Friday, April 4, 2014

Nissan's 135 Mile LEAF

Before we get too excited about it, let me clarify this is just a rumor started by someone (not me this time!) somewhere but it has gained a lot of steam.

Naturally more range means more options so its a good thing and as long as it is not the only thing, we will benefit.  Range choices gives peace of mind to those are are able and willing to pay for it while at the same time still allowing the  EV market to expand to the more budget conscious consumer with lesser transportation needs.

A lot has been said about the slow adoption rate of EVs but wondering if its really that slow or that the market is still not fully focused on volume sales?  There are really only two manufacturers even attempting anything remotely resembling volume and that is Tesla and Nissan and neither have an overabundance of units languishing on lots around the country.  Last month, Nissan posted 2nd best ever numbers at 2500+ which could be good if looking at plug in sales only but would be pathetic if looking at cars overall so has the EV launch been pathetic so far? Well ya. Only two pure EV manufacturers with volume.  One could put Chevy and Ford in the mix. They both have respectable ER EV  programs but even that puts participation well below 50%.  Sure we have new players coming in, at least according to the press releases but there has always been pending promises and that started years before the first of the new wave EVs hit the streets.

Its my opinion that its really the auto industry's attempt to minimize the impact that EVs are having.  I am too close to the EV industry as most of you are which makes it difficult to truly understand how little the general public knows about EVs but the evidence is plentiful and shocking.  Most people hesitate to look at the LEAF due to its limited range and high price.  For them; I say lease. Its a great way to be exposed to both the benefits and compromises of driving EV.  I only put it that way to sound balanced. We all know that EV Addiction is a powerful thing!

So, I decided on an experiment to not use public charging for the month of March.  I also lifted my 75 mile limit I imposed on my LEAF to see how much of an imposition it would be to rely on the LEAF.  Now, I did drive the gasser a few times in March but primarily to balance the mileage a bit. I am on pace to go way over my 45,000 mile lease so did pick a few trips to gas it that were well within the LEAF's range and also did have the LEAF "borrowed" for a day here and there (stolen actually!) unexpectedly...

Now since getting the 2013 and its new batteries, my driving style has gone back to normal with many trips averaging over 55 mph (which includes surface streets, etc) when previously in the 2011 the same trips were in the 44-45 mph range due to driving slower to extend the degraded range.  So first thing I wanted to do was find out about how far I could go if I elected to not stop to charge. So off I went on a Sunday afternoon with no time crunches to lunch with my Son. My freeway target speed was 60 mph and other than a few minor slowdowns, that was achieved as was a drive of 93.5 miles getting home with 11 GIDs to spare.  Conditions were dry and Sunny which meant no climate control was needed for the trip (actually had air on face for the return as it was getting warmer than I was comfortable with)  The lunch destination at South Center Mall was chosen as this was one place I worked at often and was out of the range of a single charge on the 2011.

But the weather was good.  A few days later during a heavy rain (most of the area set all time rain records for the month. Unfortunately that partially resulted in the Oso Disaster) my commute to the far side of Puyallup (includes a BIG hill in the middle) of 85.6 miles required me to reduce speeds to 50 mph (that and a very heavy rain which slowed all the traffic on I-5 to under 50 mph) getting home with just 7 GIDs.

Finally, another trip to Tukwila totaling 96.4 miles and averaging 60-62 mph going and a target  speed of 55 mph coming home and arriving with 17 GIDs.  I could have made 100 miles easily but had other errands to run later that day so plugged in at home to get the boost I needed before uploading the day's job, changing clothes and heading back out again.

Now what you actually get from your LEAF will vary. My conditions are different, my tires are pumped to 44 PSI, I drive in the slow lane, and I am hampered by a pathetically overwhelmed highway system  which simply makes driving slower acceptable and necessary.  But public charging is still a LONG way from being convenient and reliable so the big question here is what will be the most popular?  the 80 LEAF or the 135 mile LEAF?

That question will be answered by price.  The people I have talked to who are currently gassing it but thinking about an EV fall into mostly the category known as "budget conscious."  They currently have car payments that will be ending soon, multiple car households, short commutes, etc.  So a near perfect EV household for the most part.  Now, getting them beyond the leasing issue has been difficult but I stand by my statement that Nissan needs a car that gets a real 105 miles (which means 65 mph on the freeway in average conditions with a buffer) to account for the degradation that will start setting in after 2 years. (less if you don't live in my neighborhood)  This also takes out the complication of figuring your tax liability for the EV credit.  Let Nissan worry about that.  When I do end up buying a LEAF, it will be a lease/purchase.  I will have had 2-3 years to rethink the purchase issue and of course all that depends on the interest rates of the lease, etc...

Now if Nissan released 3 pack options say change the current pack option to 110 miles with an option to  135 miles. Then add a bargain priced LEAF with the standard 84 mile pack, I believe that fewer will take the 135 mile pack verses the 110 mile or 84 mile pack.  Nissan's cost to market has to be going down as it needs to be to repay their loan for the TN Battery plant but volumes have increased which should allow them to cut the price further. So if Nissan kept the 110 mile version at current prices with a $2500 bump for the longer pack, a $1500 cut for the shorter pack; I still think that more than half will take the cheaper option.  The 110 mile pack will be a close 2nd.

But every time I suggest this, there is howls of protest.  "Everyone" wants more range people say but what I am seeing is a handful that do (including me) consisting of the majority of the input while LEAFers who are happy with their range are simply not saying anything.

