Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Nissan Leaf

I was out of town for July and most of August, so I did not have an opportunity to post. But just before I left, at the end of June, our Nissan Leaf arrived. They originally told me that it would come in July, and I told them I would rather have Sept. but then they bumped it up to June so they could accrue the revenue in Q2.

The purchase experience was one big ripoff. Nissan assigned me Nissan of Sunnyvale as my dealer. I arrived in pouring rain, and the sales guy ran me through the features of the car, then we took a test drive. The Leaf accelerates really nicely, it is very peppy and drives like a sports car. That sporty feel will make it popular with young drivers, and it comes at a price that is less than half of the Tesla. Back at the dealership, they took me to the finance guy. And he sort of worked me over, managed to extract a whole bunch of extra money for "scheduled maintenance". Electric cars really have no need for that, but somehow, after a long and difficult day at work, I let myself get duped. I had heard vague rumors that Nissan of Sunnyvale ripped people off, but it didn't sink in.

Above is a picture of the car. It's a hatchback,  but there seems to be enough leg room in the back seat. I took 3 colleagues out to lunch, and the car behaved respectably. Enough acceleration, even with four engineers in it.

Below is a picture of the instrument display:
The car has three display areas,  one immediately behind the steering wheel, one in the driver's  line of vision with the speedometer, and a LCD where the nav system shows maps, in the middle of the dashboard. This display is behind the steering wheel and is showing that the car has 117 miles range, the parking brake is on, and it has 526 miles on it already. When you start the car, it plays a little Japanese themed tune, and fans the two colored displays on both sides,  like a Japanese fan. Cute, but after a while it may get old. Fortunately, they have a collection  of tunes  you  can have the car play, so it's possible to change. Maybe an aftermarket opportunity here, like cellphone ring tones 8 years ago?

Our charger comes from the EVProject, which is run by Blink. Above is a picture of the charger. We obtained the charger for free, as reported here. Sprig Electric from San Jose installed the charger while I was out of town. The charger is supposed to connect to the network via wireless LAN and report data from the car to the EVProject web site. My access point is protected with WEP2 and my wife didn't know where the WEP key was, so the charger remained unused. She used the 120V charger that comes with the car and, surprisingly, it mostly worked fine. If the battery is about half depleted, the car can recharge in 6 hours on the 120V charger.

Yesterday, I attempted to configure the network connection and ran into some problems. The unit found the DHCP server OK, got a DNS server address, and was able to obtain an IP address, but it still failed to make a connection. I called up Blink and they said that I had to bring down the firewall on my router and bring it up again. Fortunately, most computers these days have individual firewalls, so I had  no problem  with this. I would never, ever put my computer on the Internet without a firewall, it would be infected with malware in 5 minutes.  After I did that,  the connection was established and I could bring up the firewall again.

But yesterday evening, my wife told me that she was being thrown out of the network around every 15 minutes, which is exactly the reporting interval for the Blink. So something still isn't right. I called again today,  and the customer service rep told me that the Blink had stopped reporting as of 12 midnight, and, after checking my wireless router's model number, that they would probably need to provide me with another access point. I suggested they might want to use Google's WiFi network, but they said no. Google runs a city wide WiFi network in Mountain View. Anyway, I have no objection if they want to give me another  access point, so long as they don't insist on tuning it to the same channel. That would result in interference.  Also, I want it protected with WEP2 at  minimum and possibly even EAP/802.1x. We'll see.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with this car, despite the ripoff purchase experience. And my wife is even happier. I suspect that she may in the end be the main driver, though it is a much better fit for my commute. She has a 120V plug in at her work, whereas I don't, so it seems to make much more sense for her to use the plug-in Prius. But she thinks it is too big, and she likes the Leaf because it reminds her of the Fiat 500 she had when she was at the university, size-wise that is. It's a far stretch otherwise. The Fiat 500 had lousy acceleration, cheesy interior fixtures, and a primitive instrument panel. The Leaf is a class act, really nicely outfitted, with much more than  anyone could need. 

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