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2015 Nissan Leaf SL: A Global EV For The Masses

EV Niceties

Since EVs need to maximize efficiency wherever possible, a couple of comfort features are unique. The climate control system is completely different from what you'd find on a car with an engine. While a typical heater relies on the engine warming up coolant and sending it through a core to create the heat blown into your cabin, Nissan's Leaf doesn’t have coolant or an engine to facilitate this process.

Similarly, most air conditioning systems rely on a belt-driven compressor that cools using refrigerant. EVs don’t have any belt-driven accessories, so the Leaf has to employ different solutions. Earlier models of the Leaf used electric heating and cooling systems, which put additional strain on the battery, resulting in lower range in hot or cold climates. That changed to a more efficient heat-pump system for the 2013 model year, though.

As with heat-pump systems in your house, the Leaf’s absorbs thermal energy from the outside air and compresses it to warm the cabin. Air conditioning works similarly, except the heat-pump takes hot air from inside the vehicle cabin and releases into the atmosphere to cool the interior. The system's benefit, of course, is energy savings. It takes a fraction of the electricity to run a heat-pump than the previous implementation. On the other hand, the heat-pump system doesn’t work as fast. Nissan’s workaround for warming you up more quickly is seat heaters on four of the five seats. The driver also gets a heated steering wheel.

If you're thinking ahead, the Nissan CarWings application lets you turn on the heater remotely. Or, you can set a climate control timer in the infotainment system, programming it to automatically turn on at a certain time. While this still consumes energy, the car can run its climate control system while the vehicle is plugged in, so it doesn’t affect your driving range.

LED Headlights

The base model Leaf has standard halogen headlights that typically consume around 55W each. Optional on the SV and standard on the SL are LED headlights. But if you're expecting the super-bright elements seen on luxury vehicles, you'll be disappointed. Those higher-end solutions employ an array of LEDs and projectors to focus light. But Nissan uses LEDs to improve energy efficiency, so its solution isn't as sophisticated.

Instead, the Leaf LED headlights employ two LEDs per side with reflector housings to replace the halogen bulb. This casts a light that appears whiter than halogen, but not what most car enthusiasts would typically associate with an LED upgrade option.

Solar Panel

Standard on the SL trim is a spoiler-mounted solar panel. The Nissan Leaf still has a standard 12V battery to run vehicle accessories and the heating system. Unlike cars with engines, which use a belt-driven alternator to keep the 12V battery topped off, the Leaf's EV battery system conditions the accessory battery. Naturally, the solar panel is too small to benefit the car's range. Instead, it just trickle-charges the 12V battery when you park outside. 

Premium Package

Our test vehicle came with the premium package that includes Nissan’s Around View Monitor and Bose sound system. We love the 360-degree camera. Getting a complete view around the car makes parallel parking painless. And the Leaf's Around View Monitor is just as good as it was on the Infiniti JX35 we tested a couple of years ago. 

The premium package's downside is the mandatory energy-efficient Bose sound system, which is simply terrible. I still haven't heard a Bose implementation that I like. The highs are alright, while mid- and low-range frequencies are barely there. There’s a subwoofer in the trunk, if you want to call it that, which more or less tries to trick you into thinking its mid-range output is bass.

  • pyoverdin
    Despite deviating from the regular tech reviews I found this article surprisingly enjoyable.
    Reply
  • dstarr3
    So is Anh T. Huynh replacing Clarkson in the next series?
    Reply
  • dweiser
    Great article, nice mix of honest pros and cons. I've owned my 2015 Nissan LEAF SV in the mountains of western NC for almost 3 weeks now and I am loving it!
    My only quibble with your review is that both 2015 SV and SL have the faster 6.6 charging as standard.
    Reply
  • JPNpower
    Electric cars are just so cool. Practicality is getting there, but even if that doesn't match gas cars yet.... they're still so cool!
    Reply
  • SVoyager
    Great article!! The Leaf is certainly an excellent electric car and I am very happy that they are selling as much, nice to see an article on toms about it too, cars are getting techy enough for us :-). The next gen leaf is looking great too with possibly 200 miles range. With that much range and with how battery tech is evolving, I hope the regular gas cars have something ready to counter it because electric cars are coming, this time for good!!

    I own a 2014 chevy Volt and while it is not 100% electric, it is as close as you can get and still get a gas engine for the longer runs (best of both worlds imho). Winter is pretty much done now and I can say goodbye to the gas engine for about 6-7 months. We had a rough winter and my average MPG was close to 200 (the worst was at 75mpg when it was -30 Celcius). In my case, I am saving so much in fuel that it costs me LESS to own this car. You can check the stats here (links allowed?) http://www.voltstats.net/Stats/Details/4835
    So, electric cars just rock. Check what type of driving you do, look for the right EV (in my case, EV with range extender) and you'll never regret it!!
    Reply
  • apache_lives
    Benchmarks?
    Reply
  • turkey3_scratch
    Lol it does actually look like a Bulbasaur.
    Reply
  • kenjitamura
    The competition will really heat up when the Tesla Model 3 hits. A $35,000 electric car with >200 mile range.
    #2017...Hopefully
    Reply
  • palladin9479
    Something that need mentioning is that your house doesn't generate electricity out of thin air, instead it gets it from a distant power plant which is likely utilizing coal. So in essence almost every "EV" is really a coal powered car with a poor efficiency rate due to long haul line losses, unless you happen to live within a hundred miles of the primary power plant. EV's are still far to expensive and from an engineering stand point very poor for anything other then bragging rights.

    The comment on regenerative braking is also wrong as not stopping is always supperior then having to stop and restart. It takes less energy to keep an object in motion then it does to accelerate it from a rest state.
    Reply
  • CaedenV
    Awesome review. I have been rather fascinated by EVs for the last few years, and now that I am soon going to be in the market for a 2nd car I am seriously considering getting one of these for my wife and taking her 10 year old car to drive into the ground the rest of the way. She only has to drive some 15-25 miles per day, so we would really only need to charge it once every few days. Still need to find out what availability/financing/charging options are available in Cincy though before biting the bullet.

    Never mentioned how much that level 2 charger costs retail... I mean, I could look it up, but it may be nice to add to the article.
    Reply