We know. You’ve put the deposit down, agonized over the charge station installation and felt a pang of jealousy when you discovered your 2011 Nissan LEAF won’t arrive for another four months.
But while all hopes that Santa is bringing that new electric car may be lost you can at least pass the time with the LEAF iPhone app. That is of course, if you own an iPhone.
Quietly uploaded to Apple’s app store last weekend to coincide with the first customer delivery of the 2011 Nissan LEAF, the iOS application allows LEAF owners to communicate with their car via Nissan’s CARWINGS telematics system.
For those of us still waiting for a car, Nissan decided to include a demonstration mode in the application. Even if you haven’t ordered a LEAF this enables you to download the free application and have a little play.
We couldn’t resist.
Switch On, Setup
On launching the app you’re given a simple choice: set up the program with your personal details for your own 2011 LEAF, or launch the application in demonstration mode. The application remembers your itinal choice, so next time you launch it it goes straight to whichever mode you've chosen. Clicking 'sign out' at the top of the screen enables you to switch between real and demonstration mode - great if you have a car but want to show the app to a coworker without disturbing your own car's charging cycle.
The main screen of the iPhone app shows the car's current status, with everything from state of charge and estimated range through to charging status, estimated charge completion time and climate control. Along the bottom of the window in the familiar place to iPhone users, are six icons representing the charge, climate control, update, contact and settings screens.
If you've used an iPhone before the applciation will feel fairly intuitave, although we do feel that the main screen does feel a little cramped as as much information as possible is displayed.
Email or Text Notifications
Part of Nissan's tech-drive in the LEAF includes the ability to request data from the car in real time. This is achieved by the iPhone applciation routing a request over the Internet through Nissan's own telematics system. Nissan warns that commands and status requests can take up to 5 minutes to be executed by the car.
However, the user can request important status updates, like charge completion notification, to be sent as either emails or text messages. If you're always loosing your phone or find it stays in your bag at work, having the car email you is an excellent way of staying in touch.
The one thing we feel should be noted, however, is that the iPhone application is not in direct contact with the LEAF. In order to find out the latest status of the car, an update has to be requested by the user. You can configure the application to update the status automatically at startup, but if you're using the iOS and run the application in the background, we think such updates won't happen.
Cool For Cats
One of the main features of the application besides setting remote charge options is the ability to preheat or precool the 2011 LEAF. As with the charging screen, Nissan allows users to pre-set a date as well as a time for cooling to take place, meaning a car can be left for days and still activate charging or climate control when required. We can see these features being particularly useful when returning to your car after a few days away, espeically if your return to the car involves a cold airport parking lot.
John Duncan takes delivery of one of the first 2011 Nissan LEAF EVs, near Portland OR, 12/15/2010Enlarge Photo
It Does What It Says
Without a real Nissan LEAF to play with, we have to admit the application loses its novelty quite quickly, since the demonstration mode offers very little. But if you have an iPhone, iPod or iPad and have a LEAF on order you can go and download it to see for yourself. You will need a U.S. iTunes account, however.
If you have your LEAF let us know how the app works in real life. We'd love to know.