Friday, March 8, 2019

LEAF Plus Verses The T3; Another TCO Evaluation.

Whether its a last ditch effort to save the company or simply another step to the pinnacle of the automotive world, the $35,000 Tesla is here!  

Either way, the reaction has been overwhelming positive and both the LEAF and Bolt forums are filled with obituary notices of the once beloved 4 wheelers in their respective garages.  Buyer's remorse? Or simply the inability to focus with the still high level of glitz and glam over the fact that Musk finally delivered on his $35,000 promise is anyone's guess.  Either way, I being old (and wearing sunglasses) with deteriorating vision thus somewhat insulated from the hype,  was confused at the reaction. 

Well, actually the Bolt is STILL an econobox with a big battery so the "woe is me" attitude among some Bolters I could see, but the LEAF still was a fairly functional car especially if the need was not "Uberish." IOW; it was a very fine choice for anyone but would it still win the TCO battle?

Remember, just before my wreck, I presciently wrote a blog comparing the cost of the Bolt, LEAF and the basic premise of the then shadowy T3 Basic.  Despite a huge range disadvantage, the LEAF a LONG shot.  I did contend that the $35,000 Tesla Model 3 was the only EV worth the money asked.  But I admit to only going by what I thought would be part of the car. For the most part; I still feel that way so its time to grab the calculator, hit up some websites and price out my garage's future roommate!


I am flexible!  Decent range, decent charging speed, and GREAT price!  My current 40 kwh LEAF does 2 of the 3 (charging speed could be better) and places to charge.

What I am less flexible on is seat and steering wheel heaters. Both make a huge difference in comfort for me for a good 6 months of the year.   So with that in mind, lets roll!


Ok, I already know that most of you are here to read about the T3 and nothing else so I guess I will start here. 


Size. Not too big that I would have problems parking in my small garage. Its bigger than the LEAF  but I can still squeeze her in there.  The rear passenger leg room is good, the tech is cool (even on the basic model) What Tesla did a very good job of was maximizing the space it has to work with and that is a given considering it was an EV from start to finish. The LEAF also has that advantage but seems like Nissan's ability to exploit that advantage is a bit lacking.

Public Charging;  Although not very conveniently placed near me, the Supercharger Network is the gorilla in the room. But its very nature of being more regional insures a queue on the popular travel weekends. Queuing will only get worse as Tesla continues its high volume production of cars. Being in WA State will make it worse as we have adopted them at a rate well above the national average.  Not having a Chademo adapter loses a lot of points for me as contrary to EA's opinion, Chademo is still King around here.

On my first TCO analysis, I based a lot on the projected Tesla urban chargers that were supposed to have been here by now. To this date,  few have appeared. With SC V 3 recently announced, maybe we will see a flurry of activity but with Tesla's somewhat shaky finances, we might not.

Range;  Hey I was pretty happy with my lowly 150 mile (although 170 miles in Summer was not a challenge) LEAF so its like Candyland!  The reality on range really comes down to one's acceptance of public charging. I thought it was a pain when I had my 2011 LEAF mostly because each station was a required stop. With my 40 kwh LEAF, it became easier to incorporate charging stops with personal needs which actually has a bit of enjoyment mixed in that has given me a completely different attitude about range.  Without Chademo access, that would really change my process.  

Performance;  I only put this in because for some reason, a lot of people feel that this is important. So yeah, the T3 has a ton of  it but the LEAF has good acceleration and the LEAF Plus has even more. 


Rear Seats; Could be better. I don't sit back there so I have to say I can live with it 😋 but when trying them out, they just didn't seem right for some reason.  Could be the height, it could be the short bench? Don't know. Just something about them.  LEAF back seats are better but not really all that desirable either. I think my control issues are overriding my sense of fair evaluation here?

Controls;   Well, the LEAF has em, the Tesla doesn't, well knobs that is.  I get that touchscreens are the rage these days and they are cheaper but Tesla could have added some well designed voice controls for at least some of the functions.  Another track would simply be adding more functionality to the steering wheel buttons.  Add a "move to screen" button then the NAV buttons to toggle to each function and drill from there.  Tedious you think?  The first few times probably but as we get accustomed the the controls and the layouts, we will master the art of fine tuning our options with barely a glance at the screen.  Heat up?  <Screen>, right, right, down, <select> left, up, up,  DONE! 

