It has been six months now since I traded in my Silverado on a 2011 Leaf. I figure it is time to give you an update.
First the bad news: The Leaf’s real world range is about 50 miles under normal circumstances (an 85% charge) and 60 miles if I top the battery off to 100% before I head out on a road trip. If you routinely drive more than that in a day, this car is not for you.
Now the good news: My typical day involves less than 20 miles on the road. That is well within the normal range of the car. Almost all of my driving involves round trips of less than 50 miles. Fuel cost to charge at home each night works out to something less than what gas would cost for an average car if gas was under $0.90 a gallon. In a few thousand more miles, I’ll have some routine maintenance to perform. That will include rotating the tires and replacing the cabin air filter. No oil changes, no timing belts, no spark plugs. So far my only non-electric expenses have been for better wiper blades and replacing a TPMS unit that went bad in one wheel. I also sprang for a cable so I wouldn’t keep kicking the Duke Energy transceiver out of the OBD2 port. The Duke Energy transceiver gives me detailed statistics on the car’s electrical performance, such as state of charge, fuel efficiency, electricity consumed, etc.
“Range anxiety”, the fear that you will get stranded in the middle of nowhere with no charge, is a very real concern for a lot of potential EV owners. That fear quickly receded for me as I became more comfortable with the car and its limitations.
In six months of driving the car, I’ve only sweated the range once and that was my own fault. I went to a dinner at the Hilton Garden Inn, thinking I was going to the one by the parkway as opposed to the one on the other side of I-75. My mistake for not reading the invitation more closely. As a result, I didn’t top off the battery before I headed there. As it turned out, I “could” have gotten home without pushing the car, but a stop at the Tampa Premium Outlet Mall for a charge and a McDonald’s sundae ensured that I’d have enough battery to make it home without any issue. I’ll top the battery off before I head to Wesley Chapel the next time.
I’ve been to Tampa and I’ve made multiple trips to St. Petersburg. In each case, a short stop at a fast charging station solves the range issue. My favorite fast charger in Pinellas County is at the AAA office on US 19, just south of Tampa Road. A ten minute charging session gives me plenty of juice to get back to New Port Richey. Two Dunkin Donut shops in Hillsborough County have fast charging stations, although stops at them are not good for my waist line. This photo is of the DC Fast Charging station in downtown St. Pete.
Plenty of places you might want to go have either fast charging stations or slower “destination charging stations”. The difference is how fast they charge. The Leaf picked up 20 miles worth of range in less than 10 minutes on Wednesday. Charging at a destination charging station gets me about 15 miles per hour of charging. (Newer cars typically get 25 miles of range for each hour of charging.) If I’m going to be somewhere for a while anyway, the slower charging rate is fine. The Hilton Garden Inn – Suncoast has three stations. The Hilton Garden Inn – Wesley Chapel has none. Malls like the Tampa Premium Outlet Mall have charging stations. So do stores like the Whole Foods store in Clearwater and several Publix supermarkets in the Tampa Bay area.
The charging stations we’ve installed in the city of New Port Richey so far are all of the destination variety. We love to see people plug in and then spend some time exploring our city.
Overall, I’m happy with the Leaf. It does what I need it to do. It was inexpensive to buy and it is inexpensive to operate. Since my wife makes regular 150 mile trips to visit her parents, she would need to have an EV with a longer range, such as the new Leaf+, the Chevy Bolt, or the Tesla Model 3. Hopefully, they will all be available on the used market when my wife decides it is time to trade in her Prius.
Let me know if you have been thinking about upgrading your ride to an EV. I’ll be happy to talk with you about my experience so far and show you my Leaf. We’ve also got a Drive Electric Week event coming up this September where you will be able to check out a number of different cars.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor