The Nissan Leaf Experiment

In September 2016 I bought a brand-new Nissan Leaf SV with the new 25% bigger battery (30 kWh) This page will keep track of ongoing data, modifications, observations, and such.


A Brief History of the Leaf

The Nissan Leaf is currently in its third minor revision. If you find yourself interested in acquiring one, the right choice depends on your driving requirements and your financial situation. Here’s a quick summary of what happened in each model year:

  • 2011-2012: The first generation came out. Battery capacity was 24 kWh, but this first version was known to be a bit delicate. Heat, age, and heavy use mean that the batteries in this generation are a mixed lot. The battery came with a 5 year/60,000 mile warranty, and you’ll find some on the market that have been upgraded with new batteries. The EPA range estimate was only 73 miles, early drivers reported 80-90. At this point, you can probably expect 70-80 miles per charge on an original generation Leaf (less at speeds over 60 MPH)
  • 2013: The car received about 100 upgrades for the model year. Most notable for me were some battery improvements, a more efficient heating/cooling system, and more trunk space since they cleaned up the layout somewhat. EPA range jumped to 87 miles.
  • 2015: A new battery chemistry known as “the lizard battery” comes out – designed to be more resistant to heat. This should be significant, because many of the earlier Leaf battery problems occurred in places like Phoenix, Arizona with extremely hot weather, or in drivers who had a particularly intense driving cycle (long, high-speed drives and rapid charging tend to heat up the battery).
  • 2016: a new 30kWh battery was added for the more upscale SV and SL trims. The 25% larger capacity should improve both range and lifespan, since you are now using a smaller percentage of the battery’s energy for any given drive. As of Late 2016, you can also get the bigger battery in the S model – an ideal change if your goal is to minimize cost.

Current Status and Stories:

December 2016: I think I got unlucky and got a slightly lower-peformance (i.e. defective) battery. Testing of a bunch of other LEAFs of other ages suggests this is a rare situation, but this is still good test, because we can see if Nissan will fix it for me.

Here’s the story

  • Using a phone app called “Leaf Spy Pro” app on my phone, I take periodic recordings of the car’s battery condition, which is called State of Health or SOH. On the day I bought the car, it was reporting 99%. But within 1 month (under 1000 miles), this estimate had dropped to 89%.  Was it a software bug or a defective battery? Here’s what that looks like:
Figure 1: My Leaf battery seemed to degrade by over 10% in just the first couple of weeks.

Figure 1: My Leaf battery seemed to degrade by over 10% in just the first couple of weeks.

For comparison, the Boulder Nissan service manager has a 2015 Leaf with 15,000 miles, which still reads 100%. A local friend of mine has a 2013 with 25,000+ miles, which reads 91%.

This observation went along with an abrupt drop in my car’s range as well. For example:

  1. When I first got the car, I did an easy roundtrip to the far corner of Denver – over 90 miles, much of it at 75+ MPH on the interstate. I got home with over 16% remaining on the battery.
  2. On November 4th, I used the car to drive some friends to the airport. Starting with a full battery, the charge level dropped to 42% after only 44 miles, and I was worried if the car would make it home, when earlier it had done the same trip with much more battery remaining. With slow driving, the car made it home with 10% to spare.
  3. On November 18th, my wife used the car to pick some relatives up from the airport. This time the weather was cold (32F), and the battery estimate went from 100% down to only 30% by the time she got there. On the way home, the battery estimate dropped to 0% and switched to the “—” low energy display. She drove slowly and made it home with just about zero battery remaining.This incident immediately turned her parents off to the idea of electric car ownership, which was sad because that was one of the key reasons I got the car – to influence them!
  4. On November 27th, I did another airport run to bring the inlaws back, starting at the same temperature. This time, I boldly ignored the low battery warnings and ran out of juice after only 78 miles. I had to call the free Nissan roadside assistance program, and a truck brought me and my car home. I’ll write a separate story on this experience.
  5. Trying to isolate the variable of battery temperature, I did some cold-weather testing on my car using a controlled loop of mountain roads. I found that a battery temperature difference of 30F (15 ->45F) made a range difference of roughly 10% at low speeds, more at higher speeds.
  6. Separately, I borrowed a different 30kWh LEAF from Boulder Nissan, and repeated the 88 mile airport loop test in #3 above, starting with an even colder 15F battery. This car made the loop easily and got me home with 7% battery to spare, even in the colder weather. Several other tests with this car confirmed that it is indeed at least 15% better than mine.

Summary: Based on my best data so far (comparing my records of temperature and driving performance, plus stuff I am reading from the charger and engine computer), I think there is either a hardware or software bug with my Leaf.

Unfortunately, my local Nissan dealership does not have any diagnostic equipment that allows them to see this problem, or even measure the actual capacity of a battery. There’s only a superficial one that rounds the reported health to increments of the nearest 15% or larger.

* Help Welcomed: If you are an insider at Nissan with tech experience in the Leaf, please contact me and we can help get accurate information out to potential customers.

I am finding that Nissan has “big, old company syndrome” and it’s hard to get in touch with actual engineers there. This is a notable contrast to Tesla, where people who work on the cars and the Supercharger network actually read these articles and send me emails proactively. A great practice for reaching your true fans – hint, hint.

I did another ineffective visit to the dealership on January 18th, which was supposed to lead to a call from a more advanced specialist from Nissan. Unfortunately, this was a total bust – it was a completely non-technical customer service rep who knew nothing about battery technology.

