Home » LIVE BLOG: Matt Is Trying To Drive My $2000 Electric Car 11 Miles To Work And He May Not Make It [UPDATE: Matt Won’t Get Out Of The Car]

LIVE BLOG: Matt Is Trying To Drive My $2000 Electric Car 11 Miles To Work And He May Not Make It [UPDATE: Matt Won’t Get Out Of The Car]

No Range
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Ohboyohboyohboy. Matt, who is in town for the Autopian/Galpin car show (which you should come to!), is about to take a questionable risk. He’s about to try to drive from my apartment in Studio City to Galpin in Van Nuys — an 11 mile trek. This, to a normal car, would be the easiest task in history. But for a $2000  2011 Nissan Leaf with a severely-degraded battery, it’s going to be a challenge. Matt may end up stranded. Follow along here to find out!

The truth is: As cheap as my new Nissan Leaf was, its utility is really limited. After 12 years of battery degradation, the thing is now only moderately more useful than a golf cart, offering a range of 15 miles on the highway — and that’s a figure I haven’t even tested. It’s just a guess.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Today we find out if the range is at least 11 miles, as Matt is going to go for it: Screen Shot 2023 10 13 At 9.16.12 Am

Come on, Leaf. You have to be somewhat useful, right? Surely you can handle my morning commute; it’s only 11 miles! You got this!

Stay tuned here for mile-by-mile updates.

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[Miles: 0.0]: Ok, before we even get started, let’s just look at our starting point, which isn’t great:

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The Leaf is parked behind my YJ; you can see the charging box on the wall, with an extension cord giving me the extra length I need to plug into the Leaf:

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Unfortunately, despite the battery being down to about 10 miles of estimated range yesterday, the 24 kWh battery only took another 4.5 kWh of juice from that wall-box:

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Estimated range sits at 33 miles (note that the trip computer started at 15.0), which the math-wizzes among you will note, is a larger number than 11. But it’s bullshit. It’s all bullshit. These “guess-o-meters” mean almost nothing, as I started my trip back from the seller with 30 miles, and by the time I got home 13-ish miles away, I was on fumes despite avoiding freeways and driving as frugally as I possibly could.

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Matt will not be avoiding highways, so let’s see how this goes.

My god is this a deeply flawed machine.

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[Miles: 0.5]: Matt took a wrong turn in my parking garage, which seems impossible, but he did. That’s precious range lost, Matt! Get it together!

Screen Shot 2023 10 13 At 9.51.05 Am

He’s now stopping at my favorite breakfast spot that’s perfectly on the way to work (there were other breakfast options, but I told him this was the best one. I don’t need him being tempted to veer off the path).

[Miles: 0.5, Part II]:

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Hot damn, Matt got me a cream cheese and Lox bagle!

“This is the softest English muffin I’ve ever had in my life!”

Matt likes breakfast.

[Miles: 1.0]:

Matt seems to like the Leaf. From him:

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“This car is Great. I would love to have this in New York because it’s just enough juice to get my kid to school and back in the morning. Maybe I can go to the gym…

I dunno about the gym part, but OK.

“It beeped at me. It was trying to tell me that danger was ahead, but I just ignored it.”

I honestly have no clue about the beep.

Other thoughts from Matt:

“How slow do you think I can go before people get mad at me?

On the highway in LA? Uh, I dunno? 55?

[Miles: 1.0]:

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Other thoughts:


“I don’t actually think this car regeneratively brakes.”

I kind of agree. It feels like it’s coasting! But then, what’s that symbol next to the accelerator pedal that seems regenerative-brakey?

Also, Matt is feeling a bit warm:

“I am not running the air conditioning. This is a good LA car because in the morning you don’t need air conditioning. I’m keeping the windows up…it’s a bit warm…What this car needs is a sunroof.”

[Miles: 4.0]:

Matt is a Leaf fan!:

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“It drives great! It’s a smooth, comfortable car. Every kid in America, when they turn 15 if they wanna drive, they should get this car. If they feel comfortable in this car, they can get a real car.”