Now part of my stance is based on where I live. It took over 2 years before degradation was enough to really hamper my driving needs but my needs are beyond average, WAY beyond. But if I did not have a job that required travel, my 2011 LEAF would have lasted me about 11 years even with a commute 50% greater than the average distance driven in the US.  So even for my extreme needs,  a 105 mile LEAF would have lasted me long enough to get my "money's worth" before doing the trade in, buy new thing again.  But several areas of the country did see degradation up to triple my rate which amounted to about 12 % after 3 years and 45,000 miles.  There is some speculation (yet unseen) that degradation rates slow after a time.  Since the older LEAFs are barely 3, we have yet to see whether that is true or not.  Steve Marsh (our long distance litmus test) has expressed concerns about his upcoming Winter commute, so more on that in about 7 months.  Now we still have not had the time to see whether any new wrinkles to the battery chemistry have changed that at all.  I hope to see nothing after this Summer which would be good but all depends on whether we are warm like 2013 or cool like 2012.  Here's hoping for hot!

I ran into a LEAFer who is thinking about trading in his LEAF (despite the fact that he could drive another 7-8 years on his 45 mile commute)  for a Volt because he was talked into believing it was some sort of wise financial move when factoring in depreciated values.  I hope I had changed his mind.  For one thing; there are few (if any) cars that are immune to precipitous drops in value.  Be it they were simply overpriced to begin with or not built to last, the bottom line is changing cars means you WILL lose and lose a lot.   The actual difference between the LEAF and Volt is small to begin with  with trade in values being 38.8 and 41.6% respectively  (don't cry. the "leader" category was small compacts at 54% so no real winners here)   So if generalizing that LEAF was $33,000 and the Volt $36,000 that equates to $10,140 and $14,976  or a $4836 price difference. take off the original $3,000 price difference (waay favoring the Volt on these hypothetical numbers btw)  and now  its $1836.   For a 3 year period, this only leaves him room to average 2 gallons of gas a week after higher maintenance costs.  A tough proposition since work place charging is not likely to be an option for him.


  1. Biggest complaint I get from non-EV owners is that "100 miles is not enough". But when I pose the question "would you buy/lease if a EV had 150-ish mile capacity?" Answer is always "absolutely."
    Granted, the average driver travels less than 100 miles a day, (hence 100 mile capacity will work for most), suddenly the 150-ish capacity is what people really want. (maybe it's not what they need, but what they want). Drivers "need" a car, but drivers "want" capacity.
    Fast forward, and the feedback will be "150 miles is not enough." ...
    And so it goes..

    1. And the biggest complaint I hear from actual Leaf owners is "wintertime range sucks". Oh, of course those owners don't live in the SEATAC area, but that's not the point.

      When you have a 150 mile range... in the *summer*, then that means these Leafers have a minimum of 85 miles in the winter. And that would be enough to make these owners happy.

      But that's the biggest disadvantage. And if you don't live in Saskatchewan, (or Ontario, or Minnesota, or New York, or...), then it's already not an issue. :)

    2. ya, winter range issues happen here as which is what I was trying to illustrate in the driving examples where twice i easily exceeded 90 miles with normal driving in good weather but struggled to hit the mid 80's even with careful driving. the difference; Winter... well for here anyway which is wind and rain. water on the road really kills the performance. my seat of the pants estimates that a moderate rain means slowing to 50 mph to get the same range as dry weather driving at 60-62 mph

  2. There are no wise "financial moves" when it comes to cars. Gas or EV, they are all losers at the end of the day, no amount of financial engineering will change that. Mitigate it? Sure, but you are talking at the margins of materiality (I am a financial engineer, MBA, CPA, and a Leaf owner), which drops even greater insigficance over time. What do you want out of a car? Will the car do what you want? Those are questions needing answers, and, in most cases, there are hundreds of cars that will do. Any one of a hundred cars would meet the requirements I have, as good as the Leaf. However, they cannot ensure I never have to visit a gas station, Jiffy Lube, or Midas.


  3. I talk to people every day that eliminate the LEAF from consideration due to a trip they might make 3 times a year. That logic is beyond me. Right now, I know a guy who I recommended he lease a LEAF because his commute was short enough and he ended up buying a Volt. Now he was happy with his Volt because his commute was just about at the Volt's EV range but really started doubting his decision when I leased my 2nd LEAF at $245 a month with no down when he still has 4+ years left on his $600 a month car payment. But he got the Volt solely based on the "3 trips per year" scenario. Btw; he has NEVER taken the Volt on those trips. They always take the mini van...

  4. I would definitely consider a Leaf when either of my two current vehicles need replacing. My wife drives our '07 Prius just shy of 20 miles per day for her job and I drive my '00 Insight 5MT just shy of 25 miles per day for my job. Then there are the weekly grocery shopping trips of about 25+ miles and about 10 miles or so for church each week. A little over a year ago, I had actually went so far as to go to the local dealer and take a test drive but then my hours at my work dropped enough that it wasn't financially possible. I was going to sell my Insight to my son and drive the Leaf to work and for errands and keep the Prius for the road trips to visit my daughter that lives about 225-250 miles from me. Although, since it's just my wife and I, the Insight for the road trips as well. So, a Leaf is definitely on my short-list for replacements to either of my current vehicles. With my work commute, I could use the on-board charger and probably wouldn't even have to charge every day either.
    Diamondlarry in northern IN

    1. Diamondlarry; your transportation costs are well in hand. I know a few that are in similar positions but with much less efficient cars who are thinking of getting a LEAF as a 3rd car for the less inefficient trips they frequently make. they both live and work in Oly so 99% of their trips are short which means inefficient and that is costly especially with a large Diesel 4X4. they wont get rid of the truck since they use it to haul their camper and boat but not having to drive it daily would be a big money saver