Should I buy a used Nissan LEAF?

by Ernie Hernandez on June 16, 2017

Or rather, why you should buy a used Nissan LEAF

According to the California Plug-in Electric Vehicle Driver Survey Results – May 2013, 94 percent of EV owners also own a conventional fuel vehicle. Why do I lead with this? Because, the odds are, you are already a multiple-vehicle household. It likely would be very easy to replace one of your current vehicles with a used Nissan LEAF or other EV. Let’s tick off some of the reasons why this might make sense.

According to Autotrader.com, there are currently almost 1,100 Nissan LEAFs, model year 2011 through 2015 available across the country. The lowest priced LEAF is $4,988, highest priced is $21,339, and the average is $10,863. The $4,988 car has 82,503 miles on it and is already missing four bars, but it’s well beyond the five year, sixty thousand mile battery capacity warranty, so no free battery for you. The highest priced used LEAF is a 2015 S with 475 miles for $21,339. And it’s certified pre-owned as well, which provides additional warranty coverage (excluding the traction battery). Doing a sort by lowest price, there were well over 200 available for under $9,000 across the country, some with amazingly low miles (I saw a 2012 with 6,780 miles for $8,999 with all twelve bars).

That last comment is one of the important things to note when looking at a used LEAF. How many bars does it have left? I wrote an article that talks about losing bars, if you’re not familiar with the term, so I won’t go into it here. But you want to be careful to check how many battery capacity bars remain on the car that you’re looking at if driving range is important to you. Let’s use my really low priced example above. With four bars down, the range could be 50-60 miles, or it could be 40-50 miles depending on where you live and how you drive. Here is a picture of my 2012 LEAF with four bars down, fully charged, in ECO mode.

If all you do with your second car now is take the kids to school and go to the grocery store, that may be more than enough for your needs. If your current second car is more than five years old, you may be faced with expensive engine or drivetrain repairs over the next five years. You will also still be required to change the oil and filter, spark plugs, etc just to maintain it in good shape. One of the great things about an EV is that the vast majority of that maintenance goes away. It’s not that an EV needs no maintenance or repairs, but without all of the moving parts in a combustion engine and automatic transmission to fail, the most significant source of maintenance and repairs is also removed. EVs make excellent second cars for these reasons alone.

Let’s say you only drive your second car 10,000 miles each year, and it gets a pretty decent 25 miles per gallon. According to GasBuddy.com, the current low average price for regular gasoline is $1.99 per gallon in Oklahoma with a high of $3.04 in California. So let’s pick Colorado at $2.32 which is somewhere near the mean. Your 400 gallons needed to cover that annual mileage would cost you $928. According to fueleconomy.gov, the cost to drive a LEAF 25 miles is $0.97. Your fuel cost for the LEAF to cover the same distance would be $388. In other words, you are $540 to the good every year, just by selling your current car and getting a used LEAF. Not counting maintenance and repair savings. If you do happen to live in California, the state where the most EVs are currently sold in the US, your gas cost would be over $1,200. And that’s just in fuel costs. Also, in California, now you can commute in the carpool lane saving time and reducing stress if the range will allow it. Naturally these numbers will change based on your gas and electric costs, but you get the idea. Just by replacing your current second car with a LEAF you could give yourself a raise (much easier than trying to get one from your boss) and reduce potential future repair costs.

One last point, if you already have solar panels on your roof, and you’re selling excess capacity back to the grid (for pennies), your fuel bill goes to zero. Just sayin’…

 

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One way to optimize your range

by Ernie Hernandez on June 10, 2017

What’s on your wheels?

Not long ago I wrote an article about losing the fourth bar on my 2012 Nissan LEAF. When writing that article, I noticed that our fuel economy was 3.1 miles per kilowatt hour, which I had never really paid any attention to before. This is pretty low compared with many EV drivers that can achieve over 5 miles per kilowatt hour, extending their range significantly over mine. I know we drive with a lead foot occasionally, but this low efficiency didn’t make sense to me. So after thinking about it a bit, and wandering around online I went outside and looked at the tires. This story is a result.

We bought the car last year and it had gone through a local car dealership for reconditioning. As is often the case, they replaced the tires with the cheapest they could find. The tires that ended up on the car are Goodyear Assurance All Season M+S (mud and snow) tires. Just what I need to tool around the Greater San Diego area. Mud and Snow tires have a more aggressive tread pattern and a tread compound designed to optimize grip, not roll down the road easily. Original equipment tires on the car were low rolling resistance Bridgestone Ecopias. So the question becomes, how much can a tire impact fuel economy, and range, on an EV? This is what I found out with a little bit of research. Many others have studied the impact of tire rolling resistance from the U.S. Department of Energy to over-the-road truck drivers wishing to lower their operating costs. I also found some other interesting info from an off-road vehicle site that proved illuminating.

The Alternative Fuels Data Center found that installing low rolling resistance tires can improve fuel economy by about three percent on light duty vehicles, in other words, passenger cars.  Just a ten percent decrease in rolling resistance can increase fuel economy by one percent to two percent. Heavy-duty vehicles can see improvements of over ten percent.

Perhaps the most interesting example I found was on an off-road vehicle site. They were curious about the same thing I was – how does tire type impact fuel economy. So they did a real-world test with a Ford F150HD – not the most fuel efficient vehicle on the planet. They tested two sets of LT (light truck) tires that were designed for two different purposes. One set was a street-oriented all-season tire while the other was an aggressive tread all-terrain tire. Their test discovered a whopping fifteen percent difference in fuel efficiency.

So I found that while our lead foot is a factor in some of our poor fuel efficiency, it is not the only factor. This tells us is that when you need to replace your EV tires (or really any vehicle that you’re interested in fuel economy) the type of tire that you chooses matters. If you are using less energy to roll down the road, you can roll farther. With a little online research you can find the most fuel efficient tire for your needs.

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What four bars down looks like

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Battery degradation in a 2012 Nissan LEAF Battery degradation exists in electric cars, just as it does in mobile phones and laptops, but many people that are not familiar with electric cars have no idea what that is, or what it means. This article will help to fill in that knowledge gap. First, let’s provide you with […]

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Nissan’s BladeGlider gets an update Perhaps recognizing that there’s not much excitement with their everyday electric car, the LEAF, Nissan announced Margot Robbie as their new electric vehicle ambassador with a video of her racing around the streets of Monaco in the newly redesigned BladeGlider. Here’s a look: Nissan introduced the BladeGlider, an all-electric, rear-wheel-drive, […]

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Chevy Bolt sales ramp up quickly

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It’s Nissan vs. Chevy in the affordable EV segment Chevy Bolt sales got off to a slow start in December with late and limited availability, but Chevy got 579 Bolts out the door (compared with 1,899 LEAFs). Once inventory started to ramp up a bit the tables turned with Chevrolet delivering 1,162 Bolts in January […]

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