Wrong size and not reliable? Really?
In our last article, we took a look at the issue of the cost of driving a Nissan LEAF. In this one, we will examine the two other reasons cited for not going electric – vehicle size and reliability.
One of the most likely reasons one might buy a LEAF is to reduce energy commuting costs. According to the United States Census Bureau 2009 American Community Survey (found here), 119,393 workers commuted to work in a car, truck or van. 105,476 (or 88% of them) drove by themselves. This would imply that front passenger head room and leg room should receive the priority for a comfortable commute. Let’s compare the 2012 LEAF to the current best selling automobile in the United States – the 2012 Toyota Camry. The LEAF offers 2.4 inchers more front head room and .5 inch more front leg room. Keep in mind, this is comparing to a mid-size class family sedan. If you need to take things to work with you, the Camry does offer more cargo room, but less than one cubic foot – about the size of a basketball. Comparing to perhaps a more comparable Toyota Prius, the LEAF still takes the front headroom advantage by over 2.5 inches, but gives up about .4 inch in front leg room to the Prius. Both Toyotas offer more rear seat leg room, so if large families of large individuals are involved then the LEAF may indeed be too small. For our family of two approximately average sized adults (referenced here) and three children (aged 12 and 9), the LEAF is fine. The Chevrolet Volt, on the other hand, with its seating for four is a non-starter for us.
Regarding the reliability question – we just have to wonder how they came up with their basis. Admittedly, we don’t drive as much as the average family. We have accrued just over 10,000 miles in our first 18 months or so of ownership. The extent of our maintenance thus far has been taking it in to our local Nissan dealership for the 12 month traction battery checkup and routine inspections (no charge). That’s it. No oil changes, filter changes, or anything else. We did rotate the tires, which we did ourselves, but many tire shops will do this at no charge hoping to find additional work that they can perform, or to try to sell you a new set of tires. Many dealerships will perform this service as well during the 12 month checkup – we just forgot to ask. In the future there will be no tune-ups, and no coil packs going bad. The electric motor has essentially one moving part and some bearings to allow it to move. Pretty simple. No exhaust system or muffler to fail or rust out over time. You get the idea.
So there you have it. The three primary concerns of potential electric vehicle (EV) owners addressed. We are not, nor have we ever, advocated that the LEAF is the right car for everyone. But if it it fits your situation, being properly educated about its costs, size and reliability could help you reach a proper decision.