Nissan Leaf dashboard with odometer displaying 11111 km.
If that was a binary odometer, I’d have only driven the car 31km.

Yes, it has been a while since the last post and not a lot has happened.

In December, I had booked the car in for it’s 10,000 km service. When I went to drop it off the guy at the service centre said that the service interval for the Leaf is 12 months or 20,000 km. There’s nothing in the log books that spell that out, the service centre where I bought the car had put 6 months/10,000km on the window sticker and the service reminder on the dash is set to remind you at 10,000 km. But, sure enough, when I checked the fixed price schedule on the Nissan website, it has 12/20,000. Anyway, someone at a car dealership actually saved me some money, so I’m not complaining :).

After finally getting used to planning and having enough charge to get to where I need to go I forgot to charge the car before we needed to head to Sydney. I wasn’t too worried until I found that 2 of the 3 fast chargers in Newcastle were out-of-order and the good one had a Tesla plugged in each time I tried to use it (3 attempts over 2 days). Luckily (sort of), I got called to do some work due to the snap Victorian lockdown so I got to charge the car at home overnight and had a fully charged battery for the trip.

Paid for charging for the first time on a commercial fast charger. The Evie Networks charger at Seven Hills is in a good spot. Although at 60c/kWh it’s quite expensive. It took 43 minutes to add 24.751 kWh and cost $14.85 (from 27% to 86% according to LeafSpy)

I’ve got a trip to Coffs Harbour planned soon which will need a at least 2 charge stops to get there. ChargeFox and Evie both have charging infrastructure on the Pacific Highway so it shouldn’t be a problem. But I’m interested to see if the second charge is much slower than the first.

Actually it was.

 

My niece misjudged the entry into our driveway and gave the Leaf a bit of a scrape.

Fortunately, she was fully insured and for the week the car was at the smash repairers, the insurers covered the cost of a hire car.

The car rental place gave me a Skoda Octavia station wagon. And I hated it.

It’s strange because I understood why the thing that annoyed me most was what I would have looked for if I was going to buy an ICE vehicle. It is very fuel efficient, but it was the most unengaging driving experience. Throttle response, even in “Sport” mode was sluggish and steering and suspension were not very direct. It was very roomy and comfortable, but I felt as though too much was traded off to the detriment of the driving experience.

It couldn’t compete with the Leaf for smoothness. Having the engine auto stop/start at the lights (although I was impressed that the system started the engine when it detected that the car in front was starting to move instead of just waiting for you to reduce the pressure on the brake) and gear changes can’t compare with an electric motor.

And I realised that there is one convenience item that I’ve come to really appreciate – key-less entry and push-button start. I can’t get over how much I got annoyed by the need to get the key out of my bag or pocket and use it. But it was nice to have the car for a week, take a return trip to Sydney and not think about where I was going to re-fuel until just before returning it.

 

A more typical month, distance-wise. A total of 1811km which included a trip to my sister’s place in the Southern Highlands and a trip to Sydney. Actually managed to have a stress free 600km round trip charge-wise. Figured out how to charge at my mother’s place without tripping the RCDs. For the return trip we stopped at the ChargeFox station in Zetland and didn’t have to wait for anyone else using the fast charging station. The 700m drop in elevation between Robertson and Wollongong meant that leg of the trip averaged 9.4 kWh/100km – well below the average of 16 I was getting between Sydney and Newcastle.

Confirmed that rain makes a huge difference. The second trip home between Sydney and Newcastle had steady rain (nothing like the storm the previous month), but doing a steady 110km/h in the rain uses 19.5 kWh/100km.

The warmer weather improves efficiency. I’ve gone from around 15.5 during winter to around 14 in spring. There was a week where I didn’t need to use heating or cooling and the dash was displaying 11. I expect it to go up again as we head into summer and need to use the air conditioner.

One of the things that I keep seeing on r/nissanleaf is an obsession with the LeafSpy SOH (State of Health) value. I’ve been running LeafSpy regularly and I’m not sure I’ve spotted a pattern yet. The SOH dip in the charts actually precedes the long trip South.