[Miles: 4.5]

Matt told me he’s going 48.

“People are so mad at me. “

Screen Shot 2023 10 13 At 9.39.41 Am

[Miles: 5.5]:

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“I exited the highway, and people cheered they were so mad at me.”

[Miles: 6.0]:

Matt left the highway, thank god. The car still says he has 20 miles of range, somehow!

“I think what we’ve learned here is that you have a lead foot. I think a man who says ‘Oh man she pulls!’ at every stop light is driving it like a dingus. But a refined gentleman like myself…literally I could drive this everyday.”

[Miles: 6.5]:

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“I’m going 30 in a 35. People in Teslas are looking at me with profound pity.”

[Miles: 7.1]

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“Did I gain a mile. I’m at 21 miles of remaining range. I might have gained a mile from just being an excellent driver… Shoot, I should just drive this thing to New York.”

[Miles: 7.5]:

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“I just passed a Prius Prime. The sad thing is that it probably has more range than this.”

[Miles: 8.0]:

“I still have 10 miles before I’m at work.”

I’m not sure how this is possible. It’s supposed to be an 11 mile trip, Matt!

[Miles: 9.0]:

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“I turned around. I saw this rad Volvo sedan and I want to take a closer look.”

Matt, stay focused!

[Miles: 9.0]:

Matt, what the hell?! Stay focused! I’m not calling you a tow truck because you got distracted.

From Matt:370270352 1557974721674015 845006439368425874 N 370305188 287587934161509 8469465415198703577 N

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[Miles: 9.0]:

Actually. Hold on, this thing has a 5.3-liter Chevy V8 in it?!

OK, fine. I’ll call you a tow truck if I have to. This was worth the detour:

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“300ish ho[rsepower],” Matt tells me.

This thing must rip!

[Miles: 9.0]:

“Robert was pulled over. Car belongs to Robert. He was pulled over because his brake caliper seized…a bolt fell out somewhere. There’s a line on the street where you can see where he dragged the tire all the way around.”

“He’s waiting for a tow truck to go off to his buddy Angel’s house (who helped him build it). He’s going to fix it right now and then drive it to work.”

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“The wheels on the car, which are 700 series Volvo Turbo wheels, came from the junkyard… I have a feeling the Yukon motor also came from a junkyard.”

[Miles: 9.4]:

“I have 20 miles left of range!”

Matt is having a realization on this commute:

“Every side street in Los Angeles has a cool car on it as a rule.”

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[Miles: 10]:

“Hold on I gotta go meet these guys. Hold on, I’ll call you back” Matt tells me, muttering something about a Beetle and a Genesis.

He then sent me this picture in a Walmart parking lot of not-a-Beetle-or-Genesis:

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[Miles: 10.5]:

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I asked about the big dent in the fender and if that’s causing any issues:

“I honestly forgot there even was a dent. It’s starting to rust, and it exposes the front tire, but like, who cares. Honestly, just to make it match, you should just do the other fender.”

[Miles: 11]:

Matt is at a Montgomery Ward. How is that even possible? A photo is incoming, apparently.

[Miles: 11]: Sure enough:

Screen Shot 2023 10 13 At 10.10.21 Am

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[Miles: 11.5]:

Matt’s pushing it:

I’ve gotten bored of driving slowly and being hot, so now I’m going the speed limit and I have the AC on. The miles dropped from 21 (yes, I still had 21!) to 16.

[Miles: 12.0]:

Matt’s picking up Winchell’s Donuts.

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[Miles: 12.0]:

OK, so Matt’s 12 miles in. And estimated range is still 15. He did do a little bit of highway driving, but much of it was in the city, which was a huge help.

Honestly, this dirt-cheap Leaf seems legitimately useful!

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[Miles: 12.0]:

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“This shifter is so smooth! And it feels, like, intuitive.”

[Miles: 12.0]:

“I think you’re a coward…this thing’s got range!”

