In the minds of many consumers, electric cars like the 2012 Nissan Leaf are over-priced, second-cars that are only capable of short trips around town. 

We’ve proven that sentiment wrong ourselves, covering just over 15,000 miles in a year in our 2011 Nissan Leaf. 

Earlier this week however, we found out about a 2011 Nissan Leaf owner who has covered 36,000 miles in a little over 11 months, proving once and for all that electric cars can tackle much more than the occasional shopping trip. 

Enter Steve Marsh, a financial controller at Taylor Shellfish in Washington state.

Faced with a 130-mile daily commute, Marsh decided to invest in the all-electric hatchback in an attempt to cut his weekly gas bill. 


“I really bought it with the idea that there was a chance I could save money buying this car,” he tells us. “My Honda Accord had over 300,000 miles on it and I started thinking about another car. I have driven more than 200,000 miles on every car we have owned so I looked at the Leaf expecting it to do the same.”

The savings weren't quite what he predicted, but still impressive.

“I thought maybe my net cost of ownership would be nearly zero after taking into account the much lower operating costs - like getting gasoline for $0.80/gallon. I now know that this expectation was unreasonable, but after all the tax credits and no sales tax in the state of Washington, I feel it is like purchasing a $23,000 new car. So far, at 36,000 miles, I’m now under $20,000 in equivalent costs.”

$99 deposit, test-driven later

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

Interestingly, although Marsh made the purchase decision based on financial reasoning, he still paid a $99 online reservation fee before even test-driving the car.  Some time later, he was offered the chance of a test-drive when Nissan’s 2011 Leaf tour arrived in Seattle. 

“It was cold, no snow but it was really cold,” he recounts. “My wife looked at it and said “It’s a regular car!” She was expecting something small like the Smart Car. We drove it around the block, and that was the end of our tour.”

As for the purchase experience? 

Marsh praises his online purchase experience, which was free of the usual price-haggling that most car buyers are used to. Instead, he describes the experience as extremely positive.

130 mile commute

Unlike the majority of Americans, Marsh’s daily commute is well beyond the 73-mile EPA-approved range of the Nissan Leaf. 

For him however, his long commute isn’t an issue. 

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

“We bought the house when the kids were born,” he explains. “We’ve lived here for 22 years, and now our kids are about to graduate from college. This house is paid for and this is the shortest commute I’ve had in my working life. It gives me a chance to wind down on the way home from work.”

Charging a must

However, driving 130 miles in a day is no mean feat in the Leaf, especially freeway driving.  

The only solution was for Marsh to get a charging station installed at his workplace. 

“I approached Ecotality and they didn’t want to place one where I work,” Marsh recounts. “I approached one of the owners of my firm explaining there would be good PR for a shellfish company to be one of the first to install a public charging station. They agreed.”

Initially, Marsh’s colleagues were bemused by his new car choice.

“They offered to give me a couple AA batteries if it would help and so on,” he laughs. “But recently one said it might turn out to be a good decision given the current gas prices and how trouble-free the Leaf has been for me.”

Steve Marsh's 2011 Nissan Leaf: 11 Months, 36,000 Miles

Steve Marsh's 2011 Nissan Leaf: 11 Months, 36,000 Miles

36,000 miles, no hassle

While the photograph above shows a slightly lower odometer reading, Marsh now assures us he’s hit the 36,000 mile mark.  During that time he says, his 2011 Nissan Leaf has behaved impeccably. 

Driving between 62 and 65 miles one way, depending on the route he chooses, Marsh says he’s on track to be just shy of 40,000 miles this year. 

On his daily commute, Marsh averages 60 mph, and notes that while he does use the car on weekdays, it gets a little rest at the weekend for longer “500 mile weekend trips”.

The only down side? In colder winter weather, Marsh says he had to sacrifice warmth for range, in order to make sure he arrived.

“Using the heat for an hour plus would use the equivalent of 12 miles of range - so I went the whole winter rarely using the heat longer than it took to defog the windows,” he recounts. “Multiple layers of clothes, gloves and a hat on me, while the passenger window was cracked open helped. A seat heater plugged into the 12v adapter kept my back and backside warmer,” he continues. 

Marsh says he’s unaware of any loss in capacity, although admits he does have some concern that will happen.  He tells us that he has tried to notice, but like watching children grow, it must happen too gradually. 

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

Nevertheless, Marsh is convinced the loss is negligible, telling us that he thinks his Leaf has lost maybe a few percent of battery capacity in the last 11 months. 


After 36,000 miles, you’d expect Marsh to know his car well, and he does. 

But according to Marsh, the only real bugbears with the Leaf is the lack of leather seating and intermittent connectivity to the Nissan Carwings onboard telematics system. 

After such a short time and such a long distance, Marsh’s story certainly helps blow away the myth that electric cars can’t take the daily strain of long-distance commutes. 

We’d like to offer Marsh our congratulations and wish him many more happy all-electric commutes, but have one question. 

Do you know of someone who has driven further in less time? 

Let us know in the Comments below. 


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