Cars nissan leaf technological revolutions

Published on March 23rd, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


New Leaf Owner: “more fun than a van full of cheerleaders”

March 23rd, 2012 by  

nissan leaf technological revolutions

We received a comment on a post a couple weeks ago from someone (David Stead) who was about to go buy a Nissan Leaf. One of the other commenters requested that he update us from time to time on what it’s like to own and drive the Leaf. David, luckily, agreed to do that and left a wonderful comment the other day that I thought deserved a wider audience. Here’s the full update:

I’ve had the car since last Friday.

It is more fun than a van full of cheerleaders.

So far, the limited range hasn’t changed my weekend driving. My S.O. drives it to work, 20 miles or so each way, with no problems.

It is quick and quiet. And it’s quiet. I mean, it makes no noise. Did I say that enough?

Pedestrians are a problem. They walk right out in front of the car, even though they should see it. Auditory cues are apparently the dominant safety factor in parking lot situations. Leaf drivers all know this after about one day driving it around. You have to be CAREFUL with pedestrians.

Another issue Leaf drivers realize quickly is the amount of energy used in moving a vehicle down the road. The real-time energy usage gauges are an eye opener.

Abrupt, aggressive acceleration is a watt-killer. This is a lesson that can be crossed over into gas car driving. Ease away from the light, and save a ton of money on gas.

Also, in an electric car, there is no source of heat as a by-product of combustion as in a gasoline or diesel engine, so you have to consume battery power to heat the cabin. We were spoiled by our gas cars. Riding around in a tee-shirt in January is a luxury, it turns out. You have to be stingy in the electric car, and we are already habituated to donning our coats before getting into the Leaf.

No problemo though, as we consider ourselves adventurers with this car.

The Leaf is by far the most fun vehicle I have driven, with the possible exception of my old GSXR1000. It accelerates smartly, and the always-on torque makes the transition from 35mph to 60mph effortless. The normal sensations associated with acceleration, the noise and vibration, the gear-shifts, and the feeling that the car is “diggin-in” are not present. There is instead only a constant gentle push on your back as the car swims through the air as effortlessly as a barracuda through a swimming pool.

My only regret so far is that I wish they had not made all the concessions they made to make it look and feel like a “normal” car.

EV’s are a new paradigm, and I resent being strapped with vestigial things like a shifter and even foot controls. There simply is no reason to operate the car with your feet. An XBOX controller would be a nice operator interface, for example. But the old and the mentally-challenged would be confuddled by a totally new vehicle, and I understand the market imperative of not getting too far out ahead of your potential consumers.

Image: Nissan Leaf courtesy of shutterstock

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is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

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  • BrianKeez

    Congrats on the purchase David!
    You’ll find that the remote climate control is excellent. With a twenty mile commute, you may not need to turn on the heat while driving to stay comfortable.

  • John Tamplin

    In my LEAF, it makes an audible sound when below 25mph specifically for pedestrians — are you sure yours doesn’t have it as well?

    In my previous car which was a Camry Hybrid, I had exactly one case in 5 years where someone was about to walk out in front of me when I was running on battery. The horn made the car decidedly non-silent, so even without the pedestrian warning sound I never thought it was an issue.

    I don’t find the driving style on surface roads to have much impact on overall range (unless you are trying to hypermile) — by far the biggest impacts are driving high speed on the interstate and running the heater when it is cold.

  • bussdriver78

    Actually, I would like to see somebody dare to put seats backwards. It is the clearly proven most save position to be in. The driver likely facing forward (but not necessarily.) Everybody else should be looking out the back. at least the school bus should be doing this already.

    • Bob_Wallace

      You might force it on school buses, but I don’t think the car market would go along.

      Perhaps better to install radar-based collision avoidance systems.

      We’ve got the technology. It’s already on the road….

  • bussdriver78

    I have previously thought that alternative control methods would be nice but having though it over for years, I’ve decided that it would be foolish to change the car into a video game.

    Conventional style is another topic, I was an Aptera fan and on their list.

    1) people are used to and regulations revolve around the existing stuff. I would be great if side mirrors would removed for cameras and even a software helper.

    2) Course motor movement involved in driving a car provides safety and accessibility besides familiarity and leveraging existing skills. A game controller involves fine motor movement and besides– think about playing a game while jerking around over pot holes and small animals. Sure, you can’t eat at the same time or do anything else– but a tiny slip becomes a huge problem.

    Feet do nothing and having them simply push a surface is about as elegant a control as you can get. I’d make the pedals larger and position the brake for the LEFT foot. Nobody has to worry about using the both at the same time; this is not an old machine.

    Steering wheel – has a large contact surface and is not a hair trigger input device – plus it is well positioned for the air bag. you can alternate hands. use 1 hand.. change position on the wheel (no sweaty hands)
    I’ve driven a bobcat for years and I love the control much more than a car but you do get sick of your hand always being in the 1 possible position on each handle. (2 levers, 1 for each hand – bucket is done with feet.) Many benefits for this method over a wheel, but long term use and convenience (especially for doing things you shouldn’t while driving) it loses to the wheel. Handle bars have similar long term issues and limited control surface and positions.

    Gear shift. That I 100% agree with you on. No point in having those anywhere but for gearheads. Even high performance manual trans have a computer switch gears. Gear shift can be lit buttons; or a toggle switch. backwards/forwards.

    • dcmeserve

      As a sufferer of carpal tunnel syndrome, I cringe at the very thought of having to have that kind of continuous hand action required, in order to, you know, not die.

      On brake position — I believe there’s an additional safety reason to not use the left foot for the brake; it’s a matter of remembering which foot is for what. I have heard that there was a time when people were actually taught to use one foot for each, perhaps when automatic transmissions were new. And I think there’s a correlation between people who learned it that way, and those old folks who occasionally go barreling through farmers markets…

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