Sunday, April 29, 2012

Boss Chocko Dialogs

Chapter 30, The Emerging Artist

- Dad?
- Tweetie
- Where do artists come from
- They come from Lakes with soft silty bottoms
- Soft silty bottomed Lakes?
- Thats right, one day a muck covered figure is found stumbling along the shore
- Is that the emerging Artist?
- Yes, Honey. If the Artist is Lucky someone will direct him back to the water
- To wash the Muck off?
- Yes, to wash the muck off. But usually, people think the muck covered figure stumbling along the shore is Reprehensible, Icky and Yucky and they shun the emerging Artist
- Oh that's sad, Dad!
- Oh the worst of it is when all the muck dries on the emerging Artist.
- What happens then?
- It will never come off
- and the Artist never Emerges?
- That's right
- To be an Emerged Artist
- Usually then the Emerged will go without saying
- So did you crawl out of Lake Buena Vista, Dad?
- I was different
- The Friant Canal?
- No honey. Once in a while an Artist will emerge from Another Walk of Life
- You were Running the Wrapper, right?
- I was running the Wrapper
- It was on the Graveyard Shift
- In the Tobacco and Confectionary Workers Union
- And you just Emerged?
- The Foreman used some very bad language
- That you just could not countenance
- Something like that
WHY MUST THE MEN say fucking soon as they arrive at the jobsite?

Is it embedded in the hierarchy of concerns that must be identified first to do

this work, where sequence is all, dependent on the sharp remorseless spinning

things, from the forces applied to pounding: boards splinter, boards twist, knot,

resist - there is a lot of fucking resistance to overcome, to master, to contend and

now I doubt I ever heard Jason say get me that fucking palm nailer, because as a

rule, we revere the palm nailer for nooks and corners where a hammer has no

hope and the fucking Bostich needs a foot to face the work. Nor was it ever said

its time for fucking lunch. Lunch I don't think fucking is said much.

We're kind of human again.

If I had to choose between the groan I emit when lifting an 80 lb bag of mortar

or a fuckin to ordain my resolve, I think of these 53 years halved, that kid was

a hot knife through butter. Mine to wonder how a dogged groan has become me.

I conclude it is good I can still do this work, though I would the men were better


a) did this to me

b) is created equal


d) is the Mommy of

e} can we talk about my title Envelope Synonymous with House

f) the far cry of tedium

g) I don't get these poets that don't mind naming things dumb or ugly

h) that you are writing prose doesn't pardon all this "in fact"

i) Poetry is to the American People as

1. 2nd / none

2. Dehydration / Torpor

3. Stripped / Insignia

4. Lemon / Ization

5. Refuge / Scoundrel

j} does not know what boredom is like

k) screws in need of sort & segregation from washers and cotters will mourn my passing

l) is the Vise of Life

m) put you in an unnatural and altogether impossible relief

n) but there was a while it lasted you remember


p) the ceaseless and insistent petitions of, shall I call them, idiots

q) sooners the company of scabies and fleas to, and from, you

r) lifts the mailbox for parole

s) how your letter cuts and jostles for kept on the mantle

t) considering I've outlived him by 19 years is a terrible way to feel

u) a thing you made me to yearn for

v) a shore I'll never land

w) or the amnesty of magazines in waiting rooms

x) a grin "kllecting disability" response to what's happening?

y) diet pepsi and menthols in the courtyard; plastic, aluminium, air conditioning,

concrete; and a little hiccup of a chuckle at my asking if being a Sargeant meant

he got to keep a hundred men in front of him at Normandy

z) I should have known two Toni's, but was too shy to meet the first,

a checker at Vons on Stockdale Highway.

Could she have saved me, I like to think -

when does hope merge with characterization of schizophrenia?

At keeping past the measure of any - for sake of breath...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

You Are What You Drive: 2012 Presidential Candidate Edition

If you have all been following the 2012 presidential race as closely as I have, you may sometimes wonder: if the Democratic and Republican candidates were civilians, what car would they choose? Suppose they were able to pick any car they want - including non-American-made cars - and actually have the pleasure of driving themselves. This post goes to the very heart of this blog - I will attempt to hypothetically match candidates with cars that share similar attributes. Because as I always say, you are what you drive. Click through for the analysis.

President Barack Obama
Volvo XC60
President Barack Obama
First Place: Volvo XC60
Runner Up: Buick Enclave

Let's start off with the only Democratic candidate, President Obama. Of course, in real life, he was known to drive a Chrysler 300, but any public figure running for office has to drive American. Removing that constraint, I could see the President driving a Volvo XC60. I would have said Saab 9-5, but given Saab's bankruptcy, Volvo makes most sense. President Obama is an intellectual, calm, thoughtful person - not flashy. He needs enough room to drive around his wife and 2 children, so he needs something with enough room. I could see him driving an SUV more so than a minivan. The Volvo XC60 clearly fits the bill here.