Black; Yeah, its a ton for any other color but Black. A couple tons for some colors. Ridiculous. Its almost as bad as posting the price of the car after "possible" incentives and fuel savings. 

So there it is and truth be told; nothing above comes even close to eliminating the car. It really is that cool.  So on to Tsite and... well, looks like I have to register to get any info or skim a dozen various online articles. The articles might not be too bad if they all agreed on the details so I register, toss my "membership" into my membership drawer (which is the size of mid level city library) and I'm in!

Ok so not a lot of real addons here.  Not a good sign. This almost always raises the price. I hate having to pay for something that I don't want to get something I do want.

Notice cost is already up $1500. For an explanation, review the "Black" comment above

So, I select and zip thru the screens and realize that there is not a "packages" screen so I backtrack and despite being told the T3 came with heated seats standard,  I find they do not. 

Standard Interior Includes:
  • Manual seat and steering adjustment
  • Cloth seats and base trim
  • Basic audio
  • Standard maps and navigation
  • Center console with storage and 4 USB ports

Partial Premium Interior Includes:

  • 12-way power adjustable heated front seats  (Heat and power; Nice!) 
  • Premium seat material and trim     (AKA fake leather)
  • Upgraded audio – immersive sound
  • Standard maps & navigation    (Nice but have phone for this job) 
  • LED fog lamps
  • Center console with storage, 4 USB ports and docking for 2 smartphones

Premium Interior Includes:

  • 12-way power adjustable front and rear heated seats
  • Premium audio – 14 speakers, 1 subwoofer, 2 amps, and immersive sound
  • Satellite-view maps with live traffic visualization and navigation
  • In-car internet streaming music & media
  • Internet browser
  • Location-aware automatic garage door opener
  • LED fog lamps
  • Center console with storage, 4 USB ports and docking for 2 smartphones

All Interiors Include:
  • Tinted glass roof with ultraviolet and infrared protection
  • Auto dimming, power folding, heated side mirrors
  • Music and media over Bluetooth ®
  • Custom driver profiles

So after wrestling with my needs, I decide seat heaters are a must and I will somehow try to survive without steering wheel heater. (My S30 didn't have it either)  Thankfully, I did not throw my gloves away. 

So now we have this!


First off some comments on the same subjects above.



Both the Tesla and LEAF have the size I need but are far from similar.  Tesla has more passenger space and the LEAF concentrates on cargo space which is the norm considering the hatchback design.  So its basically a toss up to me. I can make each work quite well.  The one gripe about the LEAF is the unlevel storage when back seats are folded but again, an easy workaround and with space, you have options!


One reason I have for upgrading is the slow charging of my current LEAF. It maxes out at 125 amps and only to 63% SOC on a good day!  With providers moving to per minute billing, speed becomes a financial concern.  Granted, SC's charge by the kwh but also transcends any speed concerns so I can call that a wash.   But there is a well established Chademo network here that EVGO is expanding on (EA slightly but the config tells me it will be all but useless to me at any other time besides the middle of the night)

But Nissan realizes this and has ratcheted their NCTC program up to 3 years free charging. That is a LOT of money on the table. I did a few 500 mile trips courtesy of NCTC so its a lot of value to me.  Again, much slower than SC but again, I am ok to stopping and with a bigger range, this opens up more options to me.  On a cost basis; Its a major win for Nissan.


With both cars being nearly the same on paper, there would be little to say except that range is what you make of it.  Tesla allows cross country travel and in a few months, so will the LEAF so its nearly a wash but having done both, I HATE the "charge for an hour" ideology that Tesla promotes, electing for much more frequent stops of 20 mins or less the LEAF can do due to more numerous (but more likely queued) stations. Granted, the cross country network is not developed to that point yet, but for local regional travel, I have already been there in a 30 kwh LEAF so doubling the range just makes it that much easier.

