What is it like to live with the Nissan Leaf? While I haven’t lived with one for a year, I was able to experience an active weekend away in the 2018 Nissan Leaf and I came away impressed with the range and all the cool tech built-in to this electric vehicle.
Nissan hosted me in Burlington Vermont right as the leaves changed over to fall to drive the Nissan Leaf through Smugglers Notch, Burlington and throughout a beautiful countryside. the 2018 Nissan Leaf range is 150 miles, which was more than enough for a simulated weekend in Vermont, even without the plentiful access to chargers.
After enjoying an excellent vegan dinner we retired for the night and got up early to split into groups to go kayaking or mountain biking. I drove the Nissan Leaf to kick off a Kayak trip on the Winooski river.
This gave me the opportunity to test out the Nissan Leaf e-pedal driving mode and regenerative braking. With this option enabled, I was able to one pedal drive for most of the day. One Pedal driving in the Nissan Leaf is optional and takes a little getting used to, but it’s really handy once you figure it out.
With the e-pedal mode on and the B driving mode to use regenerative braking, I simply pressed the gas to go, and then anytime I let off the gas, the brakes would engage to slow me down. If I slowed down fast enough it would trigger the brake lights without me touching the brake pedal. Once I learned the timing of this I could stop for most traffic lights and stop signs without even touching the brake. It also worked out really handy while going down hills as it kept the Leaf at a good speed without the need to tap on the brakes.
In addition to simplifying the driving experience in a real way, this captures more energy to get the most out of the range. The weather was perfect for a fall day, so I didn’t cut into any range with the heat or air conditioner. I enjoyed the heated seats to dry off some after I got wet kayaking!
The 2018 Nissan Leaf I drove includes Pro Pilot Assist, which is a semi-autonomous driving system that takes a lot of the stress out of driving on the highway and allowed me to take in more of the beautiful fall leaves. I used this on the highway and on some of the two lane roads around Burlington and Stowe and was impressed with what it could do.
To start, I set the radar cruise control. This keeps me at my desired speed of just over the limit on the highway. If the person in front of me slows down the car automatically slows down, keeping me with the flow of traffic. Many cars offer adaptive cruise systems, but Pro Pilot Assist takes it further. By reading the lines on the road, I was able to use Steering Assist to keep the car in my lane and on the road even around curves on the highway. You still need to keep your hands on the wheel, but you don’t need to make all the micro-corrections and it makes a drive home at the end of a busy day a little bit more enjoyable. Pro Pilot Assist is an epic road trip companion, and a must have feature on the Leaf or any Nissan it’s available on.
While I didn’t need to charge in the middle of the day, I wanted to see how prevalent the chargers were. I used the built-in Navigation system to locate a charger and set directions to it. I ended up navigating to Ben & Jerry’s where I was able to use a free charger to charge at the normal rate. There was also a fast charger that can add more range faster, for a price. In a setting like Burlington chargers were plentiful and also available in the parking garage of our hotel. Charger availability in parking garages can be challenging as some EV owners will use the parking spots simply to get a closer spot, even if they aren’t charging.
Nissan offers a decent in-car infotainment system, but I was very happy to see that it supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. With these options I could easily control my music, messages, maps and more without picking up my phone. With iOS 12 on my iPhone I could even use Google Maps and Waze with my iPhone plugged in.
One downside is that the back seat doesn’t include any chargers to plug your USB cord or a 12V adapter. You can solve this issue with the Belkin Road Rockstar charger that puts two ports up front and two in the back, but it would be nice to see a charge point in the back seat.
Speaking of the backseat. The Nissan Leaf has a surprising amount of room for a small car. On the ride from the airport to the hotel I was a passenger in a Nissan Leaf. I had plenty of room in the backseat and headroom was pleasantly ample for the size of the car. We could also fit three carry on bags and three backpacks in the cargo area, next to the charging cord, with room to spare.
The 2018 Nissan Leaf starts at $22,490 after Federal Tax Credits. Learn more at Nissan.
Disclosure: Nissan brought me to Vermont and put me up in an eco-friendly hotel to experience how a Nissan Leaf owner might spend an active fall weekend.
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