Automotive The Leaf

Published on August 23rd, 2012 | by Jordan

The Nissan Leaf: Our Impressions

Having posted our initial impressions of CAA’s newly-acquired Nissan Leaf, we thought it was high time we stepped in and took it for a test drive ourselves. Being a fully electric, zero emission car, we sought to learn how this key difference affected the driving experience as a whole. Did we lose or gain any features? How does it drive compared to gas-powered vehicles? And how quickly can the increased cost be recovered by not having to constantly fuel up? We took to the streets (and Starbucks) to find out.

“Well, it sure looks like a normal car.”

Our Leaf, besides being wrapped head-to-toe in CAA branding, features some interesting bits of flair on its exterior: vertically-aligned rear lights, blue accents in the headlights and a distinct lack of tailpipe all contribute to the car’s sleek, futuristic aesthetic. Inside, a digital speedometer shares its screen real-estate with an outdoor temperature reading, the current time and a unique eco-meter which gauges your driving efficiency. Behind the wheel is another display used for the odometer, trip meter, power use and battery temperature display and how many kilometers you have left on your charge. The center console also features a built-in GPS, rear-view camera display and impressive media capabilities. If you find that you’re running low on battery power, the dashboard screen can navigate you to the nearest available charging station (one of which being located in our own parking lot).

“I can get a week’s worth of commutes out of a single charge!”

No gasoline, no problem. With an estimated driving distance of 160km on a full charge, your daily commute won’t suffer from a lack of fossil fuels. One caveat is that you will need to outfit your home with a charging station, and setup and installation will run you just under $2000. If you can bear the initial expense, charging the Leaf from empty using the 220/240-V line can be done in less than 7 hours; but even if you’re not out of juice, we felt it would be wise to top-up every night in order to avoid running low due to unexpected stops or emergencies. A 110/120v ‘trickle charge’ cable is also included to provide small top-ups using conventional home outlets when on the go. In terms of how it felt to drive, stepping into the Leaf was like stepping into any new car: unfamiliar at first, but after a few minutes everything starts to feel natural. The one thing you will notice about this car is, ironically, how little you actually notice. Completely silent, we found that it was just as responsive and fun to drive as any gas-powered vehicle.

We’re really not good at math.”

We’ve already touched on the home charger price, but the entry-fee for the vehicle itself may be steep enough to dissuade those interested in making the leap. The 2012 “SV” base model comes in at $35,200 and the better-equipped “SL” can reach as high as $37,250. However, the government of Ontario has been offering substantial rebates for eligible plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles; ranging from $5,000 to $8,500, they’re a great way to encourage more drivers to make the switch. Nissan reports that a full charge – at today’s going rate for electricity – should cost about $2.75. How many kilometers you drive annually will play a big factor in determining how long it will take to recoup the cost difference between a regular and electric vehicle, so it’s important to sit down with your calculator before thinking ahead. If you’re a daily commuter and find yourself filling up weekly, an electric vehicle like the Leaf might be a worthwhile investment. But if you’re not spending much on fuel as-is, it might be wise to hold off until prices come down.

When it comes down to it, the Nissan Leaf is an impressive and revolutionary step towards greener driving and a more eco-friendly future. We’ve barely skimmed over the additional features and safety options, so if you’ve got an inkling to find out more, head over to Nissan’s website to decide whether the Leaf is the right choice for you.

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