Nissan LEAF – The Bad

I’m very pleased with my Nissan LEAF, however nothing is perfect. Here are some of the most glaring issues I’ve found to date.

1. No Spare Tire.

Nissan provide a ‘fix-a-flat’ instead. Clearly this is a space and weight saving measure. Instant flat fixes are only good for minor punctures, they won’t fix a blow-out. They also make a mess of the interior of the wheel rim.

If I get a flat I’m calling the roadside assistance. The LEAF comes with 3 years roadside assistance as standard. In the 6 1/2 years I drove my Chevy Classic, I never had to change the wheel due to a flat, so I suppose it’s not such a big deal.

2. Charging guidelines  cut range by 40%

Nissan advise customers of two charging cycles. A 100% full charge cycle which provides the full ‘advertised’ vehicle range, or an 80% charge cycle which provides for extended battery life. Nissan also advise not to allow the charge to fall below 20% if you wish to extend battery life as long as possible.

Essentially they are saying to keep batteries in tip top shape for as long as is practically possible, do not use the top and bottom 20% of the batteries capacity, which limits one to 60% of the advertised vehicle range, which is pretty miserly at best.

For my commute, I can live with the conservative battery charging cycle. I can go back and forth from work and also go for a 10 mile run at lunch and live within the conservative battery charging cycle.

They don’t make this clear prior to selling one the vehicle. For someone with a longer commute than myself their batteries will be taxed more heavily.

No word on what the battery life is expected to be. There is a 100,000 mile / 8 Year warranty on the batteries, but when I asked what this really meant in terms of acceptable deterioration of total battery capacity, I got a long winded and ambiguous answer. They are making no commitments. The warranty is vague at best. Chevy warrant the Volt battery will not lose anymore than 10% of the total capacity over its warranted lifespan. Nissan are not making such a commitment.

3. Interior gets dirty very easily.

All LEAF’s have the same color interior, regardless of the external color chosen. The material is very nice, don’t get me wrong, but the very light color attracts dirt like a magnet. The door pull on the inside is covered with the same material. It feels very nice, but dirty hands will make a mess of this in no time.

4. NAVTEQ Navigation System could do with batter maps

My first attempt to navigate with the LEAF resulted in me resorting to my Android Google Maps. The address was not known by the navigation system, Given that that part of Nashville has been around since the early 1930’s NAVTEQ can’t claim that recent changes are not incorporated. The maps are simply poor, I double checked the maps on NAVTEQ.COM and the address is was going to was unknown to the web based NAVTEQ map as well. Bing and Google maps have no trouble locating the address.

5. Gear Shift and Parking Brake – Counter Intuitive to a new driver

Nissan have provided a very innovative and easy to use gear shift and parking brake. However how to put the car in gear or release the parking brake isn’t clear the first time you try and drive it. I can’t just throw the keys at someone and expect them to know how to drive the car.

On the positive side, once you get used to it, the controls are great and very easy to use and take up a lot less space than the conventional controls.

6. Bluetooth Hands-Free does not integrate well with Google Voice Call Screening

The concept of the Bluetooth hands free is that one can make or receive a call without having to press buttons on your phone. I use Google Voice to screen calls which unfortunately isn’t integrated with the Bluetooth implementation in the LEAF. I received a call today for the first time in the LEAF, and had to pick up my phone to press 1 to accept the call. The call worked flawlessly via the car after that and the calling party said they could hear me well.

The LEAF does allow touch tones to be sent from the touchpad, however one has to be stationary for the feature to be activated. Not great when receiving a call.

7. Miles to Empty gauge is too optimistic and variable.

When I climb into my LEAF with an 80% charge, it tells me I can drive 93 miles. Maybe in a perfect world, but not in Tennessee, we have steep hills and 102 temperatures to contend with.

By contrast the estimated miles reported by the Phone App or Website is pretty close to reality. I wonder why the cars gauge can’t use the same algorithm as the website/phone app?

8. Folding down rear seats requires front seats to be moved forward temporarily.

The headrest on the rear seats bumps into the front seat and prevents the rear seats from being folded down completely. If one moves the front seats forward, then the rear seats will fold down fully, and the front seats can now return to their original positions. I suppose removing the rear headrests is another option. Either way it’s a hassle.

9. Door lock/unlock switch not lit at night.

If you stop to drop someone off, you find yourself fumbling for the door open switch, the switches should be lit. Once the car is parked the doors open automatically, however we don’t always want to park when unlocking or locking the doors. Most other controls are well lit, looks like an oversight by the engineers.

10. Front windscreen may fog up heavily during pre-heat cycle.

Pre-Heating or pre-cooling the vehicle prior to driving is a  very convenient feature I enjoy. I have found however that pre-heating on a cold damp day will fog up the front windscreen heavily. It can take 2-3 minutes with the circulation fan on full to de-fog the front windscreen. On dry days the problem is not so much an issue. I have found pre-heating in the garage is never an issue, its pre-heating while it is stood outside  that creates the fogging. I just don’t pre-heat on rainy days. Update: 2012-01-27 Fogging is no longer an issue now we are in mid-winter. The humidity is very low and pre-heating on a day with temperatures in the 20’s makes for a very nice welcome prior to driving to or from work. Pre-heat  fogging is likely to be an issue just in the fall and spring seasons.

This entry was posted in Electric Car, Nissan LEAF, Opinion, Review and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Nissan LEAF – The Bad

  1. Brian says:

    Cracking the windows helps with the fog issue with preheating.

  2. Kerri says:

    Great article. Thanks for putting it out there. We really want a Leaf but have a child and live where there are some dirt driveways we use. It seems the interior would be way too hard to keep from getting stained. Seat covers would protect the seats but you can’t get something to protect the arm rests/handles on the doors or the middle console.

  3. Mable says:

    When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove people from that service?

    • jpwhitehome says:

      Hi Mable.

      The notifications are controlled by the subscribers. I don’t have control over that. Look to see if there is a way to unsubscribe from notifications.

      Check out the following forum post.

  4. Marcin says:

    My daily commute is 55 mi RT, 90% freeway in Chicagoland. My workplace does not offer charging outlet and 240v at home will take a month at best to get installed, if ever. Do you think I can make it on a 110v charging at home only 5 days a week? Looking at 2013 S base or w/ QC if 240v gets installed. But I can’t count on 240v so looking at S base only. I’m afraid of winters here and battery capacity. S has the inefficient heater, but upgrading to SV blows my business case to get this EV. Any thoughts?

    • jpwhitehome says:

      50 mile round trip in a LEAF is very doable, even after battery degradation. 55 miles should be fine with some accommodation.

      As for using just 120v to charge, this is a stretch. For each hour of charging you get around 4 miles of range. To add 55 miles you’ll need to charge for 15 hours. Chances are you are not parked at home for that long each day. I would not recommend 120v charging for the distance you intend to travel.

      The S models heater is very energy hungry. Given you are in Chicago, I would not recommend the LEAF without the better heat pump heating. If you had a shorter commute it’d be ok, but at this distance the double whammy of the primitive heater and cold battery performance will make your commute a challenge. I use an electric blanket instead of cabin heat to avoid the energy draw. It plugs into the CLA so does not impact range. This is OK for the short winters in Tennessee, as cold as it gets up there relying only on the electric blanket will get old very quickly, the blanket can’t warm your feet.

      You really need the combination of 240v home charging and a heat pump heater.

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