With experience on a landfill gas-to-energy project and several published papers about hydrogen fuel cells, I could claim that Dr. Ames was primarily responsible for our purchase of a 2013 Nissan LEAF back in May. To be honest though, the amazing lease deal was a bigger factor in our decision than her love for all things alternative energy.
After 6 months, I could care less about the lease deal and have really come to love this little blue electric machine. It’s incredibly fun to drive, loaded with features I’ve never had in a car before and best of all, I never have to pull into a gas station.
I would definitely recommend a LEAF to anyone who’s daily vehicle use is within the LEAF’s range but I’ve learned a few things along the way that I didn’t know up front. If you’re interested in owning an EV and you’re considering the purchase of a Nissan LEAF, here are a few things to consider.
If you’re going to own a car from the future, it might as well have gull-wing doors err, an app. In my opinion, the best reason to upgrade from the base S model to the SV or SL is the CARWINGS feature. This system allows you to connect to your car via a 2G cellular connection to check your battery charge, begin charging, see estimated driving range and activate the climate control system. If you do get a model with CARWINGS though and you have an iPhone, download LEAF Link, a third-party iOS app by Mike Heasley. It’s far more reliable and less buggy than the official Nissan app.
Time of Use Energy Plans
If your home energy provider offers one, a TOU (time-of-use) plan is usually a good option for EV owners. I say usually because while a TOU plan gives you a better rate for off-peak hours, the peak times are significantly higher than the flat rate. As you can see from Georgia Power’s chart below, you really don’t want to be using power between 2pm and 7pm during the Summer.
If you can shift some of your power usage into the “Super Off-Peak” hours, you can actually save money on your power bill while still charging your EV at night on a TOU plan. If you or your spouse spends those “On-Peak” hours at home using electricity during the day, you can easily spend a lot more than you would charging your vehicle on a standard power plan. Our bill has been 20-30% higher each month than the previous year. It’s hard to tell how much of that is due to vehicle charging and our rate plan change though because we renovated our house and added another member to our family in the last year. No matter how you look at it though, I’m still spending a lot less in increased utilities than I was in gas.
The 80% Charge Rule
While Nissan proudly touts a range of 84 miles for the LEAF, that’s with a 100% charge. The owner’s manual recommends only charging to 80% to prevent battery capacity loss over time. For the first few months, I followed that recommendation and scheduled my charging to start at 11pm (the start of super-off-peak time for GA Power) and only charged to 80%. That worked fine for my daily commute, but after a couple instances of extra driving during the day and rolling in with single-digit miles remaining, I started charging to 100% every night. If you want to schedule an 80% charge, this blog post from sfbayleafs.org makes it simple: Want to Charge Your LEAF to 80%? – Demystifying the Process
Make sure you get your state tax credit!
If you lease a LEAF, the $7,500 federal credit comes off the price at the dealership. It’s up to you to make sure you get any state tax credits though. In Georiga, that rebate is worth up to $5,000 but you have some paperwork to fill out. While the certification process is archaic and slow, the instructions are fairly clear. You just have to download the form and send it in with your bill of sale and tag receipt to a man named James Udi (yes, it really is just one dude) who will stamp the original form and mail it back. You’ll have to send this approved certificate in with your state tax return to get the rebate.
Strangers will ask you questions!
That’s part of the reason why I put this post together. There’s a lot of curiosity about electric vehicles right now. I’ve been stopped several times in parking lots by people who want to know how I like my car, how far I drive and even why they’re seeing so many of them around Atlanta. I know of at least 10 LEAFs among the people who work at MailChimp. We even got a shoutout from the official @NissanLEAF twitter account back in August:
— Nissan LEAF (@NissanLEAF) August 28, 2014
If you have any questions about owning a LEAF or an EV in general, I’d be happy to try to answer them. Feel free to ask away in the comments.