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One Of The First Leafs To Hit The Ground

— Donna Dipaolo registered with Nissan to buy a Leaf in January, 2010. She reserved a car a year ago. This past January she ordered it and, about a week ago, she actually got the thing. Nissan’s all-electric car has had very few sales in the U.S. But Leafs are coming off the production line slowly and most of the 20,000 North Americans who have reserved the cars are still waiting for them to arrive.

Donna Dipaolo shows where she has to plug in her Nissan Leaf so it becomes fully charged. But so far Donna has been having a hard time finding a charging station in San Diego. May 6, 2011.
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Above: Donna Dipaolo shows where she has to plug in her Nissan Leaf so it becomes fully charged. But so far Donna has been having a hard time finding a charging station in San Diego. May 6, 2011.

Donna’s Leaf is a rusty red, which is the color she ordered. It’s a roomy sedan (by my standards) and it actually has a lot more trunk space than the Toyota Prius. Donna says this is because there’s no gas tank to take up room in the back of the car.

We went for a drive in downtown San Diego last Friday and I took the wheel for a few blocks. The Leaf emits a faint high-pitched hum as you press the accelerator. Otherwise it feels and performs a lot like a gas-powered car. If you expect something that's radically different, you’re disappointed.

That said, my driving review is fairly positive. The Leaf feels stable on the road. Performance is fine and the handling is sure.

Donna lives walking distance from where she works, San Diego City College, and she’s a flyweight when it comes to car use. She guesses she typically drives a little over 2,000 miles a year. Even though she’d had her Leaf for a week, when I spoke with her, it was still running on the initial charge from the car dealership. Her battery gauge showed she had about half a “tank.” Nissan says that means she can drive another 50 miles before she runs out of electricity.

All this brings up a sore point with Donna: The difficulty she’s had in finding a place to charge the damn car.

A company called ECOtality has partnered with SDG&E to install charging stations, called Blinks, around San Diego. I attended a news conference last August where the plan was announced, but it sounds like Blinks are still hard to find.

Donna said she can’t find one near her home. A map on the ECOtality website told her there was a charging station at the Wells Fargo Bank in downtown San Diego. But when she went there the employees didn’t know what she was talking about and when she went back to the ECOtality website the map had been taken down.

A local company representative responded to complaints about the lack of charging stations in this recent op-ed story in Voice of San Diego. He says an “escalating number” of charging stations will be delivered this month and next.

Donna’s other problem with charging her car rises from the fact she lives in a condo. She has to convince her homeowners’ association to install a dedicated electrical circuit in the parking garage so she can use her charging station. She says that could cost her $7,000.

The question of whether electric cars will save the planet is a whole other question. For now, we’ll see whether the Leaf, which costs about $34,000, will be a hit with other consumers, not just early adopters like Donna Dipaolo.

Comments

Avatar for user 'papatonyinsd55'

papatonyinsd55 | May 9, 2011 at 11:19 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

So, Donna, what's the hangup? Isn't there any kind of 100-volt outlet from which you can run a heavy-duty extension cable from at your condo? I ask, because we still haven't gotten our Blink 220-volt charger station yet, and we have been plugging our own red Leaf in to a regular 110-volt outlet at night, using that cable in the black bag that is in the far rear right of the car. It works GREAT! It tops up the car every night in a couple of hours.

Given how few miles you drive (same as us), it should be MORE than adequate for your needs until (and if) you get the other Blink stuff ironed out. The main advantage of the 220-volt charger is that 1) SDG&E gives us a big discount if we charge from midnight to 5AM, using a separate smart meter, and 2) it's faster. $7,000 is an awfully big expense, which merely discounted electricity may never make up for in your lifetime. In the meantime, start charging at night, right away!

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Avatar for user 'drdonna'

drdonna | May 10, 2011 at 3:36 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Are you going to be working with the EV project? I hope your Blink charger comes in soon. An electrician that did a site assessment at my condo in March told me that he had experienced some delay in getting Blink chargers for some of his customers, but he also installs other types of chargers (e.g., Coulomb technologies Charge Point, AeroVironment EVSE-RS)

Back to your initial question, unfortunately, no, my condo parking garage has no 110/120V outlet for me to plug into. Even if there was an outlet from which I could safely run an extension cord, and still legally park my car, the HOA board and other home owners really don't want to pay for me to use "common area" electricity, and I would not want them to. After considering the expense to have wiring done for an EV charger or just a 120V outlet to my parking spot (after HOA approval), I had hoped to just plug in the trickle charger somewhere else or use a public charging station. It seemed simple enough, but, so far, none of the potential 110/120 V outlet locations have panned out for me. I thought there was going to be a public charging station a couple of blocks away from my condo (mentioned in the article), but there was no public charger. The Nissan sales associate did say that I could use their charger, so maybe I will just bring a good book and hang out there for 5 hours or so charging my car! Right now I have about 20 miles of charge left; it looks like I am going to get only 80 miles from a full charger rather than 100 miles.

Yesterday, I found out that my Board approved my charger installation (to be submetered so I will pay for the electricity I use). I'd like to get a couple more estimates before I get the work done. Does anyone have a list of contractors that are certified to install EV chargers?

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Avatar for user 'terramater'

terramater | May 12, 2011 at 3:42 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

I just came across an (old) article regarding the noted high pitched hum upon acceleration...it's a safety feature? Really?

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/09/nissan-leaf-electric-car-adds-noise-blade-runner-flying-cars.php

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Avatar for user 'NissanLEAF'

NissanLEAF | May 16, 2011 at 6:22 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Hi Donna -
Wanted to let you know that we've asked for the San Diego Nissan LEAF community to pass along the names of recommended contractors for your charging station. Check out the thread on the Nissan LEAF Page.

http://www.facebook.com/nissanleaf

Cheers -
Jonathan C.
Nissan LEAF Community Manager

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Avatar for user 'bigbillsd'

bigbillsd | May 16, 2011 at 7:13 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

are you sure there isn't a light bulb you could unscrew and replace with a screw in plug receptical for little bit of charging you need? If not maybe someone near by has a 110 outlet one you can rent once a week or so. If you drive so little installing a Blink would be an expense that doesn't make sense.

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