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Saturday, February 10, 2018

10 Years of EV Driving (Part 7 - GL-LEAF-FULL)

In part 6, I met with executives and engineers from Nissan and told them what was important to me in an EV. In the summer of 2009, I found out more about what they were planning. Nissan announced the Nissan LEAF with many of the things that we'd asked for. In December of that year, we got to see the Leaf in person. They had a static display at OMSI. This event was similar to the one that we'd attended there for the Toyota Prius eight years before. After seeing the car, I put down my $99 reservation and picked out my color (red).

Almost a year later, in November of 2010, I was finally able to drive one. Nissan had a ride & drive event touring around the country. The one near us was in the parking lot of the massive Solar World factory in Hillsboro, OR. We took the car for a spin, it was peppy, quiet, and fun. I was sold. This was going to be my next car. The only thing I was not sure of was my color choice.

At the event, we got to see all the colors they offered. I still like the red car but the chrome accents on the car had a blue tint and, to me, it didn't go well with the red paint. If I had a "chrome delete" done to the car, I think the red would have looked great, but with the "blue chrome", I liked the look of the black and the blue cars.

Now, the waiting began. Every week or so (I admit, occasionally daily), I would log in to the Nissan ordering page and check on my car's status and I would usually change the color. I was still not sure if I wanted red, black, or blue. This went on for months; then one day in early 2011, I was doing my usual routine of logging in, checking the status changing the color and I was surprised to see that the color was now locked down. I could no longer change the paint color. My (blue) car was going into production!

On March 10th, 2011, six hundred Nissan LEAFs which left port in Japan on their way to the US and my car was one of them. This was the day before the island country that built my car was rocked by a devastating earthquake and tsunami.

On May 18th of 2011, after arriving in port in California and being trucked up the west coast, it was time to pick up my car.
Delivery day for a brand new 2011 Nissan Leaf
This car was great. With 72 miles of range, this was nearly double the range of the 40-mile range truck that I had been driving. This was the first new car that I'd ever bought. Previously, I bought used cars. The Prius from Part 1 new, but that was my wife's car. This one was mine. It had keyless entry, a backup camera, and an app that let me pre-heat or cool the car. It was great.

As for the Leaf's place in automotive history, this car was monumental. Today the Leaf is often overshadowed in the press by the likes of the Tesla Model 3 or the Chevy Bolt, but it is important to point out the historical achievement that the Leaf represented when it was delivered in 2011. This was not a low volume car that was only available for lease by "influencers" in California. It was being delivered to all 50 states and around the world. It was an affordable, all-electric, practical car. It was not a strange 3-wheeler, it was not 100 thousand dollars. It held the promise of replacing a significant number of gas cars that were on the road at that time. It was not the car for everyone, but for a large number of commuters, this car would be perfect.

I drove this car up and down the West Coast Electric Highway in the northwest. Oregon and Washington state were installing DC fast charging stations that worked with the Leaf. This allowed me to drive to Great Wolf Lodge and to Spirit Mountain. I wrote 35, and 6-year reviews of the car.

As monumental as the Leaf was, it was not perfect. Their batteries suffered from degradation, especially in hot regions. Nissan had the early mover advantage in the affordable, all-electric market, but they did not maintain a fast pace of innovation. They made only small incremental changes. Even after the battery degradation problems became apparent, Nissan did not redesign the car to use an active liquid cooling system. They made only small incremental improvements to the range, with the 2017 model having a 107-mile range.

Today, we still have our 2011 Leaf, and I'll be writing my 7-year review soon, but we plan to trade it in on a new 200+ mile EV later in 2018.

Going back to 2011, with the Leaf added to our home fleet, we now had a spectrum of vehicles. There was the all-electric Leaf, the hybrid Prius, and a gas powered Honda Passport SUV. We could use whichever vehicle met our needs for a given trip. The Leaf for commuting, the Prius for treks, and the SUV for ski trips or pulling our pop-up camper.

But this entire saga is how our garage became all-electric. For the conclusion, you'll have to read part 8 where the Prius gets a Passport to the wrecking yard in the sky.