Update, March 13th: I am learning more about battery performance with more testing, and I installed an L2 charger at home to help with this learning. Temperatures in my area are back in the 60s/70s, and the reported battery health is now back up to 91%, so the whole issue might be just a case of the Leaf’s battery estimation and/or charging software working poorly at low temperatures. I should know more after a bit more warm-weather driving (80F+). If so I’ll replace this whole scrambled mess with a more concise summary.

Future Projects and Ideas:

I have a few plans in store for this car, including

  • Building a simple off-grid “solar carport” that allows the car to charge automatically whenever the sun shines. While also protecting the car from the sun. (Design complete – panels coming in March)
  • Testing the car’s maximum range under ideal conditions (I am hoping it can exceed 150 miles on one charge)
  • Using the Leaf for a bit of Uber/Lyft Driving, for fun and to see how the cost/benefit analysis works out (this project has not been ongoing since October)
  • Trying a longer road trip with quick-charging stations along the way.
  • If possible, tapping directly into the battery so the power can be used to power a house (and recharge from solar panels) much like a Tesla Powerwall. If you have experience with how to do this, please get in touch
  • Monitoring battery life and efficiency as the car gets older.
  • Eventually, learning about aftermarket battery upgrades. (In theory, you should be able to swap out the battery and put in one with double the capacity as battery tech improves. But it will only happen if there’s a market for it and some company rises to the challenge).



  • Tom October 4, 2016, 12:33 pm

    Hi MMM, I’ll be reading this with lots of interest. I currently drive a hybrid (Prius C) but am interested in the new wave of EVs. As a resident of Quebec I’d be interested in how things go when it gets to -20C outside (-4F). One thing I’ve always wondered is why developers of EVs are going the route of re-charging batteries rather than just swapping them out (i.e. a quick change at a battery station rather than a gas station). Thanks

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2016, 1:15 pm

      Probably because DC charging is already really fast (and you rarely need it). Meanwhile, battery swapping would open up a whole can of logistics worms.

  • Phil October 4, 2016, 6:24 pm

    I notice that here in Idaho, there is an increase in the registration for an electric car. $140 in our case to supposedly offset the tax not paid for fuel consumption. There is also an annual fee of $75. Here in Idaho registering a gas motor vehicle is something like $60-$75 a year. Still cheaper overall but they are Making it less attractive.

    • Sophia October 14, 2016, 11:54 am

      Since EV’s use roads, it makes sense that owners would need to cover their share of road maintenance and upkeep. Certainly $65/year is much cheaper than the equivalent portion of gas taxes you’d pay with a gasoline-fueled car.

      • Mr. Money Mustache October 15, 2016, 6:54 pm

        Yeah, it’s definitely fair to have us drivers pay for the roads. However, I sure wish we did it on a per-mile basis, and that we drivers funded 100% of the roads based on how much we drive, rather than depending partly on income/property/sales taxes to subsidize driving.

        Gasoline taxes were a good stab at this, because they generally scale up along with vehicle size and how much you drive. But since the mid-2000s we have had a much better option we are just not using yet: a simple measurement of your exact use, with a multiplier for vehicle weight/size and even congestion pricing. We could even charge cyclists as appropriate, although their rate would be 90% cheaper than a compact car.

        With this pricing we’d have an economist’s dream of a beautiful free-market system that made our entire city setup more efficient, and we’d get lower tax rates as a secondary reward.

  • Doron October 4, 2016, 11:07 pm

    I (and many others) have tapped into the Leaf traction battery indirectly by using an inverter connected through the DC-DC converter, which is accessible under the hood. Using this setup I was able to power my fridge for several hours when we lost power in 2012 during a hurricane. See for a description of such a setup. However, I haven’t tapped the High Voltage DC battery directly, which is what I suspect MMM is asking.

    • Brian October 17, 2016, 2:47 pm

      Follow your link; interesting description.

      If MMM wants to power his house from the Leaf battery, the simplest (and maybe even least costly) solution might be to use the Leaf as a “generator,” as you did during the Hurricane, to charging a small bank (maybe 2-4) of stationary, off-grid lead-acid batteries. The leaf’s 1kW production would probably be enough to continuously power the loads in the house and avoid any substantial discharge of the lead-acid batteries — with this low depth-of-discharge, modern off-grid lead-acid batteries could be expected to last at least 20 years.

      Meanwhile, the off-grid batteries would effectively serve as a small auxiliary power backup unit at home (to augment the Leaf), but more importantly, they would act as a high-current-capable intermediary between the Leaf and the house, to power whatever peaks and startup loads the house demands.

      Any setup of this sort would require a high-power, off-grid-capable inverter, rather than the microinverters MMM has previously mentioned for his solar setup. Outback (and others) make inverters which are “smart” enough to be either grid-tied or off-grid.

      Another consideration: tapping directly into the Leaf’s battery would almost certainly void the warranty, and might destroy the battery and brick the car if you end up bypassing the Leaf’s battery management system. Not to mention the physical danger of messing around with 360VDC and plenty of amperage to boot. That thing could probably vaporize a crescent wrench. Tapping only into the traction battery presents a lower risk of battery damage, warranty issues, and untimely demise.

  • Emil October 5, 2016, 3:11 am

    Nissan showcased the vehicle-to-house electricity system in Japan back in 2011-2012 when I was doing my thesis on smart grids and electric vehicles. Not sure what happened to that since then or how they priced it but they still have it on their website, might be useful for you: .