Now that would be the end of the story with LEAF edging Tesla out but SC V3 maybe a huge game changer.  I mentioned that a lot of the planned Tesla stations had not materialized but Tesla's announcement that current stations would not be upgraded to V3 likely means a new batch of stations opening up and at 250 KW, I could easily see me hitting them for  my preferred 20 mins and getting enough range to make the next station.


Have to call this a wash and why? I would gladly trade one second off the 0-60 time for an additional 50 miles of range. It is just that unimportant to me.



After all these years, you would think that Nissan would have made some progress here and the scary part is...They have!  2015 Lizard battery was a huge jump. My 2016 S30 another huge jump but early results indicates the 40 kwh pack lost ALL that progress in one fell swoop.

So what to expect? With Nissan, its impossible to tell.  Granted more cells means less stress on each cell so all things being equal, the degradation rates should go down but how far?  Still no active TMS so we still must contend with manual manipulations of SOC, temperatures, etc.

Now Nissan does have their safety net degradation warranty in play but with the larger capacity, more cells, etc and still the 100,000 mile limitation its not likely to benefit me in anyway barring a major catastrophe.  But who knows?  I felt the same with my 40 kwh LEAF before I got it based on the excellent performance of my 30 kwh LEAF but my 40 kwh LEAF is on track for a warranty exchange. Its still early but...

There is also no mention of adding custom charging options. EVERY EV manufacturer has options to charge to a different level than full.  Nissan not having this basic feature is a MAJOR MISS.


The LEAF suffers from subpar programming that controls both the BMS and the LBC.  There is simply way too much about how the manage the battery that is simply ludicrous.  In the normal process of performing various maintenance functions, a reset of the BMS is required. This requires the BMS to completely relearn the battery pack; a process that apparently takes weeks.  Why is that? Why should it take that long to determine basic characteristics like capacity or battery health?

And if the complete "mind wipe" is necessary, maybe Nissan needs to take a page from my cell phone that automatically saves my pertinent data and reloads it after the reset.  In the normal course of things, this wouldn't be that critical but in this day and age, shady characters do whatever they can if it will make them a buck. A reset can give the owner of a used LEAF the false idea that their battery pack is in good shape when its likely not the case!

Degradation has many causes and over time, I have come to believe the LEAF's major cause is Nissan programmers!

The Numbers

T3 S plus

TBH; Anyone who gets the Standard version without paying the extra $2,000 for the enhanced version with more power , more acceleration, more range and power seats (with heat!) , really should be spending their cash on a psychiatrist.  The blue set me back $1500 which is highway robbery but the red was $2500!!  CAAAAARRRAAAZEEE!! 

So now we are looking at $38,500... oh wait, (forgot delivery) $39,700 minus $3750 fed tax credit and zero hopes of negotiating a better price for a cost of  $35,950.   For those with lesser needs, a stripped down version in black would be $36,200 minus $3750 or  $32,450. 


Ok the price of the LEAF is $36550 with an $850 delivery charge that brings it to  $37,400.  Now there is no configurator but the Comfort package is still an option so if using my 2018 LEAF pricing, that will be $450 and provides

Heated Front Seats
Heated Steering Wheel
Heated Outside Mirrors
Rear Heater Duct

An EFFFFING BARGAIN!!  I think.  😊

So tally it up and we have $37,850 minus the $7500 fed credit or a total of $30,350.


So no real way to match the cars due to differing configs and options available but the LEAF "is" priced as I want it in my choice of color, options, etc.   On paper its anywhere from a $2100 to a $5600 price difference.  But that is MSRP; a game only Tesla plays.  Nissan is likely to give me a discount. My employer will also give me a discount (works for "any" new car BTW...) but look at a low ball figure of an additional $2000 off making the difference of roughly $4100 to $7600.

But it doesn't stop there. NCTC is a HUGE benefit that will now run 3 years instead of 2.  Granted, my job change means I don't save $500 a year in home charging costs (Public charging fees are 4 to 5X higher) but the savings are real.  On my 800 mile Oregon Coast trip,  I received 143 kwh on the program which would have cost me $36 on the Supercharger Network which in itself is not a huge amount but in barely over a year of my 2018 (with only 7 weeks at my previous job) I have gotten 2857 kwh or over $700 of juice at the Supercharger rate.   With a longer range, longer trips are likely but even if the 3 years of free charging is worth a low ball figure of  $2,000, this changes the difference to $6100 to $9600.


