Happy Birthday, Ohm My!
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Two Orbits
in My Nissan Leaf

March 28, 2014

Mark D Larsen

Today marks two years since I took delivery of my Nissan Leaf! To share the celebration of that milestone, I am posting this update of my statistics and reactions since its first anniversary.

To be sure, Ohm My and I have put more miles behind us. Here are the CarWings monthly summaries with the actual numbers recorded to date:

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When I add those tallies together, I come up with these results:

2012: 6,574.2 1,219.0 5.4
2013: 8,325.3 1,467.6 5.7
2014: 2,093.5 362.4 5.8
TOTALS: 16,993.0 3,049.0 5.6

You will note that, as impressive as my miles-per-kWh average was last year, it is now even higher. You can see in the CarWings efficiency screens that, although my Leaf started out with a couple of “Gold” rankings, it has qualified for the top “Platinum” level ever since:

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Have I learned to be an über-hypermiler...? Perhaps. Is my Leaf now “broken in” more thoroughly...? Possibly. Are the thinning tires less roll resistant...? Maybe. Whatever the reason for the increased efficiency, I am happy to be thrown in that briar patch: it allows me to drive nearly the same distance per charge as last year, despite the battery capacity loss.

It also gives me something to brag about to ICE drivers. The EPA estimates an average of 34 kWh per 100 miles for a 2012 Leaf, i.e., 2.94 miles-per-kWh. Since my average is so much higher than that, I am getting outstanding “fuel economy”:

16,993 miles / (3.049 kWh / 33.7 kWh per gallon = 90.5 gallons) = 188 MPGe

Carwings also keeps track of the number of “Eco Trees” that my efficiency has accumulated over time. Here is the size of my current forest:

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Apparently, I have “saved” (or “planted”) 1,665 trees by driving my Leaf. If I divide that grove by two years, that’s 2.3 trees per day. Dividing by the energy used gives about half-a-tree per kWh. Do I think that’s really true? Probably, although I suspect that these tree data are more a gimmick to tout zero-emissions than a reliable prediction. What makes me chuckle most of all is the disclaimer that Nissan puts on the bottom of this page:

Do any owners really think that, by driving a Leaf, they are planting trees or saving them from lumberjacks? I guess that Nissan’s paranoid lawyers must think so, and thus insist on this fine print. Snicker, guffaw, snort, chortle! Obviously, the analogy simply compares the Leaf’s non-emitted CO2 from its non-existent tailpipe to the average amounts absorbed by trees.

Naysayers balk that such a metaphor is misleading because EVs are polluting from a “long tailpipe” at the power plant. In my case, however, the number of Eco Trees is indeed justified. To wit, here is a pie chart that shows how my electricity has been distributed since taking delivery of my Leaf:

As the slices clearly show, my solar array has produced more electricity than I have used in the home and the Leaf. Below are the data for the miles driven:

In case you’re wondering why the CarWings mileage and kWh up at the top of the page are higher than in this table, it is because these were the data on the day of my last utility bill earlier in the week. At any rate, by applying my current electricity rate, gasoline prices, and EPA data, I calculate the following comparisons for fuel costs and greenhouse gases:

Perhaps it will help clarify the outcome if I combine the data from the pie chart and the tables in this infographic:

What is most ironic about these results is that my utility, Rocky Mountain Power, now wants to impose a surcharge on me for donating my excess kWh to the grid —which they then turn out and sell to my neighbors for free! That is a battle we solar homeowners will wage with the utility at hearings of the Utah Public Services Commission this next summer.

As the last table shows, if I didn’t have solar panels and instead charged from the grid in my utility region, the Leaf still would have produced upstream less than 17% of the greenhouse gases that my Subaru emits both upstream and from its tailpipe. As for fuel costs, the amount for grid electricity would have been less than 10¢ on the dollar compared to the price at the pump for gasoline. Of course, with the solar panels, both columns have set me back... zero, zip, zilch, nada.

It is true that, after deducting both federal and state incentives, my 2012 Leaf SL cost more at $30,728 than the current 2014 MSRP at $27,765. Would it have been more prudent to have waited until now to buy a Leaf for a cheaper price? Nope! Just as I predicted last year, the $3,108 in fuel savings to date has made up for the difference, and even put $145 of spending money in my coin purse. It was thus worth it to have jumped on the band wagon as an early adopter when prices were still high.