    • Ernie December 29, 2016, 8:24 pm

      I know what happened to this. It’s too expensive. I can’t find any hard numbers through Google, but I recall estimated costs in the tens of thousands of dollars.

      When you can get a Honda generator for a couple thousand bucks, it just doesn’t make sense.

      • Mr. Money Mustache January 11, 2017, 1:07 pm

        Cool idea. I think they over-engineered it though, which led to high expense. All I want is a plug that clicks into the 360 volt battery (heck, let’s throw in a safety fuse too), and I’ll take it from there.

        I can connect that to a 360VDC -> 240VAC inverter, and plug that output right into a 50 amp breaker that feeds my main power panel. When I want to disconnect the Leaf and go back to mainline power, I flip off the 50 amper and flip the main 150 amp back on.

        The problem with electricity-saving ideas is that they need to be REALLY cheap, because they are competing with electricity itself, which is incredibly cheap in most places.

  • The Big Monkey October 5, 2016, 4:46 am

    This might be of interest with respect to battery life.

    I work within the automotive industry. We are finding that the battery packs in some of our test vehicles are lasting much longer than we initially thought.

  • theFIREstarter October 5, 2016, 8:15 am

    Hi MMM,

    Great to see you taking the plunge on an EV, I’ve read about them extensively over the last year and am at a point where I want to buy one although realistically have not got the Net Worth to justify it. My plan is probably just to wait till the Model 3 comes out as that looks to cover any range anxiety plus I should have a bit more cash in the bank by then as well.

    One thing maybe other readers can help me with, in Europe there are many roads where people do not have a garage nor even a driveway. It’s all just on street parking (and it’s a total free for all). Surely there are many inner city places in the USA like this as well? What are people doing who are in this situation? I read one comment on the main blog post about an incentive for a free parking space if you installed your own on street charger but that seemed like a pretty niche solution to the problem, especially when more and more EVs are being bought (not everyone can have their own free space/charging station!). I know Uber + driverless technology will ultimately mean far less cars are needed but in the transition where people struggle to get their heads around that I think there will be a large demand for EVs and places to park/charge them where there are currently none.

    Can you charge a car on street with a very long lead to your house? Surely this is a trip hazard/dangerous?! What about people in flats/apartments/Shared housing who park on street?

    What are peoples thoughts on the logistics of this?

    Is the answer just as simple as when demand is there the local authorities will install on street charging points? (A fair answer but one that doesn’t help us right now)


    • Optimist October 5, 2016, 12:59 pm

      Here in The Netherlands, people that do not have their own driveway usually charge their cars at public charging stations. There are many different systems and depending on the type of car, you may be able to use the super quick charging stations that will charge a Renault Zoe to 80% capacity within 30 minutes. The quick charge stations are often provided by fuel stations along highways.

      Within towns and cities, there are usually plenty of charging stations available. Some offer nice incentives such as free parking in the city center while charging. Many public parking garages and parking lots next to office buildings also offer charging stations.

      Using a smart card, one can charge at those stations and will be invoiced once a month.

      Hope this helps!

    • Ben Kurtz October 6, 2016, 6:15 am

      In London, I have noticed an increasing number of dedicated curbside charging stations in residential areas. They look like retro-futuristic parking meters with cords, plugs and blinking lights, and the curbside parking space next to such a charger is specially signposted for time-limited EV parking / charging. This solution relies on vandals not destroying the equipment late at night, which might not be a given in every city.

      I’ve also noticed dedicated curbside spaces marked for Zipcar and other car-sharing clubs.

      Between people who charge at work, charge at the grocery store (it’s rare, but an increasing number of big-box parking lots have this), charge at highway or gas station fast chargers, and charge at curbside stations, it’s feasible to get a good fraction of a neighborhood that relies mainly on street parking into electric cars.

      There’s the usual chicken-and-egg problem of building new infrastructure to support a new product before the product is in mass use, or trying to sell a product to the masses before the full public infrastructure is ready to support it, but that’s nothing new. People with garages and private driveways lead the way, and now that EVs are mainstream more cities and customer-facing businesses are building infrastructure.

    • Ernie December 29, 2016, 8:28 pm

      You don’t have to charge your car at home. You can charge it at work, for example. Or in public parking garages near your destination, etc.

      There’s a website that shows you where you can charge:

  • Tony October 6, 2016, 5:20 pm

    Can you elaborate more on the 7500$ tax credit. I believe that if your income tax is less than 7500$ you wont get a full credit on your Nissan Leaf or do they automatically deduct it from the sticker price now a days?

  • Frank October 18, 2016, 9:17 am

    Re: using it as a Powerwall – check out Leaf to Home, Nissan offered that in Japan.

  • R. Fried November 2, 2016, 12:49 pm


    Saw the posting on marketwatch.
    Am use to a large car, Grand Marquie.
    Wonder how the ride in a Leaf would feel comparatively.
    Will inquire at our local dealer on Long Island to see what price they come up with.
    Dont think New York has a program.

  • Tim West November 4, 2016, 6:20 pm

    I sent your info to my friend Mike Kot who went out and found that CT doesn’t have the same discounts:

    Here’s his reply.

    “I stopped by Miller NIssan. I compared the article price to their price. See the differences:

    Miller Difference
    Article Nissan Price vs article
    sticker price from car window 35445 35999 554
    Dealer Fee 600 687 87
    Assorted Discounts from dealer -4500 4500
    Hard to explain discount Nissan finance -6000 -3500 2500
    Federal Tax Credit -7500 -7500 0
    State tax credit -4653 -3000 1653
    13392 22686 9294

    The article showed a price of $13,392 as compared to MIller’s price of $22,686. Miller did not give a $4500 discount on the car. I didn’t ask for it either.

