Nissan Leaf: Forget other cars, can it compete with $2 gas? (CNET On Cars, Episode 84)The 2016 Nissan Leaf adds range and a modern new battery but still hates the year ahead. We explain the MPG-boosting tech you probably never thought of and run down the most popular EVs on the road.
Nissan Leaf, EV missionary or right car at the wrong time. The MPG technology you never thought of and the top five electric cars on the market. It's time to check the test. [SOUND] We see cars differently. Nice. We love them on the roads And under the hood, but also check the tech, and are known for telling it like it is. Ugly is included at no extra cost. The good, the bad, the bottom line. The is c/net On Cars. [MUSIC] Welcome to c/net On Cars, the show all about high tech cars and modern driving. I'm Brian Cooley. Well, in many ways, the Nissan Leaf is sort of the Prius of pure electric cars if you think about it. I mean it planted the flag for a dramatically new technology in the public's mind. Nobody ever accused it of being beautiful. And it is a long-term bet for its maker in something very divergent from current car making tech. But then along came something that wasn't really expected. Two dollar gas, not just harming the Leaf but electric cars in general. But we wanted to see, how does the Leaf fair between cheap fuel on one head and a slew of other interesting electric cars on the other. We're gonna find out now as we drive the 16 Leaf XL in Check the Tech. [SOUND] [MUSIC] I will give this credit to Nissan. They've kept the Leaf looking unapologetically weird. This thing makes the Juke look conventional. Not a lot of attractive angles to it, to be honest. They've kept the dimensions and the lines the same over all these years right on down to the frog eyed headlights. And it does still print avant garde which is something of an accomplishment when you're more than half a decade into your production. [MUSIC] And when you get in the Leap, you realize really quickly, you better like electricity cuz there's a ton of displays to keep you focused on it. Starting in the upper left, you've got the cedars of Lebanon. You can grow trees with a ring around them that tells you how fast you're doing so. It coaches you to drive green. That array of rings at the top Is a strange way of showing whether you're using power or regenerating. Over on the left is a really big battery temperature gauge. If I have to worry that much about the battery temperature, I'm going to park this thing and run away. On the right is the more useful one. That's battery level and the number inset, that is your estimated range. And that's changing all the time, of course, base on driving conditions and whether you have this Eco button on Climate control, thump in the stereo, headlights, all of that. And on the grayscale LCD you've got two or three projections of how long it'll take to charge, depending what kind of charger you get to. And we haven't gotten to the main event yet. Hit the zero emissions button over here and you can get an online course in electrical engineering. The most interesting thing about this revised drag and drop and swipe, tablet-like head unit is the integration of Google online search, though it kind of lives in a silo of its own interface. You can tap out a search while you're driving, though most everything in this keyboard locks out when the car is moving, so your passenger's gonna sit here doing nothing. If you wanna do a voice search to Google, it's separate from the voice command on the wheel, and that runs Nissan stuff. You have to dig in the menu to get to this button to do a Google voice search. Bad disconnect, guys. Now all this stuff connects to your phone for telematics. You can check the charge state, tell the car when to charge, precondition the climate inside, all the standard telematics stuff through an app that is one of the worst rated in the app stores. Worked okay for me but get ready for connection hassles according to a lot of users. Now the top audio rate on Elite is a Bose branded system especially engineered to have low current draw while delivering pretty good cabin thumping sound. And if you get that you're also gonna get a package that includes this Nice set of cameras. This is the surround view monitor that Nissan and Infiniti are known for, and you can get the side view as well as the overall god view. Under the study hood, there's not a whole lot new. It's an 80 kilowatt AC motor of course. Gives you 107 horse 187 Pound feet of torque that second number is the one you love going out to front wheels only obviously and no transmission to speak of just a single reduction gear. Now what feeds this has gotten interesting Nissan offers a bigger battery now a 30 kilowatt hour verses the standard lithium ion battery in the older That has got a bunch of cells welded together not too much unlike a bunch of double A's. Here's the rub. The Base Leaf F has all the old tech. The new SV and SL like we have, has the new tech. So, let's compare them. On range, the high trim cars with the big battery get 107 miles, the Leaf S, 84. On Capacity, 24 kilowatt hours in the S. 30 kilowatt hours with better cards. Recharge time, the S has 2 slower charging modes. The SV and the SL come with 2 faster charging modes. And the warranty on the battery is different. The base Leaf S with the crummier battery has 5 years, 60,000 miles coverage. The better cars have 8 years, 100,000 miles. Bottom line, leave the Leaf S to the government fleet You want an SV or an SL. [MUSIC] The Leaf reminds me that electric cars are more similar than gas engine cars, they drive very much alike unless you step it up to a model S or something. Pretty quiet inside. They did a good job muting out gear whine and engine whine. The ride is its pretty heavy but its not uncomfortable it just feels like its really down on the ground like I said its not terribly tossible. Fun to drive like