Test Drive the Nissan Leaf

Earlier this week I signed up for Nissan’s Road Tour, where I would get to drive a Nissan Leaf. If you don’t know what the Nissan Leaf is, it’s the fully electric car that gets, on average, one hundred miles to the charge. The standard charge features allow for the industry standard plug you can find at many electric charging places, as well as a wall outlet charger. It takes twenty hours via a wall outlet for a full charge and eight hours on a charging station. You can also have a charging station installed in your own personal garage. Good luck getting your HOA to sign off on this if you’re in a condo.

Signing up for the Nissan Leaf test drive was simple enough. Enter in my info, pick a time and receive an email confirmation. Of course, none of this mattered when I showed up.

When I arrived thirty minutes early, per my email instructions, I was greeted and told that the estimated wait for my “tour” was about thirty minutes. After the wait, I was taken with a group of twelve others where we were told about the battery in the leaf, phone and web applications for the Leaf and its mileage.

Some interesting highlights included that Nissan made their first electric car in 1947, apparently it took them sixty three years to give a fuck enough to start producing them at the consumer level. I think I need to use that term relatively, consumer level that is, as the car starts at $31k, which is out of my range and I consider myself an average consumer. I spent $22k on my 2001 certified used BMW Z3 years ago and I spent the same on my new 2010 Subaru Forester last year.

Anyway, the tour took another thirty minutes and then I got to wait in a super long line. A line that frustrated enough people to leave and get me to the front quicker, but still took me another hour and a half before I got to drive the car. So showing up at 12:30, after making a 1pm appointment, and I finally took my five minute test drive at 2:45pm. Glad I didn’t have any plans that day.

During my test drive I asked what would happen if I hadn’t been paying attention to my mileage meter and ran out of juice and wasn’t’ near a charge station or place with an electrical socket for me to plug into. The answer was that I’d have to get towed. Ouch. Honestly, this would be hard to do as it’s always changing depending on what you’re doing in the car and how you’re driving and it’s a very large display.

After the test drive I was able to have my picture taken with the car as well as do a thirty second video of me talking about the car. Apparently, if I get enough hits on their video page I could win a Leaf. Links to come Tuesday when the videos go up.

That said, if this car was under $18k I would get one for driving to and from work, as my work has a charge station as well as it’d be a great commuter car. However, if you do any distance driving, say from San Francisco to LA (which I do fairly often) then this car is not for you. And don’t listen to the hype about the optional fast charges along the I-5. While those will be great, the $700 extra quick charge ability takes thirty minutes to give you an eighty percent charge. So driving from the Bay Area to LA would essentially turn a four to five hour drive into a seven to eight hour drive. No thanks.

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