I’ve covered electric cars (EVs) for Buffalo Rising in the past, but not the Nissan LEAF. It may be overshadowed by Tesla and Chevrolet, but with more than 350,000 models sold globally since its origination in 2010, it’s worth dissecting.
With a sub-$30K starting price, the LEAF is cheaper than both Chevy EVs—the Volt, and Bolt, and far cheaper than any Tesla Model 3 on the road. Cheap doesn’t mean bad, though. The LEAF may be the most well-rounded EV on the market. The 2018 Nissan LEAF was named “2018 World Green Car” by the World Car Awards. More significantly, the LEAF was the first all-electric vehicle to win the award since the category was created.
The 2018 LEAF provides drivers with 150 miles of range from its 40kWh battery-pack, and delivers 147-horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque to keep things interesting. If 150 miles of range isn’t enough for you, Nissan says a 60kWh battery is coming as an option for 2019 models, and will increase the range to at least 225 miles.
Charging the LEAF takes 16 hours when using a 12-volt outlet, and just eight hours with a 240-volt charger. As I mentioned in my review of the Chevy Volt back in 2016, you’re going to want to install a 240-volt plug wherever you charge your EV. It guarantees that overnight charging will provide you maximum vehicle range for your daily commute. Charging the LEAF publicly is the fastest way yo up your range—some quick chargers can provide up to 80 percent battery charge in just 40 minutes.
This brings me to the title of this story. Nissan flew me to Burlington, Vermont at the beginning of October to see what #LivingWithLEAF is all about. I accepted the invitation, despite having driven the LEAF during the press launch in Napa last December. I wasn’t sure what I’d learn by making another trip to drive the LEAF, but I was surprised—mainly because of the location.
Nissan strategically chose Burlington because it’s one of the best places in the country to own an EV. According to driveelectricvt.com, nearly half of Vermont’s electricity comes from renewable sources. Vermont has a 90 percent renewable goal, and electric cars are helping make that goal more and more realistic. Electricity rates are steady, whereas gasoline prices fluctuate. Furthermore, most EV charging costs stay in-state. Gas-spending moves money out of the state and region.
The most significant reason why owning an EV in Vermont makes sense is their network of charging stations. There are 179 EV charging stations throughout the state. To put that into perspective, there are only about 25 EV charging stations in Buffalo and surrounding suburbs according to PlugShare (but things are looking up – see city, and state). Vermont has approximately $2.4 million in grants available to expand their charging network through 2027. The money came from settlements following Volkswagen’s violations of the Clean Air Act—aka Dieselgate.
Although Vermont does not currently offer state incentives for electric cars, local businesses do. Burlington Electric Department (BED) offers customers $1200 toward the purchase or lease of a new EV priced under $50,000. Moderate income customers are eligible for an additional $600 incentive for an EV. BED is working directly with Nissan to offer a $5,000 discount toward the purchase of a new 2018 LEAF.
Freedom Nissan of South Burlington sold the second most LEAFs in August, only behind a dealer in California. Freedom Nissan prices their cars aggressively and offers customers free charging at the dealership. People in Vermont want to buy these cars because it makes sense to own one. Heck, the Mayor of Burlington drives a LEAF.
The $7,500 Federal incentive for EVs is still in effect, along with the $2,000 New York State incentive. Owning a LEAF in NYS could be as cheap as $20,000 before taxes, but it still may not be ideal for WNYers due to the sub-par charging network.
If Buffalo wants to progress and improve, a great start would be expanding the local EV charging network—or at least making a plan for expansion. EV ownership in Buffalo is currently restricted to those who have the ability to charge at home. If you can’t rely on a local network of EV charging stations, you have to plan your driving within 75 miles of your home—in the case of the 150 mile range LEAF.
Buffalo can learn a lot from Burlington when it comes to EV ownership. An eco-friendly 716 could start with electric cars, and set the tone for much more substantial changes. The key is to avoid complacency—let’s make some change sooner than later.
Lead image: With more than 350,000 models sold since its origination in 2010, the Nissan Leaf is one of the best-selling electric vehicles in the world.