How I Got a Bigger Battery for My Nissan LEAF…for Free

Unlike the lithium-ion batteries in Teslas and some other electric vehicles, Nissan chose a cheaper, easier to manufacture battery for the LEAF that does not have a thermal management system. These batteries worked okay in cooler climates, but they often degraded quickly in hot climates such as Texas.

Anticipating this problem to some extent, Nissan conveniently added a battery degradation meter on the dashboard. It shows how much of the original capacity the battery still retains. LEAF owners watch that bar very carefully. As the battery loses capacity, the 12 bars gradually disappear. Once the meter gets down to 8 bars, if you’re still within the time and mileage specified in the warranty, Nissan promises to repair or replace the battery at no charge. For my 2016 LEAF SL with the 30 kWh battery, the warranty was good for 8 years or 100,000 miles.

I lost my fourth bar after 42,682 miles and less than four years, all spent in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where summer highs top 100 degrees several days each year. On Day 1, I had maybe 107 miles of range when fully charged. By the end, the real-world range had dropped to 65-75 miles, a drop of 30-40 percent. I lost a bar about every 10,000 miles. For comparison, after about 36,000 miles, my Tesla Model 3 has lost maybe 4-5 percent of its original range, thanks to the thermal management system.

LEAF Instrument Panel

The meter on the far right shows battery degradation (8 bars out of 12). The larger meter to its left shows the current state of charge (full) and estimated range (80).

Excited to get a new battery but a little worried about whether the Nissan dealer would cooperate or turn this into a giant hassle, I took the car to Don Davis Nissan in Arlington. They kept it for a few days to run some diagnostics. I was disappointed but not surprised to find that neither of the two service advisors actually knew much about the LEAF or understood the battery degradation issue. Even the “certified LEAF technician” didn’t understand the degradation meter. I quietly hoped that this particular tech would NOT be the one who installed my new battery.

Finally they realized that yes, there are indeed only eight capacity bars left and I did qualify for a new battery. Then Nissan corporate approved it and ordered it for the dealer. Woohoo! It arrived at Don Davis a few days later, much earlier than expected. They took a day to install and charge it. So I got a brand-new battery for free. But that’s not the best part.

Nissan no longer replaces the 30 kWh battery with the same 30 kWh battery for these warranty claims. Instead, they install a 40 kWh battery. So I got an even bigger battery for free. Officially it’s 10 kWh bigger, but range increase is even higher than I’d expected. Right now my effective range seems to be 155-165 miles! Compared to the old and busted battery, the new one has more than doubled our effective range.

New battery shows all 12 bars and greatly improved range

In my one-year update on the LEAF back in 2017, I came down pretty hard on Nissan about the battery degradation issue. The LEAF was a good car with a big flaw, at least for drivers in hot climates. Yet despite my frustrations and fears, I must praise and thank Nissan corporate for not only honoring the warranty, but actually giving me a better replacement battery than they had promised. Going from 75 miles of range to over 150 is a game changer and makes the car much more usable. Thank you, Nissan.

Finally, for my LeafSpy friends, here are some of my stats by the end of the old 30 kWh battery with 8 bars and for the new 40 kWh battery with 12 bars:

Data Point 30 kWh (8 bars) 40 kWh (12 bars)
AHr 51.79 838.86
SOH 65.16% 99.71%
V 378.30 402.66
Hx 32.72% 280.00%
QC 6 6
L1/L2 1111 1117

Meet Ygritte, My Tesla Model 3

I’m not a traditional car guy. I don’t fix up old cars, change my own oil, or know all the stats for the newest Dodge Hellcat. But I am an electric vehicle (EV) guy. And in Nov 2018 I finally bought the car that I’d wanted for years but bailed on: a Tesla Model 3. After driving it for nine months, it’s time to tell the Internets about this amazing vehicle.

Simply put, this is the best car I’ve ever owned or even driven, and I love it.

Ordering a Tesla

Tesla offers car buying for the Amazon era. I went to, logged into my account, chose my options, and gave them a credit card number for a deposit. That’s all it takes to order one. No annoying salespeople. No even more annoying finance and insurance person. No haggling over the price or interest rate. You just order it like you’re ordering a new iPhone. When my car was ready, Tesla notified me, and I wired them the money and signed some papers at home. Then I picked it up at the service center in Dallas by Love Field. It was a touch more complicated than this, but it was easy enough that I never want to buy a car from a traditional car dealer again. This is how car buying should work – EASY.

Yes, they do offer financing and take trade-ins like a normal dealership if needed.

The Car

My Model 3 is named Ygritte (ee-grit) after the feisty redheaded wildling woman who convinces Jon Snow to forsake his vows in Game of Thrones. You can actually name your car through the touchscreen, so I did.