Mitt Romney
Audi A8

Mitt Romney
First Place: Audi A8
Runner Up: Mercedes-Benz S500

Moving onto the Republicans: The presumptive nominee Mitt Romney is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. While campaigning in Detroit, Romney slipped up and said that his wife Ann "drives a couple of Cadillacs" and that he has driven a slew of American cars and trucks. Of course, he said that to try to gain Michigan's support. If he were a civilian, I could see him driving an Audi A8. For all his wealth, Mitt Romney does not seem like a showy guy; he appears to be a smart, hard-working family-oriented guy. The Audi A8 is the perfect car for an executive who wants all the comfort and speed of a high-end luxury car, but wants to blend into the crowd. It is very easy to overlook an A8 or mistake one for an A6.

Rick Santorum
Toyota Sienna
Rick Santorum
First Place: Toyota Sienna
Runner Up: Toyota Camry

Rick Santorum, who recently dropped out of the race, was best known for campaigning in Iowa driving a Ram pickup truck. He wanted the blue-collar, hard-working American, salt-of-the-earth image, and frankly, I think he achieved it. However, in actuality, I see him as more of a minivan guy. He is highly concerned with family values, and does not seem to be a very exciting guy (I could never in a million years see him driving a Ferrari, let alone a Miata, even though he probably could afford one). Santorum has a pretty large family of his own, so I think the Sienna makes logical sense. The Honda Odyssey has too much pizzazz to make a good fit here.

Newt Gingrich
Cadillac DTS
Newt Gingrich
First Place: Cadillac DTS
Runner Up: Lincoln Town Car

Newt Gingrich has an "old money" feel to him. I could see him driving a fully loaded dark red Cadillac DTS with gold emblems and a tan landau top. Nothing too technical or convoluted - no fancy navigation screens or night vision. Unfortunately, the DTS is not the most fuel efficient car on the road, which would go against his vision for $2.50 gas prices, but then again, that was a campaign gimmick, right? He'd better hurry up, because the DTS will go out of production pretty soon...

Ron Paul
Chevy Silverado
Ron Paul
First Place: Chevy Silverado
Runner Up: A 10- or 15-year old Toyota Camry

Of all the candidates, Ron Paul is probably the most unassuming, and least concerned with prestige and image. Simply put, Ron Paul has a strong message and is dedicated to gaining support for his cause. Everything else is secondary to that. He evidently lives in a modest house in Texas, and likewise, I could not see him driving a flashy car. The Chevy Silverado fits the bill here - it is a no-nonsense workhorse with plenty of room to haul campaign signs and flyers.

Jon Huntsman
Fisker Karma
Jon Huntsman
First Place: Fisker Karma
Runner Up: BMW M5

"The other Morman" formerly in the race, Jon Huntsman, seems a little less up-tight than Romney. I could easily see him driving a flashy car or a sports car. As the son of a chemical tycoon, Huntsman likely has an interest in technology and sciences, and would appreciate the tour de force that is the Fisker Karma. It is environmentally responsible too. I would have picked a Chinese car for Huntsman, but at this stage, I doubt he would want to drive any of them.

Rick Perry
Ford F-150 Harley Davidson Edition
Rick Perry
First Place: Ford F-150 Harley Davidson Edition
Runner Up: Ford SVT Raptor

Rick Perry exudes the macho image, similar to that of George W. Bush. He is a Texan at heart, and I picture him using a Ford F-150 to round up cattle, drive to the oil refinery in the desert, and go on an off-road hunting expedition. Whether or not he actually does these things, who knows. I am not trying to stereotype Texans, but it is hard not to have this image of Rick Perry.

Michele Bachmann
Lexus RX350
Michele Bachmann
First Place: Lexus RX350
Runner Up: Mercedes-Benz ML550

When I think of Bachmann, the Lexus RX350 immediately comes to mind. It is the quintessential SUV for the strong, successful, well-off working mother. Michele and her husband have taken in a number of foster children, so she would need enough space to haul kids to school, sports, music lessons, etc.