[Miles: 12.0]:

Matt is at work!

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[Miles: 12.5]:

Matt is now on the 405 highway getting me some parts from Advance Auto!

“I’m down to 13 miles due solely to the onramp.”

Screen Shot 2023 10 13 At 10.28.56 Am

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[Miles: 17]:

Matt went 65 mph for three miles. With AC on! And range is still an estimated 13 miles.

[Miles: 17]:

Holy crap he went 72:

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“I’m just going to drive this car all weekend.”

[Miles: 18]:

“OK I’m down to 12 miles.”

Luckily Matt says the AC is cooling off my bagel, which had become rather tepid.

[Miles: 18.5]:

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Matt is loving the Leaf, and wondering what my deal is. “It’s fine!”

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[Miles: 18.5]:

“Honestly, though. The car vibrates at high speeds. I really hope it’s just your flat-ish tire. Could be bad rotors? Anyway, definitely look into that.”

Good to know. Lord knows I haven’t driven fast enough to notice.

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[Miles: 18.5]:

Looks like Advance doesn’t have the GoJo hand-cleaner I like, but that’s fine.

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[Miles: 18.5]:

Matt’s on his way to work.

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“When you get on the brakes at under 3mph, it bites real fast.”

That I noticed as well. It’s like an on-off switch. It’s a bit strange.

[Miles: 18.5]:

“I’m down to 9 miles. I’m getting on the highway. I’m 2.5 miles away. I’m on the [accelerator] full-tilt!”

“It’s quick!”

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[Miles: 19]:

“It says I have 8 miles of range and it’s blinking at me. Have you ever seen it blink?”

Good god.

“I don’t know that I can get up to 70, let’s try.”

“Oh I’m down to 6 miles!”

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“OK I’m turning the AC off.”

[Miles: 19.5]:

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“Whew. Now it’s back up to 7 miles.”

“The blinking does not make me feel better.”

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“I’m only going 55. But when I accelerated up to 70 it went down real fast.”

Also, the trip computer above says 32, so Matt has driven 17 miles. So somewhere I got a bit confused.

Anyway, that’s not very far. But it should get me to work everyday, and then — after a charge — back.

[Miles: 17 (somehow)]:

Matt won’t stop until he sees a turtle. The range estimate is 4 miles. If there were a turtle, surely it would be on by now, right? I mean, four miles?!

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[Miles: 20]:

The car still has four miles left. Matt’s at work.

I’m honestly kinda thrilled. I bet I could do 15 miles of pure highway! That’s more than I need!

[Miles: 21.1]: MATT HERE, I AM TAKING OVER THE LIVEBLOG

Made It With No Issues

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First, let me thank David for not only hosting me at his place but also for letting me borrow his excellent $2,000 car. This thing is great. I’m extremely tempted to buy the cheapest ass Leaf I can find in New York and then try to figure out where the hell I can charge it.

Also, David was slightly nervous all morning about this so I’m glad I did it. You can’t cure anxiety through thought, only action.

I’ll be honest, I drove around the parking lot for a few minutes trying to get the damn thing to get down to three miles so I could see the turtle. No turtle appeared. After driving another 1.5 miles it turns out I was adding range. I’ve given up. I might try to get back on the highway later. – MH

[Miles: 24.4]: MATT HERE, I AM DROVE IT SOME MORE

OopsI couldn’t help myself. I went to go plug the Leaf in and it felt so sad sitting there. Clearly, in spite of what David said, I needed to drive it some more.

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As soon as I was back in the car I felt at home. The A/C was blasting. The motor was humming. Traction control was off for scientific reasons (it does have an open diff, if you were curious). This wasn’t a game, this was a mission. I started driving around the neighborhood in a loop, trying to squeeze the throttle as hard as I could.

How far was I willing to push myself? How far was the car willing to go? The answer: About three miles. It turns out that if you go far enough the car refuses to even give you an estimate and, much like with a gas-powered vehicle, leafs you guessing.

