Nissan Leaf 2016

Road Test of the 2016 Nissan Leaf SV

2016 Nissan Leaf SV

Looks like an electric car. Sounds like an electric car. Has range like an electric car. Must be a 2016 Nissan Leaf SV. The 2016 Nissan Leaf SV is a 100% electric, no gas, plug in vehicle. While I’m not an electric car expert – I still put gas in my vehicles – I’ve spent a fair amount of time in VW’s E-Golf and some time in my friend’s Tesla Model S. So where does the Leaf fit in?

It goes without saying that the Leaf is not a Tesla. The starting MSRP of the Leaf is $34,200; mine came with the Around View Monitor and the BOSE 7 speaker audio system; options setting you back another couple thousand dollars. So you can have an entire branch of Leafs for the same price as a Tesla. Let’s find out what you are getting for your 36,800 carbon free dollars.

The Leaf has everything you need and nothing you don’t in an electric car. A 30 kWh lithium-ion Leaf battery. A single 80 kW AC synchronous motor. 107 mile EPA-estimated range. 7 inch color display with Nissan Connect and Nav and Mobile Apps. Acceleration in the Leaf is typical of an electric car. Its multiple regenerative breaking modes provides you with the flexibility to maximize range if you need it. Its not a sports car and it doesn’t drive like one. Its not a luxury sedan and it doesn’t ride like one. But it will get you in and around town with zero emmissions at a very affordable price (in some cities free for the first two years – see more below). And if you qualify for some or all of the $7,500 electric car federal tax deduction, its even more affordable.

I played around with the different regenerative breaking modes and was able to extend my range considerably in the most aggressive mode. While in that mode, however, anytime you take your foot off the gas it feels like a giant rubber band attached to your rear bumper is pulling you backwards. Its quite a different driving experience but its not unique to the Leaf. Its an electric car thing. I became accustomed to it after a few days and didn’t find it terribly bothersome. And I felt pretty good about my environmental stewardship. I found myself starting to look down on those giant SUVs gassing up at the pump (awhich I drove right on past of course).

To test the claimed 107 mile Nissan Leaf range I took my Leaf to a meeting with my accountant that was about 40 miles from home. The gauge showing how much charge you have left is conspicuously placed in the center of the dash and is a little too prominent for my liking. It was the single biggest gauge on the dash seemingly demanding my constant attention. I was transfixed. 80%. 75%. The further I was from home the lower it went. 71%. I began to panic. What happens if I hit 50% before I arrived at my destination? My accountant works out of an old converted condo building. There’s no charging station there. Would my accountant have an extension cord? Would it reach out the window to my Leaf? Would it charge enough to get me home during my hour meeting? Do other electric car drivers have these thoughts?

68%. I arrived with 68% left. Plenty of juice to get home and even make a few wrong turns on the way. I got 89 miles out of a partial charge with some left over so 107 miles doesn’t seem too far fetched. Range of course will depend on how you drive and which regenerative breaking mode you can tolerate. I drove very conservatively using the most regenerative mode (my fear and anxiety over range wouldn’t allow me to drvie any other way). I charged the Leaf for about 12 hours that night on a 110 circuit and got it charged up to about an 80 mile range. To get the maximum range out of your Leaf a 220 circuit in your garage is a must.

When buying the Leaf you know that you will never spend a nickel on gas to fuel your Leaf. But what you might not know is that with the Nissan’s “No Charge to Charge” program you might not have to spend a nickel on electricity either – at least for the first two years. Recently Nissan announced that it was expanding its “No Charge to Charge” program to Orlando increasing its presence to 27 cities nationwide. This program provides free public charging to Nissan Leaf customers for the first two years of ownership. If you live in Orlando, it might be the only thing there that is free (having just come home from 5 days of Disney with my kids, I know).

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