Like The Plug, Not The Range: Leaf Owner Trades In For Volt (Ampera)

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2012 Vauxhall Ampera

2012 Vauxhall Ampera

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When the 2011 Nissan Leaf launched at the end of 2010, many environmentally-conscious drivers took the plunge and decided to buy one, hoping to leave gasoline behind for good. 

For the majority of Leaf owners, Leaf ownership does just that. For some others, however, a lack of reliable public charging, unreliable range prediction and a few flat batteries has left them feeling let down about NIssan’s first electric car. 

We’ve tracked down one such person, a retiree, who decided that life with a Leaf was too stressful.

His solution? Buy a Chevrolet Volt, or rather a Vauxhall Ampera, a European-market version of the Volt with a different front end. 

Flat battery

Dan Green from the U.K. (name changed at his request) didn’t take his decision to switch lightly.  Unlike Chicago-based Paul Berrkens, who replaced his Leaf with a Volt after just one month of ownership, Green drove his Leaf for 18 months before he decided to trade it in. 

His reason for doing so?  Range anxiety.

Nissan Leaf: Lost Battery Capacity

Nissan Leaf: Lost Battery Capacity

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“The Leaf’s dashboard range indication is a joke,” he told us. “I’ve been brought home twice on the back of a flatbed truck and almost not made it home at least 10 other times.”

Green is keen to point out however, that it isn’t all Nissan’s fault. Even with a home charging unit, however, he struggled with range anxiety.

“The (U.K.) charging network has failed to keep up with the sale of electric cars,” he said. “Although the tow truck drivers were friendly, being taken away on a flatbed truck turns a 1.5 hour journey into a 3.5 hour one. That’s okay if you’re on your own, but it doesn’t impress your passengers and doesn’t help the cause of electric cars.”

Kid gloves

While he loved the level of technology in the Leaf, and its integrated Carwings telematics and satellite navigation system, Green said the Ampera's backup gasoline engine made driving much less stressful. 

“Both times I ran out of charge it became obvious that I wasn’t going to make it home, so I left the motorway and took quieter roads rather than break down on a busy motorway,” he told us. 

In busy periods, driving much slower than everyone else on the freeway in order to maximize range became frustrating too, Green explained. 

For Green, that amount of worrying about range meant that driving to see friends and family wasn’t as enjoyable as it should have been. 

Something had to change. 

2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

Enlarge Photo


“I walked into the local dealer, and they gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Green said. 

Because he had paid cash when he purchased the Leaf back in 2011, Green had the fortunate advantage of not having to worry about finance payments or lease schemes.  That, he speculates, along with having cash-in hand for the new purchase, gave him an extra bargaining chip when he traded it in for an Ampera.

“A few days later, I got a call from my Nissan dealer, asking how I was getting on with the Leaf,” Green laughed. “I had to tell them I’d traded it in for a Vauxhall Ampera. They were nice enough, but shocked.”


We asked Green to list what he prefers about the Ampera, and what he misses about the Leaf.  

Green says the Leaf has the edge when it comes to price and in-car technology, citing its Carwings system and satellite navigation system among the things he misses. 

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Comments (28)
  1. We are in total disagreement with this driver's evaluation of the sat nav on the Leaf vs. Volt. We have both cars, and our experience with the GPS system on the Leaf has been and continues to be....a frustrating joke on us. In every way we have needed the system on even the first generation Volt has been totally superior to that on the Leaf.

  2. Futher, for many reasons including the clear range limits on the Leaf, we WILL be replacing it as soon as the lease expires ....with the Tesla S.

  3. bully for you.

  4. I have had the liberty to test drive both the Leaf and the Volt. I have to say that both cars aren't for everyone but they do fit in the lifestyle of some people. What I find humorous is that he couldn't operate on a 65-75 mile range but he hasn't used a drop of gas on a 40 mile range? Sounds like because now he has to pay a much higher premium for gas, he won't touch it until he absolutely has to! While I understand range anxiety, its the same for a gas car, don't run out. A gas car runs out of fuel just like and electric car runs out of electrons. The only difference is that gas stations can be found more frequently then charging stations.

  5. He owned the Leaf for 18 monts, ran out of juice twice and nearly ran out 10 times. Sounds like a longer trip less than once a month. So not surprising he has not used much gas. (Must have used some to have only 250MPG..)

    If your gas car needed you top stop and refill every 60-70 miles and only at special places, you'd have anxiety too as you might have single trips that absolutely require a refill.

    I've test driven the leaf, but bought the Volt. And for me its not just range anxiety. We are a two-car family, so I could have swapped rides for my longer trips -- but if I had I would have used more than 20 gallons MORE of gas by owning a leaf than a Volt. The other car is a AWD CUV that gets 27MPG.. the volt on highway is 40!

  6. I think you misinterpreted what he said. He did not say he hasn't "Used a drop of gas", rather: "So far, he admits he hasn’t filled up with gasoline, with most of his trips being within the range of the Ampera's 16 kilowatt-hour battery pack." This means that he has driven less than about 325-360 miles on gasoline and although has used gas he hasn't used a tank full yet.

  7. "The only difference is that gas stations can be found more frequently then charging stations."

    PLUS the fact that you can refuel with gas in 5 minutes where it takes better part of an hour to effectively "refuel" the Leaf. (I have a Chevy Volt on order...)

  8. The UK really needs to upgrade their charging station infrastructure, most of the charge points are Level 1, they need some Level 3 points ever 25 miles along the Major Motorways and they need Level 2 charging stations in all the major parking garages.

