I’ve had my new, all-electric Leaf for about 6 weeks, and I was out of town for two of those, so really it’s been a month of driving time. So here’s my update.
First of all, I totally love it. I love not worrying about gas prices anymore (how much is gas? Anyone? Bueller?). I love all the gadgets and doo-dads, which let me add are not unique to the Leaf. I still get confused by the keyless entry … on more than one occasion I’ve left my keys in the car, which is a good way to get your car stolen. I also sometimes forget to put it in park (which is the push of a button) before turning it off (another push of a button.) Too many buttons to push; I’ve been driving for 35 years and old habits die hard.
I’ve put a little over 400 miles on the Leaf and have taken it on the interstate just twice. I love how it drives, love how quiet it is. After years of driving an SUV I love being small again. I forgot how great it is to be able to zip in and out of parking places.
But I know, I know .. you want to know about the range, don’t you? That’s the first thing everyone asks: how far can you go on a charge? My answer is: I don’t know! It depends on how you’re driving (interstate or surface roads), if you’re in “eco” mode, if you’re running the A/C and have a car full of passengers, etc. The Leaf has regenerative braking, so you’re recharging your battery as you drive, too. So it’s hard to tell. So far the rule of thumb — 100 miles — seems about right.
Let me add, I have a friend with a Leaf who lives in Williamson County. She drives her daughter in to Nashville every day and says the Leaf goes further than you think. She put 1,200 miles on her car in three weeks so she would know. I haven’t had a chance to put my car to that kind of test yet.
My first two weeks I was a mileage hawk, I’d freak out if my charge got below 60 miles. I was paranoid I’d run out of charge for some bizarre reason. Now I barely pay attention to it. One of these days that will get me into trouble, I’m sure.
Plus, it’s not like there’s a rule that you have to be on empty to recharge! I’ll recharge at 70 miles if I think I’m going to be doing a lot of driving the next day. The charge issue really is not as big of a deal as I thought it would be. There are several public charging stations around Nashville and I’ve taken to using the one at the Publix grocery store, too. I plug it in and can get another 10 or 20 miles while I’m doing my shopping and other errands. Multi-tasking!
The second thing everyone asks is, “what’s your electric bill like?” I have received two electric bills since getting the Leaf and both showed we used substantially less electricity this year than the same months last year. That’s a reflection of the home energy efficiency upgrades we made earlier this year — foam insulation in the attic, insulating and caulking in the crawl space and duct work, etc. (People, if you haven’t done this to your home, go into your wallet right now, pull out a $20 bill, and throw it in the garbage can. Now do that every week. That is an illustration of what you are doing by not insulating and caulking your home.)
So again: I don’t know! Suffice it to say, I’m not using so much electricity to charge my car that I’ve countered the effect of our home energy efficiency upgrades.
In many ways, nothing has changed. The Leaf is a car like any other. But in other ways, everything has changed. I mentioned using the public charging station at Publix, well let me tell you: I have now changed where I do all of my grocery shopping. I used to shop at Whole Foods because their organic produce can’t be beat (can someone explain why the organic produce sections at traditional grocery stores are so crappy? The produce is never fresh and the selection always sucks). But if I can recharge my car for free while I’m doing my shopping, hell yeah I’ll shop there. And then I moved my checking account to the bank in the Publix shopping center so I can do my banking while I’m there. And there’s a terrific little wine store there too, even a nail salon if I’m so inclined. So now I can kill and hour or so with shopping, banking, and other stuff while recharging my car!
So get a clue, Nashville retailers. An EV charger brings customers — not just for you, but for everyone around you. And Whole Foods, you really screwed up by installing a charging station at your Franklin store but not the Nashville one. What were you thinking?
And here’s another thing. The other night we went out to dinner and took the Leaf. Amazingly, there was another Leaf in the parking lot — I’m not the only one driving an electric car in Nashville! So just a little tip, Nashville retailers.
I’m excited to see more public charging stations crop up. There’s now one at the Loveless Cafe. The Loveless is pretty far from me, so it would be fun to take the Leaf out there and recharge while enjoying some yummy chicken and biscuits. But what if I get out there and someone is using the charger? Or worse … a non-EV is parked in that spot? (Judging by this picture that has been a problem in the past). That would be horrible. We’ll have to see what happens.
I bought an annual $10 Green Parking Permit from the Davidson County Clerk last week. This allows me to park downtown in city lots and on the street without paying. With hockey season coming up, we’ll be downtown a lot more and $10 is about how much you have to pay per night. I think we’ll get a lot of use out of it. Just a tip: you don’t have to drive an electric car to be eligible for the Green Parking Permit deal (but you do have to live in Davidson County). You can see if your vehicle qualifies here.
So far, so good. I’m loving the Leaf life. For anyone who doesn’t have to commute 80 gazillion miles a day, it’s a great car.