electric cars always are due to tork but it doesnt feel light on its feet you got Several tricks you can do to get more out of the battery. One is to go to eco mode which really saps the auto response, and I'm okay with that because I don't drive a Leaf for great auto response. I want range above all else. You also can go into the B mode on the shifter which is basically down and to the left. And that gives it high region. You can almost do one pedal driving. Lift off the accelerator and [SOUND], you're really coming down a lot because you're doing heavy re-gen back into the battery. Range is a big deal in EVs, but so is charging. And the Leaf has a lot of ways to do it. All models have a household trickle charger They also all have level 2 charging at 3.4KW. But the SL gets level 2 at 6.6KW as well. That'll charge its larger battery in six hours. It can also do a DC quick charge. Hard to find those locations. But if you do, it's 80% in 30 minutes. And the little photovoltaic cell up on the rear wing helps to maintain the 12 volt battery. Okay, Leaf SL, nicely equipped, top of the line. It's a big battery car, all the latest tech, pushing 38 grand. But we're not done yet. $1,570 for premium package to get surround cameras and to get Bose audio. And I'm gonna guess you're gonna have the home charger installed for you, so add about two grand. Now we can go the other way, take off $7500 federal tax credit, and here in California anyway, another $2500 state credit, we're back down around $31,200 or so, out of pocket. Okay my time with Elisa surfaced a few old wounds and rubbed salt in them. First of all, the electric cars like this, of the hundred miles range generation or less, in real practice Not a great choice for the only car for a lot of people. Secondly, you've got to have that home charger. Don't even think about anything else, unless you live in a condo that has got a charger waiting to go for you. Third, You've got to think about the residual values on these cars. They're disastrous right now because of low gas prices and a ton of them coming off-lease onto the market. So do you buy, lease? Or buy used. Find our full review of the 16 Leaf SL over at Road Show at theroadshow.com. Antuan Goodwin's got the full deep dive for you there. When I come back, I'm going to introduce you to some MPG increasing technologies that I can just about guarantee You never thought of when CNET on Cars returns. [MUSIC] [BLANK_AUDIO] [MUSIC] Engine size, vehicle size, performance, model year, battery use and electrification. These are what come to mind when you think of the factors that determine how efficient a vehicle is. [MUSIC] But what about glass? And paint. LED lights, or one of those goofy little solar panels on the roof, these are all part of a lesser known batch of efficiencies called Off-Cycle Technologies because they're benefits don't really show up in the standard EPA test cycle. And they also include some better technologies like Auto start/stop, or those aerodynamic grills that open and close in front of your car. [MUSIC] So let me guess, right about now you're thinking, the contribution of things like reflective paint and glass, and cooling seats, and other technologies, that Grant better efficiency by just taxing the AC and the alternator a little bit less, our only of interest to a few EV1 lamenting, hypermiling geeks, think again. Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler all seeking expanded credits from the US EPA for the progress they've made in using such technology. Now as you can see the efficiencies from these are Small. A 2015 Ford Fusion, for example, with the smallest engine puts out 303 grams of CO2 per mile, but across a large fleet of annual sales every bit of CO2 credit can add up. [MUSIC] The U.S. has even increasing annual standards for fleet MPG, you probably know about that. But also for fleet CO2 emissions, you may not know about that. Miss the goals, pay a fine. Now they've got car maker's attention And part of that attention then get's directed to off cycle technology that can help them make the mark. But a car maker is given credit for these off cycle efficiencies, from the EPA if it improves CO2 and from NHTSA if it improves MPG, it might be just enough to meet the goals in the given year Or even exceed them, in which case the car maker can bank the excess, and use it in a later year if it fails to meet the standards. So the next time your shopping for a new car and marveling how many offer things like cooled seats, maybe it's not that they wanna keep your **** cool, but keep their relationship with regulators warm. [MUSIC] Welcome back to CNet On Cars, I'm Brian Cooley. Time for my favorite part of the show, your emails come in, I pick a few that I think are particularly interesting and answer them right here. We start off with one from James E who says, would you say buying a more expensive variant of a car Like a Ford Focus RS versus a Ford Focus ST, make sense on the grounds that the RS would hold its value better or even appreciate. And he also asks, is there an accurate way to gauge how a car will fare in the used car market down the road? Okay, well interesting few questions there you've got, James. Now the Focus RS that you give as an example, let's start specifically, that's a car that Ford didn't sell in the US until just the last year or so. So it was either a self-imported Federalized gray market, what have you, vehicle extremely rare, unicornian in that way. Those kinda cars haven't maintained value readily because they're performance models that are hard to get and they're known among those who know them. Now Ford brings the RS to the US. So you could say that sort of knocks some of the value outta the market now that there's a commodity market for them. But those cars are never gonna be commodity. They're very pricey for a Focus. You gotta know about them to appreciate them. And