2022 Nissan LEAF SL Plus
160 kW AC electric motor with 62 kWH battery (214 hp, 250 lb-ft of torque at 800 rpm)
Single-speed transmission, front-wheel drive
114 city / 94 highway / 104 combined (EPA, MPGe rating)
7.7 city / 6.6 highway / 7.2 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base price: US$38,375 / C$46,098
Tested: US$39,255 / C$46,678
Prices include destination charges of $975 in the United States. Canadian prices do not include destination or delivery charges and, due to differences in cross-border equipment, cannot be directly compared.
Even though I’m nobody’s idea of an environmentalist, I do my best to make an effort here and there to reduce my impact on the world at large. I recycle what I can. I try to choose reusable products whenever possible. I try to keep my thermostat reasonably cool in the winter and encourage my kids to follow President Carter’s advice to put on a damn sweater.
I live, however, almost exactly two hundred miles from Detroit – the police where all my media loan vehicles spring from. Until very recently, I was therefore unable to try electric cars like this 2022 Nissan Leaf, because the advertised range was not quite sufficient to get me such a car. As such, the following will be both an assessment of Nissan’s EV and the state of charging infrastructure in non-coastal areas.
Let’s start with the car, because Nissan has managed to make an electric vehicle not look weird. You know how once you buy something you start seeing it everywhere? After driving a Leaf for a week, I started seeing them quite a bit – and I wonder if I had imagined it was just an old Versa and therefore immediately dismissed them as uninteresting. No, the Leaf blends in beautifully with everyday traffic – which can be both a blessing and a curse.
After all, what’s the fun of doing something good without the ability to be self-righteous enough about it? Remember how famous celebrities flaunted their Prius when they were new? The distinctive style broadcast a willingness to humble oneself without irony in the name of a cause. Other EV manufacturers have flaunted this same instinct, but not the Nissan Leaf. It’s quite attractive but doesn’t stand out.
For such a small sedan, interior comfort is quite good. Nissan makes some of the best front seats this side of Volvo, and the seats in the Leaf don’t disappoint. It’s a shame it’s an EV with relatively limited range — my family of four might otherwise be happy in the Leaf for a long multi-state cruise.
Cargo space isn’t huge, but it’s enough for most needs. Here you’ll see a bag for the included 120V charging cable – you’ll probably remove it and leave it in the garage unless you’re taking an overnight trip to Grandma’s for the holidays where you want to plug in.
Ride quality is quite good – likely helped by the low center of gravity and 3,934lb curb weight which controls secondary suspension movement. The car isn’t completely quiet – wind and tire noise is much more noticeable here since the electric drivetrain is so quiet – but the relative absence of noise makes for a serene driving experience. Handling is good for a commuter car meant to see city streets and the highway – it’s not fun to drive at all, and it’s not meant to be.
The 250 lb-ft of torque will get the Leaf off the line with authority, though acceleration is a bit dulled when the car hits highway speeds and beyond. The silent transmission means you don’t necessarily notice your ground speed until you look down and see the needle approaching ninety – a recalibration of your butt dyno is in order when of switching to an EV from a traditional internal combustion engine.
All in all, I could easily see myself living with the Leaf as a second/third car for my family – with some strong caveats, only one of which is caused by the car.
First of all, this Leaf Plus model is equipped with a 62 kWh battery, which gives an advertised range “up to” 215 miles. Thing is, 215 miles of range is under ideal conditions on a 100% charge. Most charging stations stop charging at 80% charge, which is a list of 180 miles. The reasons for the 80% charge cut off are many and probably too much in the weeds for discussion here, but understand that it’s not a Leaf problem – it’s a problem affecting all electric vehicles today. .
Note that 180 miles of realistic range and remember I live 200 miles from Detroit. Indeed the delivery of my Leaf was quite delayed as the driver had to pull over and refuel – delivering the car with around 50 miles of range just before I had to rush out of my office to get to work. my child’s sporting event. That evening, I spent an hour of my time reading a book in a supermarket parking lot while the Leaf was charging. I would have walked to a restaurant or bar to kill time, but it was after 10 p.m. and everything is closed on a late Wednesday night in the suburbs.
I had an early flight the next morning and the Columbus airport lists a couple of fast charging stations at some level of the long term parking lot. I couldn’t find them – even though the area where they might have been seemed to be under construction. Thank goodness I had charged the night before.
The weekend came, which meant the weekly grocery store. I convinced my fiancée to change our routine for this week only – shopping at Meijers instead of Krogers – because the Meijer had the aforementioned fast-charging station. Seven dollars and 45 minutes later we had our 180 miles of range again.
Of course, I could have charged at home – and, indeed, I tried. But my house, built during the Carter administration, has wiring in the garage that isn’t the best. As I’ve encountered before, plugging a heavy load device, like a car, into a circuit in my garage means that circuit is pretty much dead. My microwave is on the same circuit – which left half my house dark when my daughter wanted popcorn one night.
Charging stations are few here, and they are not well placed. My colleague Kevin Williams documented his difficulties charging here in Columbus in a series on to Driving/Car Bibles – his problems have been exacerbated by renting, so he can’t even plug in a 240v outlet for charging.
I could, if I ever decided to pull the trigger on an electric vehicle, spend quite a bit of money running a fifty amp circuit from my basement panel to the garage – if ever copper prices fall, I’ll stock up on six-gauge wire – but those who have to park on the street or don’t have reliable access to at least two hundred and forty volts of alternating current must weigh their mobility with their ability to trust some sort of random charging station near their destination that hopefully will actually work this time.
We are not there yet. California has probably done its best at managing charging infrastructure — and, admittedly, Tesla has done pretty well with its proprietary network — but for the rest of us in the backcountry, we can’t do it all. quite rely on charging stations if we need to go beyond our usual route.
However, I am really intrigued by the possibilities offered by this Nissan Leaf. For now, this should remain a second car for my family, as our frequent long-distance needs are best met by internal combustion. If we can collectively manage better infrastructure – particularly if we can service that infrastructure with cleaner renewable energy sources – then we can potentially break our dependence on oil.
[Images © 2022 Chris Tonn/TTAC]
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