She is a 2018 long-range dual motor Model 3 with red paint, dark gray interior, 18″ wheels with aero covers, premium interior, and no autopilot (more on that later). The two electric motors (front and rear) produce around 350hp combined, producing a 0-60 time of 4.4 seconds. The Performance version can hit 3.2 seconds, but The Boss nixed that idea – something about having teenage drivers in the house soon.

Anyway, instead of a traditional transmission with gears, the electric motors produce smooth acceleration at any speed with no shifting. You step on the accelerator, and the motors spin faster. Electric vehicles drive very smoothly in general, but the 75 kWh battery and dual motors give this one a lot more power than my Nissan LEAF. Although I seldom take full advantage of the power, I love knowing it’s there in case I get into a tight spot. The handling is confident and sporty with a low center of gravity, and the dual motors provide all wheel drive for additional confidence. She is a BLAST to drive.


The interior tends to shock people who aren’t familiar with it. Tesla ditched the traditional instrument panel in favor of a radically minimalist design that features a giant tablet mounted in the center of the dashboard. The tablet shows your speed in the upper left, still comfortably within sight, along with the battery life and a situation display that shows nearby vehicles and people. The rest of the screen shows a high-res navigation display (map or satellite) and/or your audio choices, which include HD radio, Bluetooth streaming from your phone, or (my favorite) Slacker commercial-free streaming audio via the car’s LTE connection. Slacker seems to be free for at least the first year and offers dozens and dozens of channels. I thought SiriusXM offered a huge variety of stations until I experienced Slacker. I can switch among 2000s hip-hop, Renaissance choral music, 90s hard rock, movie scores, and a Kacey Musgraves station with a few taps on the screen. The audio system is the best sounding car audio I’ve ever heard, with 14 speakers, 1 subwoofer, amazing clarity, and perfect balance.

The rest of the interior maintains the minimalist vibe while remaining quite comfortable, with nice touches like LED lighting for the rear seats that allow the boys to read in the dark, an all-glass roof, soft synthetic leather that feels real, and USB outlets for the front and back seats to charge electronics.

Integrated Touchscreen with GPS Navigation and Satellite Maps

Streaming Audio from Slacker – so many stations with no DJs or commercials

HD Backup Camera

Fun Stuff

Romance Mode – On-demand fire, romantic music, and the front heaters turn on to set the mood…although regardless of what you might be planning, the car gets really hot really quick.

Fart Mode (officially Emissions Testing Mode) – fun for the whole family! You can surprise unknowing guests by blasting one from their nearest speaker and then calling them out. BRENDEN!!!!!

ATARI Games – Yes, when the car is parked, you can play a variety of ATARI games on the touchscreen, including Missile Command and Centepede.

Frunk – Without a big gas engine under the hood, Tesla added a small storage compartment in the front trunk, or frunk.

Range and Charging

Like with the LEAF, I nearly always charge at home with my JuiceBox Pro charging station, preferably during the day so I can use the solar panels to provide much of the power. Unlike the LEAF, I have about 300 miles of range instead of 75-90, enabling us to use the Tesla on road trips to Houston and San Antonio with no problem. Some days I don’t even bother charging after work because I don’t need to; the car still has plenty of range left. The range is probably the most significant improvement over the LEAF, which is a great car except for its battery.

The EPA rates the long-range Model 3 at the equivalent of 126 mpg. Lifetime, I’m averaging about 260 wH/mile or 3.8 miles/kWh. As I explained in more detail in my first post about our Nissan LEAF, the cost of electricity for an EV is roughly 25-40% of the cost of gas to travel the same distance. EVs use more electricity in winter due to heater use and reduced battery efficiency.

Road trips in the Model 3 are very possible because of Tesla’s nationwide network of Superchargers, extremely high-speed charging stations sprinkled along major highways and metropolitan areas. Whereas at home I can add around 37 miles of range per hour of charge, a Supercharger can charge at 250-400 miles per hour depending on the conditions. On our recent road trip to Galveston, we started off full and drove from Grand Prairie to Huntsville, reducing our range below 50%. There we plugged into the Supercharger and ate lunch at a great Mexican restaurant nearby. By the time we’d finished lunch, the car was full again. Road trips do take more planning in an EV versus a gas-powered vehicle, but they are possible in a Tesla. As EV adoption increases over the next few years, we should see more and more charging stations. Tesla’s website includes a map of their Superchargers. I’m still waiting for them to add one in Wichita Falls, where some of my family lives.

People like to ask what it costs to charge, which is hard to answer because you hardly ever charge from nearly empty to full. If you did for some reason, and your electricity costs 10 cents per kWh, filling the 75 kWh battery at home would cost about $7.50, maybe $8.00 when you factor in the power lost to the charging station itself. If you charge in public at a Supercharger or a slower Level 2 charger, the cost might be higher or lower. Collin Street Bakery outside Waco, TX, offers free Supercharging plus a free cup of coffee or tea while you charge. Other Superchargers might charge me $7-9 to add 200-250 miles. Some businesses, including Southwest, offer free Level 2 charging for their employees so they can charge at lower speed while at work.


