Almost a year ago, I wrote an article about the first 40,000 miles in my Nissan LEAF. The second-generation LEAF promised greater range, more power, and has come in a variety of improved configurations since going on sale in late 2017. With its more mainstream looks, plenty of first-time EV buyers probably have the car on their list, but want to know how it’s going to hold up in the long run. Fortunately, I continue to drive this car a lot, and can give you an idea of what to expect.
Given the LEAF’s history of battery degradation problems (mostly plaguing the 2011–2012 model years), readers are probably wondering how the battery is holding up. I’m happy to report that it still has all 12 capacity “bars” on the dash display, but only barely. Using an OBD-II Bluetooth dongle and the LeafSpy Pro app, the battery state of health is 86.8%. With the Nissan LEAF, the first bar is worth 15% and subsequent bars are 7.5% each, so I will probably be losing the first bar in the near future.
Given that this car has been in the desert Southwest for nearly all of its life, those numbers are actually not that bad. About half of these miles were in the Phoenix, Arizona metro area, and the rest in and near El Paso, TX. Fast charging was also used regularly, so there were many times when the battery pack’s temperature got quite hot.
This degradation definitely has impacted the car’s usefulness for any travel out of town. Since I wrote my article about taking a very difficult road trip in the vehicle, infrastructure has improved somewhat. That trip to Phoenix, the Grand Canyon, and the Petrified Forest would go far better were I to do it again today, but there would still be difficulty. It seems that Electrify America has planned its network locations with a 200+ mile EV in mind, leaving places where my vehicle and its 13% capacity loss wouldn’t quite make it to the next CHAdeMO station.
As infrastructure improves, a 40 kWh EV may become a viable road trip option, but if you plan on doing much traveling, I’d definitely recommend getting something with more range. The LEAF Plus models have a 60 kWh battery pack, but still don’t have liquid cooling. A Chevy Bolt or a Tesla would both be better performers.
Despite the shortcomings, the vehicle continues to be great for local and even regional commuting. In these 60,000 miles, there were no oil changes, no tuneups, and no other powertrain maintenance needed. As with most EVs, tire wear is still a bit of an issue. I’ve worn out 6 tires so far.
The LEAF has only been in the shop two times for warranty and recall work. The first time was just under 30,000 miles, when there were loose axle nuts. The dealer replaced them both. The second time in the shop was just before the drivetrain warranty ran out. This second time, the dealer replaced both axles, as they had developed play in the CV joints (but without any ripped boots, oddly enough). While it was there, it also got the bonding plate recall work performed and the “Rapidgate” software update.
Outside of warranty, the only things that have broken are a door handle on the driver’s door and a power door lock actuator in one of the rear doors. Those issues are both within the realm of what I could do myself, and definitely can be handled by an independent shop. For people foolish enough to have work done at stealerships out of warranty, those things could have cost hundreds of dollars. Caveat emptor.
Regarding “Rapidgate,” having just received the update, I cannot yet tell how well it performs with rapid charging at this point. I wanted to get this update much earlier last year, but the nearest Nissan dealer that works on LEAFs is 60 miles away.
Which brings me to my next point: the service and support network. One would think that having access to the Nissan dealer network would give this vehicle an edge over Tesla, as there are service departments all over — but you’d be wrong on that point. Not all Nissan dealers’ service departments are LEAF certified. In the smaller city I live in (pop. 100,000), there is one Nissan dealer, but it doesn’t have a LEAF technician. The next biggest city is El Paso (pop. around 1M, not counting Ciudad Juarez), and out of three Nissan dealers, only one works on LEAFs. In New Mexico, there are only LEAF dealers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, leaving the whole rest of the state without any technicians.
We don’t know at this point whether rural dealers will get with the program, but it could be years. Independent shops may cover this need sooner than Nissan, but that wouldn’t help with things covered by warranty.
All in all, it has been a very reliable and good vehicle considering how much and how hard I drive it. I haven’t babied this car at all, and it has never left me stranded except on one occasion when I stupidly ran out of battery 2 miles from home.
If you’re looking for a cheaper EV and live in an area that doesn’t get terribly hot in the summer, it’s probably going to be an okay pick for most drivers.
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