2011 Nissan Leaf: Free Recharging At Dealers, Except When They Balk

EDITOR'S NOTE: We received the article below on July 6th from Nissan Leaf owner Bill Schwartz, and asked Nissan Americas for a comment before we published it.

Brendan Jones, director of Leaf marketing and sales strategy, said that the comments by the Surf City Nissan employee "were not authorized statements," and that the owner of the dealership was "extremely upset" by the incident, which had already been brought to his attention by Nissan when High Gear Media received Schwartz's article.

Most states legally require cars to be sold by independently owned parties--i.e. car dealers--and make it illegal for car companies to sell you a car directly. That means Nissan cannot always control the actions of its dealers, though it can recommend, advise, and admonish, as it appears to have done here.

Offering charging services "is a way to bring people to Nissan dealers," Jones said, adding that many Nissan dealers were happy to provide recharging to drivers of electric cars from other carmakers as well, as space permits.


2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

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The 2011 Nissan Leaf is a 100-percent electric car. On a full charge, it travels anywhere from 50 miles if you run the air conditioner and climb hills hard to 100-plus miles if you baby the pedal, keep the air conditioner or heater off, and drive at 55 mph on nice flat streets or highways.

For those thinking of buying a Leaf, let me assure you about one thing -- it's fun to drive and gets you where you want to go, as long as you have enough electric juice to get you there.

But the success of the Leaf beyond duties as a short-haul commuter car for work or errands depends totally on the availability of charging stations away from home. Early studies have pegged that 85 percent of charging will be done at night in owners' garages, mostly with a Level 2 charger that does the job in 6 hours or less.

"Range anxiety" (the fear of running out of electric charge) is the main reason most people won't go near an electric car. Even though the average person drives less than 50 miles a day -- more than adequate for a Leaf -- just knowing you can't jump in the car and drive to some exotic destination at the drop of a hat is a buzz killer.

Amazingly, even Leaf owners are susceptible to this fear...which brings me to the incident that prompted this article.

Fast Charging 2011 Nissan Leaf

Fast Charging 2011 Nissan Leaf

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After a few weeks of short trips doing errands to the bank and dry cleaner, I decided it was time to take the plunge. The Fourth of July weekend was party time, specifically a shindig at my brother-in-law's in Huntington Beach, California. I live in Agoura, about 75 miles away. On a full charge with no air conditioning, I figured I could make it without incident.

Nissan is a smart company. It knows "range anxiety" is a huge buyer issue, and it has instituted a very credible charging system. Every Nissan dealer is required to offer a minimum of two Level 2 charging stations for Leaf drivers to use, for free. 

Call it an incentive to buy a Leaf. I call it smart. There are lots of dealers across the county and if a Leaf driver is really dedicated, s/he can drive the Leaf just about anywhere -- assuming adequate time to spend, a good book to read, or laptop work to be done during the recharging period.

My wife wouldn't come with me to the party; neither would my daughter. They didn't want to get stuck. I assured them little "Greenfoot" (that's what I call my Leaf) would make it just fine. They smiled and wished me a nice drive; they'd meet me in Huntington Beach.

I left an hour before they did. I figured I'd keep my speed at 60 mph and crack the window in lieu of the air conditioner just to be safe. When I left my house I had a full charge and the electronic calculator estimated I could drive 105 miles. I was feeling pretty good.

My 70-plus-mile drive was completely and utterly uneventful: light traffic and some decent talk on the radio. I used the Nissan Carwings navigation system to locate the Nissan dealer closest to my destination for recharging: Surf City Nissan, in Huntington Beach.

Fantastic. What a cool spot to recharge my Leaf!

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