Tesla’s self-driving features have created much confusion for a variety of reasons. First of all, Teslas are not yet capable of fully driving themselves yet. Full Self Driving (in Tesla parlance) hasn’t been released, and the regulators have not approved it. But that capability is coming. They keep refining the software and adding capabilities to the self-driving and other features, and they push those updates to the car via wifi.

What Teslas do offer, if you’re willing to pay extra, is a wealth of advanced driver-assistance technology that will help enable full self-driving in the future. I did not buy those features. However, they did give me a one-month trial. Autopilot is actually a decent name IF you use it in the aviation sense – a computer that automates mundane tasks while you (the driver/pilot) stay alert and monitor it, ready to take over at any moment.

Here are a few thoughts:

  • Autosteer – It really does keep you centered in your lane, which reduces the stress and fatigue of driving, particularly on long trips. It will also change lanes for you if the lane is clear and you command a lane change. HOWEVER, it still has some bugs to work out. Once it took a corner too tightly for me and scraped my right front wheel, which I really did not appreciate. It also got confused by highway onramps and temporarily veered to the center of the combined lane instead of hugging the lane marker on the left. Note: this feature is now included on all new Model 3s.
  • Traffic Aware Cruise Control (TACC) and Autobrake – TACC worked really well. It lets you set a desired speed but temporarily adjusts as needed if the car in front of you slows down. Once it moves, the car returns to your preferred speed. If the car in front of you stops, your car stops as well. Very cool and less stressful than traditional driving once you get used to it. I never got a chance to experience the emergency braking. Note: These features are now included on all new Model 3s.
  • Autopark – Couldn’t get it to work, but in theory it will parallel park or back into a space for you.
  • Navigate on Autopilot – When you enter a destination into the nav system and engage autopilot, the car uses Autosteer and TACC plus automatic lane change to drive for you from highway onramp to highway offramp. Handling of stop signs and stoplights is coming later this year, moving Tesla one step closer to full autonomy.

I might pay for some or all of the autopilot features in the future. They intrigue me but aren’t currently worth the money to me, especially while Tesla is still working out the bugs and improving the software. Someday I’d love to read a book or nap while my car drives me to work.

Downsides of Tesla

No company is perfect. Tesla, as you might have heard, has a history of overpromising, particularly with regard to timelines. Model 3 production didn’t ramp up quite as soon as Musk predicted, but they eventually reached their goal of rolling out thousands per week. I wish them luck as they continue to expand production of these amazing vehicles.

A bigger problem for them right now is their insufficient service centers and parts. They simply haven’t ramped up their service capabilities as quickly as their production, leading to long waits for repairs. Call it growing pains. For instance, back in January I made an appointment with them to investigate a minor squeaking sound in the rear of the car. I dropped it off on a Wednesday, I think. They gave me a rental car and told me they were so backed up that they might not even get to look at it until Monday or Tuesday of the next week. So 1) they took nearly a week to fix a simple problem, and 2) they wasted a lot of money buying me a rental for several days instead of simply having me bring in my car when they were ready to work on it. I’ve read numerous reports of slow service and long waits for parts, especially when a vehicle gets wrecked and needs a new body panel. On the bright side, every Tesla employee I’ve ever dealt with has been extremely nice and polite.


I don’t want to say Tesla is the future of the automobile, as the Fords and Volkswagens and Hondas of the world have something to say on that matter. But Tesla is changing the industry. Other automakers investing billions in EV development, including Volkswagen, Kia/Hyundai, Porsche, and Toyota. Every Tesla owner I know loves their car. Tesla has announced a smaller and cheaper electric SUV called the Model Y scheduled for production in 2020, an electric pickup that will be named soon, and an electric semi. Good things are happening, and I’m grateful to be involved.

One Year with a Nissan LEAF: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

As you might have read back in January, I bought a Nissan LEAF one year ago today. You can read all the details here about the process, how the car works, and what I like about it. Since electric vehicles are still a novelty, and I love talking about green technology, here is an update.

The Good

My LEAF is still a blast to drive. Compared to my Honda Fit, it’s a hotrod. If I floor it to merge with traffic, it will MOVE. The Bose sound system rocks, the best car audio system I’ve ever owned. The heated steering wheel has permanently spoiled me.

More importantly, I’ve driven a full year and over 15,000 miles in a purely electric vehicle, keeping nearly 10,000 lbs of CO2 plus some poisonous gasses like carbon monoxide out of the air. I’ve saved about 450 gallons of gas compared to my fuel-efficient Fit. Adding in the cost of the electricity I used, my LEAF saved me about $600 in fuel costs.

