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Why Buy a Nissan Leaf: Review Part One

2013NissanLeafIn the wake of the Volkswagen/Audi dieselgate scandal where VW duped smog check devices and was emitting dangerous NOx emissions into the air, it’s a good time to look at options if a driver doesn’t want to pollute the air. I recently bought a different car and there were many factors that lead to my decision to buy a used 2013 Nissan LEAF. Here is my first installment on why anyone would buy a used Nissan Leaf.

I made the right decision just for environmental reasons. Every gallon of gas burned in cars causes twenty pounds of CO2 to be put into the air. On my previous older car, (similar to a late-model Toyota Corolla) even though I was still getting good gas mileage and I passed bi-annual smog tests, over time was contributing more pollutants into the air.

In Southern California, it is very evident that we are experiencing global warming, each summer is hotter than the one before. Mountains burn frequently and lawns are brown everywhere. I can’t change the gross polluters out there, all I can change is myself. And it turned out to be cost saving, too. At my present electric rate, I’m paying less than 5 cents a mile to charge the LEAF.

Contrary to what reviewers are saying, that you should lease electric cars, I bought a used 2013 Nissan LEAF SV with a sticker price slightly less than $9,000 (before sales tax, fees and license*). The Nissan LEAF is the first mass-produced electric car and it is now coming off lease with bargain prices for a whole lot of car. This is a first in a series of my Nissan LEAF odyssey that I will share with readers.

Reviewers are saying don’t buy electric cars because there will be a better model later. They also warn that of the cost of replacing the battery, it’s not worth buying an electric car that may have battery degradation. I’ve talked to many buyers of cars and they just figure the bottom line, how much it costs per mile, not how much it costs the environment. An engineer, I talked to said that she didn’t buy a plugin-Prius because it was too expensive. The current market for used EVs changes all that.

When the model Nissan LEAF SV was released, the sticker price for the equipment was around $36,000 before sales tax. Buyers received a $7500 tax credit from the Feds and maybe several thousand dollars from a state. I bought the 2013 Nissan Leaf SV with only 22,000 miles for approximately 25% of the original price or a whopping 75% off the original price. I know of no other car after two years has such a great discount with low mileage. I ran into a 2013 LEAF lessee who told me she was paying $240 a month to lease almost the same car. In three years and one month, she will have paid in lease fees the same price I paid to own almost the same car (hers had a quick charger).

The battery is still under warranty for 3 more years or 60,000 miles whichever comes first for 70% of driving range or 9 bars. The 2013 Nissan LEAF has the improved Lizard battery pack as well as the charger in the front for more cargo room. The model had been out two years and received design tweaking from feedback from owners from previous owners.

As our readers know, one of our reviewers had problems with glitches with the BMW i3 because it was the very first time the model was on the market. After two years Nissan worked out most of the major quirks in the LEAF.

Reviewers also didn’t like the lack of charging stations and price of installing a 240V charging station at home. Since I work at home, I seldom drive over the 85-100 miles on a charge. So far the 120 trickle charger has been sufficient. I learned from Madame X and her bad experience with a BMW i3, that if you are going to have an electric-only car, you have to have a way to charge it home.

I am working on municipal incentives to get an EVSE installed with much of the cost covered.

The ride of Nissan Leaf even in ECO mode is better than most late-model vehicles that are 11.5 years old on the road, today. In regular drive mode, it is peppier and faster than my previous gas-powered vehicles.

I also hate going to the gas station and getting that upset feeling when the gas price changes on a daily basis. Now, whenever I pass a gas station I smile. In the many years I’ve owned gas guzzlers, I spend weeks if not even months standing outside in the heat or rain pumping my own gas. I also spent $50 every two years for smog checks because I live in California. Then I also had to change the oil, which I don’t have to do on an electric car.

Owning an electric car is helped by connected car features, this model Nissan Leaf has a Navigation system that shows charging stations. I can also check for charging stations with any number of apps. Before I leave, I estimate my mileage and also check for charging stations near my destination.

I entered into the deal knowing that I can’t go to Las Vegas, San Diego or San Francisco in the car. I plan on renting a car. The only rental problem I’ve run into is that I want to leave early on a Monday morning to go to San Diego to Telematics West Coast. The car rental places don’t open early enough, therefore, I have to start my rental on the $19.99-weekend package on Saturday. The rental will cost about $50 plus gas. In the meantime, I’m not polluting the air.

I like having a hatchback where the rear seats fold down so that I can buy things at Home Depot or Ikea without worrying about how to get the items home. I could also fit a Christmas tree or bicycle.

The Nissan Leaf was ranked 5 in the 2014 AAA Green Car Guide following the Tesla S, Toyota Rav4 EV (no longer made) Audi A7 TDI Quattro Tiptronic Diesel(whoops that was a mistake in hindsight) and 2013 Lexus GS 450h Diesel with the following summation:

Strong Points of the 2013 Leaf from the AAA Green Car Guide:
• Energy efficiency (114 MPG equivalent).
• Zero emissions.
• Quiet.
• Bigger trunk than most EVs.
• Heated seats and steering wheel.
• Well equipped, with Bluetooth, navigation, XM radio, and HID headlights.
Weak Points
• The limited range can cause “range anxiety”.
• Long recharge time (especially at 110 volts).
• Poor visibility to the rear.
• Controls use a joystick instead of knobs.
• Lacks rear center armrest and cup holder.

In regards to the weak points I so seldom have people in the rear seat that need an armrest or cup holder, the point is pointless. The Nissan LEAF SV will charge on a 240 charger in four hours. The joystick for the shift knob takes about ten minutes to get used to. The poor visibility in the rear can be diminished by installing a backup rearview camera. In SoCal, the strong point of heated seats and steering wheel really doesn’t matter.

