Nissan Leaf: The Unrealistic Automobile

Last weekend I got to go to 2011 Utah International Auto Expo. I saw some cool cars and I saw some seriously bland cars.  There were a few cars that left me scratching my head. Basically they were cars that made me question the intelligence of the car manufacture.

The biggest automotive gaff was the Nissan Leaf.

My question was who the hell buys this car?

The first problem is the price which is $32,780 minus a $7500 Federal tax credit if you are eligible.  Are they serious $32k for a compact car that doesn’t even come with leather?  You could buy a nice Audi A3 and get leather, reasonable performance and 30mpg for 5k less.

But wait there is more cost…

The Leaf is charged using high voltage (480 volts of 3 phase power). That isn’t your normal garden variety home outlet.   Enter the Nissan’s certified Electrical Engineer.  Nissan will charge you $100 for an evaluation of your homes electrical status.   If you qualify you will get to spend another $3000 to install a charging system.  Let me get this straight I have to have a Nissan approved engineer rate my house and then pay to have another Nissan certified electrician wire it?   Who the hell is going to do this?

Now Real Life Scenarios Living La Vida Electric

How many miles will you get between charges?

EPA says 73 but in reality anywhere between 45 and 130 miles depending upon traffic, weather, number of passengers and speed. It takes about an hour to charge the battery 80% at 480 volts, or 8 hours using 220 or 20 hours using standard 110. For me I would make it to work and have to recharge.

This is the point where the crowd 6-10 people started to turn ugly for the poor car presenter.  A skeptic asked right on cue, how am I going to charge my car at work?

The answer from the presenter was “many employers will install charging stations at your work. You should ask your employer to install one.”

Immediately my bullshit meter maxed out!!!!

Really? I can promise you right now that few employers are going to:

A. pay for the charging stations to be installed and

B. Pay the electric bill to recharge your car.

It ain’t going to happen folks.  Sorry.   For kicks and giggle I asked my employer about it and they laughed.  I told them I was serious and they flat out said No.

The next question… How long will the battery last and how much does it cost to replace it?

The pitch man said 7-10 years was the answer and the current cost is $18000. Experts on the web estimate a more realistic time period to be 5-7 years.  I guess you could try to earn some cash by chopping up the battery and make fishing weights to sell on eBay.

The last question was the greatest!

How is it better that you burn coal to create electricity vs burning fossil fuel? Again the pitchman didn’t flinch and in fact he had a delusional answer,”Because you no longer are the direct polluter. Its some one else.”

What? It’s more environmentally productive to just pass the blame for pollution?

So again I ask who the hell is going to buy this car? It solves none of the problems of car ownership.

It’s not cheaper to buy. It’s not cheaper to run. It doesn’t reduce pollution only passes blame.  No wonder car companies are in deep trouble. They have completely stopped building the car people want and or need.

Update:  Its nice to see Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear making fun of this as well.

Join the Conversation


  1. The world just needs to learn three simple letters: TDInnI agree with you Eran. I think the Leaf represents a big step towards a new way of motoring but we don’t have the technology nor the infrastructure to support it right now.

  2. Great post. I like most, had high hopes for this car and the technology. As I started to learn more I had the same concerns. A full charge would cost around $2.75. I currently get 37 mpg in my 1996 Accord. Not much of a savings for my 40 mile round trip commute. nA building employee brags about his Smart Car that gets 40 mpg. Not only will you die when your 70hp car crash into another vehicle, but you look like a dumb ass driving it. Thats the best they could do for that car? nReally, this is where we are at? What ever happened to the the Honda CRX in the mid 80’s that got 45 city/55 highway mpg? Now we have the Smart car, Prius, even the TDI getting around than 50 highway mpg. nSeems we have taken a step in the wrong direction.

  3. You are spot on Kent… I had a 65 bug that if you drove it right would get 50 mpg with a supped up motor including dual carbs and headers. It was a fast machine but could also be frugal on gas. The Subaru they had on display from 1969 got better mileage than 99% of the cars at the show. Why?nThe government is partially to blame requiring airbags, requiring abs as well as crash protection. It all adds weight. Weight is the enemy of fuel efficiency.

  4. It’s better than fossil fuel because it shifts reliance away from foreign sources of energy. It also provides incentive to shift to alternative energy sources, like solar and wind. The kind of person who might buy this car is someone who is forward thinking, environmentally conscious, and someone who doesn’t have the oil industries balls in his mouth.

  5. It’s better than fossil fuel because it shifts reliance away from foreign sources of energy. It also provides incentive to shift to alternative energy sources, like solar and wind. The kind of person who might buy this car is someone who is forward thinking, environmentally conscious, and someone who doesn’t have the oil industries balls in his mouth.

  6. I love the nameless who hide behind keyboards and name call. I am not offended you decided to name call. It doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is you not putting your name on your words.

