When I bought my 2011 Leaf used in 2014 I was excited to get an electric car that I could drive like a normal car. My previous experience driving an electric car was with a 1975 Citicar that was more like a street-legal golf cart. It had no heat. It leaked. The batteries really did catch on fire once. From the Citicar, my Leaf was a giant upgrade.
That said, there wasn't much else that got me excited about the Leaf. I forgave it for everything else it lacked because it was electric, and that's what really mattered to me. I never liked the styling. I never grew comfortable with the limited range. The acceleration was good though. It was warm and dry.
We live about 15 miles out of town. Most driving we do requires going in town and back. In the Leaf, in the winter, going into town and back was a bit of a restricted exercise. We always had to watch the battery level closely. It doesn't seem like it should have been that way, but it always was. Partly because once we're in town, we need to drive around a bit to get what we need before heading back. There was often this tension..."Hi Mom. No, I'm not sure we can stop by. We're low on juice. Sorry."
In each of the last three summers, the Leaf battery has lost one of the 12 battery life bars. I'm down to 9. Getting to and from town in the winter has become more and more of a restricted exercise. Last year, I bought an electric bike (highly recommended) and often drove the Leaf part way into town and biked the rest of the way. That was an awesome move which I plan to continue when the weather improves just a bit more. Anyhow, I have a growing disenchantment with Nissan regarding their continuing lack of battery management, and their sky-high price for replacing Leaf batteries ($8500 I think). I am still hoping for a third party to help at some point. If reports on the 2017 Bolts with high mileage are any indicator, I don't think I'm going to be running into similar problems with my Bolt.
Last November I invested in a Bolt. About 26k after incentives with a 3 year no interest loan. The no interest loan saved me about 9k over a 5 (or 6) year 6% interest loan. I'm not sure how much I would have spent, including interest, on a TM3. But I believe would have been over 50k.
Range matters a lot. Last week I drove 270 miles in two days. No problem. Both days involved trips to Seattle and back. It's hard to describe the sense of liberation. The Leaf had become a Leash. The Bolt, I believe, is going to serve me in every driving situation outside of actual road trips. We do those about once or twice a year. We have a gas mobile for that. Today I drove around town, picked up my son, drove south 20 miles to Centralia, drove back into town (Olympia) and then went back home. 100 miles down and less than half a battery used. This is a big deal. No leash.
There's something truly special for me about hitting the highway on electric power. No fumes. It just feels good.
I also honestly like the way my Bolt looks. I love the color (blue), and I like how it sits up higher than most sedans, almost to a small SUV level. It's like a mini utility vehicle. I wouldn't have noticed the narrow seats if there hadn't been a hubbub about them on the Internet. The Leaf's seats are a lot cushier, but I don't experience the difference as a downgrade in my daily wellbeing. I like that the Bolt is somewhat narrow. This is really good for parking.
Today I parked next to a dual motor long range TM3. When we started our business, my business partner and I had the idea that we would buy Teslas when our business had grown enough. Yes, part of me lusts after the acceleration and the range for sure. But I also have this sense that I really like my Bolt. It's quick enough. It's long range enough. It's nice enough. I don't feel that burning need for a Tesla anymore. I'm good. I think the Bolt might do the trick for years to come.
Here are few other things I noted about Leaf/Bolt differences:
- The Bolt's GOM is way, way better than the Leaf's GOM. I actually trust it. The Leaf's GOM is unyieldingly optimistic until the last few miles, when it tends to be fairly accurate.
- I got about 4.1 m/kwh while heating the cabin to between 65-70 on days that were between 35 and 45 fahrenheit. The heater on my Leaf just isn't very good. It heats, but it doesn't seem to pay attention to where I set the temperature. If I set it at 61, then it heats the cabin full-on. But if I set it at 60, it blows cold air into the cabin no matter how cold it is already. Weird and annoying, and energy consuming. If I did the same trip to Seattle in my Leaf (if my Leaf could do the trip) it would probably do it at 3 m/kwh or less. The 2011 Leaf heater is a power sucker.
- The Bolt scoots. I don't think I need a quicker car. I mean, I wouldn't mind, but it's a lot of fun to drive.
- It would be nice if the Bolt had a battery life indicator like the Leaf.
- On the second day of my trip I got home with 15 miles left on the GOM. At around 25 miles it gave me a warning that I was running low on juice. That was hilarious! On cold days my Leaf will give me about 30-35 miles total (with heat running). Warning, your Bolt is becoming Leaf-like.
- I never had the need to install a charger at my house before I owned the Bolt. I just plugged the Leaf into a trickle charge and it was good to go in the morning. This is not the case with the Bolt. The battery is massive in comparison. Doing consecutive trips to Seattle was barely possible with a trickle charger. So, I'm planning to install a 240 volt charger some time soon.
- I'd love to find a way to disable the Bolt's 3 beep warning when I leave my keys in the car. I think it does the same thing when I leave the car on and try to leave with the keys in my pocket - not sure (?) Anyways, I hate it.
- I'd love to find a way to disable the wifi completely outside of pulling the fuse. I know there's a switch but the signal remains on. It all feels like Big GM Brother is watching you.
- The plastic interior is cheesy on the Bolt, but I don't care much. I actually like the dash just fine. It's the doors that seem extra 10k car-like.
- There's a basic honesty to the Bolt that I really like. The stated range is range always seems realistic. In the Leaf, the range initially stated on the GOM is always a fantasy.
- The Bolt doesn't have that idiotic "Can we capture your data" screen on start up that continually haunts me on the Leaf - every day, every drive.
- The sound system on the Leaf is better - and it even has a CD slot behind the navigation screen. Very cool. Sound systems are easy and inexpensive to upgrade. Not so with batteries.