Member Review of the Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf

When we heard that Flathead Electric Co-op had a program to let you try an electric car for FREE, we signed up right away. We thought it would be a great opportunity to find out if an EV is practical to drive every day. Plus, free.

It was a bit rainy at the beginning of June, when we got to try out the Nissan Leaf. The first thing we noticed was how quiet it is. The dashboard, which includes a pretty large screen, lights up when you start it, but other than that there’s no noise. You don’t quite realize how much noise your car makes until you drive one that doesn’t make any.

Driving the Leaf around wasn’t much different than driving any other front-wheel drive car. I tried to drive as much as possible like I normally do. The controls are easy to understand. The handling is better than I expected.

The Leaf accelerates really well. It has an E-pedal option, which slows the car down when you let off the (I still think of it as gas) accelerator. I liked it; it was fun to play with it to see if you could get away with not using the brakes. I kept the e-pedal option on and only used the brakes once (when someone pulled in front of me).

The best part: driving around without getting gas. When you park, it lets you know when it will be 100-percent charged again (assuming you plug it in).

We thought we would be able to use the 220-volt power outlet that we have, but it needs a 4-wire connector and we only have 3-wire. It turned out to be a non-issue; the 110 was fine.

When you start the Leaf and it’s 100-percent charged, it has a different amount of range, depending on the weather. One day it had 171 miles; the next day it had 154. It would be interesting to see how much less the range is in the middle of January.

We were able to make it from Lakeside to Whitefish and back with no problems; the range dropped by 60 miles and that’s about how far we went.

We did notice that turning the defogger on reduced the range. That tells me that using the heater or the AC could potentially induce some “range anxiety.”

At the end of the day, I quite enjoyed the Leaf and am definitely thinking my next car will be electric. For us in Montana though, I think more range is needed. Nissan has come out with the Leaf Plus; in 2020 there’s a whole slew of new EVs coming, some in SUV form, and all with more range. And of course, there’s always the Tesla.