The Leaf Driving Experience

“Once you go electric you never go back”. That’s a phrase I’d often read and heard from electric vehicle (EV) drivers before we bought the Leaf. I’d not really gave it much thought. My reason for buying electric was to drive a clean energy car. Plus my techie self thought it would just be cool. Lee was not so easy to convince but to her credit she gave me the benefit of the doubt.

Any doubt had long since vanished. That was confirmed shortly after getting the Leaf when I heard “you’re not taking THE car this afternoon are you?” I replied that I was about to take the Leaf but the Camry was gassed up and ready to go. I got a dirty look. For most of our married life we’ve had “his and hers” cars. Now we have the Leaf and the other car. Unless we have to travel farther than Saint John the Camry rarely leaves the driveway. Read on for the reasons why.

Quiet

One of the reasons I like buying Camrys is they are such a quiet ride. Well, the quietest car in the yard is the Camry no longer. The first time we gave friends a drive in the Leaf they exclaimed as we took off that it was so quiet it was like being in a spaceship. Surreal. There is no idling sound, no exhaust, and no revving up sound as you accelerate. Just the sound of wind and tires.

Performance

The Leaf’s 107 horsepower engine takes about 10 seconds to push it up to 100 km/h and has a top speed of 140 km/h. So, although quite capable, it’s not a powerful beast. When driving it around town, however, we quickly realized the Leaf was more peppy than you’d expect from such a small engine. The reason? Electric engines don’t have to rev up to build up to maximum power – they deliver it all from the instant you press the accelerator. The result is a very responsive car in city driving.

Some Details for the Gear-heads

Gas engines only produce decent power within from a narrow rpm range. That’s why they need to have multi-speed transmissions. Electrical engines only need single gear transmissions.  They deliver lots of power throughout all rpm’s including maximum torque starting at 0 rpm. Here’s a comparison:

                   HP    Torque
2014 Leaf         107     210 
2015 Ford Focus   160     146 
2015 VW Jetta     115     125
2015 Camry        178     170 

 

For the performance fans here is a comparison of Tesla’s electric sedan and some premium gas cars. No, none of these cars are in our future…

                          HP    Torque
2015 Tesla Model S P90D  762     731 
2015 Porsche 911 Turbo S 552     553 
2015 Ferrari 488         661     561

No Fumes

One day, after owning the Leaf for a few months, I had to park the Camry in the garage.  That’s usually the Leaf’s spot but I had to park the Camry there for some reason that night.  After backing into the garage I hopped out of the Camry and just about gagged.  Oh yeah, exhaust fumes.  They’re kind of disgusting when you’re not used to them.  Guess they can be kind of lethal too so we’re happy to keep the Camry with its fumes outside.

Winter Driving

Even when parked in a garage a car can still get plenty cold during a winter night.  We set the timer in the Leaf’s temperature control system to heat the passenger cabin before it’s time to go.  Heating the car is pretty efficient since just the car’s heat pump is used.  Yup, that’s one of those things which people are buying to save money when heating their house.  To pre-heat a gas car you’d need to run the engine.  That’s expensive if the car is outside and downright dangerous if the car is in a garage.

As a nice little add-on to the above feature, the Leaf is Internet connected so we can also activate the heat/cooling via an app on our phone from within the house, within the mall, etc.

Warm is good but what about safety?  The Leaf is heavier than a typical car of its size because of the weight of the main battery.  Thanks to that extra weight our winter tires keep a super grip on the road in snow.  Last winter Lee always felt confident while driving in the Leaf.  Another benefit from the increased weight is that the Leaf is less susceptible to cross winds which can be especially nasty in the winter season.

Charging

How far can you go on a charge?  How long does it take to charge?  Those are the two top questions we get asked.  In a typical day we rarely think about either one.  I set the car’s charging system to charge the battery during off-peak times at night, around 4 am.  (We don’t have time-sensitive electrical rates in New Brunswick but charging during off-peak times reduces NB Power’s use of fossil fuels.)  The next day it takes a few seconds to unplug the car then we just drive.  The car usually doesn’t need to be plugged in again until night time.  It’s so fast to plug/unplug it that we’ll often just plug it in whenever we get home.  Oh, in case you’re wondering, the car has a fail-safe so you can’t drive away while you’re still plugged in!

We like to make use of the chargers in downtown Fredericton because they provide free power and, in some cases, free parking.  You can’t park at a public charger unless you’re charging so we don’t fully charge the battery at home.  When we park at a public charger we notify other EV drivers so they can message us if they have a more pressing need for a charge.  More about how we do that in a future post.

Highway Driving

At highway speeds the level of road noise rather than engine sound becomes the dominant factor for interior noise which makes the Leaf comparable to the Camry. Still quiet but no longer a “spaceship”.  Performance-wise it’s what you’d expect from a 107 horsepower engine – adequate but nothing to write home about.

The real issue on the highway is how many times you have to stop to recharge before getting to your destination.  A round trip to Oromocto (44 km round trip) is easy – none.  A trip to Saint John (105 km one-way) means driving economically but still no stops.  A trip to Moncton (200 km one-way) means driving economically and stopping for a 2 1/2 hour charge in Sussex.  That’s why we still have the Camry.

All Together

The Leaf is a peppy, quiet, fume-free, and comfortable ride.  The fact that it’s emissions free was the main reason for buying the car but now that’s just a great bonus.  When we purchased the Leaf last year I figured that in a few years we’d be replacing it with another electric car and the Camry with another gas car.  Based on our experience, and electric cars about to come onto the market, that’s no longer the plan.   Now I expect that the current Camry will be our last gas car.  It will get replaced with one of the long range electrics coming to market in 2018.

Yup, we went electric and we’re not going back.

Next Post – Looking ahead

Advertisements

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s