  9. I find the limited range of the Leaf to be a nkn issue. Nissan made it clear that the range was based on dri ing conditions and made a great chart of expected distances based on driving scenarios.
    Now with the expe Ted 20-30% range degradation expected my decision was based on my driving needs verses the expected charging infrastructure improvememts covering that loss
    This has worked for me on two levels. Despite the slower than expected charger rollouts we arestill making progress daily albeit a bit slowly. But after 18,000+ miles I still have my full range. Granted for me its not 100 miles for my type of driving but with better monitoring tools I am comfortable putting 85 miles on a chargein summer. Last sat ended best week ever of 402.5

  10. 402.5 miles mostly from the DCFCs install Ed in the area. Now there are huge holes in the quick charge network but more are being announced and this greatly enhances the LEAFs ability to be a "regional" transportation option

    now some will argue that getting 50 miles of range in 30 minutes is not their definition of convenience and I wholeheartedly agree. In my 12 QC events only 2 have exceeded 12 minutes. By charging only the bottom to middle part of the battery pack I find that I can get 30 miles of range in abiut 10 minutes making me realize that having a network with DCFCs every 10 miles apart or so would eliminate nearly all my concerns

  11. if they had them every 25 miles, that's about a third of a full charge, so it would allow drivers to depart with say a half charge and realize it and still be able to find a Level 3 station without a crisis, but, for now the Leaf requires a bit of planning.

  12. Pretty anecdotal. Of course a car with a limited range like the Leaf doesn't fit everybody's driving habits, but as a second car purposely bought for local errants and fixed commutes it could certainly work and could in fact end up covering most of your yearly miles. Many people don't need every car in their household to be roadtrip capable.

    Still, I don't expect leaf sales to take off until a better (double) range version becomes available, which I expect in 2015.

  13. I agree, a second gas car for long trips is a good way to go for some, but you do have all the expenses of TWO cars then. Insurance, registration, maintenance, perhaps financing, etc. The Volt was my choice because even fully loaded it's cheaper than two cars and I stay within the electric range most of the time but can take longer trips at will and without switching cars.

  14. you just need to occasionally break down and rent a car for the weekend. Urbanites in DC and NY and Boston often have no car but use zipcars for day errands and rent a car for the weekend for shopping or trips.

  15. if the range would even increase to 100 miles it would be a big deal because then you could do the 85% trip both ways with charge to spare, instead, you are on the fine line.

  16. The only way any Leaf owner can leave gasoline for good is to never drive beyond the initial driving radius, which calculated using the EPA figures, is a scant 37 miles. At the start. Considering capacity losses, how about less than 30 miles
    at the five year mark? A viable replacement for a gas powered anything? Get real. However, for those that own them, consider holding on to them and waiting for cost effective (and decent) batteries to arrive. I don't think you'll have long to wait. Makes more sense to me than taking a financial bath unloading the vehicle, which seems to be OK except for those batteries.

  17. Seems you don't understand either car. The leaf has an EPA 73mile range, not 37.

    And for the Volt/ampera, it has EPA 35 mile EV range, with it becoming 38 for the improved 2013 model.

  18. Assuming there is no charging infrastructure where you're going and you can only charge at home, the stated 37 mile trip radius is appropriate. In the Volt/Ampera you will likely be gas free until you arrive at your destination and simply use gas to get home or to your next charging opportunity.

  19. Of course there is charging infrastructure wherever you are going, assuming you can find a standard household electrical outlet. Depending on how long your commute is, 8 hours of charging while you're at work anyway will get you another 40-50 miles or so of range (at 120V).

    As to the comments about needing two cars to replace the Volt... um, hello? Don't most people live with another adult, who needs another car? Buy one EV and one hybrid. Problem solved unless both of you need to drive a long distance the exact same day.

  20. you just need to plan to use charging stations. While charging points are not common yet, they are growing and with a little creative social engineering one can find 220 V dryer plugs in many a place.

  21. The Leaf is for those that want a second car because the range anxiety will eat at you....most people drive more than 100 miles in the states several times per year at a minimum...


  22. point taken, but if the Level 3 charging infrastructure expands like we see on I-5 on the west coast, you can now drive all the way to seattle and still recharge, we just need the same thing on I-95 and I-70

  23. This guy basically summarized the exact reason why GM decided to add a gas engine to the Volt. Range Anxiety!

    That is exactly why Volt makes more sense before we have the electric network ready. GM already learned that lesson from EV1. Infrastractures take decades to build.

  24. Yes, infrastructure is the problem. If only we had tens of thousands of miles of copper cable strewn throughout the country, carrying electricity to every building. Then we'd be on to something.
    Seriously, I couldn't get more than a mile away from an electric plug if I tried!

  25. Well, cynical but NOT practical...

    Not all electric network are available for charging your Leaf. Some of them just don't have enough spare wattage. Not to mention time. Also, once you leave the comfort of your cities, rural and burbs might be a different story...

  26. back in the old days, oftentimes a country traveler would knock at the door of a farm house with a gas can and buy a gallon or two of gas from a farmer. Now, we may just have to have a intrepid traveller knock on the door of a suburban house and ask if they can plug into a dryer outlet.

  27. I know this is a site about electric car tech, and I guess I'm the only shallow one here, but I think the Leaf is one of the ugliest cars on the road. I own a 2012 Black Volt. I can go on and on about why I feel the Volt is the best thing going. But even if I saw the Leaf's specs as on par with a Volt, I'd not buy one because the vehicle is strikingly unattractive.

  28. I've heard people say that about the VOlt Grille too. You can't please everyone.

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