2011 Nissan Leaf: One-Year Drive Report

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2011 Nissan Leaf: One Year Drive Report

2011 Nissan Leaf: One Year Drive Report

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On March 28, 2011, I took delivery of a European-specification 2011 Nissan Leaf. 

Yesterday, a few days short of our 1-year anniversary with the car, its odometer passed the 15,000 mile mark.

But what have we learned about Nissan’s first electric car after living with it daily for a year? 


As with most new cars today, our 2011 Nissan leaf has been extremely reliable over the past 15,000 miles. 

In fact, to date, we’ve not run out of charge or broken down.

2011 Nissan Leaf: One Year Drive Report

2011 Nissan Leaf: One Year Drive Report

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What we have experienced however, are some minor faults which we’ve had to refer to the dealer. 

  • During early June, the cover on the USB port for the audio system snapped, requiring a replacement part. 
  • Shortly after delivery, we noticed one front caliper had begun to rust as it was incorrectly sprayed at the factory. This was replaced under warranty at the 13,000-mile mark. 
  • During winter months, all four windows were slow to operate. At its peak, the drivers’ side window refused to rise properly. This was remedied by a team of engineers from Nissan Japan, and shown to be a defect in manufacturing. 

All work was carried out under warranty.

Range, Predicted Range

Although our Leaf is used daily for a 40-mile round commute, we’ve regularly seen 70 miles from a full charge, even with a heavily-laden car. 

With careful driving, we’ve managed 80 several times and even traveled 120 miles with a few hours of top-up charging.  With heating on full, a sub-zero outside temperature and heavy, aggressive freeway driving, we’ve gotten less than 50 miles out of a full charge. 

During the past year, we’ve learned to not rely on the Nissan Leaf’s on-board range calculator.  Notoriously inaccurate, it must have told us at least 80 times in the past year that we wouldn’t reach our destination, when in every case we did. 

Carwings, Charging

In the past year, our main gripes have been with Nissan’s online and smartphone telematics service, Carwings. 

Designed to let you interact with your car remotely to check state of charge, plan routes and precondition the car as necessary, we’ve found Carwings to be severely bug-ridden, with continued connectivity issues throughout the majority of the year. 

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

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In some cases too, we’ve found the Carwings database of charging stations to be patchy at best, and inaccurate at other times.

In fact, during the past year, we’ve been directed to charging stations in the U.K. by Carwings that were either non-existent, or reserved for private use by the company who owned them. 

A lack of awareness about current charging station infrastructure from Carwings, combined with poor field support form third-party charging station suppliers, has meant that at times, charging has caused a major problem. 

For reference, although it isn’t the fault of Nissan, we’ve arrived at eight charging stations during the year which were non-operational. In three of those cases, we had to call for a tow due to remaining range of less than 10 miles.

Most importantly, however, the Nissan Leaf charging cable has never let us down, charging the car every night from our 240-volt standard U.K. domestic outlet. 

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Comments (27)
  1. 3 tows because of inability to charge? Ouch. I wonder how the average Joe Six Pack would have tolerated a single tow for this reason. For most people, a range extender (such as in the Volt) is the only acceptable way to go.

  2. The volt is simply a plug in hybrid and is unnecessary. Electric is the future. If Nissan's thing was reliable it wouldn't be a problem. I don't see people needing towed any more often than a gas car. Gas cars are much more likely to break down because all of the stuff in them. What is an electric car other than a big battery, motor, and some tires?

  3. It has a cooling system and tons of electronics that are just begging for trouble eventually :-)

  4. Nissan's "thing" IS reliable. If you re-read Nikki's piece, it's the public charging infrastructure that has let her down.

    In my year of LEAF ownership I've charged away from the standard "overnight" home charge less than 10 times.

  5. For what it's worth, we've had our Leaf for 14 months and 10K miles, and have never even come close to running out of charge. Journalists like to test the limits. Joe Six Pack just wants to get to work and home without drama.

  6. Hi Trevor.

    For the record, this particular car is my own personal car, one I paid nearly $40,000 for (U.K. list price).

    Believe me, I haven't tried pushing the limits! ;)



  7. In a sense you have by depending on an unreliable infant charging network for some of your drives. At this stage of the game you cannot expect to be able to charge reliably away from home, as you've discovered. I'm sure early ICE drivers experienced much of the same.