The Bad

Unfortunately, the LEAF also comes with some downsides that I hadn’t fully anticipated. First, to save either money or weight, Nissan chose not to provide a spare tire. They did the same for our Nissan Rogue with the third row, but they mitigated the risk by including run-flat tires. For the LEAF, instead of run-flat tires, they provide a cheesy tire repair kit with some sealant and a pump. Ehhhhh, okay.

One February night, I was driving to work and heard a loud bang on Loop 12. My tire warning light came on, and the car started to shimmy. My left front tire had gone flat. I pulled off the road, broke open the tire repair kit, and tried to fix it. After 10-15 minutes of waiting, it became clear that for whatever reason, this kit wasn’t going to air up the tire as advertised. It added a bit of air, but not enough to fully inflate it. Still over 5 miles from work and determined to get there as soon as possible, I drove very slowly the rest of the way, hoping it would make it. Smoke began to waft up from the tire in the last mile. By the time I arrived, the tire had melted.

Nissan Roadside Assistance towed me to the closest Nissan dealer the next morning after my shift. Miraculously, I hadn’t destroyed the wheel. I decided to replace all four nearly new tires with Bridgestone run-flats, similar to the ones on our Rogue. The service people thought I was a little crazy for replacing tires with only 2000 miles on them, but since Nissan hadn’t chosen to give me a spare, the run-flats were the only option for me, at a cost of nearly $800.

If that had been the only problem with my LEAF, it could be excused. However, my battery had a surprise for me, as well.

The Ugly

There are two types of pure electric vehicles (EVs). One type has an active cooling system for the battery. Teslas and the new Chevy Bolt are good examples. Heat is the enemy of a lithium-ion battery like this, and the cooling system does a good job keeping the battery healthy and preserving its capacity. I’ve heard that some higher-mileage Teslas lost only 5-10 percent of their capacity after 100,000 miles.

The other type does NOT have an active cooling system. The LEAF is the most prominent example. Many LEAF owners, particularly in warm climates like Arizona, Texas, and Florida, report unusually rapid battery degradation. I’d heard a bit about this phenomenon, but understood that the more recent LEAFS had a new type of battery (the “lizard battery”) that handles heat much better.

Apparently, I was wrong.

I won’t bore you with the details (write me through my contact page if you’re an EV junkie and want all my LeafSpy stats), but after just over 15,000 miles, I’ve already lost 15-20 percent of my capacity. I’m losing over 1 percent of my range for every 1,000 miles that I drive. Brand new, my range was around 105-110 miles with a full charge. Now it’s 85-90 miles after only one year. At this rate, by the time I reach 40,000 miles, my range will be down to 60-65 miles. With a 50+ mile commute, that will feel a little tight.

Fortunately, Nissan offers a generous warranty against battery capacity loss. They will repair or (more typically) replace my 30 kWh battery if I lose 4 capacity bars within 8 years or 100,000 miles. At my current rate, they’ll owe me a new battery sometime in 2019 after 35,000-40,000 miles. Numerous other LEAF owners, especially ones with the larger 30 kWh battery like mine, are experiencing rapid battery degradation, some much worse than mine. So there seems to be a fundamental flaw with the LEAF’s engineering, but at least Nissan seems to be good about honoring the warranty.

At this point, I haven’t decided what to do. The battery decay disappoints me greatly. I really, really wanted to love this car. With a stable battery and better range, I would. But I’m already considering how and when to replace my LEAF and kicking myself for not holding out for my reserved Tesla Model 3. Right now I’m leaning toward trading my LEAF in for a Chevy Bolt sometime in late 2018 or 2019.

If you’re considering an EV, please don’t be discouraged. The concept works. However, I urge you to consider ONLY those EVs that have an active cooling system for the battery.

My New Year’s Resolution: To Quit Putting Gasoline in My Car

My 2016 Nissan LEAF SL at a charging station

“There are two doors. Behind Door Number One is a completely sealed room, with a regular, gasoline-fueled car. Behind Door Number Two is an identical, completely sealed room, with an electric car. Both engines are running full blast.

I want you to pick a door to open, and enter the room and shut the door behind you. You have to stay in the room you choose for one hour. You cannot turn off the engine. You do not get a gas mask.

I’m guessing you chose the Door Number Two, with the electric car, right? Door number one is a fatal choice – who would ever want to breathe those fumes?

This is the choice the world is making right now.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger, from his awesome Facebook post on climate change

It finally happened, and a bit sooner than planned. I traded in my gasmobile for an electric vehicle, or EV as they say.

It’s a 2016 Nissan LEAF, and I love it.

