Almost two years ago, I took delivery of one of the very first 2011 Nissan Leafs to be imported into the United Kingdom.
With its two-year anniversary approaching, and more than 32,000 miles on the clock, has our family’s opinion of the Nissan Leaf changed?
What has life with the car been like? And do we regret buying it?
Just as we said last year, our 2011 Nissan Leaf has generally aged appropriately.
But let’s start at the beginning.
In late March 2011, we drove our new family car 45 miles home from the dealership, plugged it in for the first time, and named the resplendent red car Hiro Nakamura–after the earnest Japanese superhero on NBC’s Heroes.
As the miles piled up, I shared the things we already liked and disliked about Nissan’s first mass-produced battery electric car.
We also documented Hiro’s life with us, including a visit to the dealer for an official software update recall, various odometer milestones, and a summary one-year drive report.
Wear and tear
Since that report a year ago, nothing else has broken. A few things have either required replacement due to standard wear and tear, or niggle at us on a daily basis.
- During our second periodic service, the front windshield wipers were replaced because the blades had separated from the wiper.
- An annoying squeak over rough ground has developed. It seems to originate from the area between the right-hand driver’s seat and the center console. As yet, we’ve been unsuccessful in pinpointing exactly what is making the noise.
- The driver’s side floor mat — an original Nissan accessory — has lost an eyelet, though it remains securely fastened to the floor.
- The rear carpets and the backs of the front seats have started to look much more worn than two-year-old interior fabrics should.
- The power windows, while functional, remain slow to operate. This is especially noticeable in colder weather.
Range and battery life
Unlike Nissan Leafs in much warmer climates (Phoenix, Arizona, for example), the generally temperate U.K. climate has so far been kind to the battery pack of our Nissan Leaf.
Despite six months of daily 80-mile freeway commutes with twice-daily recharging, our Leaf has shown no noticeable signs of battery degradation.
No battery capacity bars have disappeared, and the Leaf is easily capable of 75 to 80 miles on a full charge, depending on how it is driven, the type of road, and the temperature.
Even more impressive is the fact that several long-distance trips during the past year–covering thousand miles and requiring multiple quick-charges in a single day — have also had no noticeable impact on the battery health either.
Because few rapid chargers exist in the U.K., we often had to recharge the battery not to the recommended 80 percent but to 98 percent of capacity–something Nissan doesn’t recommend.
But regardless of the frequent quick-charging, the most recent battery health report from our dealer gave the car a five-star rating overall.
Four stars were given for “charging when already at a high level of charge,” no doubt caused by the rapid charging from 80 to 98 percent full. No warnings were issued for battery health or charging behavior.
Also worth of note: Despite numerous low-battery and very-low-battery warnings, our car has never entered the fabled ‘turtle mode’.
Carwings and charging
It would be nice to report that Nissan has improved its Carwings telematics service over the past two years. But it hasn’t, and the service remains the weakest link of owning a Leaf.
To start, Carwings’ charging-station information remains patchy and inaccurate (though this may vary by country; it is certainly the case in the U.K.).
In November, while on the way to a business meeting, inaccurate Carwings data directed me to a charging station that simply did not exist. Without the range to make it to the next charging station, I was forced to look for a standard outlet to charge at.
Ultimately, the car ended the day on the back of a tow truck after I failed to find an alternative place to charge.
Carwings’ inaccuracies don’t stop there. According to the odometer in our Leaf, it has traveled a little more than 32,000 miles since new. Carwings reports that it has only traveled 25,000 miles.
Moreover, its range predictions haven’t improved despite a software upgrade. On one occasion, less than 10 minutes after we’d quick-charged the battery to 98 percent, Carwings proudly warned us that, laden with two adults, two children, two dogs and luggage, our car wouldn’t reach its destination.
Thirty minutes later, we arrived safely at our destination, with at least 15 miles to spare. (Carwings failed to apologize.)
The iPhone Carwings app has also been a trial. For three months, it refused to connect to the Carwings servers, making remote monitoring and presetting the climate control only possible through a third-party app, LeafLink.
It took Nissan U.K. two months to rectify the issue.
Performance and handling
Almost two years after leaving the dealer, our 2011 Nissan leaf still performs as it did when new–accelerating well under most conditions, with only a hint of sluggishness when battery charge or temperature is low.
We replaced the factory-standard Ecopia E150 tires with aftermarket Michelin Energy Saver tires, and our now Leaf performs and handles far better than it did when new. The body roll is reduced, handling feels more precise, and grip seems improved.
And with longer tread life, we’ve already managed almost as many miles on the Michelins as we did on the original Ecopias–with half the tread on the newer tires still remaining.
Our verdict: No regrets
After nearly two years and more than 32,000 miles, our 2011 Nissan Leaf still performs as we had hoped it would when we bought it.
Our dealer experience has been good, with our local dealer still offering exemplary servicing for a very reasonable price.
Including servicing, insurance, electricity, and loan payments, our 2011 Nissan Leaf has cost us somewhere in the region of $18,000 so far.
It has also saved us more than $10,000 in gasoline costs compared to our previous car, a 1992 Volvo 240 Wagon.
As for regrets? There are none.
In fact, driving the Leaf has become such a part of our family life that we’ve now invested in a second electric car: a 2013 Renault Twizy microcar.
Which means our gas-guzzling 2008 Toyota Prius is now relegated to the lowly position of long-distance third car.
This article originally appeared at Green Car Reports.