    The finance company was only offering $3500 not the $6,000. Those are the two biggest takeaways. The two add up to $7,000. I would do it if MIller would give me the same discount from the dealer and the discount from the finance company financing the vehicle.

    You can’t do anything about the difference in the state tax credit.

    Good luck, but this wasn’t realistic in CT.


    • Mr. Money Mustache November 4, 2016, 7:25 pm

      Wow, pretty big difference and thanks for sharing it Tim.

      I have heard from quite a few people around the US at this point. Some are finding that their Nissan dealer will match the price I got here in Boulder.

      For those that do not, several ended up calling Boulder Nissan and getting the sale done through Nigel Zeid – he said in some cases has been cheaper for him to ship the Leaf to the customer, versus paying more at an East Coast dealer.

      This is obviously a less than optimal solution – since the purpose of this car is to stop burning gas, it’s a little sad to put it on a diesel truck and drive it across the country any more than necessary. So if you are finding good deals on the Leaf in your area, please share the dealership name here and readers can find the closest location to them.

      • Megan Springle November 5, 2016, 10:29 am

        My husband and I bought a 2015 Leaf from The car was delivered yesterday, and even though we don’t get a tax credit because the car is used, we got a great price. We paid $10650-ish including all taxes and fees. The car has just over 19,000 miles on it. For anyone looking for a good price on a Leaf and open to buying used, I would definitely recommend checking out Carvana.

      • la femme farmer November 6, 2016, 11:47 pm

        We just purchased a leaf sv today in Washington state (Advantage Nissan – Bremerton). We had been talking about getting an ev for awhile but after reading your earlier post we were inspired to take the plunge. Thanks for sharing your research and experience!
        This was our experience:
        Msrp $35420
        Sticker $34179
        Dealer discounts $2140
        Financing rebate $4000
        WA tax incentive – no sales tax on ev = $2800 savings
        No dealer handling fees (but there was a $150 document fee and a $123.25 gov’t fee)
        No extra insurance required
        We are also getting 2 years of free charging which I think is around $1200 in value
        Plus we will get the $7500 federal tax credit

        Not as great of a deal as yours, but I think it’s pretty close. Regardless – we are pretty happy.

    • Jill_the_Pill January 23, 2017, 1:07 pm

      We just bought an electric kia soul in CT, and kia’s total discount was $7500, making the total discount $18k off the $34k sticker. $5000 one-pay lease today, 11,500 due in 3 years if we keep it. No fees (or rather, fees already included in those numbers).

  • Linda Morehouse November 5, 2016, 8:34 am

    Hi MMM!

    I am a retired (at the expected age!) pharmacist living on the Western Slope of Colorado. I have been a fan of electric energy since the 70’s and finally was able to add solar to my roof in 2011. I drove a Prius for 10 years. I am fighting with Xcel regarding their proposed restructuring of electric charges which will discourage solar and have us burning more coal.

    My question for you is about the cost of repairs to your new electric car. I found the Prius to be very expensive to repair and only the dealer was trained to repair these kinds of cars. What are the costs like for the Leaf?

    • Mr. Money Mustache November 18, 2016, 12:27 pm

      Hi Linda,

      I’m surprised to hear that about your Prius experience – in general their reputation is being more reliable than average and simple to service. The majority of the car (engine, brakes, suspension, etc.) is conventional and any mechanic can work on those parts.

      The electric motor is unusual but rarely if ever breaks. Battery replacements are the only part that are little overpriced because they are typically done at the dealer ($2000), and some of the 2004s are starting to require it. For hobbyists, however, the battery is easy to DIY repair and a friend of mine just did it for only a few hundred.

      The Leaf is even simpler than the Prius, and although it is too early to determine true reliability, results dating back to 2011 are looking good so far: everything is solid except possibly the 2011-era batteries.

  • Ryan November 5, 2016, 12:31 pm

    I liked the article. I started looking into seeing how I can go about doing the same thing. Yes they still have the 7500 rebate but, I’m having trouble finding info on that tax credit. Calling the IRS was useless and their website just had unclear language. Any suggestions on how to find that info? I’m talking to a sales rep but he admits to not knowing either. I hate car payments but it may be time since my wife has a long round trip commute that makes this worth it.

  • JO November 7, 2016, 10:59 am

    I just leased a LEAF S with 30kWh battery ($34k total MSRP) from North Bay Nissan in Petaluma, CA.

    I traded a 2013 Nissan Rogue and got $870 in credit after the remaining loan was paid off. $214/month for 36 months/36k miles. Residual value after the lease will be $9511.

    I will be getting $2500 from the CA state rebate and another $3000 from a local county rebate. Plus a free level 2 charger and up to $1000 rebate for install costs.

    Total cost, if I end up purchasing after lease:
    $870 (trade in credit, covers 1st payment and other charges)
    +$7,490 ( $214 x 35 monthly payments)
    +$9,511 (residual)
    +$808 (tax on residual)


    -$2,500 CA state rebate
    -$3,000 local rebate

    =$13,179 out of my pocket

    Additionally we will be saving in fuel costs and having lower monthly car payments. I still haven’t seen what the new insurance payment will be, but we were under-insured and that has now been corrected as well.