  8. True, claiming that you never ran out of charge and then mentioning the tows is deceptive at best but, granted, it's not the car's fault... But the rusted caliper and faulty window mechanism is, so I wouldn't call it bulletproof either. My 10-year old Trooper is (had it since new) which had one unscheduled dealer visit for a leaking seal last year. As far as the carpet goes, you should have bought the all weather rubber mats that protect and cover the interior perfectly and are easy to clean and vaccum. They're supposedly not for 2012s but they work fine in my case (the fit is only slightly imperfect on the passenger side due to the new vent duct I guess.) How did the battery check go?

  9. Does the Europeean model come with a 220 volt portable brick charger? In the usa, the Leaf only comes with a 110 volt charger. There is an after market "upgrade" available for a few hundred dollars though...

  10. Yes, a 10A 220v EVSE comes with the UK car. I believe different European LEAF markets get different EVSE's from 8A to 16A.

  11. I mean 240 volt...

  12. I'm afraid if you drive the car through an automatic car 'wash' you cannot expect anything but damage! They will scratch anything, probably glass even. If you don't want a swirled to death finish on your car you cannot ever use automated washers.

  13. Very interesting report, particularly the real world range experience. The rather poor sub 50 miles winter range indicates that a bigger battery is needed for this car to have any serious all weather commuting range. The poorly functioning charging point locator is a rather inexcusable mistake of Nissan and out of order charging stations must be a nightmare for EV owners who had planned their trip around them.

    Clearly it isn't always easy to be an early adopter....

  14. I have to say that in the winter I never got less than 73 miles with the heater on. It all depends on how much heat you use, I guess.

  15. I can take it on the highway right now and get fewer than 60 miles in no time at all. The heat is one thing but the speed is what really matters. Highway range sucks.

  16. Agreed. In the case I was getting very low range, the car was full, it was -5, and I was climbing a large, long hill at 70+ mph.

  17. If you do get left dead in the water, is there a tow truck that can come and give your Leaf an instant charge to get you home?

  18. In the U.S., AAA is experimenting with such a service:

  19. "...saved an estimated $5,454 in gasoline over the fuel cost of our previous car,..."

    So that is over one year. Right?

    "also had to pay nearly $1000 in combined loan payments, insurance and electricity costs,"

    So $1000, in loan payments over the same one year period? Seems doubtful unless you put down a huge down payment. Seems more likely that the loan would be $1000 every two months.

  20. Well spotted John,

    I actually meant $10,000! Thanks for spotting that. And yes, This is over a 1 year period.

  21. Thanks for the report Nikki.

    Can you tell us more about the window motor problem? I noticed that the windows in my car to roll up and down pretty slowly when it's cold outside. Did they replace the motors, or is that the way they work? I've never had the windows not work, but I don't think it gets at cold here as it does for you.


  22. Nikki, mind telling us just how low you've taken the battery pack, please? Low Battery warning? Very Low battery warning? Remaining number of bars/mi(km) etc? I used to think that 70 or so miles was all I could get, too, but learned that the bottom of the pack holds a greater reserve - you just have to be a little daring is all. Much thanks for your posts.

  23. Alex,

    So far, the lowest I've ever got is the Very Low Battery Warning, which I've experienced a handful of times in the past year. I've never got to below that, or experienced turtle mode.

    The lowest miles remaining has been a flashing 4 miles, followed by a flashing dash.

  24. I have had mine for a year as well. It flat out rocks. Handling, performance, and comfort.

    It is my daily car used for transporting kids to school and all daily chores.

    Give me an infrastructure and I would not drive any other car.

  25. Good report. I read with interest the bit on the windows not rising properly in the winter.

    I had warranty work done on my passenger door this last winter, they replaced the window track, but it didn't seem to address the issue. I waited until tire rotation time to point out the fault only to find the window was working normally in March. I never considered the cold in the winter might be involved. I'll be interested if my window issue returns again this coming winter.

    You said you never ran out of charge, but three tows is a lot IMHO. I rely upon PlugShare in the US to keep track of reliable charging stations. Are there any good 3rd party charging network apps available in the UK?

  26. 3 tows...interesting. Begs the question, wheels up or wheels down? If wheels down then was the battery not recharged before reaching your destination?

  27. We've had ours for 1 year and 10K miles. Not a single problems range from 80-140 depending on temps and speed. Never needed a tow. Worked great even in 110F teperatures this summer in Arizona, love it.
    No electric bill since we have GRID Tied solar that makes more than we use for the home and LEAF.

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