if you do, they trade in a small circle of buffs who really know and value the car. So you're always in good shape with putting that rarefied and that performance In general when it comes to assessing future value, there are a lot of good tools, a lot of them are available to you online, similar to the ones the pros use down at the car dealership to value cars, either when they come in for trade in, or when they're writing a lease to try and get some idea what the future residual's going to be, and they do a cap reduction that's often tied back to that. That's over on the pro car dealer side Here are four things for you to think about as the average person stalling a car down the road. Number one is condition and mileage. These [UNKNOWN] everything. A car that's in good shape, has been well-maintained, has records of that maintenance, and ideally has been driven at or below the standard mileage of 15,000 per year, hopefully quite a bit below. Is a cream puff. That's a car of someone whose got any brains in their head is going to pay more for. Even if it's a fairly common car. Another point to keep in mind is is the model rare like the Focus RS like you talk about? And even if it's not that rare does it have equipment or a configuration or even a color that was very rare. You find the right person that wants that, boom you're going to get top dollar, maybe even above market. There's a **** for every seat, as they say. Now, the other point is sell it to a targeted market. If you take your car and trade it in at the dealership that is not a high value move, that's a convenience move. If you want to get top dollar for your car, you sell it out private party, Craigslist or eBay, what have you If you've got a car that warrants it, you go even further, and you sell it into a group of aficionados who know that car. Either you go to a forum and a marketplace for that mark and model, or you go to a place like Bring a Trailer, where it's all about people who just know interesting cars, and aren't looking at mass commodity vehicles. You got to sell it smart to get the right money out of it. The fourth point I'll share with you is Pixie Dust. This one is almost impossible to predict. The best example lately is early model 911's. Gone through the roof, you couldn't have predicted that before they did it. Aston Martin DB5 and 6's had a similar spike that kinda came out of nowhere. There are some million dollar million and a half dollar Ferrari's on the road, vintage cars That were kinda just tired, old racecars 30 years ago, that you couldn't get a lot of money for. Certain cars spike, but they do tend to start being quality performance cars to begin with, or maybe high end luxury cars. [SOUND] [MUSIC] Okay our next email comes in from Brad and my Miami, who asks, will it void your warranty if you take your car to an autocross event or to the track for a performance driving school? Aren't today's sports and supercars certainly designed for occasional track use Especially since they sell them with features that are really only useful on the track. Okay Brad, this is an interesting question and one that raises the hackles of a lot of folks when they learn the answer. And that is in the letter of the law, at least the letter of your warranty, every car maker I know says if you track the car or take it on a performance event, Forget it. Your warranty can be null and void. I don't care what kind of car you've got. A Chevy, a Hyundai, a Jeep, a Porsche, a BMW. Doesn't matter what they show you in their TV commercials of their car carving up the Nurburgring, read the fine pint, and just about every car we've examined the warranty on on your behalf for this email reply As the find print saying no, we do not cover competition event, racing, track event the verb is may change but, it's all the same basic area. Now beware on some of those specific traps that they can get you busted on something like this. Because, let's face it, who's to know? You took your car on the track Here's some things you don't want to do. First of all, if you're gonna roll into the dealer looking for warranty service, make sure you did not register your car for competition events using its license plate number. Club events might do this for example. Or a street car is taken to a track event and then of course driven back home. Similarly Gotta be aware of who's taking pictures. Now, lots of fans and club members and other drivers are gonna be there shooting pictures. And you don't know who's who. But if you've heard that there are dealer or factory rep personnel in your area that have been taking photos of cars at a certain event or series of events To build up a database of who's tracking their car, because they've been getting an awful lot of warranty repairs that they think are competition related. You can get busted on that one. Same thing with photos, your club puts up after the event. Now, showing off your car, putting event decals on the left rear window. You're proud of what you did, you had a good time, you love being affiliated with your sport, and your kinda car. But when you roll in the service bay With competition decals, especially if they're local and regional on your window, that kind of says something to the service writer. And of course, don't leave your racing helmet and Nomex booties in the back seat when you drive into the service bay. That should be The obvious. Now here's an interesting backstop for you. HPDE Insurance. High Performance Driving Event insurance. This is separate from the car insurance you have now. And almost certainly from a separate company, a different kind of company that offers this insurance. It'll cover damage to your car. The key here is that it's dedicated to performance event. They don't blush at this kind of thing. Not cheap, but typically you can buy it per event. That will help you manage the cost as opposed to buying some giant annual