Turning a new LEAF: Can you really survive driving on all-electric?
August 24, 2012 | 11:00 am
(Updated: March 18, 2013 | 5:43 pm)
For decades electric cars have been seen as futuristic – right up there with cars that fly. The electric car at one time was set to be the mode of transportation in the early 1900s, then along came the gasoline motor and the great awakening of cross-country travel. It is fitting then that the Nissan LEAF is creating change, but some 100 years later than anticipated. This time it is for the urban and suburban environment.
Driving is as American as apple pie and Drag Queens. The ’50s spawned an era of hot rods, customs and teenagers who would take the family car and drive up and down Main Street all night. Driving became a rite of passage – no, a rite of freedom. Why bring all of this up now? Like the cultural revolution of the ’50s, something else today is changing everything.
It is this idea of taking care of each other, the environment and doing our part to change our behaviours to benefit those around us, ourselves and the place we live. In that respect, it is about acceptance of things we aren’t used to or don’t quite understand. Take the 2012 Nissan LEAF: it is an all-electric car that you can’t fill up at the gas station and gives you a finite range of travel – 60-135 miles. This is foreign to those of us who have grown up with road trips – any distance, packing as many passengers as possible into the car – as long as someone had gas money.
So why change now? What is so special about the LEAF and can you really survive driving an all-electric car?
The most remarkable thing about the LEAF is that it feels like a normal car. For a base MSRP of $35,200 for the LEAF SV, you can have that without using a drop of gasoline. Your filling station becomes your home’s electric socket. There’s an EPA estimated range of 73 miles per charge – and the practical average we saw with our test vehicle was more than 90 miles per charge. It will fully charge at your home for another 90 plus miles in 7 hours. Tax credits in Colorado total $13,500 for those willing to (ahem) turn a new leaf by buying one. Of course we can also add in the standard features like heated front and rear seats and navigation.
Want the top of the line with a solar accessory charging panel in the spoiler and rear view back-up camera? Step up to the $37,250 LEAF SL, still only $38,270 after delivery charges. Take off the $13,500 and you have a state-of-the-art all-electric, futuristic 4-door hatchback urban/suburban commuter that costs your bottom line $25K. You might like the thousands it can save you at the pump too.
We can hear you screaming, “But what about the range ANXIETY!” Granted, most people don’t need that stress – but think about the 73-mile range – more as we proved in our test drive putting 244 miles on the LEAF in three days. Do you drive 70-90 miles in one commute? If you don’t, and you stay on mostly surface streets or have only short jaunt on the freeway each day, the LEAF could fit your lifestyle. And it’s cool! More than that, you will have endless fun giggling at the reverse beep that tells people the car is actually going to back up and zipping away from even the sportiest of cars at a light because the all-electric has instant torque right from zero.
Change isn’t always easy and the LEAF will challenge your commitment to being “green,” but in the end we think you might just fall in love with quiet, effortless and electric motoring. Hard to believe a whole new generation wouldn’t think twice about electric being the way to travel.
Can you survive on all-electric travel in a LEAF? Yes, and it feels pretty good, too.