I should point out that, just like last year, the CarWings miles are out-of-sync with the true tally on my odometer. Here is the readout after I pulled into the garage this evening:

2 Years of Ownership

If I subtract today’s 17.3 miles from the total, I come up with 17,596.7 actual miles, i.e., 603.7 more than yesterday’s CarWings readout at the top of the page. Nissan has never offered any explanation for that consistent 1.58% discrepancy, but it does raise a very pertinent question. If, let’s say, my Leaf loses its fourth capacity bar at 59,000 miles according to CarWings, will Nissan honor its 60,000 mile capacity warranty even though the odometer shows 61,000 miles? Hmmm.

The most crucial question is: how do I like my Leaf, now that it has been my primary vehicle for two full years? I can state without hesitation that I love the car. It is such a joy to own! It is as clean, quiet, comfortable, convenient, and responsive as ever.

Ironically, the sheer enjoyment when behind the wheel is turning out to be my biggest complaint. You see, although I have experienced range anxiety on only two occasions (on the trips to Las Vegas for Plug-In Day 2012 and 2013), I have to admit that I am suffering more and more range envy, wishing that I could drive the Leaf on the few long-distance road trips that we take each year. For example, last Christmas, when we visited the in-laws in Sacramento, I could hardly stand to drive our Subaru Outback again. It was noisy, rough, gutless, jerky, stinky —a real throwback to the primitive 20th century. I was gritting my teeth the whole time, anxious to get back behind the wheel of my Leaf.

How I’d love to be able to also use an EV for such road trips! In fact, we’d probably take many more day trips, and more often, to the recreational areas nearby in this area, like our visits to the Valley of Fire, Zion, Kolob Canyons, Pine Valley, Red Cliffs, and Sand Hollow. I am now itching to also spend some time touring the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Lake Powell, Great Basin National Park, Cedar Breaks, Goblin Valley, Monument Valley, etc. They are all within a day’s drive from our home, but beyond the Leaf’s practical range, with nary a QuickCharger in sight. The fact that Tesla has installed SuperChargers in Blanding, Moab, and Green River, so that Model S owners can visit Canyonlands, Arches, and Dead Horse Point, only whets my appetite even more. As it is, however, driving an ICE is now so distasteful that it hardly seems worth it to make plans to visit those sites, especially knowing that we’d just be polluting those pristine areas with tailpipe emissions, and again putting money into the petrolpushers’ pockets. Ugh! It almost makes me want to sell the Subaru, the BMW Z3, and the Leaf, and go for broke with a Model S. But... tsk... that possibility is simply beyond my budget at the present time. Sigh....

Besides my longing for EV road trips, I also have to reiterate my disappointment in losing my first capacity bar far earlier than anticipated. The polynomial curve of Nissan’s 80% and 70% benchmarks estimates that the battery should normally retain approximately 90% of its original capacity after 2 years —and not cross the first loss threshold of 85% until a year and four months later! I thus have to confess that, as much as I love the auto, I have soured somewhat on the automaker. Prior to the capacity kerfuffle, Nissan had already chalked up a track record of not communicating openly and candidly with their early adopters. If future capacity tests show that my Leaf continues to lose capacity faster than normal, I will have to conclude that the automaker has been disingenuous and purposely misleading by claiming that Leafs “are operating to specification and their battery capacity loss over time is consistent with their usage and operating environment.” Yes, I genuinely appreciate Nissan’s subsequent efforts to deal with capacity loss, but I value honest communication even more than warranties, even when —nay, especially when— it conveys bad news. As Carl Sagan sagely advised: “Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable.” It might very well be that, if the pattern continues, and if Tesla pulls through with its projected timeline, I will have to seriously consider upgrading instead to a Model III —or some other EV. Brand name loyalty is a two-way street.

Even if that does happen, I’m very glad that I have the Leaf now. It has given me two years of clean, fun, guiltless driving —in the best car I have owned to date. I love driving on sunshine and would never again go back to being a fossil fool for my everyday transportation.

A third joyous year behind the wheel lies ahead... Ohm My!