Why I Got Rid Of My LEAF
If you’ve been reading CleanTechnica for a few years or more, you might remember my first post here, where I talked about my experiences with my 2018 Nissan LEAF. There was some good to share, some bad to share, and some downright ugly to share. Since then, I’ve done crazy things, like drive the LEAF on a 1200 mile trip in rural Arizona and New Mexico, and suffer quite a bit both from the sorry state of 2019 non-Tesla EV charging infrastructure and the shortcomings of the LEAF. After pressuring Nissan to fix the #Rapidgate issue, I tested it again to see if they improved the charging speeds, and it turned out that very little changed.
As the miles wore on, things got quite a bit worse. Degradation continued to stack up, eventually reaching about 18%. CV joints had problems a third time, and the car started eating tires at an accelerated rate (which was obviously bad for range). A power door lock broke. An interior plastic part that should have been removable broke, and was nearly a $200 fix. The battery meter started swinging wildly during normal driving in mild weather, among a number of other irritations.
And, no, I never took the car to the track, street raced it, or did anything super harsh to it (there’s a couple of LEAF Stans on here who’ve repeatedly accused me of that in the comments). For most of the car’s life, it was used for urban/suburban commuting (the first 40k miles in the Phoenix metro area), taking kids to school, grocery getting, etc. If anything, I babied the car with my constant hypermiling. The hot Arizona and New Mexico climate and poor parts quality just stacked up against me.
I’m sure there are many people out there who are very happy with their second-generation Nissan LEAF, and I’m not bothered by other people who’ve had better experiences than I did. I actually think it’s pretty cool that an EV model is succeeding, because we need that. If I drove less, lived in a cooler climate, wasn’t carrying kids around, and didn’t buy one of the first cars out of the factory, I’d probably be a lot happier, too.
It just wasn’t working out for me with my particular early copy of the car, and as they say, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).
Finding A Good Replacement On A Budget Was A Challenge
If it weren’t for the Model 3 production ramp problems of 2018, I probably wouldn’t have ever bought the LEAF. Getting an EV on a lower budget is already a challenge, and has been for a long time. I spent about $37k on the LEAF, but it was supposed to cost about $32k (the dealer pulled a paperwork scam and ripped me off for the difference, and I didn’t notice until later). Had the promised $35,000 Model 3 been available when I needed a car in 2018, I would have gone with that.
So, in some ways, the LEAF was always something I had settled for and wanted to get out of when I could. But, I was very hesitant to get into a bigger car payment, and the dealer ripoff situation had me underwater in the car. So, I waited a few more years, and had to endure constant complaining about the car from my wife.
As we got thoroughly sick of the car in 2022, we found ourselves in a pretty tough situation. I had hoped that a used Tesla or a used Bolt EV would be around by now at great prices, and that I’d be able to come out of a switch with a lower payment than I had for the Nissan. But, used car prices went absolutely insane this year, often exceeding the price of a new car (that you probably couldn’t get).
And new EVs? Fuggheddaboutit. I make decent money writing here and the cost of living in New Mexico is low, but I also have four kids who aren’t getting any cheaper as more of them become teens. I can’t spend $48,000 on a car, no matter how cool the car is. Ideally, I need to keep the price around $30k if I want to be financially responsible and not accomplish this by opening up an OnlyFans.
GM Seems To Understand This Dilemma
While I write these articles for our readers, that doesn’t mean I don’t also read them and think about how they affect me personally. One article I wrote a couple of months ago explained GM’s strategy for catching up with Tesla (a task that still looks almost impossible). But GM does seem to be in a good position to undercut Tesla and snag an portion of the market Tesla doesn’t dominate.
“To really get to 30, 40, 50% EVs being sold, you have to appeal to people that are in that $30,000 to $35,000 price range,” GM’s CEO Mary Barra told AP.
I was like, “Hey! That’s me! I’m that ‘$30,000 to $35,000 price range’.”
For that part of the market I live in, the recently announced Equinox EV that’s supposed to start at $30,000 and run on the Ultium Platform sounds great, but GM didn’t want to wait for that vehicle to start taking market. For years, its Bolt EVs have had discounts putting them below $30,000 new much of the time. For 2023, those low prices will be made permanent, and the remaining 2022 Bolt EV and EUV vehicles on dealer lots and on order all come with $6300 factory incentives to match 2023 model year prices.
I was able to get a Bolt EUV Premier (with no sunroof, Bose audio, and Super Cruise) for about $30,000. Even adding on what little negative equity the LEAF still had, a basic protection plan, and some accessories, I’m still signed up for a very comfortable and responsible car payment for my income and family situation.
Other than the Nissan LEAF, that’s the only electric vehicle in that price range for sale in North America, and that’s probably going to continue to be the case for some time.
How I’m Liking It So Far
In the future, I’ll be writing more detailed articles about the car’s features and how I’m liking them, but I’ll go ahead and share my first impressions here.
When I first heard that GM was making a slightly bigger Bolt, it seemed like more American crossover madness. Losing range when you’re not adding seats or capability (towing, off-road, etc) is just wasteful, right? But, when I got a chance to look in person, I figured out pretty quickly that the extra legroom and extra space on the second row made an important difference in a family with teenagers (I had no teen kids in 2018). So, the 10-mile range hit is actually worth it for the safety and comfort of my older kids.
Being able to pick up the Premier package for less than the 2018 LEAF’s MSRP was is also nice. Features like perforated leather seats (easier to clean), driver assist (adaptive cruise, lane keep assist, 360 parking cameras, blind spot warning), and heated seating all make the vehicle far better for the family. The better range and liquid/refrigerated battery cooling also make the vehicle a lot more useful for my family’s transportation needs.
When it comes to driving feel, I like it a lot when put into Sport mode. For power, the Sport mode is kind of a gimmick, as pushing the pedal to the floor doesn’t produce any more power than in normal mode (you get 200 HP and 266 lb-ft either way). But, the car lightens the assist from the electric power steering in Sport mode, which does make for a more engaging driving experience by giving you more feedback and feel of the road. With 42 PSI tire pressure (only 4 PSI above recommended, and still below sidewall pressure), you get better range and a slightly stiffer ride, making for a better on-road feel.
All of this makes it better than the LEAF enough for my wife to ask me if I could take us on some road trips in the thing. Obviously, this would require a lot more patience than just gassing up our Jetta (the EUV, like other Bolts, maxes out at 55 kW DCFC), but for someone who isn’t an EV enthusiast to ask to ride in it instead of the gas car says a lot.
But, I’m only about 250 miles into driving the car, so there’s a lot more to learn and share in the coming months. Stay tuned.
Featured image: my new Bolt EUV Premier at one of the Transmountain picnic areas in El Paso, Texas, with a New Mexico sunset behind it. Image by Jennifer Sensiba.
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