Electric cars

The Nissan LEAF: is “pretty good” good enough?

The Nissan LEAF: is "pretty good" good enough?

Business Intern has a new report that focuses on the 2022 Nissan Leaf, the cheapest electric car you can buy in America today. Thanks to a recent price drop of $6,500 that applies to most trim levels, the base LEAF is now $28,425, including a $1,025 delivery charge. The LEAF still qualifies for the federal tax credit of up to $7,500, so in theory, you park an all-new base model in your driveway for $20,925. This is a third of the price of an average electric vehicle in America today, which is $60,000 according to Edmunds.

The advantages of the Nissan LEAF

For that price, you get an all-new electric car that’s roomy, comfortable, energetic, and quiet, with zero tailpipe emissions. In addition, it comes with driver assistance features such as blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and reverse automatic braking. It also allows one-pedal driving and supports both Apple Car Play and Android Auto.

BI says, “The LEAF’s cabin is nice and spacious, and there’s plenty of headroom for rear passengers thanks to the sedan’s high, horizontal roofline. The Leaf offers 23.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, more than the Tesla Model 3, Chevrolet Bolt or Hyundai Kona Electric. But the Leaf’s rear seats don’t fold completely flat.

Cons of the Nissan LEAF

The base LEAF comes with a 40 kWh battery and has an EPA rating of 149 miles. Those of us who drive electric cars know that a number of factors affect how far we can travel on a single battery charge. Things like low temperature, hilly terrain, and speed can significantly shorten these EPA estimates. So it’s fair to say that the basic LEAF is a poor choice if you plan on strapping your long boards to the roof and hitting the beach in La Jolla.

There is another factor which is quite negative for the LEAF. DC fast charging requires a CHAdeMo charger – if you can find one. An early leader in electric vehicle charging technology, the Japanese standard is now overtaken in the US, having been supplanted by CCS. You can argue until the cows come home which standard is better, but that argument is irrelevant. Like the great VHS vs. BetaMax and 8-track vs. cassette debates of the past, CCS won and CHAdeMO lost. Get used to it, get over it and move on. The LEAF also has a J1772 port, but if you’re relying on that for road trips, expect to be down for several hours every time you need to plug in.

The Nissan LEAF Experience

I owned a base model 2015 Nissan LEAF for 4 years and it was a nice car. It didn’t do anything spectacular, but it was reliable and comfortable to drive. For over a year it was my only vehicle and it sufficed for 99% of my driving needs, provided I carefully managed its limited range (about 80 miles). Twice in this year I’ve had to rent a car for longer trips but spend $15 a month on electricity and only $18 once for a pair of new wiper blades during those 4 years made the compromises more than tolerable.

the Business Intern report is wrong because it’s supposed to be about America’s cheapest electric car, but instead the author drove a Plus model, which comes with the largest 62kWh battery and costs about $5,000 from more. This car has a range of 226 miles – better, but still not great. [If you’re writing about the cheapest electric car, that’s the car you should drive. Just my two cents.] Even the Plus has outdated charging technology and Nissan has the audacity to charge over $1,600 for a 110/220 volt portable charging cable, about 4 times what you can buy online.

While writing this article, I spent some time on the Nissan site. Navigating the site to gather information on the various LEAF trim levels is clumsy and frustrating. It seems that Nissan hasn’t given much thought to this part of its online sales strategy. To make matters worse, the official webpage has inaccurate EPA range information that shows the car has much less range than it does. Unforgivable.

My local Nissan dealer makes no mention of the LEAF. It is not listed as an available offering from Nissan and its website does not show any in inventory. Inexcusable.

Takeaway meals

the Business Intern report mainly focuses on the limited scope of the LEAF database. But the truth is, it has more than enough range for most people most of the time. The typical owner might drive it and plug it in at home only once or twice a week.

Not everyone can afford a $60,000 Tesla Model Y or a $112,000 Hummer EV. And not everyone needs 400 miles of range. I see the LEAF as a gateway to the electric vehicle revolution. It gets people used to one-pedal riding and the satisfying urge of an electric motor when you press the exhilaration. And you won’t feel like you’re driving a cheap car in one.

One of the cars I rented last year was a Chevy Spark, a car that screams “I know I’m driving a shitty car but that’s all I can afford.” It was noticeably uncomfortable and a bit scary to drive on the freeway. People will never have to apologize for driving a LEAF. It’s a real car. If you can live with the limited range, it’s a great car for the money. What’s wrong with that?


Do you appreciate the originality of CleanTechnica? Consider becoming a Member, supporter, technician or ambassador of CleanTechnica — or a patron on Patreon.




Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise or suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.