does have 7-people capacity. It is time to get your information updated....

"Although it would be fun to have, my wife would not put up with the limited range and would need to keep the Prius for going out of town. "

Well, get a Volt then. So you can have your short trip electric and then use it for going out to town...

· · 4 years ago

@Brian,

"You have done nothing to discount the fact that the Leaf is extremely practical as the primary car of a multiple car household."

The fact that you require a "multi-car" family to be "mainstream" is a fact that it is a "limited" role vehciles. Sure, certain cars such as sports car, SUV, pickup truck and minivans all have their "respective" roles. But none of them is limited by "range".

BEVs today is the ONLY class of vehcile that price determines range instead of functionality/features.

· · 4 years ago

I heard a statistic lately, MMF, that the average American car on the road right now is 11 years old. Part of this can be explained by the fact that cars, generally, are better built these days. I realize that. But part of it can also be explained by the fact that many of us out here are still picking ourselves up after the long recession. With sketchy credit, it's hard to finance even a cheap used car. You stay with the devil you know until better times.

Just about every vehicle my wife and I have owned needed the ERG valve replaced at around the 80K mark. Local mechanics charge about $300 for this.

Likewise, the serpentine belt on my Saturn also needed swapping out at around that time. The part alone, if memory serves was on the order of $70 and hundreds to have a professional install it. I used to replace belts and hoses on older cars I've owned, but most shade tree mechanics would consider the serpentine a bit more complex.

I find joy adjusting the mechanical aspects on my bicycle (had both wheels off and was cleaning/lubing the chain/sprocket assembly just the other day) and had fun in years past adjusting the backlash on the solid valve lifters of my '51 Chevy, or changing the clutch on my '64 VW Beetle. But I find working on newer cars to be unintuitive at best and, at worse, just a bit scary. Also . . . I work 5 days a week and I'm often over-programmed with others tasks on weekends. It's simpler to hand off a repair to an honest mechanic who deals with these problems daily and pay the going rate.

The '95 Saturn was stalling badly about two years ago and I had no idea what it could have been that was causing it. On any older car, I would have adjusted, cleaned and even rebuilt the carburetor. Needless to say, though, even an old 1995 is highly unlikely to have one of these. One mechanic (my former one, I should add) told me that I would need a new cylinder head gasket, which he would have gladly charged $2K to install for me. Fortunately, I got a 2nd opinion and that guy (my current mechanic) found a bad electric sensor and had me up and running for about $170. But would have I know what to even look for? The short answer is no.

· · 4 years ago

Well, my previous car reached 230kmiles. Over the years I replaced all belts (some more than once), hoses, clutch, water pump (couple times), half the engine valves, headgasket, the EGR and couple other misc emission control components, fuel cap, starter, alternator (twice), ignition wires (several times), distributor, exhaust, various sensors, plus of course regular maintenance like oil, filters (incl air, fuel), spark plugs... I probably forget lots of stuff. I called it quit when it needed another catalytic converter.
An EV won't need any of that stuff, ever; knowing this is something I enjoy a lot.

@MMF: you must live in a different world or era.

On this planet we can't fit 7 in a Model S unless those include a of kids much younger than a University would typically accept.

Also, the US is the most motorized country on Earth, with one personal, 4-wheeled vehicle for every 1 1/2 person, newborns included. http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/no...
So, yes, it seems a pretty reasonable assumption that a lot of families will have more than one car, and therefore could drive an EV without impinging on their "right" to burn distilled dinos whenever they feel like it...

· · 4 years ago

Mr. O said . . .

"On this planet we can't fit 7 in a Model S unless those include a of kids much younger than a University would typically accept."

I'm not sure if it has been officially noted anywhere but Elon Musk has 5 young kids and, when "Revenge of The Electric Car" was made, a significant other.

Anyway . . . the point is that the Tesla Model S is tailor-made for a family the size of the Musk clan . . . right down to the current size of the kids.

In a few years, those kids will be bigger and they'll need an SUV to allow the entire family to travel around comfortably in a single vehicle. What do you think the Musk family will have by then? Why, a Model X, of course!

The kids will be teens not too long after that and, invariably, getting their driver's licenses. Who is willing to bet that each one of them won't have a newly-introduced Blue Star to drive around?

The kids will be off to college and careers eventually . . . moved out of the house. Time to put the next generation 2-seat Roadster in production, as it will be just Elon and, presumably, his significant other at that point.

· · 4 years ago

@Ben,

Thanks for that rundown of the evolution of the "Musk clan" - I found it rather amusing! Also perhaps a little too coincidental?