It was at that point that I decided it was probably best to turn into the Galpin employee lot and plug her in. She’d done well and covered nearly 25 miles out of the original 33-mile estimate. I’m pretty sure if I kept it on surface streets it could do the whole 33 miles which, for a car that only cost $2k, is pretty damn good.

She’s plugged in now and my plan is to drive her home!

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Andrew Bugenis
Andrew Bugenis
8 months ago

“Does it have regen? I don’t think so.”

“The brakes bite hard under 3mph!”

That’s probably when it engages the friction brakes to supplement the regen, I can’t imagine it’s that smooth a handover in that car.

Wonderful travelogue, I need more like this!

Angry Bob
Angry Bob
8 months ago

It’s like a normal car with a 1 gallon gas tank.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
8 months ago

Matt told me he’s going 48.

“People are so mad at me. “

Get it together, man! Even my 411 goes faster than this on the freeway (briefly).

Clearly, the answer is a Type 4 swap.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
8 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

I just passed a Prius Prime.

This is not hard. Few review cars I’ve had were as maddeningly slow to accelerate as the frickin’ Prius Prime.

We were well into the 2010s, man! The year started with a 2! I should not be able to send this thing to Gapplebee’s in the 411!

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
8 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Matt’s picking up Winchell’s Donuts.

HOW MANY BREFASSES DO YOU EAT IN A DAY?!

AND NONE OF THEM WERE BREFASS SCOTCH? DO THEY NOT GIVE YOU AUTOPIAN GOLD HERE?!!!!

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
8 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

[Miles: 17]:

Matt went 65 mph for three miles. With AC on! And range is still an estimated 13 miles.

[Miles: 17]:

Holy crap he went 72:

There we go. That’s more like it. Now PUT DOWN THE PHONE AND DRIVE. Sheesh, frickin’ Texans.

Last edited 8 months ago by Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
8 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

[Miles: 24.4]: MATT HERE, I AM DROVE IT SOME MORE

…so uh, where are y’all at on sorting through those editor applications? Also, drink some water and roll the windows down. I think the heat might’ve gotten to you.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
8 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Seems like an okay car. The Puffalump would sit on it.

(This concludes Stef’s live blog of the live blog.)

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
8 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

*where are y’all on

(goshdarnit, the edit window closed)

Last edited 8 months ago by Stef Schrader
Lori Hille
Lori Hille
8 months ago

I see from the photos that you’re driving in D. Switch to B if you want regenerative braking and more range.

I leased a 2013 Leaf and then a 2016 Leaf which I considered keeping until it got rear-ended hard while parked on the street. I always drove in B mode. Range was fine for daily city driving, but longer freeway trips suck up the miles. You notice whether you’re driving uphill or downhill! When you’re in LA traffic, at least you’re conserving range. Seats were surprisingly comfortable. I liked the quirky styling. Nissan screwed up with their inadequate refresh of the Leaf and their delayed roll out of the Ariya.

FuzzyPlushroom
FuzzyPlushroom
8 months ago

That 244 with a truck LS is sweet as hell. Hey, those are (possibly) the same wheels that’re on my currently-as-operable-as-Jason’s-motorhome 245 shed. They were called Sirius or Nova, depending on the finish, and yes, they came on early-model 760s and 740s (though mine found their way to my old ’92 745T before I bought it).

Data
Data
8 months ago

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from an apartment
Inside this Nissan Leaf.

The boss was a mighty editor,
The driver brave and sure.
Hardigree set out that day
For a three hour tour, a three hour tour.

The traffic started getting rough,
The tiny battery was toast,
If not for the courage of the fearless Matt
The Niassan would be lost, the Nissan would be lost.

The Leaf parked in the parking lot of the Galpin dealership
With Hardigree,
Mercedes too,
Hollywood Dave and his cats,
Torchinsky,
Adrian Clarke and Beau Boeckmann,
Here on Autopian Isle.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
8 months ago
Reply to  Data

And now that’s stuck in my head.

