A Couple of Days with a Nissan Leaf Electric Vehicle…
Posted on: December 20, 2015 12:16 am
by: Arjun Singh
Electric vehicles hold out this tantalizing possibility for those who want to drive and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.
In my view, its terribly difficult for most people in Kamloops to switch to transit / cycling / walking as their primary mode of transportation. Car culture is a huge component of the overall culture of today.
In BC, because our electricity comes mainly from hydro (dams in rivers) generation, our electricity has a relatively low greenhouse gas impact. Most of our greenhouse gas generation comes from gasoline used to fuel our vehicles. So, electric vehicles help us greatly in this regard, especially as more people start using them.
There is a significant added benefit to most electric cars. They are, simply put, really fun to drive. They are very “peppy” in that there is no lag when you press the accelerator. They are relatively very quiet in comparison to gas vehicles. Electric vehicle owners have coined the term an “ev smile”.
There are also still significant challenges to overcome with electric vehicles. They cost more. There is less selection of models. Their range before having to charge is probably a third or a quarter of a vehicle with a full tank of gas. There are much fewer public electric vehicle charging stations than there are gas pumps.
My research in the past year seems to suggest, however, that these challenges are decreasing. Many major vehicle manufacturers offer electric vehicle models and the number of models could double in the next year or two. The prices are coming down. The BC government offers incentives to purchase an electric vehicle. The ranges before needing a charge are increasing. And an electric vehicle charging infrastructure is building out across the country and continent.
With all this already in my mind, I was very thankful to be offered the opportunity to drive the City of Kamloops’ Nissan Leaf electric vehicle for a couple of days recently. I am thinking of purchasing an electric vehicle in 2016.
The Nissan Leaf is a four seater hatchback, on the market since 2010. It is a strong seller in EV terms.
I picked up the lease at the Tournament Capital Centre (TCC). A part of the initial orientation was learning how to use the electric vehicle fast charging station at the TCC. Unfortunately, there was an error message on the charging station control screen as we tried to charge the vehicle. After repeated attempts and a call to customer service, we still could not get the connection to work.
This experience caused me a bit of range anxiety. The dashboard on the Leaf indicates how many kilometres left before recharge. I think I had about 50 or 55 km on the battery. The TCC fast charging station is meant to charge an EV in about half an hour. There are other public charging stations in Kamloops but they charge a vehicle more slowly – between 4 to 8 hours from no charge to full charge. There is a public charging station at the Tourism Kamloops house, so I headed up there to give myself a bit of a top up.
Over the course of my time with the Leaf, I also charged the Leaf at a public charging station at TRU and through a standard outdoor outlet at my assigned parking space in front of our townhouse. Both worked flawlessly. Charging overnight was really convenient.
For the most part, I found driving the Leaf a real joy. It is indeed peppy and quiet. It is really responsive. The parts I’m less sure about revolve around features which I feel seek to differentiate the car as more “space age”. There are little high pitch beeps and bloops every once in a while. There is a row of charging lights on the dash. In my view, its better to make this car seem as normal as possible if we want to see more mainstream acceptance.
Turning on the A/C or Heat in the Leaf decreases the range. Conversely, there is an ECO drive mode which, while making the car somewhat more sluggish, increases the range. When you are going downhill or braking, you often gain more kilometres of range. And going uphill has the opposite effect. On the Leaf’s dashboard, there is a row of circles that light up. More circles lit up one one side of the line, you are using range up. More circles on the other side, and you are gaining range. It was fun trying to somewhat control the lighting up of the circles.
I showed the Leaf to quite a few people in my travels around town. While it’s fair to say there was some interest, there was also quite a lot of scepticism. Analyzing whether an electric vehicle would be a suitable vehicle for you and your family requires a sober assessment of how much in town driving versus out of town driving, of how much savings / added cost in switching to electricity instead of gasoline.
In my last day of driving the Leaf, I had a strong comfort with the range of the Leaf. There is generally no way I would exceed the range in my daily in town driving. I prefer to take the bus or to fly on out of town trips. I charged the Leaf overnight, and even through my slower outdoor outlet at home, it was good to go in the morning.
I now need to consider the money issue. How much more / less will an electric vehicle cost me over the years of driving, given my driving patterns? What other options are there for electric vehicles?
I am looking forward to further research.