@Mr.O,

Thank you for backing up what I've been trying to explain to MMF with an actual number. You and I get it, but I don't think he'll ever be convinced that the Leaf is worth anything, or that the Volt isn't the perfect car for anyone who second-guesses a Leaf.

· · 4 years ago

MFM, 7 people in a tesla s? Here is the website with the specs. 5, not 7. Imagine even if we had six babies and a driver. That would require space for 6 car seats and 7 seatbelts. Can you tell me how that would work? http://www.teslamotors.com/models/specs

The 7 people in my family are all adults. My sons are in the 6' to 6'2" category. I am in fact the shortest of my family other than my sweet 18 year old daughter. Not huge people but not small people by any means.

Even to get 7 in the expedition it takes 3 rows of seats, 2, 3, 2. I didn't know tesla made a 7 seatbelt car with a capacity of 230 lbs times 7 and 3 rows of seats.

In 1982 my wife and I bought a civic FE (fuel efficient) that got 40+ MPG. Today most miles are on the Prius. I would live a tesla. I would love a leaf. I would love a plug in Prius. I have 5 cars and a motorcycle and I'm doing just fine. I am excited to see how EVs progress over the next 10 years.

--Kent

· · 4 years ago

no one has commented on the price of electricity. I can't believe 11.5 cents per kwh. I'm paying 5.4 cents in the Chicago suburbs. My daily commute is about 25 miles and I have only used a public charger once. In nice weather I think I'm paying less than 2 cents per mile.

· · 4 years ago

- Speaking of Catalytic Convertors - where I live there has been an on-going stream of catalytic convertor thefts. Two of my neighbors and some of my co-workers returned to their cars to find their convertors gone. The replacements are expensive. We had a meeting at work to warn everyone about these thefts. When it was my turn to talk I reminded everyone that they only had to worry about their catalytic convertors being stolen if they happen to be driving a gasoline powered vehicle.

[OK, sorry - I thought it was funny at the time....]

- The Tesla Model S seats 5 adults and 2 children (the two small seats in the back are optional and face rearward).

· · 4 years ago

@mlhoward

Im curious about your 5.4 cents /kwh. On a typical bill, what is the final dollar amount , what is the minimum charge, and what is your usage in kwh? And is this flat rate or time of day?

· · 4 years ago

In the Chicago area we were allowed to choose alternate electric supplier other than Com Ed. I have Champion Energy. My Residential Energy Charge is .052. (not 5.4 cents like I said earlier. Forgot) There is also a 0.02 Distribution Utility Charge which is also charged by Com Ed. And some other fixed charges including taxes. My total bill for January (cold month here) was $168 for 1837 kwh for my entire house including car.

· · 3 years ago

"Likewise, the serpentine belt on my Saturn also needed swapping out at around that time. The part alone, if memory serves was on the order of $70 and hundreds to have a professional install it. I used to replace belts and hoses on older cars I've owned, but most shade tree mechanics would consider the serpentine a bit more complex"

Well, you got ripped off. Changing serpentine belt on the Saturn is a piece of cake. I can do it in less than 5 mins. Saturn has a belt tensioner with bolt sticking out. Take a wrench or sock to that bolt. Pull up and the belt will come loose. Take the belt out and put a new one on, release the belt tensioner and you are done. EASY!

I had a Saturn too. SL2 with 160k miles on the original clutch and changed 1 Belt at 113k miles that took me less than 5 mins to do... Never had to change EGR. I did have to change a O2 sensor at 120K miles and another one (post Cat) at 135k. Both were done in less than 10 mins... EASY!!!!

· · 3 years ago

OK, MMF . . . if you're not a Saturn mechanic, you should be (or should have been.) I'm not exactly a mechanical dunce, but simply feel more comfortable working on ICE assemblies going back several generations earlier.

Yes, the guy who used to work on my Saturn (the one who told me I needed a new head gasket, when I really didn't) was a bit of a charlatan and his hourly rates were always exorbitant. I'm much more comfortable with the mechanic I have now. None of these people do it for pocket change, though.

You're a Volt owner, right? Do you do all your own repairs on that car?
Just curious . . .

· · 3 years ago

"You're a Volt owner, right? Do you do all your own repairs on that car?
Just curious . . ."

Don't have to. Nothing to do yet.

· · 3 years ago

Did the following trip over a two day period (http://tinyurl.com/p5npdy4), staring on Sauvie Island Road, used fast chargers in Cascade Locks (twice) and Newberg. 60-70 minutes of total wait time for charging, not an issue.

· · 3 years ago

Of course you haven't done anything yet to your Volt, MMF. It's still too new and everything in it is still under warranty!

Sadly, you've either entirely missed the point of the above conversation or you are simply willing to exhibit enough stamina by advancing pointless statements, like your last one, to drive away reasoned debate.

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