Five Years
of Guilt Free Driving
in My Nissan Leaf

March 28, 2017

Mark D Larsen

Between a Rock and a Sweet Spot
(Click to enlarge)

Happy Anniversary, Ohm My! Five years ago today I took delivery of my Nissan LEAF, and I can state unequivocally that the joy of driving has never been sweeter. As the following photo and table show, during those five years I have put 53,547 miles on the odometer. Divided by the 1,826 days of ownership, that gives an average of 29 miles-per-day, i.e., 8 fewer miles than the U.S. average of 37.

Rear View Mirror
(Click to enlarge)

Tally Ho!

Energy Use

The table also shows the total kWh used to drive that distance, the average kWh-per-day, and the average miles-per-kWh. This latter stat has dropped 0.2 miles since last year’s anniversary. The reason is because I admittedly drove my LEAF harder, faster, and farther this past year, adding 14,836 miles to the odometer’s tally. A comparison of the CarWings/NissanConnect screenshots below clearly shows how this affected my energy efficiency since last May. (Note: readers will recall that Nissan lost five months of my data in 2015 when it transitioned to the new software.)

Click to enlarge any screenshot:

2015 (first 3 months)

2015 (last 4 months)

Only this month have I reverted to driving like in years past so that the last stat has again risen. Unfortunately, the “improved” NissanConnect website no longer reports miles-per-kWh with decimals, so I am keeping track of the more precise tally every month using my LEAF’s touchscreen, as shown in this photo that I took this morning.

To the point
(Click to enlarge)

It is also possible to verify the monthly miles-per-kWh via the CarWings/NissanConnect ranking screens. Below are all my rankings, except for the 5 missing months in 2015. You can see that —tsk!— my rank dropped from platinum to gold for several months last year when driving more aggressively than usual. You might also note that the screen for Year 5 gives a lower miles-per-kWh for this month than in the photo above. As I have pointed out in previous years, it has always been the case that the LEAF’s tally doesn’t match that in CarWings/NissanConnect —for reasons unknown.

Click to enlarge any screenshot:

Year 1
Year 2
Year 3
Year 4 (only last 7 months)
Year 5

The bottom line is that my LEAF’s energy efficiency continues to be outstanding. There is simply no way that an internal combustion engine could ever hope to compete with this result:

5.2 miles-per-kWh x 33.7 kWh-per-gallon = 175 miles-per-gallon equivalent

Fusion Fuel

Even better, my LEAF has achieved that high level of energy efficiency without emitting even one gram of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, thanks to the solar array on my roof. This chart shows how the solar kWh produced have been distributed since the day I took delivery of my LEAF:

This infographic also clarifies how those kWh have powered my home and my Leaf:

Fossil fools always try to tell me that my car “runs on dirty coal,” so I love to point out that I actually drive on sunshine. In truth, however, even if I didn’t have rooftop solar and charged my LEAF from the grid, its greenhouse gases would still be fewer than burning gasoline —and would have saved me money! I maintain an online tool to counter such fallacious arguments, and here is how those stats add up for my LEAF after five years:

What’s not to like?
What’s not to like?

Battery Health

Readers might be wondering why I drove my LEAF faster and farther during this last year. The explanation is that five years of ownership marks the treshold when Nissan’s battery capacity warranty expires. I lost my 3rd capacity bar two months after the last anniversary, so I decided to push my LEAF harder with the hope that the warranty’s crucial 4th bar would also drop out before today. It was a gamble that I might have lost, but luckily the 4th bar did disappear last month, and thus Nissan replaced my battery free-of-charge. Thank you, Nissan!

Below is the graph that plotted the dwindling capacity of the original battery until losing that 4th bar. You can see that, inexplicably, for the last few months the readouts bounced back up, but thankfully again dropped down sufficiently, right before the warranty expired:

I am now compiling capacity data for the new “lizard” battery, and here is how the graph plotted two days ago:

As of today, on the LEAF’s 5th anniversary, here is the LEAFStat readout:

You can see that the capacity has dropped another 0.12% in two days. Such loss, of course, is inevitable with all batteries. We’ll just have to wait and see if, with time and miles, the rate of deterioration in this replacement pack proves slower than with the original. For now, I am delighted to have a “new” LEAF all over again!

On The Horizon

This next couple of years will undoubtedly prove crucial for the success of electric vehicles. Despite the current administration’s agenda to ignore climate change, back off the EPA fuel economy standards, undermine renewable energy, and end incentives to encourage EVs, some automakers have nonetheless committed to bring more of them to market, with bigger batteries and longer ranges. For example, Nissan has announced that LEAF 2.0 will finally go on sale next September, with at least 200 miles of range. I can’t say that the look of its camouflaged prototype appeals to me, but should I sell this LEAF and buy the new model?

On the one hand, I love this car so much that it would pain me to ever let it go. On the other hand, however, I long to be able to take an EV on roadtrips, because I can no longer stand driving jerky, noisy, stinky gasmobiles. I seldom have range anxiety, but I have an increasing sense of range envy.

To be quite blunt, after five years, this is something that has greatly disappointed me. Perhaps I have been too optimistic, but I naïvely assumed that, surely by now, there would be ample QuickChargers installed to allow me to take even this 24 kWh LEAF to tour the national parks in my area, visit family and friends, enjoy vacations in other states, attend EV gatherings. Not so. Indeed, even a 200+ mile Nissan LEAF or Chevy Bolt would not suffice. Yes, there are plenty of CHAdeMO and CCS fast chargers around, but only piled up together in larger cities —not between them! Compare below the map of such chargers in my area of the Southwest with that of Tesla’s SuperChargers. When it comes to taking roadtrips in an EV, only Tesla has done it right so far.

CHAdeMO and CCS fast chargers
(Click to enlarge)

Tesla SuperChargers
(Click to enlarge)

Consequently, I fear that, unless other automakers get their infrastructure act together in the near future, I will have no choice but to take advantage of having hedged my bets with a Model 3. What good is a “roadtrip EV” if you can’t take it on a roadtrip?