SOH, L1/L2 and QC over time SOH and Odometer km over time

The executive summary: I’ll never go back to driving an ICE vehicle. But the Leaf is definitely a transition car (for me) – I need the range to be a round trip to Sydney (about 300km) without having to recharge and having enough to spare so things like the weather don’t make you worry about getting home. So the next EV I buy will need about 400km range and be a price I can afford.

Planning

The main issue is having to plan every trip out of town. So you’re often asking yourself questions like, “how much charge do I have”, “how much charge do I need to get there”, “is there somewhere to charge there?”

LeafSpy has helped with some of that but it has some quirks and the worst UI of any app. PlugShare covers the rest.

Cutting it fine!

Even with a fair amount of planning, the weather can still wreak havoc on your estimates. One trip back from Sydney we started with about 75% charge and LeafSpy said we had about 175km to 5% at 180 Wh/km which I thought was very conservative. I did not count on very heavy rain for the entire trip home. It is the first time have never travelled 110km/h at any time on the M1 and most of the trip was below 90km/h due to the rain. Unfortunately, even the slow speed did not help with the range and the gauge was showing 0% before we reached the Newcastle off-ramp. Fortunately, once we get off the motorway it is mostly down hill and we travelled the last 10km down the link road with the gauge flashing “–%” at me.

Community

I’ve had a few people ask about the car and had a few chats with other EV owners while charging or waiting to charge. The general consensus is that we’re not going back to ICE cars.

I was a little surprised to see another Leaf charging at my regular spot in Wallsend. When I returned from dinner, I found a note on the window asking for my thoughts. Apparently it was a 62kWh version (It looks like https://twitter.com/EV4ME2 is not the first) and I would have responded except the mobile number was missing a digit. (Ewan, if you happen to read this, feel free to get in contact again.)

Final thoughts

it’s a transition vehicle that I’ll probably trade in when there are more EV choices. But, due to the lack of any carbon reduction policy, Australia is the last place to get any of the new EVs being released so I’ll be holding on to the Leaf for a few years.

The main issue is not being able to do a round trip from Newcastle to Sydney (roughly 300km) without having to charge. The 62 kWh version might just do it but now that Nissan is going to officially bring it to Australia, it will be out of my price range. The grey import cost for the 62 kWh Leaf, according to @EV4ME, was actually less than what I paid for my 40 kWh Leaf. Timing, it seems, is everything.

Time for a summary of my ownership for the end of financial year 2019-2020.

In the 3.5 months I’ve had the Leaf I’ve driven 3894 km at an average, if the trip computer is to be believed, of 15.6 kWh/100km (2420 mi @ 4 mi/kWh). This has been around a 70/30 mix of city and highway driving.

So how does this compare to my last vehicle, a Jeep Renegade?

  Nissan Leaf ZE1 Jeep Renegade Sport
Consumption 15.6 kWh/100km 7.25 l/100km (32 mpg)
Total for 3894km 607 kWh 282 l
Unit cost $0.31372/kWh $1.349/l
Total cost $190 $380
Emissions 0.92 kg/kWh 2.3 kg/l
Total CO2 559kg 649kg

The surprising thing here is that, while I’ve halved* the fuel cost I’ve only reduced my CO2 emissions by around 14% according to the information on my electricity bill.

* This assumes I’ve done all of my charging at home. In reality, I’ve done about 25% of my charging on free, public chargers. And they claim to use greener sources of power that Origin do. So if I say that about 450 kWh of charging was done at home, that reduces my cost to $140 and 414 kg CO2.

I bought a smart plug for my charger and it logs how much energy is used, so I’ll have a better idea on how much charging I do at home and exactly how much it is costing me. Also, I’m currently on the list to change to Amber Electric https://www.amberelectric.com.au/ which should reduce both the cost per kWh and CO2 emissions. Amber use real-time wholesale pricing, so I should be able to schedule charging the car through the smart plug when their prices are cheapest.

After 1 month and a little over 1000km it’s a good time to go over my impressions of the Leaf while I wait for the service to be completed.

The good

e-Pedal – I love the e-Pedal and I am surprised how quickly I became accustomed to it to the point that I am a little surprised when I drive my wife’s City that it doesn’t start braking when I take my foot off the accelerator. I haven’t driven the Leaf without the e-pedal since getting it.

