Staff Car Report: After 80,700 Miles We Say Goodbye to Our 2011 Nissan LEAF — and Buy Another

Back on March 28 2011, the Gordon-Bloomfield family was lucky enough to be one of the first customers in the UK to take ownership of the Nissan LEAF electric car.

Nicknamed Hiro Nakamura by the family, our 2011 Nissan LEAF has been our regular family car ever since, occupying a position on the Transport Evolved staff fleet as we try to answer one very simple question.

With two capacity bars gone, Hiro's range had dropped to a real-world 60 or so miles per charge.

With two capacity bars gone, Hiro’s range had dropped to a real-world 60 or so miles per charge.

Can Nissan’s first mass-produced electric car really be an everyday family car — and can it survive everything from the school run to family vacations? Moreover, can it provide the kind of reliability year after year that modern car owners expect?

Regulars to Transport Evolved will know that we’ve spent the past few years reporting on major milestones in our time with Hiro, covering everything from tire replacements through to the loss of both first and second capacity bars. We’ve driven Hiro across the UK and even into mainland Europe, charging up on everything from basic 16-amp camping outlets through to the latest and greatest in DC Quick Charging stations.

And after four years and seven months, we’re able to say categorically that the Nissan LEAF is a real, everyday family car.

When Hiro first came to the Transport Evolved staff fleet back in March 2011, it was our intention to keep the car for as long as possible, partly as an exercise in ecological car ownership but also to see just how long-lived a Nissan LEAF really was. As regular readers will note however, Transport Evolved has been on summer vacation for the month of August as part of a massive move from the west-coast of the UK to the west-coast of the U.S.

While we looked into bringing Hiro with us — a technical possibility due to the quirk that early European and U.S. LEAFs were made on the same production line in Japan for the first two years of LEAF production — the administrative paperwork required, poor timing, and tight moving schedule meant that it was impractical to do so.

With regular cleaning, the inside of Hiro didn't suffer too much.

With regular cleaning, the inside of Hiro didn’t suffer too much.

The only other option? Say goodbye to our trusty steed for the past fifty-five months, and find another.

Because our LEAF was purchased on a five-year purchase plan rather than leased, there was some outstanding finance left to pay on the car. But thanks to an increasing popularity in the UK for the five-seat family hatch and the fact that only five months of payments were outstanding, we were able to sell the car for a small profit despite its high mileage.

With 80,700 miles on the clock and two capacity bars lost, Hiro’s real-world range had dropped significantly from its original 70-90 miles of useable range when new. Thanks to increased public charging availability, the reduced range of around 60 miles per charge didn’t dissuade Hiro’s new buyer, who intended to use the car primarily as a cheap commuter for a daily 30-mile round trip.

With a price agreed on, we were able to pocket a small profit after finance payments had been taken care of, leaving us with a plan to find another LEAF stateside.

This brings us nicely to Micah, our 2013 Nissan LEAF SL.

With 80,700 miles under our belts, another Nissan LEAF was the obvious choice for the U.S., but with rumors of a new 2016 LEAF with improved battery capacity and larger range flying around, a brand-new LEAF didn’t make financial sense. Even with impressively low lease deals of $299 per month with $299 down for high-end LEAF SL models from one of Portland’s largest LEAF specialists, buying a used LEAF meant that we’d be in a much better position to upgrade to a newer car should the next-wave of electric cars offer a range and performance that was just too good to miss.

We'll miss the rear cup-holders -- a feature not found on U.S. cars.

We’ll miss the rear cup-holders — a feature not found on U.S. cars.

Luckily for us, PlattAuto of downtown Gladstone, OR specializes in used Nissan LEAFs, buying off-lease two and three-year old cars for the used market. With a short test-drive in a 2013 Nissan LEAF SL secured, we agreed on a purchase price of $14,600 and went about arranging an auto loan.

Opting to use a credit union rather than a large bank, we were pleased to learn that First Technology Federal Credit Union — like some other Credit Unions — provides customers with a percentage discount on auto loans for zero and low-emission vehicles, making an already low interest rate a quarter percent lower.

Finance and car secured, auto insurance for the LEAF was also a breeze, with the pleasant surprise that most insurance companies offer lower premiums for electric cars than gasoline-powered ones. In the UK, we’d been used to paying a higher premium for vehicles which were considered to be higher-risk by the insurance companies than gasoline or diesel cars.

Micah will be taking Hiro’s place on the Transport Evolved fleet later today — so keep posted for updates as we find out the differences between U.S. and UK versions of Nissan’s popular plug-in.