How I Got Here

The idea of an electric vehicle intrigued my treehuggerness for years, but the affordable EVs didn’t have enough range for my taste, and the ones that did (Teslas) were way out of my price range. When we built our new home, I justified my much longer commute by swearing to get an EV fairly soon thereafter to reduce the associated emissions. I even had the builder install a dedicated 50 amp circuit and 14-50 outlet so the house would be ready when the car arrived. All that remained was the right car.

The Nissan LEAF had been around for a while, but with only a 24 kWh battery that provided around 80 miles of range, which would gradually decrease over time like all lithium-ion batteries. Actual driving conditions, including the outside temperature, highway vs. city driving, and interior climate control, could reduce the range further. For a 50-mile roundtrip commute, I wanted a bigger battery. For 2016, Nissan added an option for a 30 kWh battery that boosted the range to around 107 miles. That sounded doable, but by then I’d been distracted by a new entrant: the Tesla Model 3.

Announced in March 2016, it promised 200+ mile range, sex appeal, great performance, a purchase process free of haggling and finance managers and annoying salespeople, and the fascinating possibility of fully autonomous driving. I plunked down a reservation deposit before it was even unveiled and hoped the Wizard could deliver on his promises despite Tesla’s track record of taking a couple years longer than planned to deliver a new model.

Time passed. We paid off Jenny’s new Nissan Rogue, which we love. We started saving toward the Tesla. Then around Christmastime, I learned something that perhaps I should have anticipated – Nissan was offering huge year-end discounts on the 2016 LEAF. With the 200-mile Chevy Bolt about to hit the market and the Model 3 coming in about a year, LEAF sales had dropped, and the dealers needed to move some off the lot. I started thinking about how I’d want to configure my Model 3 – autopilot, all-wheel drive, leather, premium sound – and how much more all those extras would cost compared to a new LEAF. Also, the LEAF was available right now with acceptable range, while my Tesla Model 3 might be available in…a year? Eighteen months? Even longer? If it took long enough, Tesla might have sold enough of the Model S and Model X to start expiring the $7500 tax credit, further increasing the price of the Model 3. Hmm…get a really nice car for a great price and quit burning gasoline now, or pay $15-20k more in 12-24 months to achieve the same basic goal? I was sold.

Buying My LEAF

Actually buying the LEAF from Nissan of McKinney required the same annoying process I’ve used to buy other cars, but I got through it. I chose a red 2016 Nissan LEAF SL with the 30 kWh battery and lots of other goodies. I negotiated the deal via email as usual, traded in my faithful 2007 Honda Fit after 163,000 miles, told the usual cheesy finance managers that no, I really am NOT going to buy their cheesy extended warranty and prepaid maintenance, and finally drove off. On top of the dealer discounts, I also qualify for the $7500 tax credit for the 2016 tax year, which brought the effective cost into the range I normally like to pay for a car. Now, let’s move on to the fun stuff!

Charging and Range

Obviously, the fuel source is the biggest difference between an EV and an ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle. It was a weird feeling to drive away from the dealer knowing that every gas station was irrelevant, and that I had about 110 miles of range before I needed to recharge. I’m still adjusting to that after two weeks. There are mobile apps that show you where nearby charging stations are. They aren’t nearly as ubiquitous as gas stations, but there are more than you probably realize if you don’t drive an EV. Most of them are part of a charging network such as Chargepoint, Blink, or EVGo. Some are free, while others cost a bit. Southwest Airlines generously provides free charging at my office, so I drove to work that night and started my first charge. You get access cards that you can swipe at the charging stations, but often you can start the charge with the mobile app as well. Most charging stations you’ll see are dubbed Level 2 and can add about 20 miles of range per hour of charging. That’s the type I installed a few days later in my garage. There are also Level 3 charging stations at some commercial locations. They can take my LEAF from empty to 80 percent in about 30 minutes. These chargers use so much power at once (something like 125 amps – SWEET HOLY MOLY) that they aren’t really practical for home use, but they are a great way to lure EV customers to a business. Some DFW-area Cracker Barrels have Level 3 chargers, which is genius. You plug in, go inside for lunch, and come out to a nearly charged EV.


DFW-area charging stations

My charging station is a JuiceBox Pro 40. Although very industrial-looking, it’s super simple and works great. Most of the time I charge at home with my JuiceBox. Yes, I could charge for free at work, but at home I can use my solar panels and renewable West Texas wind energy that I buy from Green Mountain Energy to further reduce my carbon impact. The JuiceBox lets me delay the start time until the sun comes up so I’m using more solar power to charge my car. If I need to, I can always charge at work or find a charging station.

The car estimates your remaining range based on your recent driving conditions. Fully charged, it might say I have 120 miles, but it seems that’s only accurate for city driving. High speeds, cold temperatures (the battery doesn’t like to be too cold), running the heat or air conditioning, aggressive acceleration, and climbing hills all reduce the range.