  • Jackson M November 10, 2016, 9:26 am

    Hey M,

    I’m pretty excited to learn what you find out as I bought a used 2013 model off of Carvana.

    Have you done anything yet to understand the true cost/mile? It almost feels free to me to drive the thing (I get 1kwh for $.06), but I know there are other factors too (tires, battery, wiper blades, little tree air fresheners)

  • Justin Williams November 11, 2016, 3:24 pm

    Pulled the trigger on this deal myself in California, and essentially got the same deal MMM did. Pretty awesome, thanks for the tip!

    I have a 110 mile round trip commute three days a week, and I’ve learned some interesting things:
    1. While DC fast is convenient, it’s a bit of a catch 22, as it charges so fast that it’s not practical to leave and come back to unplug and let someone else come in (considered courteous by EV drivers). I’ve also read it’s not great for battery longevity. Level 2 chargers are great.
    2. Charging at home isn’t a no brainer. You need to make sure you have a circuit near the car that doesn’t have other load on it. I first plugged in in my garage, but that circuit was being used by too many other things, so I ended up having to plug in my house and run the wire out through my garage. Also, extension cords can be a challenge. DON’T just grab any extension cord, you need one that will handle the load, not heat up and catch fire.
    3. There’s a perception that EVs are not “fast.” The LEAF accelerates very quickly.
    4. EV drivers need to be more away of people nearby. The car doesn’t make a lot of noise, so people don’t perceive it as much. The LEAF has a backup beeper for this reason.

  • Martin Cappa November 25, 2016, 2:31 pm

    Mr. Money Mustache,
    How about owning the Leaf if you are renting an apartment in Brooklyn NY ? Are there charging stations accessible?
    And is it true I can charge in 30 minutes at some stations?


    Martin Cappa

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 11, 2017, 1:12 pm

      Hi Martin, I don’t know much about Brooklyn, but I have a friend named Google who probably does ;-)

      If you search for “EV charging stations in Brooklyn” on google maps, you’ll see some.
      Also, look at

      And yes, the Nissan Leaf can charge in 30 minutes at any “Chademo” DC fast charging station. Many Nissan dealers have ones you can use for free, and there are networks of them all up the East Coast now along the interstates.

  • Christopher Gioconda November 25, 2016, 5:42 pm

    Saw this blog post linked from an article on Yahoo.

    Recently I thought long and hard about purchasing a 2016 Nissan Leaf SV (which has the 30kwh battery standard). Ultimately the dealer talked me out of an outright purchase and into a lease.

    The rationale actually makes sense: at the end of a lease I’d have paid approx 13k all said and done, and can upgrade to a 2019 Leaf (which will very likely have a much more powerful battery) and not be stuck with a 2016 model with 39000 miles that would have a very low resale value.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 11, 2017, 1:14 pm

      True, leasing is a not-all-that-bad option for electric cars, if you drive a lot and want to upgrade frequently.

      Just to compare the math, I’m paying about $15k all said, and based on the current used market, it will be worth about $10k in 3 years. So I would have a depreciation cost of only $5000 vs. the quoted lease price of $13k.

      • Stephen January 12, 2017, 9:13 am

        “True, leasing is a not-all-that-bad option for electric cars, if you drive a lot and want to upgrade frequently.”

        Isn’t the if a really big if there, though? Like, “If you’re going to take a face punch, this one at least won’t break your nose” type of thing?

        I mean, from the lifestyle/green perspective, the electric cars are much better than their gas equivalents. But it still takes a lot of resources to build, ship and sell the car. And from a financial perspective, you’re talking about an extra 28K+ per decade. If your car lasts you 10 years you’ve spent 15k, he spends just over 43k with his 13k/3 year lease. At 8% interest that’s 43k in lost investments. Not to mention we have an additional 2,800/year “habit” so to speak, which at the 4% SWR takes an extra 70k in retirement.

        I certainly waste a lot of money I don’t need to, btw. So I’m not trying to attack you Chris. And I know that the lease would have less/0 maintenance, which would lower my assumptions. I just have this big big big thing against frequent and leased car purchases.

        • Mr. Money Mustache January 17, 2017, 10:07 am

          Yup – and if $43,000 per decade makes a difference in your life’s financial plans, you should probably move much further down the automotive ladder and also cut the driving mostly out of your life. As I love to repeat, a car is is not just transportation, it’s a luxury climate-controlled racing world touring toy/pod. If you need more money, spend less on toys.

  • Gary Justice November 26, 2016, 3:10 pm

    Saw this blog and thought I’d add to it. I own a 2014 Leaf SV. I just crossed 15,000 miles of driving in Scottsdale Az. .
    It’s a great car. Roomy quiet and fun to drive if you put it in regular mode. I always drive in eco mode.

    Problems: none 1 recalls software on the ABS…1 hour

    The issue that can easily be solved. The 16 inch tires on previous models are pretty bad. I’m about to change them. I will go plus one and put 17in wheels with Goodyear tires. Total cost $ 1,000 with road hazard.

    So far I have not lost any bars (out of 12) but I don’t have the rapid charger. However, as stated, I charge my Leaf off my solar panels ever day. I have a 12.2 KWH system from Solar City that powers my house and the car with some leftover at certain times. I have ordered two (2) Powerwall batteries from Tesla..expect them Spring 2017.

    I have questioned Nissan about a battery swap and they have said no…the 30kwh is a different design than the 24KWH that I have, so if I want better range, then I have to swap the car.