Parsko
Parsko
8 months ago
Reply to  Data

Hell yeah this is COTD.

Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
8 months ago
Reply to  Parsko

Pack it up, everyone, we have a winner!

Donald Petersen
Donald Petersen
8 months ago
Reply to  Data

No tunes! No lights! No air-condish!
Not a single luxury!
The return trip this evening
Will be primitive as can be.
So join him every quittin’ time
When the sunset lights the chrome,
And help our David push his Leaf
Back to its garage home!

Matt Hardigree
Matt Hardigree
8 months ago
Reply to  Data

Amazing.

Delta 88
Delta 88
8 months ago

Such suspense!

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
8 months ago

I haven’t followed a journey so closely since the Apollo 11 moon landing. That’s one short drive for an EV, one giant Leaf for EV kind.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
8 months ago

I’d buy a cheap Leaf, but decent ones that’re about 10 or 11 years old still cost $6500. I can get a similar year, or newer, Nissan Versa Note with 130K on it for $3200. The difference alone in fuel costs would get me to work and back for 6 years assuming 30 MPG combined and an average of $3.30/gal before reaching parity.

Brockstar
Brockstar
8 months ago

This was me of the most exciting reads I have had in a while. Next time give us polls in real time of where he should turn. Kinda like adlibs but for driving directions. Imagine the sights we could see!

Parsko
Parsko
8 months ago

This is not how one should be reacting to owning a car. But, it is how one reacts to owning a Nissan.

D0nut
D0nut
8 months ago

I’m sorry, this live-blog isn’t finished until Matt is stranded somewhere.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
8 months ago

Thanks guys!
Matt, you may be an “Excellent Driver”, but do you still watch Wapner everyday, and still wear Kmart underwear in LA?

Farty McSprinkles
Farty McSprinkles
8 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Definitely, Definitely watches Wapner.

PL71 Enthusiast
PL71 Enthusiast
8 months ago

I’m curious as to how much reserve these have once it hits 0. My Touareg would have over 3 gallons left when it said 0 miles remaining.

Cryptoenologist
Cryptoenologist
8 months ago

That’s just a recipe for stranding people. We had a Subaru that was like that, had a ridiculous reserve when the gas light came on so everyone just ignored it until the day we actually ran out of gas.

PL71 Enthusiast
PL71 Enthusiast
8 months ago

I’ve only gotten a car to 0 once. I try to fuel up before/when the light comes on.

PlatinumZJ
PlatinumZJ
8 months ago

I’ve driven my ’97 Grand Cherokee a few times with 0 miles remaining. I try not to let it get below 1/8 of a tank now.

121gwats
121gwats
8 months ago

If you’re in a pinch, never drive your EV over 65mph, the sweet spot is 55-60mph – Thats where it likes to live. Crack your windows, turn on the *fan* with AC off. I lived with a compliance EV for a few years, now I blast the AC/heat going 80mph in my Tesla because: Superchargers.

PS: Winchell’s took me back, I’m a CA expat and haven’t thought of them in YEARS. Thanks for that!

Last edited 8 months ago by 121gwats
Sklooner
Sklooner
8 months ago

Umm that Volvo is a sedan

Data
Data
8 months ago
Reply to  Sklooner

Words have no meaning anymore. Coupes are 4 doors these days. Crossovers are really hatchbacks with a small lift. If you put a swing out/tailgate on a 3 row crossover, it would be a station wagon.

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
8 months ago

I know David mentioned other plans for this Leaf, but could an average shade tree mechanic swap-in a new battery? Economics aside, tell me why that’s a bad idea.

PL71 Enthusiast
PL71 Enthusiast
8 months ago

Because an LS swap is a better idea.