The most important reason that makes me happy about owning an EV is that the car produces zero emissions. The electricity produced in California is very clean, much cleaner than burning gas. I am not worried that EV batteries are dangerous because last year, we researched electric car safety and found that EV can be safer than gas cars.

Often car reviewers only spend a week with a car. This time, the Nissan Leaf will be part of my life and our readers will have the benefit of learning what it is really like to live with an electric car. Hopefully, you will learn from my trials, triumphs and mistakes.

After over a month of driving, I still think I made the right decision. Although the car is not equipped with Android Auto or CarPlay, it plays an iPod fine and the Bluetooth connections on different model phones is fabulous. I had a few range anxiety attacks which could have been avoided.

I went out into the San Gabriel Valley to a discount store in Glendora it was a very hot day around 100 degrees. I was playing my iPod, shut off the car and then went back to get something. When I went into the store I had a range of 44 miles.

When I opened the trunk to put the groceries in the car, I noticed that my iPod was playing and the air conditioning was blasting. When I checked I had 34 miles of range. According to the navigation system, it would be 35 miles to get home!

I was sweating, first due to anxiety then as I drove with the windows down to try to increase the range. I was going the Eco route which added a mile but I was still worried. I found in the CarWings section, a feature to find charging stations. Lo and behold, there was a Nissan dealership with free charging on my way home. I plugged into the charger and went inside for an hour of air conditioning and free Wi-Fi. With the 2013 SV, a 240 charge gives about 20 miles per hour of charge. Whew.

Another time, I returned to a charger to find out that someone had unplugged it. Besides that I hadn’t plugged it in to hear the beep and see the flashing blue lights to check that it was charging. Therefore, I wasted an hour.

The Nissan LEAF is not without faults that I will cover later. Since I bought a used car, it has a few dings, scratches and a place where there is paint chip.  When I bought the car I tested almost every feature except I didn’t look at the rear tail lights there is a crack in left side and a large chip missing in the right one. I missed buying a cheap replacement on eBay, the full cost for a new one is $350. The reason I didn’t see the broken tail light is that it so sparkly and reflective, I didn’t notice it. Yet, if I spent $100 to replace the light with used one, the car is still a fantastic value.

When I first started looking for a LEAF, I watched as prices fell when the cars didn’t sell after a month. When I bought mine it was in the middle of the summer when sales are slow and prices were low. We have seen reports about the low prices of used EVs, which may now be fueling a short-term price increase.

As of this writing, on TrueCar.com, there are a few 2013 Nissan LEAFs in Los Angeles for less than $9,000. There are also a few on Edmunds.com used cars. Some were bought at auction and shipped from Georgia where there were huge incentives for electric cars. The price of gas has gone down which means that there may be less of a demand for used EVs.

As a former math major I have to do the math — I pay .1948 per KWH, I get four miles per KWH or about 5 cents per mile. My previous car averaged 25 MPG, which can be around $4.00 or $3.50 a gallon depending on the time of year.  For 25 miles on the LEAF, I pay around $1.25.  In the future, I plan to get solar panels then I will pay next to nothing per mile. Yes, my Nissan LEAF may have turned out to be the best bargain, I ever found beside the cashmere sweater for ten cents.

If you bought a used EV or Nissan LEAF, please share your experiences with us in the comments below. If you have any questions about the Nissan LEAF also post them below. If you are interested in connected cars, please subscribe to our newsletters. Please return for future installments to find out what I don’t like about the Nissan LEAF. Unfortunately, it doesn’t drive like my fathers 1961 Cadillac convertible but then again nothing built is this millennium does.

3 thoughts on “Why Buy a Nissan Leaf: Review Part One”

  1. Got a used 2013 Leaf last summer, to be used primarily as a second car for the kids to take to high school and local destinations. I’d known about the fuel and maintenance savings, but one thing I hadn’t been prepared for is how much nicer the car is to drive in.

    With almost no engine noise, you can listen to music with quiet sections and hear every note. There’s also no vibration from banging pistons, so acceleration is smooth and nearly noiseless, and at stoplights there’s no sound at all. I find myself in a kind of Zen state after driving awhile; contrast that with gas cars, whose roaring engine noise leads to edginess and impatience.

    Even though the car was intended for student mobility, I can tell you that we parents take it for any trip it can make if it’s available. If the range were a bit higher, I’d be happy to ditch our other gasoline car for an EV. In fact I hope I never have to buy another gasoline car.

    We did end up springing for a Level 2 (240 volt) charger; we got an electrician to put a 240 outlet in the garage, and bought a $300 charge cord on Amazon. Works very nicely.

  2. A gallon of gasoline weighs six pounds, so it is less than credible that is can put twenty pounds of CO2 into the air.

    • From Fueleconomy.gov

      It seems impossible that a gallon of gasoline, which weighs about 6.3 pounds, could produce 20 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) when burned. However, most of the weight of the CO2 doesn’t come from the gasoline itself, but the oxygen in the air.

      When gasoline burns, the carbon and hydrogen separate. The hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water (H2O), and carbon combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide (CO2).

      CO2 molecule with one carbon atom (atomic weight 12) and two oxygen atoms (atomic weight of 16 each)A carbon atom has a weight of 12, and each oxygen atom has a weight of 16, giving each single molecule of CO2 an atomic weight of 44 (12 from carbon and 32 from oxygen).

      Therefore, to calculate the amount of CO2 produced from a gallon of gasoline, the weight of the carbon in the gasoline is multiplied by 44/12 or 3.7.

      Since gasoline is about 87% carbon and 13% hydrogen by weight, the carbon in a gallon of gasoline weighs 5.5 pounds (6.3 lbs. x .87).

      We can then multiply the weight of the carbon (5.5 pounds) by 3.7, which equals 20 pounds of CO2!

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