  7. I love the nameless who hide behind keyboards and name call. I am not offended you decided to name call. It doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is you not putting your name on your words.

  8. Ok Eran B, you want someone who will not hide behind their worlds and call you names: here I go.u00a0nn1. Most countries are net oil importers and foreign oil is bad for the economy of countries that are forced to import itu00a0nn2. Managing millions of privately owned vehicle tail pipes is far more complex then managing a few large power plants off in the distance where few people live, where heavy high efficiency exhaust scrubbing technology can be installed to clean the power plant up.u00a0nn3. The amount of oil in the crust of the earth is largely fixed in comparison to the rate at which its being extracted by human activity, an increasing rate that will continue to increase as private internal combustion engine vehicles become popular and increasingly widely adopted in the developing world (billions of added vehicles)u00a0nn4. The direct and indirect cost of vehicle emissions (pollution into the air right where people are living, working, exercising, ect) costs between $500billion and 1.5trillion per year just in the United States.nn5. From acid rain to urban sprawl and land fragmentation, oil spills, asthma, cancer, smog: the externalities associated with burning foreign oil inu00a0inefficientu00a0piston powered Audi A3’s ect are not at all reflected in the pump price that consumers pay for that fuel.u00a0nn6. Foreign oil is proving to have anu00a0erosiveu00a0andu00a0deleteriousu00a0impact on the value of the US dollar and our economy in general.u00a0nn7. If you stopped for a second to consider the long term operating costs of a conventional 20MPG real world vehicle like the A3 you mentioned; you would see that over its lifetime of 250,000 miles it would consume 12,500 gallons of fuel (@$4/gal that is $50,000 worth of fuel in the US, in Europe where $8/gal is more common, that A3 would eat $100,000 worth of fuel over its life. Add in all of the other recurring cost structures (oil changes, filters, spark plugs, services, ect ect- dispossible fragile, complex piston engine parts): and soon you will come to see that the long term ownership costs of a convention gas powered vehicle dwarf its upfront capital costs: therefor you are ignorant byu00a0definitionu00a0in your failure to think behind the upfront and obvious costs of the conventional oil powered vehicle.u00a0nn8. Your employer is a sad group of idiots if they refuse to spent $10K to install a few charg-point (user pays for power) ev chargers at your place of employment.

  9. wow: adding safety equipment is a bad idea? yes it adds weight and renders all of the efficiency increase mute as fuel economy averages have improved little over the last 20 years: the vehicles size and safety increased: you cant get something for nothing in engineering.u00a0nnDo you have any idea how much it costs to operate on a human that has been injured in a vehicular accident? how much those injuries, specifically head injuries in cars without air bags cost society?nnUnsafe, lightweight, dirty burning vehicles from the 1960s (most of which were less efficient then vehicles today) are not even close to as safe or efficient or clean burning as the vehicles sold today. You should go stick your face next to the tail pipe of an old 1960’s car that idling and breath in real deep for a while and then come back and tell us how stupid electric vehicles are.

  10. Diesel vehicles are not that much more efficient, the diesel fuel just has more energy than gasoline: if you correct for the MPGe gasolineu00a0equivalent, you can adjust the MPG rating of your TDI vehicles down by %30. Also the particulate soot emitted by TDI vehicles is dramatically more costly on public health (do you know what COPD and Asthma are?)u00a0u00a0

  11. AaronnI appreciate your comments. u00a0I agree in a lot of ways. Oil isn’t a bright future but its what we have on a massive scale.u00a0I am not anti-technology or anti-pollution.u00a0My biggest point is for the middle class (majority of Americans), the Leaf is not viable option.u00a0nn1. Maybe… I tend to think that the “markets” are manipulated more than anything else.u00a0nn2. Agreed but the environmentalist groups who want the electric car are also anti power at least here in Utah. They seem to believe that we can create plenty of power from solar and wind. The current technology can’t support our needs.u00a0nnIn Utah we have coal and lots of it. u00a0We can’t mine it due to environmentalists. u00a0We can’t enlarge our power supplies because we can’t burn it. u00a0Our next largest resource is natural gas. u00a0We can’t burn that either. Nuclear is out as well. u00a0Building more dams is wrong also. u00a0See Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Websitennu00a03. Ok Givennn4. Everything has costs…Just like creating energy, the cost just moves it doesn’t go away. u00a0In 50 years it will turn out that batteries are killing us and causingu00a0asthmau00a0or whatever costing us $1.5 B.u00a0nn5. I merely used the Audi of an example of using less fuel and creating lessu00a0pollution. u00a0It wasn’t the solution but a gateway to increase our time to develop better energies.u00a0nn6. Maybe… I suspect market manipulation plays a bigger part especially with high speed computer trading.u00a0nThere are lots of investment companies manipulating prices by placing buy and sell orders in a millisecond.u00a0nn7. Cost… I would agree. Financially however most middle class and many working poor view gas as a daily cost and a large battery cost as a surprise cost.nn8. I don’t disagree that my employer is stupid but for probably different reasoning. u00a0I work for 911 and people scream at the money we spend to be their concierge. u00a0The public hates government wages, retirements (although my private sector was better) and things they don’t get. u00a0

