What I’ve Learned After My First Year with My Leaf

When I first told my parents I leased a 2015 Nissan Leaf, my dad told me, “I have no son.” To be fair, this is a man who is a complete motor head and has a long history with General Motors muscle cars. Not owning anything made by General Motors is sacrilege in his household, so of course leasing an electric Nissan would elicit such a response.

The whole reason behind leasing the Leaf was that I was sick of paying for gasoline to go train out in the sticks every weekend. I figured I can make this work, I just didn’t know how big of a project it could be sometimes.

Like I said, on weekends I’d drive out to BFE to go put in my long training hours. Here is where I learned how to be an effective planner. The majority of the time I could not get there and back on one charge, so I frequently had to resort to charging in “the wild.” Charging in the wild is defined as using a 120V outlet. Wherever I ended up training, I made sure I at least had access to working outlets. A 120V outlet doesn’t get you a whole lot of juice, that’s why it’s a trickle charge. When you’re out training for four to six hours, that’s an extra 20-35% of battery life you’ve picked up. That would usually be plenty to at least get me to the Nissan dealership with a Level 3 DC Charger on the way home.

Last month, I decided to take the Leaf on a road trip to Chattanooga for the Ironman 70.3 I was participating in. This experiment would require a bit of planning and calculating to make sure I got there. I needed to charge halfway at the Calhoun Prime Outlets Level 3 DC charger. I came to find the RFID card reader was broken, but luckily you can call the 800 number to bypass that problem. I would deem my road trip as successful; I didn’t pay for electricity or parking while at my half-Ironman.

Having an electric vehicle (EV) is not for everyone. For the last twelve months I’ve been able to make it work by careful planning and being very good at time management. Also, you’ll learn that having a lead foot is will drain your battery much quicker, but it is pretty awesome to have 100% of your torque instantaneously. Anyway, here are some things I’ve done to make it work that may help you out:

  • I’ve had two different jobs during the last year, and I’ve been able to charge in the wild at them if I needed to. It really helps. Also, 100′ extension cord is kind of handy.
    • Pro Tip: Before plugging the male end of the Leaf charger into the female end of the extension cord, take both ends & make a knot, then plug in. This makes it nearly impossible to become “accidentally” unplugged.
  • Whenever I use a Level 2 charging station, I typically have something to do to occupy my time. Here are some of the things that I’ll do:
    • 35 mile bike rides
    • 4-8 mile runs
    • 4000-5000 yard swims if I’m at Georgia Tech
    • Read all my emails and organize my inbox
    • Browse Reddit
  • Since I only live a mile from a Level 2 charging station, I frequently drop my car off and either walk or ride my bike home until I get notified it’s fully charged.
  • Apartments are tricky. My old place was on the third floor, so if I needed to get a little bit of a charge, you’d see my 100′ orange extension cord go up 30′ to my balcony.

As you can see, owning an EV will make you much better at planning and math! I frequently take my Leaf outside the perimeter of Atlanta without worrying. Okay, I worry a little when I get to a station and it doesn’t work, but most of the time it can be bypassed. I’m sure my dad is happy he no longer gets calls from me asking him what I need to do to fix stuff on my cars. It seems like there are fewer problems when there is no internal combustion engine. The only things I’ve needed to do in a year is rotate the tires and change the wiper blades.

It’s been an interesting year so far though. I’ve managed to put over 11,000 miles on that little Leaf. I’ve taken it as far as Chattanooga and as remote as wine country north of Dahlonega. Who knows where I’ll take this car if Level 3 DC charging stations start becoming more ubiquitous along freeways.

 

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