Nissan LEAF Toronto Road Springfield IL

Coming home from staying downtown Saturday night I decided I was in the mood for some soft tacos. Instead of heading to some local non large franchise – we chose to stop at Taco Bell. Not exactly good for you or high end quality – but it was quick and would get me what I wanted.

The quick part actually turned out not be reality. Church must have just let out or everyone was craving Taco Bell on Sunday – because after we pulled in the place got packed. While I’m sitting in the passenger seat waiting for my girlfriend to come back with our food a large black SUV pulls up next to our car. A very large bald man who looked like his pinky could snap me in half gets out with a few other people.

This full sized monstrosity of a gas guzzling SUV ( not running B100 Biodiesel ) is important for one reason. It pretty much blocked my view of Toronto Road. Normally this wouldn’t be that big of an issue – but it was for me that day.

Since I was “forced” to look out our front window I was pay attention to the cars driving in the area. When looking towards the Toronto Road overpass that crosses Interstate 55 I was fairly sure I had spotted a hard to find ( in Springfield IL ) Nissan LEAF in the wild. Even though I had my digital camcorder with me I wouldn’t be able to get good video of this vehicle do to the large SUV. As the “LEAF” passed my location I couldn’t confirm 100% that my suspicions were right.

When my girlfriend gets back to the car I tell her what I think I saw. Right then and there she knows we won’t be heading directly home – the hunt is on. Honestly I figured finding what I thought was a Nissan LEAF would be along shot. The car had passed a good 10 minutes before she got back to the car. It could have headed many other directions from the main road it was on. Chances of us find our target were incredibly slim.

Imagine my shock and surprise when just around the corner I spotted my target parked in front of a local cafe. But the shock doesn’t end there. In the same parking lot a black Chevy Volt also was present. For electric car fans this could have only gotten better if a Tesla Roadster or Model S was there.

While others might not find it odd to see 2 EV’s in the same parking lot. In our area this is just unheard of. The odds of me being in the right place at the right time to see 2 electric cars in one place around here are astronomical. Most people in our community have a very anti electric car mentality. Granted I have read and heard about Nissan LEAFs and Chevy VOLTs being purchased in our region. I’d always figured me seeing these vehicles or their owners was lottery type odds. Amazingly this hasn’t been the case. I’ve now seen 2 Chevy Volts in our area – talked to one owner. And I have now come across a Nissan LEAF.

Once again I got “busted” by an electric car owner while recording their vehicle. The owner of the Nissan LEAF above came out and engaged me in conversation. He first asked me if I wanted to know anything about the car. My reply probably came off as pompous – I stated I knew pretty much everything I needed to about the car – which is very close to true. Considering I gave several sales people at one regional dealership a run for their money in regards to information / specifications on the LEAF.

Luckily for me the owner of this LEAF didn’t take my comment the wrong way. Honestly it is amazing to me how really cool electric car owners are. I truly feel they realize they are ambassadors for this new technology. This is only my second time having a conversation with an owner in the “wild”. I have had discussions with EV owners at multiple electric vehicle events. Neither one of the “in the wild” owners came out screaming why are you recording my car. Both engaged in conversations about their vehicle. You just don’t see this type of behavior nowadays. It makes me smile that these owners “get it”. Without them engaging in conversations and sharing their experiences this technology has less chance of becoming normal. These owners are the front line in educating car buyers.

The owner of this vehicle said he’d owned it for a few months. I didn’t ask where he purchased the car because that was clearly shown on the back of the LEAF. It was bought locally from Green Nissan. He stated he was very happy with the purchase. The owner stated that with air conditioner running the vehicle was providing just a bit above 80 miles per charge.

He made mention of Nissan LEAF owners having problems with GE WattStation Level 2 Chargers. At the time I didn’t recall hearing about this. If I remember correctly he stated he had problems with this charger and that is why he now trickle charges. Not sure why he chose a GE unit over an AeroVironment Charging Station. I know he said he’d had no problems trickle charging the vehicle. Which brings up a good point. Nissan was forcing early adopters to purchase charging stations with their vehicle. The thought process was this would make for happier owners and less backlash in regards to range. But the fact is you can plug an electric car into a regular home outlet ( as long as your home wiring / breakers aren’t ancient ) and slowly charge the vehicle overnight. That is what trickle charging is – charging the vehicle at a lower wattage for a longer time versus a higher wattage for less time.

The owner stated trickle charging created less heat for the battery pack since it’s charged slower using less wattage. This in theory should actually improve the longevity of the batteries that power the electric motor. Less heat is always good for any type of electronics – but is a big plus with Lithium-ion batteries. On this same topic I mentioned the reports of some Nissan LEAF owners in the Southern parts of the United States reporting problems with battery pack performance. Since the LEAF doesn’t liquid cool the pack ( like several other electric cars Tesla Roadster & Model S, Chevy Volt and Ford Focus EV ). I think the Mitsubishi i-MiEV has an air cooled battery pack similar to the LEAF.

If you charge the battery pack to 100% constantly and don’t drive the vehicle quickly after doing so and drive in a hot climate – this can degrade the pack at a faster rate. In regards to charging EV owners are given all the information on best practices at the point of sale and within the vehicle manual. Just like a gasoline powered car – if you choose to not follow advice or abuse the vehicle – this is NOT a design flaw and there may be consequences or component degradation.

This LEAF owner seemed very focused on the Ford Focus EV. At one time I was very interested in this car. But when I considered that the vehicle wasn’t being built as a standalone EV more like a Focus with batteries and electric engine thrown in – my interest cooled. One key advantage of the Ford Focus EV is the batteries are liquid cooled. Unfortunately it looks like Ford may end up just making this vehicle as a California compliance car. Meaning they will only manufacturer this car for California regulations and car buyers. Although Wikipedia claims “was release to retail customers in May 2012 only in California, New York and New Jersey, in limited numbers” – some online communities have made it seem this isn’t the case. “A total of 143 units have been delivered through July 2012” – no source provide for that information. If Nissan actually manufacturers the 2013 LEAF with some of the rumored upgrades as standard – some Ford Focus EV benefits become less or close to equal.

At the beginning of our conversation I mentioned the Chevy Volt in the same parking lot. The LEAF owner thought it was mine. I quickly corrected that misconception. Although worse case scenario I’d love to own a Volt – but prefer an all electric. The interesting thing is the owner didn’t seem at all interested that another EV owner was parked there. Didn’t seem at all curious as to who might own on it. To me I found it very interesting that in our community you could find these two cars in the same place. Especially after the talks I’ve had with people in our area over the years in regards to these cars.

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