policy that covers you and there's only two driving events all year. That would seem like a waste so you can look into that as an alternative. That still doesnt' mean that the dealer won't get wind of damage they believe is competition related and try and deny your warranty but at least this way you've got Insurance coverage to backstop you on the cost of that repair. [SOUND] [MUSIC] When we come back, a top five all about EV. We're gonna run down the five home run electric cars of the last year. [SOUND] When CNET on Cars returns. [MUSIC] [BLANK_AUDIO] [MUSIC] Welcome back to CNet on Cars. Coming to you from our home at our Mount Tam Motor Club just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm Brian Cooley, time to wrap the show now with a great top five list. This is top five best Selling electric cars, calendar year 2015 and I'm using any car with a plug. That means it can be a pure battery electric, like a Tesla, or a plug in hybrid, like a Prius plug in for example. But no hybrid that don't plug in. Let's get started with number five, and that one this year goes to the Ford Fusion Energi About 9700 sold last year. Down 18% from the year before, and by the way it was fifth last year as well. This car wasn't helped by the fact that some US states moved to end their incentives for ED in 15, but make no mistake. For the believers in electrified cars they promised to have Teen of them in their line by 2020. What do you think about a plug in, hybrid Mustang? In case the recent turbo four wasn't enough to blow the purists mind? Who knows? [SOUND] Number four, the, BMW i3, the baby of their two electric cars. The kinda goofy looking one, not the i8. Now it sold about 11,000 copies in 2015. I can't give you a comparison ranking cuz this was its first full year of sales, so it enters at number four. Pretty good, especially considering that this car is very urban. I mean you don't really own one of these unless you run around with a copy of Dwell Magazine under one arm and a cup of fair trade coffee in the other hand. So starting off at number four with a car that's relatively pigeon holed in terms of style and lifestyle is quite good. Number three is the Chevy Volt. Now this is the last year of the first gen Volt, 2015. Sold a little under 16,000 is copies. Came down quite a bit in sales, about 22 percent, and also lost a slot in the ranking. Down from last years number two. And the volt of course is a plug in hybrid, technically a range extender. This should be a big year for the volt because they have an all new model on the market with better range, better driving, better looks, more cabin tech and better interior practicality. In early 2016 it's already emerged in the first month as the number one selling plug in car, even ahead of Tesla. What's going to be even more interesting down the road is how this guy fairs against its equally new sibling, the Chevy Volt, which is the pure plug in battery electric car. There's gonna be a little cannibalism going Going on there, I have to assume. The question is, who's Lector and who's the census taker? [SOUND] Our number 2 car on the list for 2015 sales, is the Nissan Leaf. Just talked about this guy in the show. About 17,000 plus sales in 2015. But down about 75%, and lost the coveted number 1 crown from last year. Now the Leaf of course, is a pure plugin Battery electric car. The Leaf fluttered so far to the ground last year over 2014 for a number of reasons. First of all, a lot of states cut their incentives for electric vehicles, Georgia's one of the big ones for example. That was powering a lot of Leaf buyers. Secondly, a bunch of Leafs came off lease And are back on the market. And Nissan put $5,000 on the hood to many of those current owners saying we'll incent you to buy the car you've been leasing. But the lease sales drop I think also focuses the fact that it is seen through kind of one prism as a fuel-saving, pure electric and doesn't have a lot of other messages And that's gonna hurt it in a time when gas prices are stable, and/or, coming down. [MUSIC] [SOUND] Before I get you to our number one selling electric car of 2015, let's go to the other end of the list. And look at some real suckage, the EVs that sold the worst. Like the Mitsubishi [UNKNOWN]. Yep, they still sell it. But at 115 of them sold in all of 2015, who would know? And the bottom of the bottom. The dead man walking, the Honda Accord plugin hybrid. Sold 64 of them total in calendar 2015 You know you're in trouble when you're outsold by the rare as hen's teeth Porsche 918. Our number 1 electric car of 2015, as I'm sure you've guessed by now, the Tesla Model S. This guy sold over 25,000 copies in the US. Up 51% and jumped Two slots in our ranking from the year before. Pure battery electric car, of course, and clearly a home run year for them. I almost feel bad putting the model left in this list to be honest, it is electric, but boy it's a whole lot more. It's got the longest range in the market of course, but then it's got this amazing cabin deck. It's got beautiful styling. It pushes the envelope on adapting driving assist and self driving technology. And you got a car here that sells to people, who to be honest, are not fuel price sensitive and have at least one other car in Cases. All of these help the model S and will continue to keep it from being a one note tune as gas prices and various other market forces change. This guy can hit to a lot of bases. Even if a lot of them. are occupied by the 2%. Thanks for watching as usual. I really appreciate you checking out CNETonCars. Don't forget, you can find a ton of back content car reviews, car tech 101, my top five lists, all sitting at CNETonCars.com or over at our YouTube channel or just about any streaming platform you like. We're probably there already. And keep those emails coming. It's OnCars@cnet.com. I'll see you next time, we check the time. [MUSIC] [NOISE]