Spartanjohn113
Spartanjohn113
8 months ago

Probably safety, either to do expose to hazards chemicals or voltage. Back in the day, I knew a couple of mechanics that wouldn’t go near my ’05 Prius due to worries about getting shocked if you made the wrong move. And if Torch’s plan to remove old batteries is a chainsaw, I’m terrified to even think what Tracy would do…

Stryker_T
Stryker_T
8 months ago
Reply to  Spartanjohn113

my god the anxiety and fear I had during reading that entire ordeal with torch

Steve Balistreri
Steve Balistreri
8 months ago

I had to pull and reinstall a Tesla battery at work using a 2 post hoist and a pallet jack with a stack of pallets on it. It was held in with ~200 bolts and took a lot of fiddling to line it back up but we didn’t die.

Mike Kelley
Mike Kelley
8 months ago

Leafs, (Leaves?), Are definitely mod-able. Check YouTube, there are dozens of battery upgrades or simple replacement videos to walk you thru it.
Even more fun is SuperFastMatt’s Leaf project where he makes a Leaf hybrid by installing a superbike motor to power the rear wheels.

Cryptoenologist
Cryptoenologist
7 months ago
Reply to  Mike Kelley

Was he at Monterey Concourse d’Lemons? There was a mid-engine AWD Leaf there.

Fix It Again Tony
Fix It Again Tony
8 months ago

Do you have a chainsaw?

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
8 months ago

Breaking: Local Tourist recreates the Odyssey thru the greater Los Angeles area in co-workers cheap Nissan Leaf. Find out at tonight at six, why the Venice Beach suspect he’s armed and dangerous.

Data
Data
8 months ago

Only if he had D-FENS license plates.

NDPilot
NDPilot
8 months ago

“Matt is now on the 405 highway getting me some parts from Advance Auto!”

So he made it, then you sent him on an errand? Are you trying to see how far till it runs out of juice?

Spartanjohn113
Spartanjohn113
8 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Would this be replacing your i3 as the daily or just a chance to give you more road time with the quirky new-to-you purchase?

R Rr
R Rr
8 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

But you already own a nice EV with a new battery to commute in, why would you switch to this heap?

I’ll admit I also don’t understand the concept of the “winter beater”; I buy a nice car to drive in specifically so I don’t have to drive around in a POS beater. Before anyone asks, I live in Chicago, with snow & salt on the roads in the winter.

JunkerDave
JunkerDave
8 months ago
Reply to  R Rr

Nice cars are cool, but how long can you drive it in Chi before mechanics slap the CLOSED sign up when they see you coming because they don’t want to deal with the bolts? How many decades does the body last?

DOHCtor
DOHCtor
8 months ago
Reply to  R Rr

Exactly this! I never understood why people have a POS during the hardest seasons where you’re supposed to have a nice reliable car and a nice car during Summer.. That’s why i have a almost new Prius Prime as a daily and my modded, 300k miles old 2012 Civic Si is my summer car. Same thing with TPMS system. People installs steelies with their winter tires but without tire pressure sensors. In my Prius, the sensors are in my Winter wheels because should something bad happen, i prefer to know it when it’s -1000°c outside and take action NOW rather then at a balmy 25°c where i could just drive aside and wait for a tow truck..

Toecutter
Toecutter
8 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

In fair weather, at least. Which is the case 99% of the time where you live.

I’d recommend at some point taking the pack out, and taking all of the cells out, and doing a capacity test on all of them. There is a decent chance that most of them are at 75-90% capacity, and the pack is being dragged down by a few nearly-dead cells. If that happens to be the case, you can find other used 1st gen Leaf cells in decent shape and swap them in, which may only cost a few hundred dollars. It’s better than buying an $8,000 replacement pack from Nissan.

A friend of mine has a broken down Leaf that we’re trying to find an inexpensive charger for, so we can recharge his pack, which is delivering similar range to yours, and then we will do what I outlined above. Might be able to turn it into a 60+ mile range car with some sweat equity and get another 5 years use out of it. We’ve also considered finding a classic FWD donor car and swapping the Leaf’s drive system into it. An old Saab 96 or Saab Sonett would be perfect.

The Leaf was definitely not designed with reparability or longevity in mind though, even if most of its components are robustly built.

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