    Overall, great car to tool around town and go short trips. Yes, charging stations are popping up all over the place.
    I never get range anxiety anymore.

    This is the future. I have already ordered a Tesla Model 3…can’t wait

    The new 2016 SV and SL get 17 in wider tires..huge improvement to ride and handling.

  • Gary Justice November 26, 2016, 3:15 pm

    more… the 2016 SV and SL versions get huge improvements to info system with text messaging and better info…

    If you have the SL model with the little solar panel on the lip of the roof, it only powers the dashboard..It is not connected to the battery. It should be !!!

    and for 2017 you can get the 30KWH battery in all versions starting with the S…

  • DavidDiaz November 26, 2016, 3:18 pm

    I want to buy an Ev vehicle, I understand that once a care car manufacturer sells over 200,000 EV cars that the $7500 credit is no longer available. Hopefully, the new administration will extend that credit but I’m not holding my breath.

  • Gary Justice November 26, 2016, 3:20 pm


    The lease is the right way to go for two reasons:

    1: You don’t have top worry about re-sale

    2. The $ 7,500 tax CREDIT can only be used in 1 year, so u need to be in a high enough bracket to claim it. It is NON refundable….

    So at just under $ 300.00 per month on a SV that pretty good.

    In Az you pay only $ 31.00 per year in tags, etc and you get HOV access at all times. Plus good parking while you charge it….

  • Sam A November 26, 2016, 11:09 pm

    Thanks for posting this. My 2004 Toyota Corolla was hit while it was parked today. Since it’s most likely totaled I will likely have to get a new commuter for when I’m not biking. I’ve been thinking about an electric car for a while now, but haven’t had the opportunity to check into it. It looks like Oregon doesn’t have as nice of an incentive as Colorado, but I can probably get the $7,500 from Federal, 4,000 from the dealer and $750 from the state. Plus I’ll try to get that deal on the financing.

    I’ll be checking back!

  • Paul KC November 27, 2016, 5:30 pm

    I’m on the fence, there is a great discount here in KC ( that along with the Fed credit and Nissan financing replicated the MMM deal. I’ve been hanging on to my 98 Civic, mostly since it sits in the drive while I bike to work. Still, hard to pass on this deal and get with the modern era of transit. My concern is, does NOT driving the car have negative effects? My typical week, I only drive 1-2 times, and maybe put 3000 miles/year. Does the car lose charge if left for many days, or have any other potential issues?

    • Mr. Money Mustache November 28, 2016, 10:22 am

      Hey Paul,

      Financially speaking, a Leaf (or any new-ish car) is a huge money pit if you don’t need to drive much – because the biggest cost is in the depreciation, registration fees, insurance, and cost of capital. Your strategy of an older car and a bike will keep you much wealthier.

      This is true for me too – I bought the Leaf as a way to share the results with readers, but would NOT have bought one if I was in your situation.

      The car loses only very negligible charge when left unattended.. maybe 1% per week or so. This is no big deal, because you can just recharge it. But that big, expensive battery is going to degrade by roughly 0.5% per month just from old age, which is a much bigger cost. After 10-15 years, the battery will probably need a complete replacement.

      Solution: old Civic for very light drivers. Used $8000 Leaf for frequent, local commuting. Brand new Leaf for frequent driver people who need longer range and can afford the luxury, or those with spare money who want to support the world’s transition away from gasoline.

    • John D December 5, 2016, 9:30 pm

      Really on the fence on this one too after reading about the deal for those of us in KC. Hard to pass up but not sure if I really can justify it. We could replace our Legacy and feel better about our impact on the world but financially it doesn’t make sense unless we were actually in the market for a new car anyway.

  • Will Quigley December 1, 2016, 10:13 pm

    Great article(s) on the Leaf. I also drive a 2016 Leaf SV, leased mainly because I was so disgusted by my Fährfrumlegal VW Touareg TDI “cheater”. A few comments: first, the true Mustachian way to go is to buy or lease the car in a state where electricity is really expensive, at a time when gas is really cheap (like right now). I leased mine in California in April. PG&E has a monopoly in California and electricity prices there are absurd. So it’s harder to sell electric cars. But I live in Seattle, where we have public utilities and electricity is basically free. Not to mention that it’s 95% hydro, so I’m powering my car by rainwater (and we have plenty). The $700 it cost to ship the car from CA to WA is more than offset by the savings. At the time the best deal on a lease in WA was around $270/month and mine is costing me $170/month. Nissan tunes local prices to reflect the cost of charging. I also favor leasing vs. buying for electric cars because the tech is changing insanely fast right now. I walk away from my car in 2.5 years, but in that time it’s probably as obsolete as the Aston Martin I saw today.
    I find that the stock tires, while wide and low-profile, are still pretty crappy, and I break loose all the time. Partly because I hammer the gas, because it’s just so much fun. (Isn’t it odd how we still call it the “gas pedal?”) Google the Leaf vs. Porsche skid pad test and you will see that with good tires, it can pull almost as much G-force as a 911.
    Re: music. Why don’t you use Bluetooth? I thought it was standard in the SV.
    I brought mine in for “service” last month, because it’s required by the lease. The tech hands me a big page full of checkboxes, none of which were checked: oil, brake pads, lubes. It was kind of funny. I do find that nobody in the dealerships knows or cares about these cars, even though every other car on their lot is utterly obsolete.
    As other posters mentioned, you might want to replace Prius in your car buying chart with Volt. The Prius is an obsolete gas-powered car with a modest fuel economy optimization. The Volt is a limited-range electric car with a gas backup.
    I’m curious to hear the results of your Uber experiment. I’ve been thinking about doing it myself. We have enough ChaDeMo in Seattle that downtime would be minimal.

