Thoughts on Owning a Nissan Leaf Electric Car

Nissan Leaf Dashboard and Stereo

We bought an electric car, a Nissan Leaf, back in June, and I’ve been meaning to write more about it ever since. I was waiting to have a bit more of an energy bill history, so I could report fairly accurate numbers on how much money we were spending to charge the car.

Nissan Leaf in the garage

 

Energy Consumption

When we first bought our Leaf people kept asking whether it was really better for the environment because sadly, here in Wisconsin, we burn coal for our electricity, and wasn’t that just more coal burning? Jim’s answer was that electric cars were at least a consolidation of energy consumption to one type, and then we could attempt to solve the problem of more green energy sources.

Well, shortly after we started driving an electric car, Jim heard about Arcadia Power, which is a company that allows you to offset your energy consumption with green energy. How it works is that you connect them with your local energy company, and they pay your bill. But then they also look at how much electricity you’ve used during the month and offset that amount with wind energy from their wind farms throughout the country.

With Arcadia Power you can get half of your energy offset with green energy for free, or you can choose to pay, and all of your electricity consumption will be offset. We opted to pay. So while our energy technically comes from Wisconsin-burned coal, we’re paying for equal amounts of electricity to be added into the grid by wind turbines. It’s about as close to actual green energy as we’re going to get.

Now the numbers! Our local electricity bill seems to have gone up about $20 per month or so due to charging our Nissan Leaf. And then we’re paying another $20 or so per month for the Arcadia Power offset. In total that $40/month is less than we were paying for gas for the Prius each month, so we’re pretty happy with the situation.

Nissan Leaf Charger

Pardon the dirty car. It’s winter in the midwest and the roads have been messy.

 

Perks of Driving a Nissan Leaf

On top of the reduced cost, I also have the pleasure of knowing that I no longer drive a gas vehicle. I feel better about my contribution to saving our planet. Plus the Leaf is a lot newer than our Prius, so it drives a lot better, and it has bluetooth, which I love. It’s so much easier to talk to my mom or my sister while driving without having to use headphones to remain hands-free.

Also on top of that, it’s super convenient to plug the car in in the garage every night instead of having to stop and buy gas. The few times I have pumped gas for the Prius, it’s felt rather foreign.

Drawbacks of an Electric Car

We knew when we bought the Nissan Leaf that it would be tricky to drive in the winter because the heater would consume a lot of energy. Our plan had been that, with Jim working at home, we could always swap cars in the winter. I drive 15 miles one way to work. And while the Leaf is quoted at getting 87 miles per charge, with some highway driving on my commute and without running the heater, it’s more like 60 miles per charge.

As soon as the colder weather started settling in, I experimented with running the heater on my morning drive. I quickly realized that running the heater made the car consume energy 1.5 to 2 times faster. I had to charge the car during the day at work once, and it was rather a hassle. (More on that in a minute.) However, the car does have heated seats in the front and back. There are two settings – low and high. And neither setting seems to have much impact on the energy consumption.

With Jim’s change of job, I have been driving the Leaf every day even when the temperatures are below zero. In the mornings the car is a bit warmer since it’s been in the garage overnight, so I don’t often use the heated seat in the mornings. It’s rather like standing by a camp fire. It feels good and part of you is warmer, but it almost makes the rest of you colder. Instead I have opted for bundling up. I put my hat on inside before going out, and that makes me much warmer, even with my wet hair in the morning. And I am using my big fuzzy mittens, which are completely saving my life right now. I’ve also worn long underwear on occasion as well, and they’ve helped.

I’ve found that 45 minutes is about my breaking point. Luckily, with my new earlier schedule, my commute now usually only takes 30 minutes. On days when the roads are a bit sloppier or it’s snowing, then it can take up to an hour. On those days, my toes feel like they’re going to fall off. But I think a little suffering for a good cause is warranted, right? I’m in for a little hurt if it’s good for the planet.

Kate bundled up to stay warm in the Nissan Leaf

Jim really wanted to drive the Nissan Leaf since he’s more tolerant of cold than I am. But unfortunately, his new job is 22 miles away, almost entirely on the highway without any traffic. So instead of the more reasonable speeds that I drive during rush hour, he drove the car to work one day and went 70 miles per hour almost the whole. When he arrived at work, he’d used almost the entire energy store, and had to run an extension cord out the door of the office to trickle charge the car throughout the day.

Heater issues aside, I’ve still had to be quite intentional about where I drive during the day. If I have evening plans before Jim is home from work, I need to make sure I charge the car for long enough after getting home from work. For example, I was originally planning on scheduling Christopher’s drum lessons right after school, but I ended up switching it to later in the evening because I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive that far right after commuting home.

As a result I’ve just made it my practice to plug the car in every day as soon as I get home from work. And now that I’m coming home earlier to meet Christopher’s bus, it’s working fairly well because then I usually have a few hours before I go out in the evenings. Or else once Jim comes home, we just switch cars.

On the weekends I don’t always plug in all the time because I’m only driving locally. I did forget to charge the car one weekend, and I only remembered when I woke up before work. I was able to get enough charge into it before I drove in to work, and then I had to charge it during the day.

Nissan Leaf Dashboard

Can you see the temperature? Negative 1 degrees. Burr. Also, take note of the remaining energy. 51 miles. And the heated seat light on the center console.

Charging with ChargePoint

My work campus has one ChargePoint charging station, and I’ve used it only 3 times. The charger is three buildings away from where I work, so it’s not all that convenient to get to. I have an app on my phone that tells me where all the local chargers are (using GPS), and then it shows the availability. Our work has a 4 hour max policy, so I can’t just park there in the morning and leave the car all day. I have to find a time when it’s available, drive over there, start charging, and then walk back to my building. Then when the car is charged up, I have to walk back.

The first couple of times I charged the car at work it was Friday, so the charger was fairly available. The other electric car drivers (there are about six I’ve heard) must have been working from home or perhaps been on vacation. Last week I tried to charge my car on Tuesday for a dentist appointment, and I couldn’t get it until 2 PM, so my car wasn’t charged enough for the drive further away from home. I was super stressed about it, but I ended up getting an Uber to the dentist and then Jim drove me back to work after since he and Christopher has met me at the dentist. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked out.

 

Have you ever considered an electric car?

 

Disclaimer: Arcadia Power did not ask me to write this post. All opinions shared in this post are entirely my own. If you do choose to sign up for Arcadia Power using the links in this post, you and I will both receive up to $25 in credit on our bills. (Arcadia Power referral details)

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