Size – it’s a surprisingly roomy car, larger than it looks. While you don’t sit as high as in the Renegade, it has good all around visibility. Even with no glass between the rear passenger door and the hatch I’ve not had an issue seeing the traffic around me.

Recharging – The contingency cable has been more than adequate to keep the car charged and, apart from the trip to Sydney which was supposed to be a trip to Canberra, I have had no thoughts about running out of power. The COVID19 lockdown has probably helped since I haven’t done as much driving as usual.

The not-so-good

Highway range – As I described in a previous post, the highway range is not very good and you can’t go much further than 150km without doing a fair bit of planning. My trip to Wyong this morning, which was mostly on the M1 averaged about 16kWh/100km whereas around town I’m generally doing less than 15. (The round trip ended up being 15.2, but the climate control was off on the way home.)

Cruise control/braking/e-pedal transition – there were some occasions where the cruise control was on and I’d press the brake and it felt like we were coasting and it took a while to start slowing down. I think there was a software update applied during the service that fixed it because that odd transition didn’t happen on the way home.

Seat comfort – the driver’s seat is quite flat and not very comfortable for longer drives.

Infotainment system – It can be a bit of a lottery as to whether my phone will automatically connect to Android Auto but I think it is more of a problem with my Note 9 than the car. Getting information about state of charge when the car is off appears to be impossible. It would be nice to see some info about charging rate when the car is plugged in.

On the way home I noticed that the trip computer stops at 999.9km which seems odd. I can’t see any reason it shouldn’t go over 1000km except that the car isn’t really designed for longer trips.

Summary

I don’t regret buying the Leaf at all. I might have to look into OMVS if I want some of the monitoring information I’d like. It’s been better than my wife’s City during lockdown which needs a jump start if it hasn’t been driven for a few days. (It’s probably the dashcam, which I’ve now unplugged, but something we’ll get them to check at it’s 10000km service this week.)

The first road trip with the Leaf was a bit of a mess. The primary objective was completed but all the side quests were abandoned. The main take-away from the trip is that on the highway you are effectively working with a 150km range, which is far short of the 270km advertised.

In light of what is happening with COVID-19, I needed to pick up a Surface Pro from Canberra. To cut a long and boring story short, I couldn’t find someone who was already doing the trip so I decided that this weekend would be a chance to figure out what a trip to Canberra (about 450km each way) in the Leaf would involve.

Why 150km?

I decided that the best place for the first stop would be the NRMA fast charger in Homebush, which happens to be about 150km from home. Leaving home with 100% battery, I had 30% remaining when I got to Homebush. Which means the actual range for a highway trip is about 210km.

Two problems. There is only one fast charging station at Homebush and when I got there a Tesla was plugged in and only 46% full. Went for a walk but the Tesla was still plugged in when we got back so decide to go to the nearby Rhodes shopping centre to top up with a Type 2 charger and grab some lunch for ourselves. After an hour, we came back to the car which was about 50% charged.

Even if the fast charger was available, it would only charge to 80%. So relying on fast charging and leaving yourself with at least 10% for contingencies means you need to plan to stop every 150km.

Plans change

We drove a short distance to my mum’s place and (observing social distancing) said hello and had a coffee while trying to top up using my mode 2 charger. Unfortunately I needed an extension cord and kept tripping the circuit breaker on the power board. So we borrowed my sister’s Outback to complete the journey to Canberra.

Adding to the things that did not go to plan, our niece went into labour after we’d checked into our hotel in Canberra. Lilly wanted to be at the birth so we drove back to my mum’s in Sydney, got a few hours sleep and then got into the Leaf. Luckily, the fast charger in Homebush was free at 5am. It took 17 minutes to charge the Leaf to 80% and then we were off to Newcastle. Made it in time for Lilly to be at the birth and cut the cord of our new grand niece.

Around town

Following our weekend adventure, I’ve kept a close eye on the battery and how far we’ve travelled. It looks like I am getting about 260km on a full charge, so definitely much better. Might need to do some research on whether I can improve the highway range.

The car’s first charge was at an NRMA fast charger. It took about 17 minutes, according to the charging station, to charge the car from 48% to 80%. There doesn’t appear to be a way to monitor the charging progress remotely.