Home editor's blog on evs & phevs CODA vs. Ford Focus Electric vs. LEAF: Part III

CODA vs. Ford Focus Electric vs. LEAF: Part III

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Whether the Nissan LEAF or the Ford Focus Electric wins the competition to be parked in our garage depends a lot on when the LEAF actually makes it to Colorado. [Photo Credit: Nissan]

coda-focus-leaf2This is the third in a series of three entries focused on the pros and cons of three electric vehicles we are considering buying, the CODA Automotive Sedan EV, the Ford Focus Electric, & the Nissan LEAF. The first focused on the CODA EV and the second on the Ford Focus Electric. This one looks at the Nissan LEAF.

editors-blog-entry3In theory, the Nissan LEAF is the front runner in terms of the three pure electric vehicles we’re considering. It is, after all, the only one of the three that we’ve put down a $99 reservation fee on.

It’s also supposed to be the first mainstream, highway capable, affordable EV to arrive in Colorado. Of course, as I’ve written elsewhere, it’s a bit unclear to me exactly when the LEAF will get to Colorado, or if it will get here much earlier than the Ford Focus Electric.

Poll: Your next EV?

Which one of the following EVs/PHEVs are you most likely to buy?
 

So, here’s our take on the LEAF, the most likely EV to end up in our garage-->

Pros

  • The price is right. With a Federal tax credit of $7,500 (crossing my fingers that a Republican win in November won’t mean this goes away ;-) and a Colorado tax credit of up to $6,000 (see Plug In America’s State and Federal Incentives web page to figure out what state credits you might be eligible for), our out-of-pocket costs for a brand new LEAF could be around $20,000! And there’s the gas savings on top of that. By the time the LEAF arrives in Colorado, we’ll be sitting on at least 14,000 miles of banked EV fuel, or, in our lingo, 14,000 Sun Miles™ . Depending on what gasoline price and miles per gallon figures you use, that’s somewhere between $2,000 and $4,000 worth of fuel savings!

  • Nissan’s a big-name automaker with a proven track record. It’s nice to know you’re buying an EV from a company that’s been around a long time – and will be around a long time after you drive your new EV off the lot. Of course, I’ve never owned a Nissan before and, if it weren’t for the LEAF, I probably would never have seriously considered a Nissan.
  • Nissan’s doing a good job of pitching the LEAF & seems truly jazzed up about EVs. Ok, I have said that it would be nice to see a few pictures of solar panels and wind farms on the Nissan LEAF web site (there are none right now). But even if Nissan isn’t ready to go all out (yet) on the renewable + EV combination, the automaker is definitely putting up a much better PR front on EVs than automakers like Honda, Toyota, and, yes, GM, which is actually pitching its plug-in hybrid electric Volt as the anti-EV EV. I like Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn’s tune on electric vehicles – he’s saying a lot of nice things about them and truly seems convinced they are the future. Nissan gets extra points for this!

  • Reviews of the LEAF are good to excellent. Most of the reviews I’ve read of the LEAF seem to indicate it’s a very well-made EV. Of course, no one really knows how it will perform long-term – and it is, as USA Today auto writer James Healy recently wrote, “uggggly”. Still, my instincts are telling me that the LEAF will be a very good car – and that the LEAF will get even better over time.

  • It’s got Plug In America Vice President Paul Scott’s vote of confidence. Plus, the chatter I’ve heard in the EV community about the LEAF is generally positive. I’ve never driven an EV, never even had a ride in one, actually. In contrast, Paul Scott’s test driven many different EVs – including the LEAF -- and he’s been driving an EV (a Toyota RAV4 EV) for nearly a decade. If Paul says the LEAF is a great car, I’m inclined to believe him.

  • The LEAF's going to be the first mainstream, affordable EV to market in the U.S. – in some places. Folks on the West Coast in Arizona and Tennessee will definitely see LEAFs on dealer lots before any other pure EV. But will those of us in places like Colorado be able to buy a LEAF before other electric vehicles, in particular the Ford Focus Electric – which is, for us, the primary LEAF competitor – roll into the Rocky Mountain State?

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The interior of the LEAF looks elegant in this picture. [Photo Credit: Nissan]

Cons

  • The LEAF is ugly. Some people really like the LEAF look, others do not like it at all. In fact, if our ongoing poll about the LEAF’s design is any indication, the LEAF’s design might just be the most polarizing feature of the car for prospective buyers. As of Sept. 27, 2010 out of 34 voters, 17 think the LEAF is beautiful, 10 think it’s ugly, six think it’s somewhat ugly, and one can’t decide.

  • No advanced thermal management system for LEAF battery. The LEAF’s 24 kW battery pack will be air-cooled. In contrast, both the CODA Sedan EV and the Focus Electric battery packs will be thermal cooled. Most EV experts concur that a thermal temperature management system is best. Of course, Nissan’s backing up its battery with a 100,000 mile/eight-year warranty.

  • A 3.3 kW onboard charger (as opposed to 6.6 kW for the CODA). This basically means longer charger times. However, given that we have a pretty predictable driving regimen and we are a two-car household, this isn’t so important to us.

  • Nissan has added artificial noises to the LEAF. I am a big believer in a quieter world is a better, safer, healthier world for us all, and I hate the simple-minded rush to add artificial noises to plug-ins, and to hybrids. Unfortunately, Nissan’s caved in to the pressure by adding an artificial noise feature to the LEAF. You can turn it off. But you’ll need to do it every time you turn the car on.

  • The LEAF might not beat the Focus Electric to market in Colorado. If the LEAF beats the Focus Electric by 12 months or more to market in Colorado, our first fully electric – and fully solar-charged car – will definitely be a LEAF. If the LEAF arrives less than a year earlier than the Focus Electric, our first EV may well be a Focus Electric

And the winner is...
What’s the final call in our CODA vs. Focus Electric vs. LEAF analysis?

Unfortunately, CODA’s announcement that the Sedan EV will be priced at $44,900 before tax credits – which came between the time we wrote the first entry on the CODA and this entry on the LEAF – pretty much prices us out of a CODA.

The LEAF definitely has the edge over the Focus Electric in our book right now – but only if it arrives substantially earlier to the Colorado market than the Focus Electric and/or if the LEAF is priced substantially lower than the Focus Electric. However, it’s likely that the Focus Electric will be quite competitive with the LEAF in terms of its price.

If the Focus Electric arrives on the Colorado market no later than 11 months after the LEAF and is priced similarly, it will most likely win the battle for the privilege to be one of the first solar-charged Nissan LEAF’s or Ford Focus Electrics in the Rocky Mountain State.

Call me superficial, but a Focus Electric win – should it win out – will hinge almost entirely on looks: I just can’t quite bring myself to like the LEAF design. Of course, if we do end up buying a LEAF, I’m sure that I’ll eventually warm up to its looks.

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