A lot of strong opinions on leasing out there but like any tool, it has its benefits and shortcomings.  If leasing with intent to buy, it can be a boon financially especially if Nissan keeps the money factor low as it has in the past.  Now, leasing terms change monthly so who know what it will be but if they come out with providing the full $7500 fed tax credit to the lease with low money factor rates (same as loan interest) then leasing becomes a very attractive way to get a LEAF among lower income people such as myself. 

Long Term TCO

In the not so distant past; we shopped for cars that we thought would hold up for 10-15 years and why not? Tech advances were snailish so its not like we were missing out and we enjoyed the 7 to 10 years of no car payments (which helped to finance those car repairs!) But this ideology doesn't work that well with emerging tech like EVs.  But we have had a hard time breaking that "keep it forever" mindset.

So, I can't help but feel that the goal of keeping an EV for 10 years is a good one. Now this applies much more to the LEAF which is essentially a frozen moment in time IOW; what you buy is what you get  over the Tesla which is constantly upgrading its cars well after the money has exchanged hands.

One thing not mentioned is seat heaters on the Tesla. Rumor has it that Tesla will provide that in a future OTA software update.  Guessing that means the heating coils are already in the seats? Not sure how that happens but still the car is an evolving entity while the LEAF is not so holding on to a Tesla for 10 years "can" make sense.   The question now becomes; what is the value of "future proofing?"

I guess its all about the resale price difference between a 5 year old car and a 10+ year old car.  I will say that I am more than a bit shocked at the resale value of the Model S being as low as it is but that is the problem with emerging tech. As each new rung is attained, everything below it gets pushed down and EVs are no exception.


I have to let you in on a secret first. This blog is not about recommending one car or the other. Either one is a great option. I only wrote this in response to the huge number of knee jerk responses that were premised on the "Tesla walks on Water" notion.  Now whether you decide to dump your Bolt or abandon Nissan after reading this is up to you but either way, as long as its EV,  you still made a great choice!

In closing;

Stop smoking; its the decision of a lifetime!


  1. LEAF PLUS is tempting, but I have a problem with them sticking with CHAdeMO, as it seems CCS is going to prove the dominant standard.

    1. Well, I guess its all about what you have to charge with. EA is still building a single Chademo plug at each location but EVGO is doing it the right way allowing both protocols on every plug. In my area, I still have Blink and Webasto that are Chademo only and they allow me to make trips that would be difficult in a Bolt.

  2. Good post. The Tesla will be getting CHAdeMO with a future update. Likely CCS too but so far only Model S and Model X have been mentioned

    1. Both the S and X have had chademo adapters for years. I have heard nothing about adapters for the 3. That would be a major game changer in my decision.

  3. As a my18 model 3 and my15 leaf owner the model 3 is hands down worth the extra cost if you want a car capable of long road trips. Ymmv on regional charging infrastructure but for true long distance travel tesla is the only real option. EA doesn't change that for the foreseeable future because too many stations are only 50kw!
    Don't get me wrong, still love my leaf as a regional commuter car and there is a different car for everyones needs. Bring on more EV options!
    (Oh, and I thought I would miss the heated steering wheel when I got the TM3, but the wheel never feels as cold to me as the leaf one did and preheating cabin is fast!)

    1. Thanks for the comment and I agree the Tesla is the best road trip car by far but TBH; if its that far, I generally fly. I would drive say 400 miles but not much more than that. My 800 mile OR trip was specifically to see the coast. Testing Webasto stations was simply a convenient side benefit. Also realize smaller pack does mean slower charging so the Model 3 I compared is a less capable car than yours.

      Despite how the article seems to go, I am completely undecided as to which is the better choice for me. I am in the fortunate position (or maybe unfortunate?) of having to wait two years before I can do anything. By then, there will be a lot more info available on the two cars along with a whole host of new ones to look at!