Charging and range force an EV driver to think a bit differently and plan their trips more carefully. An ICE driver can fill up almost anywhere in 5 minutes, but we can only charge in certain places, and charging can take quite a while. For commuting and short trips, an EV can be fantastic. Longer trips are possible if you plan your charging stops and allow enough time. Over the next few years, we’ll see more Level 2 and Level 3 charging stations that will make EVs more practical for longer trips and less populated areas.

To really test the limits, this week I tried two round trips to work on a single charge. After the first, I had 55 percent of the battery left and about 65 miles of estimated range for a 50-mile trip. No problem! But during trip 2, I fought a strong headwind on the highway and saw my range estimate drop to about 19 miles when I had at least 10 miles left to go. That’s when the squirming began. A few miles from home, it replaced my estimated remaining range with dashes, warned me, and offered to show me the nearest public charging station. With about a mile to go, the battery’s remaining capacity showed only dashes, and I found myself wondering how much the LEAF weighed and whether I could push it home. Finally, I parked in my garage, pleased that I’d made two full roundtrips but swearing never to test my range that far again.

Driving an EV

My LEAF is fun to drive. It has a Normal mode that feels quite peppy plus an Eco mode that limits your acceleration to conserve power. The battery is big and heavy and sit under the floor, so the car’s center of gravity is low and provides good stability. To further conserve power, you can also use Brake mode to use resistance from the electric motor to slow the car down when you take your foot off the acceleration. It’s a weird feeling a first, like you suddenly rolled into some mud. Brake mode quickly became a game to me as I tried to figure out the perfect spot to let off the gas – too soon, and I have to accelerate a bit to get to the intersection, too late, and I still have to use the pedal brakes. Speaking of brakes, the LEAF has normal brakes that also regenerate electricity. So between these features and the greatly increased drag at high speeds, I get much better range in city driving versus highway.

Besides the fuel source, perhaps the biggest difference from an ICE vehicle is how eerily quiet an EV is. The motor is nearly silent. You sometimes hear a faint, high-pitched whirring sound, but that’s it. Supposedly there’s a speaker under the good that produces some fake engine noise at low speeds to warn oblivious pedestrians. In reverse gear, it beeps like a construction vehicle for the same reason. Otherwise you probably wouldn’t hear it coming, just like an electric golf cart. When I start the car, I only know it’s on from the interior lights, fan, and music. They could have added fake Ferrari engine noise just for fun, but I guess someone nixed that. The near silence of the motor makes the interior extremely quiet, so my music is much easier to hear.

Other Fun Toys

As a data nerd, I love all the data that the LEAF throws my way. On top of the estimated range, it gives me the battery’s current charge percentage, my average and current energy economy measured in miles/kWh, and a power use bar that’s sorta like a tachometer. It’s in the neutral position when the car is stopped. It moves to the right with white dots when you’re using the throttle and to the left with green dots when you’re regenerating electricity through the pedal brake or slowing down in Brake mode. So it quickly trains you to drive more efficiently. Also, its navigation system includes charging stations in case you don’t have an app for that. If you need to charge away from home, you can find a station in the nav system and then get visual and spoken directions to it.

Another of my favorite features is the LEAF mobile app and a free 3G cellular connection. At any time I can check on the car through the app to get the current charge level or to preheat or precool for me. On a few cold nights at work this week, I set the heater to come on at 5:55am so it would be warm by the time I reached the car a little after 6:00am. I’ve enjoyed the heated steering wheel more than I had expected. The app also gives me additional stats about my driving, such as distance driven and kWh consumed per day, CO2 savings, and comparisons to other LEAF drivers regarding my driving habits.

Cost to Charge

What does it cost to charge? That’s a more complex question than it might seem. At home, where I pay 10.8c/kWh, completely filling my empty 30kWh battery costs about $3.25 and gets me about 100 miles of range. However, I’ll hardly ever completely drain the battery, so a typical charge costs less, and it could be free depending on where I charge. But we’re all used to thinking about the cost of a gallon of gas and miles per gallon, right? So let’s do some math and clarify things a bit, looking at my 50-mile roundtrip commute to work.

Depending on how I drive, I generally average around 4 miles per kWh of electricity. It would be higher but over half my miles are on the highway, which is less efficient. So for my commute, I’ll use around 13 kWh of electricity. If I charge at home, that’s about $1.40 worth of electricity. My Honda Fit got great mileage, maybe 33 mpg. So I’d use 1.5 gallons of gas for the same commute. At $2.00/gallon, that’s $3.00 worth of gas. So the fuel cost per mile for me is less than half what I was paying, even for an efficient ICE vehicle like the Fit.

Obviously, the relative cost varies with the cost of electricity and gasoline and the efficiency of the vehicles. The numbers would look even better with a more typical situation. Let’s say you shop around for electricity via and are paying a more reasonable 8c/kWh, and your daily ICE vehicle gets 25 mpg. Your electric cost would be about $1.00 versus $4.00 for your gasmobile.