  12. Not true they have pluses and minuses.nnDiesel cars are better than petrol cars with reference to carbon dioxide, the global warming gas.u00a0nnDiesel cars are better than petrol cars with reference to carbon monoxide, a poison.u00a0nnDiesel cars are better than petrol cars with reference to hydrocarbons which cause cancer.u00a0nnDiesel cars are similar to petrol cars with reference to nitrous oxides, which cause smog.u00a0nnDiesel cars are worse than petrol cars with reference to particulates, which have unproved health impactsnnLow sulfur diesel takes more energy and oil to produce.u00a0

  13. Time to evolve, Eran. I can picture you hunched over your keyboard with the hairy knuckles and big brow trying to make sense of everything, but if it’s THAT hard to imagine people buying EV’s, maybe you should read more, and write less…

  14. I’m not concerned with EV attempts that fail, because eventually it will take. My issue is you, and your loudspeaker pointing out glitches while progress is being made.

  15. Ah yes the loud speaker… 

    Get your own blog or Write a counter blog post and email it to me will post it.

    My point was this car isn’t realistic for most Americans. 

  16. Totally agreed, Eran. Obviously you’ve struck a nerve here with several of these folks, but very few of the pluses that the car companies list are actually pluses to the average driver. My employer would also laugh at me if I asked them to install a charging station – they’d ask why they should be spending $10k that they don’t have to for a service that doesn’t benefit the company.

  17. Eran,

    I drive about 55 miles per day. My current car burns over $300 of gas every month, and that seems to just keep rising. I ordered a LEAF and got approval from my work (which isn’t a green company) to trickle charge at 120V (most workplaces have standard outlets). It costs them mere cents and meanwhile gives them bragging rights in newsletters about beinga  green company. That means I can charge back to 100% before I leave for work, effectively cutting my electricity bill in half. No added expense for a charger, but my employer may consider installing one for added PR purposes.

    I’m not buying the car because it’s cheap. It certainly isn’t. At $340/mo for a 39 month 15,000/yr lease, it’s rather expensive. But it’s only $55/mo more (including electricity) than simply filling up my car now. Basically, you are dumping your fuel savings into the price of the car. But it’s nice that there’s a $7500 tax credit to help lower the cost. The charger will cost me $0 to install thanks to my utility footing the bill. If I did it myself, my cost would be under $800. Despite what some may think, adding a 240V breaker and running wire to the garage isn’t that big of a deal. You don’t need Nissan to schedule an assessment either. I called up Nissan and asked for a waiver, and 30 seconds later, I got one.

    I’m also not buying the car because I’m environmentally conscious. I’m far from it. I drive a used V8 gas guzzler. My yearly fuel use is about as much as I paid for the car. I have a big carbon foot print. But around my area, it’s nice to know that my electricity is split even between coal, natural gas, and nuclear. So if I were concerned about the environment, I would be satisfied that my LEAF charges on mostly “clean” energy. Even if it came straight from coal, DoE studies claim that it is still more clean than burning gas. Not sure how accurate that is, but I don’t care anyway :P.

    I am buying the car because it’s something I want. It’s arguably the most geekish car out there. And because I’m a geek, spending an hour and a half every day behind the wheel of something so technical is exciting, at least to me. I love the near silent torquey nature of electric drive. I was thrilled to test drive one- so much so that I really didn’t want to give the dealership back their demo. The car was simply amazing to drive.

    The batteries are the biggest downside, I won’t hide that. In winter, my range is reduced to around 55 miles. I can charge at work, so that helps. But most Americans do not commute more than 40 miles in one day. I’m in the minority with my 55 mile commute. Even in winter conditions, this car fits 95% of my driving. For the other 5%, I will have a gas guzzler.

    Charging time is as much of a concern to me as cell phone charging time. I’m asleep when my cell phone charges, and I’ll be asleep when my car charges, so I don’t really care if it takes 8 hours. A faster charger (6.6kWh) would be nice for topping off at public 240V stations (4 hours to fill from empty), but it’s not a deal breaker. It will be available for 2013 though. Fast DC charging (80% in 30 min) is unlikely to take off in my state, and I have doubts about Nissan’s DC standard being adopted in large scale. My LEAF SV won’t be equipped with a fast charge port since I feel it would be a wasted feature.

    You bring up some typical concerns, but for me and thousand like me, the LEAF fits and would make for an excellent primary car. It’s certainly not for everyone, but as gas prices continue to rise and the thought of sending thousands of dollars overseas concerns more drivers, the LEAF and cars like it may turn out to be a good option.

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