Long-Term, First Generation Nissan Leaf Review

Way back in January 2014 I picked up a Silver Nissan Leaf (2013 model) assembled at Nissan's Smryna, TN plant. Due to concerns over how I would like a Leaf, or any electric car for that matter, I went with a two year lease. At the time I was convinced that within 2-3 years there would be a lot more EV choices available in Tennessee and the rest of the country.

Boy was I wrong on how long it would take auto manufacturers to start releasing compelling all electric vehicles all over the United States. Heck, even Nissan took what seemed like a long time to increase the size of their battery packs.

Fast forward to August 2018, and I still have the 2013 Silver Leaf I had originally leased for two years, thanks largely to deals that Nissan offered me to extend my lease twice. I have about six months left on my lease and will be returning at the end of the lease. So I thought I would take a few minutes to reflect on the Leaf, now that I have driven one for about 54 months.

Things I really like/love about my Leaf:
  • The fact it doesn't use gas!
  • The instant torque! I still get a thrill when punching the accelerator.
  • How quiet it is. I disabled the startup sound and freaks my first-time passengers out when I start driving and they didn't know the car had been started.
  • Nimbleness - it is easy to move it in and out of traffic both in town and on the interstate.
  • Heated Steering wheel and seats.
  • Storage space - it can hold more than your eyes think it can.

Things I think could be better in my 2013 Leaf SL:
  • Active Thermal Management for the Battery Pack. Sadly, th e 2010 thru the 2017 model Leaf's use of only air intake to cool the battery pack has to lead to high battery degradation.
  • Interior issues - some portions feel cheap, and several places do not fit well.
  • Seats - fine for short commutes, but not so great for longer drives.
  • Lacks support for playing audio from Android devices over the USB port. But you can use Bluetooth, if equipped.
  • NissanConnect service - I could write a whole blog post on issues related to this. It had such promise, but has been a big let down.
  • Cup holders could be in a better place. And are in a better place in the 2018 model refresh.

Overall, I have been pleased with my decision to lease the Nissan Leaf. I still enjoy driving the Leaf and enjoy how smooth it rides. I feel a little let down every time I have to drive a combustion engine car these days. I have had some battery degradation, and now can only get about 65 miles on a full charge. Quite frankly, the Tennessee heat is just too much for air-intake only to cool the battery pack. Nissan Leafs have suffered much heavier degradation than their competitors that use active thermal management. I believe that Nissan is going to have to up its game here in order to remain competitive, otherwise it may lead to mostly one-time only owners.

In my opinion, the 2010-2018 model Nissan Leaf's are great commuter vehicles if your round trip is less than say 60 miles or you have access to a EV charging station at work. Since many first time EV owners leased their vehicles, you can routinely pick up a used one for around $16k with all the bells and whistles. A slightly used Leaf may be a better deal than a brand new one, even with the federal tax rebate.

Until next time... Cheers!

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