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Europe: Nissan Leaf: One-Year Drive Report

Here’s what we’ve learned about owning an electric car for 15,000 miles.

We’ve owned a Nissan Leaf for one year.
We use the Leaf daily, traveling at least 40 miles round trip.
These are the pros and cons of owning the Leaf, according to us.

We’ve saved an estimated $5,454 in gasoline over the fuel cost of our previous car, a 1992 Volvo 240 Wagon.
Nissan

On March 28, 2011, my wife and I took delivery of a European-specification 2011 Nissan Leaf, since we live in the United Kingdom. Now, a day short of our one-year anniversary with the car, the odometer has 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?

PHOTOS: Top 10 Fastest Electric Vehicles

Reliability

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. 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 because 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 driver’s 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.

DNEWS VIDEO: FUTURE OF CARS AND TRANSPORTATIONRange, 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 miles on a charge several times and even traveled 120 miles with a few hours of top-up charging. We’ve gotten less than 50 miles only when the heating was on high during sub-zero temperatures and heavy, aggressive freeway driving.

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

Our biggest gripe has been with Nissan’s online and smartphone telematics service, called Carwings.

The service is designed to let you interact with your car remotely to check the state of a charge, plan routes and precondition the car as necessary. But we’ve found it to be severely bug-ridden, with continued connectivity issues throughout the majority of the year. The Carwings database of charging stations is patchy at best and inaccurate at other times.

NEWS: Nissan Eyes 1.5 Million Electric Cars by 2016

In fact, during the past year, Carwings has directed us to charging stations in the United Kingdom that were either non-existent or reserved for private use by the company who owned them.

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