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  • jeffsongster

    Welcome to the states… Enjoy the newer LEAF. My wife drives our 2013… and I scammed the 2015 in our 2 LEAF garage in sunny California.

  • James Lawless

    wow… the leaf lost 25% of it’s charge in that time period….that’s not good….

    • D Gatewood

      Loosing two bars is not 25%

      • James Lawless

        60 miles of range left is…

        • D Gatewood

          Depends which figure you are using from Nicki’s original the 70 or 90 and if she is correct quoting the 60 max at sale time. To get 90 miles range each bar equates to 7.5 miles so two bars down from 12 would give a 75 mile range or 60 minimal with extra ancillary draw uneconomical driving etc. Too many variables to categorically say 25%.

          • James Lawless

            It has nothing to do with Niki or variables… Nissan are giving a range of this vehicle of around 85-90 mile avg., this vehicle is now averaging 60 mile range, I am being generous with 25% loss, more like 27%. Let’s not give Nissan an easy pass here , the only way to better quality is from constructive criticism…I believe this same year model suffered badly in the warm climate states here in an even a shorter time period. I am just glad she was able to sell it at a small profit….

          • D Gatewood

            Since you are using her info and car as an example it has everything to do with her!
            By variables she mentioned 60 miles while her display picture shows 64 miles while at eleven bars not twelve! You are using the high end figures of 85 to 90 while Nikki mentions original usable figures of 70 to 90 miles when new.
            Nissan does not need and “easy pass” as you put it since they admit the pack will drop in range due to age and extreme heat. My 2012 dropped one bar at 7600 miles in Oct 2014 but the build date turned out to be Jul 2011 so due to virtually age alone one capacity bar was lost.
            Constructive criticism requires all facts not just certain selected ones which is what I am challenging.

          • James Lawless

            I am not using Niki’s info, the on board computer read out says 64 miles and I believe 2011 model when new will give a read out of 90+ miles . The 2011 Nissan owner manual will say 100 miles. I am not using high end or low end numbers or useable figures, just Nissan numbers, what the full charge read out range is at when new compared to what a full charge range is today, it is more than 25%.
            P.S I am not talking about your car or Leafs in general just this car, to me losing more than 25% range while still making car payments that is not good.

          • D Gatewood

            If you would read my post it stated the 64 miles is at eleven bars not the full twelve, also the charge to full indicator shows it has another one and a half hours before full charge. That means the 64 figure will increase.
            What the final figure will be neither you or I can say since each bar represents several miles and a snap look can mean the bar has only just appeared and represents the low end of its capacity or it could be at the maximum ready to illuminate the next bar

          • David

            Hi, I’m the new owner of ‘Hiro’. I believe that I can settle this discussion. I fully charged ‘Hiro’ (now renamed by my daughter as Lexie) this morning at a 32A charger, when I turned on the car and flicked into ECO mode, the GOM (Guess O Meter) stated a range of 82 miles. This I believe confirms Nikki’s original statement that ‘Hiro’ was sold with a 20% loss of battery capacity.

          • David,

            That’s great to know! And good to know that Lexie (ne Hiro) is doing really well.

            Keep us posted as those miles add up!


          • D Gatewood

            Thanks for that but you really need to respond to James Lawless as he was the one having difficulty understanding the foibles of the display.

    • JR250

      I wish all that would happen to my ICE vehicles was that they lost 20% of their range after over 80,000 miles of use. I have scars – and bills – that say otherwise.

  • Welcome to the States. Good to see you posting again!! Look forward to the next video production.

    Buying second hand was smart!

  • Michael B

    Awesomesauce, LOL

  • Wesley

    Congrats on the newer Leaf and the move to Oregon!

  • BenBrownEA

    We are so lucky to have you all in the states! Sad to hear of Hiro staying behind, but was cheered up by Micah coming into your lives.. put putting you into a good position for the future. Welcome and success to you!

  • Tom McNeely

    WE just sent off a check for 9800.00 and will get our 2013 Leaf SV to our home next friday. We are looking forward to driving it around town and trips nearby. My wife has a level 2 charger at her workplace. It seems to have all health bars and has 22000 miles. There are
    many Leafs now in town and I hope to make connection with the other owners and start a meet up or rally downtown. Nikki, welcome to the states and hope you enjoy your Leaf.

  • Drive Oregon

    Welcome to Oregon – we look forward to crossing paths soon!

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