Thursday, July 07, 2011

All About Leaf

I am pleased to report that as of Tuesday afternoon, I am a proud owner of a Nissan Leaf! We named her Scarlet, because she is a beautiful red. The car is a she, because it is awesome, innovative, and pioneering.

I'm not usually one to just jump in and be an early adopter of technology. After all, I've had a text-enabled cellphone for less than a year. But I feel so strongly that electric vehicles are the only thing that will help our transportation-related carbon emissions to cease, that I wanted to support the effort.

I am fortunate enough that I have a good job that allows us to support ourselves comfortably and still afford this car. It is not cheap. There are some tax breaks (including a $7500 federal income tax rebate) but that only goes so far. The cost of charging up is a lot less than the corresponding cost of gasoline, but even then, since I drive so little (the Beetle just crossed the 35,000-mile threshold) this saves me maybe $40 per month. I anticipate that we will take this car on errands around town, instead of our other car, so we should save a little more than that. Still, less than $100 in savings.

Anyhow, onward to the car!

This is Scarlet, parked in our carport. You can see the home charging station installed by two electricians beginning at 7:30 am this past Tuesday. I had to get the charger installed before I was allowed to bring home the car.

Another view of the car.

Check out that headlight. It has a fin on it, for aerodynamics purposes I assume.

Another view, trying to show that fin.

I think the fin is pretty clear in this photo. Maybe the cars of the 1950's had something going for them!

A view from the driver's seat.  That little window between the side and the windshield doesn't buy you much.

Here's a view across to the other side.

Between the seats.  That is one tiny shifter as we will see later.

The console can show a cool map telling you how far you can go without running out of charge, and a bunch of other things.

To start the car, depress the brake pedal and push the power button!

Here's the view you get: On the left is the battery temperature. On the right is the battery charge and the number of miles it estimates I can go. At the top center is a gauge for how much power I am drawing (or regenerating). In the center it tells me how long it will take to recharge at various voltages, and the odometer.

At the top, above the steering wheel, you can see the speedometer in the center.  On the right is a clock and temperature gauge, and on the left is a gauge telling you how efficiently you are driving, and rewarding you for your efficient driving by generating little trees.  The more trees, the better.  Unfortunately, they all get reset every time you turn the car off.

Here I am shifting into reverse by moving the shifter to the left and forward.  You shift into drive by going left and backward.  Of course this all makes perfect sense!  I double check which gear I'm in every time before I release the brake because I am so confused.

When you put it in reverse, a rear-view camera comes up on the console.  This is handy because the rear window is tiny.  The stripes are not part of my driveway decor; they represent distance.

A little light reading that came with the car.  I've made it through one of those books so far!

So I made it to work now.  I am a cheapskate and since my workplace provides free charging, I am going to take advantage of it!  So, I pull the lever to open the charging compartment, located on the front of the car just under the place where you open the hood.

Here's what it looks like when it is open.  On the right is where you plug in the 240V charger, which is what we have at home and at work.  The one on the left is for the 480V charging stations, which do not actually exist yet, but when they do, I will be able to drive this car to see my Dad, with a short stop to recharge on the way there.

I opened the cover for the 240V socket, and this is what it looks like.

Here is the charging station, which looks almost exactly like what I have at home...

...except that, for this charger, you have to activate it with your magic card.  The electrons are free in exchange for tracking my usage information.

It's ready to go...

So I remove the plug from the dock...

...start plugging it in.

... and I push it in until I hear a click...

It's in!

We are charging!

A view of the trunk.  It is pretty big.  That black bag is a 120V trickle charger that you can plug into a regular wall outlet in a pinch.  There is no spare tire, but there is a tire repair kit in the left wheel well.

As you can see, I am not the only person with a Leaf at work.  The Head Honcho has a Red one like mine, and several other VIPs have them as well.  My car schmoozes with other cars belonging to important people!

Nissan has an owners' portal, where you can check the status of your car.  You can also program it to start the climate control while plugged in, saving your battery from doing all that work.  It's handy if you want your car to be comfortable just before you leave work, for example.

Here I set the timer to start cooling the car at 3:45 this afternoon...

...and it's set.

Huh?  There's a message on my cellphone!

It's from Scarlet, telling me that the vehicle's status has been updated.

It's 3:45 and the AC is on!  Nice of Scarlet to let me know!

Time to go home!  If you get in the car while it is still plugged in, you will see this warning on the dash.  It won't let you go anywhere while still plugged in, but as I found out this afternoon because I was too obsessed with snapping pictures to pay enough attention, it will let you go with the charging door still open.

I unplug the charger, and notice as I am putting it back on the dock that I have received a text message:

The climate control stopped when I unplugged it.

I hopped into the car and came home.  It is really a great car.  It has good acceleration and other than being so quiet, it really seems just like a regular car.  In fact, it is so quiet that at speeds of 19 mph or below, it generates noise so that pedestrians can hear it coming.  Another interesting thing is that because it is so quiet, you can hear a lot of noise coming from the other cars around you.  At stoplights I hear everyone else's music.

Anyhow, it is great and I am really enjoying the car.  I hope you enjoyed a vicarious taste of this awesome car!


Jenny F. Scientist said...

That is a pretty sweet car. If I had any money, I would totally buy one. It's like living in the FUTURE!!

Josh said...

That's a pretty awesome ride you've got there! How fast will it go?

Rebecca said...

It will go up to 95 mph, they say, but I've only taken it up to about 65 or so.

Laura said...

Yay! Thanks for the step-by-step with Scarlet... feels like we're driving with you! BTW nice pic on your cell phone there. :-)

Rebecca said...

Thanks Laura! It really is exciting to have this car. Next time you come for a visit you can take it for a spin!

Yeah, only the cutest of the cute get to be on my cell phone :)

FrauTech said...

Glad you posted all this, that is very interesting (especially the shifter). Scarlet is gorgeous by the way.