Since there’s no ICE, the maintenance is much simpler for an EV. I still have the usual tires, brake fluid, wipers, etc. Surprisingly, there is a coolant system for the battery, and its fluid needs to be changed after 125,000 miles or so. But there isn’t any engine oil, transmission fluid, spark plugs, or other maintenance related to an engine. The battery should last for several years and will slowly lose capacity over time. However, from what I’ve read, this isn’t a huge issue so far. By the time I need to replace the battery, probably several years from now, I expect the replacement battery to be much cheaper and have much higher capacity than the batteries available right now.


I’m really pleased I made the switch to the LEAF from the Model 3. No, I didn’t get Ludicrous Mode to go 0-60 in 2.5 seconds, and I can’t read a book while my car drives me to work. However, I love knowing that I’ve already stopped polluting the air with my long commute from suburbia. It’s a blast to drive, has a fantastic sound system, is very comfortable, and doesn’t make me visit a nasty gas station every 4-5 days.

Finally, if you’re interested in getting an electric car but understandably don’t want to buy new, there are some fantastic deals on preowned LEAFs in the $10-15k range. Most will have the 24 kWh battery, but they might make a great commuter car for you. The preowned ones don’t qualify for the federal tax credit, but it’s already baked into the low price of the car.

“I’m Gonna Turn This Thing Around 360 Degrees!!”


I think I’m about done with these winter ice storms.

Sunday night, I was driving to work after yet another Dallas ice storm (was this number 3 or 4 of the season?). My airline keeps flying whether the Dallas streets are dry or braking action nil, so I refuse to call in chicken to work when the roads are bad. If our Chicago ramp agents can throw bags during a blizzard, I can find a way to make it to work. After my spin-out in December, I decided to drive our gas-guzzling minivan since it carries significantly more heft than our little Honda Fit. You know, just in case anything happens.

Although the street in front of our house was mostly dry, and I’d already criticized Brenden’s school district on Facebook for canceling school AGAIN due to the ice, I quickly found that most of the streets were indeed slick. Maybe I should delete that Facebook comment, I thought. I was in the center lane, driving slowly and carefully. dreading the moment I’d felt three months ago when I could lose traction and begin to slide. But so far, so good. An Accord was ahead of me in the right lane, also driving slowly and carefully.

As we came around a curve, the Accord began to slide as I drew closer. It hit the right curb and bounced off. As I was passing it, the Accord began sliding back to the left. On the ice, I was afraid to make any sudden evasive maneuvers, so I just hoped I could move ahead before it crossed my path.

The Accord hit me on the right rear wheel, sending me spinning clockwise on the ice. I heard a crunching sound and felt a bump when it hit. A similar impact on dry streets probably would have been more dramatic, but the ice allowed my van to start moving more easily, so the damage wasn’t as bad. I know I did one 360-degree spin, maybe two. It happened so fast that I can be sure. I wish I’d had a GoPro recording on my dashboard. After a few seconds, the left rear tire hit a curb, bringing the van to a halt.

Well, this is a bit inconvenient, I thought.

I was wearing my seatbelt as always, and I wasn’t hurt, but I knew the van could be. I pulled over onto a side street and hoped the other driver would do the same. She did. I stepped out to see the damage.

The left rear tire was hissing flat, the rim banged up from hitting the curb. The right rear tire was shredded, which meant I wasn’t going anywhere in this vehicle. The rear fender had popped off on the right side and was hanging off. The right side panel was also dented near the wheel well. Overall, it wasn’t good news, but it could have been much, much worse.




The other driver, a young woman, stayed put, but her boyfriend (?), a young man, climbed out of the passenger seat. We exchanged information and assured each other we were OK. He apologized. Their Accord was drivable but looked worse than my minivan, the front end banged up badly.

I got their insurance card and the driver’s license, taking pics of both with my phone. The insurance card was expired. He seemed surprised at first but assured me that he had renewed it and just hadn’t replaced the card. I suppose I wasn’t thinking clearly because I didn’t remember to record their license plate, photograph their car, or confirm the make/model/color. I didn’t even use my iWrecked app since I was in a hurry to get this resolved so I could get to work. We decided not to call and wait for the police since no one was hurt and both cars were drivable. With ice all over the area, I figured the cops were busy with more serious accidents.

Once we both were satisfied, I cautiously drove the van across the street to a small parking lot outside a self-service car wash. Driving with both rear tires flat felt odd, like I was driving through sand or pulling a trailer. Then I started calling work and Jenny to figure out what to do. I was only a mile or so from home, and Jenny piled the boys into the Fit and drove out to get me. Then I drove her home and set out for work, arriving 30 minutes late and hoping the whole time that I would make it there without wrecking our other car.


