The primary technology Nissan Leaf was a automobile that solely an proprietor may love. It had bug eyes for the headlights, the physique of a Bulbasaur, a toy-like startup sound, and a big plastic nub within the middle console that you simply moved like an air hockey paddle to drive or leaf in reverse.
I used to be a type of homeowners, and after I swooned over the 2018 redesign, I nonetheless solely had eyes for my first-gen Leaf. Like many first-time EV homeowners, this was my first actual all-electric automobile, which modified how I thought of every journey and the best way to get there with out draining the battery. That is what helped me work out what it is wish to have a fuel station in your individual residence.
And most significantly, it was an indication of the approaching revolution. The EV is right here and so is the way forward for clear private transport. And now that the Leaf is reportedly going out of manufacturing, it appears becoming to say goodbye to an early electrical pioneer and among the best vehicles I’ve ever owned.
The Leaf was not an ideal automobile by a protracted shot. Most notably, it wasn’t even appropriate for lengthy street journeys or modest ones. The 2013 mannequin I owned often displayed 70-80 or extra miles on its vary estimate-o-meter, although over the weeks I commuted regionally – and in excellent climate – I may discover it crawling into the triple digits. acquired.
However on the freeway, that vary was elusive. I used to drive it between New York and Baltimore, stopping at no matter DC quick charging station I may get thrice every means. I did not care, I used to be decided to only drive electrical from there, and it actually helped that I used to be saving some huge cash on the automobile itself and I may cost totally free at work.
The true offers for the Nissan Leaf got here in 2015-2016, when you might snag the excessive “SV” or “SL” trims within the used marketplace for as little as $10,000 within the vary. These fashions have been extra prone to include built-in navigation (although CarPlay will not arrive till a 2018 redesign), a Bose sound system, and most significantly, the CHAdeMO DC quick charging port, which may energy the automobile to 80 p.c in about half-hour. may cost. ,
The unlucky factor in regards to the CHAdeMO quick charging customary is that it did not beat the CCS combo connector that many of the trade has adopted for the US market. And Tesla nonetheless has its proprietary connector, although it plans to start out including help for CCS combos to its stations quickly.
Tesla supplied a CHAdeMO adapter that lets drivers plug their luxurious sedans into stations the place the Leafs would usually splurge, but it surely’s not obtainable within the US. Proper now, CHAdeMO remains to be obtainable nearly all over the place CCS is, however main charging networks like Electrify America are beginning to ditch the connector in favor of opening extra faucets to the rising Tesla inhabitants.
However the greatest downside with the Leaf over the long run is not within the charging port; Relatively, it’s within the battery. The Early Leafs suffered speedy battery put on in sizzling climates or if charged a number of occasions throughout street journeys because of the absence of a liquid-cooled system.
A brand new “lizard” battery module design surfaced in 2013, however the enhancements weren’t drastic. In 2016, the Leaf lastly obtained its first vital battery improve, going from 24 to 30kWh and bettering its EPA-rated vary to 107 miles. However it nonetheless hadn’t cooled down — and neither had the redesigns of 2018 and past.
Because the leaf obtained older, the used market turned extra fascinating. You will have to hope the vendor posts a transparent image of the complete powered-on dashboard so you may depend the bars of the battery well being meter. The meter runs vertically with the state-of-charge meter (SoC), and a really wholesome battery may be recognized if it nonetheless has all 12 bars (together with the purple bits).
However should you actually wish to know if the battery was viable, particularly if a couple of bars have been lacking, you’ll want to get bodily entry and join a Bluetooth OBD-II reader along with the handy-dandy LeafSpy app for iPhone or Android. might be required. (It is also necessary to test with LeafSpy as a result of the battery meter may be quickly reset and does not look like an ideal battery even when it does not.)
If your individual Leaf’s battery is out of guarantee, you may attempt a third-party service that repackages new packs from donor Leafs which can allow longer ranges. In different phrases, Leaf homeowners must continually control the battery meter, buy date, and mileage to verify they do not miss out on an necessary warranty-covered battery substitute — or hunt down the modding group. The worst consequence could be proudly owning a Leaf with a ineffective battery that may barely get you to your nearest procuring middle with out scarcity.
Regardless of a couple of design flaws and the problem of hanging onto Nissan’s die-cut charging customary, it was a really sensible automobile, extra economical than the BMW i3, and extra cargo than EV compliant vehicles just like the Chevy Spark EV and Ford Focus. The place was Electrical. However it actually wasn’t the Tesla Mannequin S, which was the one (can I say objectively?) handsome electrical automobile on the time, although they remained financially out of attain for many automobile consumers.
In 2018, the Leaf obtained its much-needed face-lift with longer vary choices. The next 12 months, Nissan included an possibility for greater than 200 miles, however the automobile was primarily the identical. The Leaf stored its preliminary MSRP nearer to $30,000 for many of its lifetime. You can land on the decrease “S” trims that lack leather-based seats and steering wheels within the $20,000 vary, and with a federal $7,500 incentive, it might be even decrease.
However automobile consumers weren’t on this. Nissan nonetheless hasn’t rolled out a phasing out of sales-based federal incentives like Tesla and GM did, which exhibits how weak Leaf gross sales have been over the previous few years. Take Ford for instance; It is actually solely been promoting EVs with the Mustang Mach-E since 2021, and it is already about to hit the 200,000 gross sales threshold (although that cap could quickly be raised with new laws). Just lately, Nissan slashed its newest 2022 Leaf worth to only beneath the $30,000 mark for a 40kWh battery mannequin, which may go about 150 miles on a single cost.
Nissan popularized the “zero emissions” advertising soundbite that many EV producers use in the present day, and it helped pioneer the EV market with one of the crucial obtainable and reasonably priced all-electric choices. The Leaf was a spectacle in itself, with its odd design cues and whistling sound to warn pedestrians at low speeds. Nissan adopted the product differentiation path that Toyota and others cast: making inside combustion vehicles extra engaging and never shaking the pot too laborious on the fossil gas economic system that each one automakers have counted on endlessly.
However on the similar time, Nissan handled its electrical automobile otherwise. It constructed and offered an reasonably priced electrical automobile at a time when different EV makers have been beginning out with luxurious fashions or compliant builds to please regulators. It was a real effort to drive mass adoption of EVs, at the same time as the remainder of Nissan’s lineup turned it into advertising. It is a automobile the corporate has constructed for greater than 10 years, and but it hasn’t modified the Leaf that a lot or utilized what it realized on different fashions.
The Leaf obtained the primary all-electric New York Metropolis taxi and even showcased the car-to-home energy backup expertise for the primary time, which automakers like Ford are planning to carry to market. It is going to be unhappy to see that period if Nissan pulls the plug on the Leaf, however here is hoping the Leaf comes again later, utterly reborn.
Both means, I’m grateful to Nissan for offering me with probably the most satisfying and informative automobile expertise I’ve ever had. With the automaker’s $17.6 billion initiative to remodel itself into an electrical automobile firm, we could quickly be seeing higher and extra reasonably priced choices — ideally alternate options that are not boring and costly compact SUVs (sorry, Aria).
Pictures by Omar Shakir / The Verge