  • ArmyColonelK December 3, 2016, 9:34 am

    Having just put 32 SunPower PV panels on my Kailua roof, I’m now looking at EVs. When I read MMM’s initial Leaf post, and the amazing price he got, I immediately thought it sounded like a great option, especially considering that life in the Islands usually (though not always) doesn’t involve driving more than 100 miles in a day. Plus, if MMM bought one, it seemed a given that it would be a wise financial decision.

    However, Hawaii has no EV tax break, and it seems like the big $6000 finance deal is only available if you are a famous financial blogger! So much for that deal.

    Add the fact that the Leaf – at least MMM’s – has very significant range issues and I’m not so sure it is the car for me. There are few things that I’d enjoy less than stressing out while driving home with a battery indicator at 0%. Kudos to Ms. MM for doing it, but it doesn’t sound like fun to me. And running out of juice at 78 miles is an absolute fail.

    Has anyone seen a Chevy Bolt yet? They look sharp and practical, with far better range than a Leaf. But I’m a bit leery of being a very early adopter. And while I could buy a Tesla S – and they are super duper cool – it simply isn’t a car that I want to surf from. Getting back in a Tesla S, covered in sand and salt water would just be a sin. Whereas a Chevy, even a new EV Chevy, is still just transportation and not a work of art.

    What does everyone think about the Bolt?

    • Andy December 17, 2016, 8:41 am

      Chevy has a reputation for better, liquid-cooled batteries that last much longer than a Leaf’s. I think a Bolt or a Volt would be good.

    • RecoveringCarClown December 20, 2016, 10:15 am

      MotorTrend named the Bolt it’s 2017 car of the year. You can read all about it in the Jan issue. Bottom line is 238mi range for less than $30k after rebates and a 0-60 in 6.3 sec with an 8yr/100k warranty on the battery. The level 3 charger will give you 90mi in 30min, 160mi in an hour and a full charge in 2 hours. I have to stop writing about it now before I convince myself I need one!

      • ArmyColonelK January 6, 2017, 1:33 pm

        RCC – thanks for the Motor Trend pointer. I will definitely convince myself that “research” in the form of reading a car article is time well spent.

        Love your username, btw. I’m a total RCC myself!

  • Mortimer December 20, 2016, 5:06 am

    Initially I was considering a used Volt, but this post convinced me to buy a new Leaf. Glad I went with 100% electric. Overall very satisfied with the Leaf. I thought I was an educated buyer but only after making the investment did I read enough to realize how little I knew. If you are considering a Leaf, here are some things your salesman won’t tell you:

    • Mr. Money Mustache December 20, 2016, 2:27 pm

      Hmm – my leaf salesmen told me all of that stuff, at least the parts that are correct.

      A few examples of things they got wrong:

      the Leaf actually depreciates very slowly, but the market adjusts for tax credits: I paid $13-14k for mine, and used 2013-2014s with a smaller battery go on Craigslist for $10-12k.

      The 240 volt charger (6.6 kW) charges the battery at 30 MPH, or 0-100% in 5 hours, not 12 miles and 8 hours as stated.

      Level 1 charging is only insufficient if you drive more than about 60 miles a day and never encounter any public chargers. Level 2 chargers are under $300 on Amazon (although installation will indeed vary – often free with a tax credit).

      And so on.

  • Kevin December 25, 2016, 6:35 pm


    How have you been charging your leaf on a regular basis? I had my used ’13 leaf drop 3% SOH in 1.5mo, 90% to 87% over the summer. Once I finally installed my L2 EVSE at home and started charging nightly with that instead of L1, my SOH went back up. 87% at the end of October to 91% just a few days ago on Dec 22. So my battery is actually in better shape than when I bought it at 90% back in June. I’m told that this is just better battery cell balancing with the higher charge rate. I’ve heard that sometimes using a DC quick charger can have similar effects. I’d encourage you to post this over in the mynissanleaf forum and see what the group thinks about your SOH vs mileage and your charging habits.

    • Kevin February 28, 2017, 10:20 am

      @MMM, have you tried DC charging and seeing what happens to your SOH? Looks like you’ve had some warm weather in the past week or two. Has that changed your SOH? Almost 38,000 miles on our ’13 SV LEAF and 91% SOH. 10,000 miles in about 6 months of ownership.

  • yves December 29, 2016, 11:11 am

    thanks for sharring your story… very little distance in km on all your example ? NISSAN salesman like to push thory of 200km range with the 30kwh … truth is 100km range in winter :-20degC,no heating,20kmh wind facing,keep 20km range as buffer=this lead to 100km range !
    24kwh worst range = 80 km (keeping 20km buffer)
    30kwh worst range = 100km (keeping 20km buffer)
    this what NISSAN salesman should say !

  • Fabien December 29, 2016, 12:21 pm

    Hello, you may have a weak cell. You should do the cvli test at low charge to see any weaker cell.

  • Koots Chewt December 29, 2016, 2:10 pm

    We’ve had our Leaf 2.5 years now and have found it to be reliable and cheap to run. Lots more info and vids on my blog.