Low. Ri. Der. Drives a little slower.

We’ve been dealing with our insurance company (MetLife), renting a car from Enterprise during the week, and talking to the repair shop (Craig’s Collision). So far Enterprise has been great, giving me a sweet Nissan Maxima and billing it to MetLife since I had rental coverage. On the other hand, MetLife and Craig’s both seem stuck in molasses, taking their sweet time to get anything done. I initiate most of the phone calls. I had to call MetLife back Tuesday afternoon just to get them to come tow the van away from the car wash parking lot before someone else had it towed for me. The shop got the car late Tuesday afternoon but didn’t give us an estimate until Saturday morning. So we’ve spent all this week in limbo, wondering whether the damage would be enough to total a 2005 minivan with 90,000 miles.

We looked into both new and used cars just in case we had to buy something fast. Since we’d been considering a replacement for the minivan within the next couple years, we were excited about having a legitimate excuse to move ahead a bit early. However, we haven’t had a car payment in over six years, and financially it would be better to postpone that streak for another year until after we move.

MetLife has determined that the other driver was 100 percent at fault, which I agree with. However, the other insurance company hasn’t made a decision. From my little contact with them, they don’t seem to be the brightest bulbs in the box. The body shop says the repairs will cost $3615, which apparently is too little to total the minivan. I have mixed feelings about that. They estimate the repairs will be done in 1 1/2 to 2 weeks.

Come on, spring!

Blog Soup 9/26/2013

Hi! Things are a bit crazy in my house these days. I’m temporarily awake and free to blog, so here is an update on us.

  1. Except for me, my entire family is now in school full-time. Jenny has class all day Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and also goes in sometimes on Thursday or Friday. Brenden is in kindergarten five days a week from 7:45-2:45. Jonathan is in preschool five days a week as well. I’m still trying to convince the boys that I really have spent many, many years in school and don’t need to go anymore.
  2. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays are a bit tough for me. I get off work at 6:00, come home to help get the boys ready, take them to school, and crawl into bed around 8:15-8:30am. Then I get up at 2:00pm and pick them up. Plus Monday nights the boys have swim lessons at 5:45 and 6:45 in Southlake. So I’m usually pretty tired the first half of the week, not to mention the rest of the family.
  3. Jenny is probably studying more than she has in her entire school career. The material isn’t difficult for her, but the volume is staggering – tons of reading, video modules, and skills training. Despite the workload, she is keeping up and doing great. Starting in two weeks, she’ll be at Baylor Grapevine once a week working with real patients on a limited basis.
  4. I am embarrassed that Ted Cruz represents my state in the US Senate. If you’re not sure why, this editorial should help.
  5. The polls don’t show it since we haven’t played any tough opponents yet, but my Baylor Bears are one of the best teams in college football this year. They have a real shot at the Big 12 championship and a BCS bowl. Yes, it does feel a bit insane to write such things, but our defense is finally catching up to our ridiculous offense, and that should scare every team we’ll face this season. In our three games so far, our defense has scored more touchdowns (4) than it has allowed (3). We have tickets for the Oklahoma game Nov 7, our first real test of the season.
  6. I really want a media room / man cave with a nice projector, comfy seats, a wet bar, and soundproofed walls. You know, something like this. Since our current living room is open to the upstairs hallway where the bedrooms are and directly under our bedroom, my subwoofer doesn’t get much use when I have some downtime to watch movies or play games. Someday!
  7. Brenden is selling chocolate for his school’s PTA. I loathe cheesy fundraisers like this and would happily write the organization a big check rather than guilt-trip my family and friends and neighbors into buying overpriced junk they don’t want. I actually planned to refuse to participate. However, I forgot one crucial element: the fundraiser people give the kids incentives to sell. Brenden came home with his box of candy bars determined to sell two boxes so he could get get to play in the Game Truck (r) when it comes to his school. So guess what? I’m selling chocolate on his behalf. 🙂 To their credit, the chocolate company has improved its recipe, and the chocolate is now quite good.
  8. I did not sign up for the international desk at work next year. The international flights are interesting and the workload is light, but since you need a special qualification to work the desk, it’s difficult to trade an international shift away if needed. Since Jenny will have EARLY morning clinicals two days a week next year, I need to keep my trading flexibility. I might try it again in 2015 if I think we can make it work.
  9. Once we have the cash, I’d like to replace the Grand Caravan with a Mazda5 and the Fit with a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt. However, right now we’re saving up for other things, so we’ll try to squeeze a few more years from our current vehicles.
  10. The boys now have passports! I’m not sure when we’ll use them yet, but they are ready. We might do an awesome cruise after Jenny finishes school in May 2015. Once the Wright Amendment restrictions are loosened in October 2014, flying to cruise ports from Dallas on SWA will become much easier.