    With regards to your comments on your battery capacity – I have found it to be variable, depending on various factors, including recent charging and driving behaviour. Your battery might not be getting enough “exercise” to show how good it still is. Often a lower mileage car will improve SOH once driven and quick charged for a few weeks. I have a fairly static routine, so my swings in SOH seem to be related to ambient conditions.

    You can read more on that, with graphs, at my last cost update post.


  • No Pants Money Man December 30, 2016, 9:50 pm

    Hi MMM,

    Sorry to hear about your battery troubles. I’ve been reading up on battery technology and keeping tabs on electric transport tech in my spare time.

    If you’ve got a spare 45 minutes, I think you would find it very informative to watch this lecture by Professor Jeff Dahn of Dalhousie University (watch it on 1.25 speed, he talks slow). –

    If you don’t have the time – just watch the video for 5 minutes from this time point:

    Essentially, what his research has found is that the battery chemistry of the Nissan Leaf (50% LiMn2O2 / Li(NiMnCo)O2), in comparison to other chemistry compositions available, has a lot of parasitic reaction, which increases as temperature increases as well as time between cycles increases. What this means is, compared to Nissan’s cycle testing results of battery life, your battery cells will fail early. I believe the Leaf battery pack is cooled either, which wouldn’t help the issue?

    I’m guessing temperature isn’t a big concern where you are located, which would help prevent early cell failure, but the charge cycle time is probably higher than average for yourself? You could always use the car a lot more to increase battery life ;)

    The video is definitely worth the watch if you have the time.

    Good luck with the battery woes and tell the in-laws to watch it as well!

    • Koots Chewt January 14, 2017, 9:25 am

      Hey that was a very interesting video (took a few weeks to find the time to watch it!) My take-away from his video is that the Leaf battery chemistry inherently has a terribly high amount of parasitic reactions as compared to some other chemistries, but there are two things to keep in mind:

      1) As he noted, different additives in the electrolyte can dramatically influence the cell life under different conditions; we know Nissan tinkered with the anode a bit for the 2013 and new Leaf as compared to 2011/2012, and I believe I read somewhere that they also tweaked the electrolyte. Maybe for the Lizard battery (2015 and newer, supposedly more heat tolerant), they tweaked the electrolyte formula again.

      2) The parasitic reactions occur at higher cell voltage – the manufacturer helps this out somewhat by limiting the top end of charging to something less than the actual 100% the cell is capable of, but the patterns of the user affect time spent at higher SOC significantly.

      As an example for 2), I drive more than any Mustachian should (for reasons I won’t get into here, but it is a conscious choice), so I currently have to charge my car twice per day. My degradation has not been accelerated compared to others with less mileage than me though, and in fact it is less than some folks. I attribute part of this to my charging habits:
      – I typically only charge the car just before I use it (e.g. I use either the car charger timer or my EVSE timer delay to have the car charge at about 2am, only a few hours before I leave in the morning)
      – Once I get to work, I usually leave the car sitting with low SOC until a few hours before I am planning to leave, then I run out and plug it in (and in the summer, I ‘time’ it somewhat, such that it doesn’t reach 100% charge; I need about 60-70% to get home)
      – In this fashion, my car rarely sits at 100% for any length of time, especially during the day in the summer when it is hot out

      (Note that when I talk about “100%” above, I am referring to the SOC display on the dash; Nissan actually limits 100% display to be about 92% actual SOC).

      (Note 2: I’m too lazy right now to dig up references to the past info on Leaf chemistry; if really interested I can dig it up and post here).

      MMM: I do now wonder if you have a bad cell alright; car will limit discharge to the lowest common denominator, and a weak cell would make your pack appear abnormally short on capacity as the BMS shuts things down to protect the weak one. Good luck!

  • John Hyde January 4, 2017, 9:36 am

    I’m sorry to hear of your troubles, I have the same car, 30kw battery and have done 20,000 kilometres in the first year. I’ve done 10 QC’s and 633 l2 charges and have 100% SOH and Hx=96.84%
    I did notice my state of health was down to 96 at one point, but a few full charges at L2 rebalanced the battery and I was back to 100.
    I don’t know if that is helpful to you but please feel free to contact me if I can be of help.

  • Ryan January 9, 2017, 10:31 am

    Nissan recommends using L2 charging rather than the L1 EVSE, and also recomends avoiding “top off” charging (keeping the batteries between 80-100%).

  • RecoveringCarClown January 13, 2017, 9:57 am

    MotorTrend compares the Bolt to the Model S while slamming the Leaf, however they don’t address the initial cost advantage of the Leaf. I suppose you are getting what you pay for in some sense as the battery pack drives cost.

    “More than any EV that’s come before it, the Bolt makes emissions-free, environmentally friendly transportation a realistic proposition for millions of Americans. It has made the current crop of pricey, short-range electric cars from BMW, Nissan, and others utterly irrelevant.”

    Good read though…

    Car of the year…

    I’ll be on the sidelines for a while as my 06 Vibe has tons of life left, but I like to dream and think about what I could buy used in the future.

  • Li January 14, 2017, 5:50 pm

    I think I have read all of your posts and the comments on the Nissan Leaf. We are looking at buying a used, low km. 2015 here in SW Ontario. I am concerned about the IIHS poor crash test rating on the small overlap front test for each model year since 2013. Have I missed comments about this or what do people think of this issue? Thank you.

    • G-Dub March 13, 2017, 10:24 am

      I am also thinking about a 2015 and am concerned about this. What did you decide to do? Did you pick up another EV instead or go with another solution?


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