Herman Cain
Cadillac Escalade
Herman Cain
First Place: Cadillac Escalade
Runner Up: Infiniti QX

Herman Cain is a successful businessman, has a strong sense of humor, and probably likes to have fun. The Escalade is the perfect fit for Mr. Cain - it is big, flashy, and luxurious. And there is plenty of room to store pizzas in the back!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Acura ILX ... and other examples of forced corporate design language

Acura ILX
In my opinion, there is something unnatural and forced-looking about the new Acura ILX. I would never pay $25-30k for this car. It is a Civic-based competitor to other sub-entry-level luxury cars like the Buick Verano and Audi A3, and I think Acura really missed a great opportunity here. The Acura family grille doesn't bother me (although I know some would disagree) as much as the ugly crease running along the side of the car and the fact that the door handles are IDENTICAL to those on the Civic. Yeah, Acura - don't think I didn't notice that! On its own, the door handle issue is unacceptable (see previous blog post). The rear end is marginally attractive but boring, and the interior is a watered down version of the TSX. The 150hp I-4 engine is probably no more interesting to drive than a Civic. The Integra and RSX were also Civic-based, but they somehow worked because they attempted to be sporty and scrappy, as opposed to luxurious, as the ILX does. I could imagine a Civic to be sporty, but not luxurious.

However, since I haven't driven or even sat in the ILX, I don't intend to review the car. Instead, I wish to point out a trend that the ILX exemplifies, that many car makers have failed when they try to push corporate design language downwards to the base model. Click through for some more examples.

Dodge Avenger
I don't dislike the Avenger, but I don't love it either. The Avenger is an obvious attempt to apply the Charger's aggressive lines on Chrysler's midsize platform. Chrysler showed a strong effort, but somehow they lost the Charger's edginess along the way. The crosshair grille, character lines on the rear doors, and distinctive taillights of the Charger are present, but toned down too much.

Mercedes GLK
As a Mercedes fan, it pains me to say it, but the GLK looks like a mess - a confluence of various design cues found on other Mercedes models that don't jive when mixed together. I see a little C, G, and M-Class in the GLK, but the mini-SUV is too boxy in places it shouldn't be, and too round in other places. The redesigned version (not shown here) is a little better but doesn't completely solve the problem.

Lincoln MKZ
Lincoln MKZ
The Lincoln MKZ is another example of wrongly forced corporate design language. Lincoln was obviously given the Ford Fusion platform and told to turn brass into gold. The designers must have thought they needed a "Lincoln-like" grille and taillights, so they slapped them on. The resulting design was an awkwardly edited Fusion clone. Lincoln did not fool anyone; there is a good reason why their sales have not been very good. I give Lincoln designers kudos for trying to substantially differentiate the dashboard, but unfortunately the result was terrible. The dashboard looked like a relic from the '60s or '70s and was oddly vertically oriented, and not very ergonomic. Fortunately, the interior was overhauled in the second-gen model.

Mazda 3
Mazda 3
The last example I'll provide is the Mazda 3. I know there are a lot of fans out there, but if I'm being honest, I think the first-gen Mazda 3 is much more attractive than the current version. I've always liked the styling on the Mazda 6 - including the latest version - but it somehow didn't translate gracefully on the smaller Mazda 3. The front fascia is a matter of taste, but I think it is way too big and cheesy. The rear end is too boxy in my opinion, and I don't like the shape of the taillights. Overall, I think Mazda tried way too hard to squeeze the attractive parts of the 6 on the 3, and it backfired.

Friday, April 20, 2012

for feelings

for heroic dogs and praise

for to sir with love

for truck

for Marvin

for Billie

for entrapment of boys to become meat for empire

for welcome to the jungle soundtrack of occupying tanks crushing insurgency

for gee thanks Axl

for a moment that had only been wept for

for I can’t do what 10 people tell me to do 1

for music of the spheres

for the relief of minds who hear it first

for sweet tenor

for first sight

for baby

for ain’t to work on Maggies farm

for hum

for 96 tears

for you, I came for you

for the econoline van 2

for hauling fish such as the Menhaden Chanteymen

for 16 tons and what do you get

for cinema demands

for teenager in love

for lullaby

for debs in charge of the lost and found


for Joe Hill

for in the arms of my best friends wife

for the story of how you were named

for Jimmy Dale

for hear that lonesome whippoorwill

for luna

for howl

for trailers sale or rent

for Desmond Decker above all

for one love

for to smoke two joints 3

for mother in law

for Mary Wells

for the milk crate of Ted Hawkins

for the helluva band in a rock’n’roll heaven

for what unsuspected winding trails of beauty you may deliver us yet

for Mount Fuji

for po may kao jai 5

for your many unguessable laughters

for and the horse you rode in on

for the blow taken and survived

for i wanna die

for the malign to receive its credit eternal

for a working class hero

for Ray Davies really got me Lola’d

For donhenley is denounced in no uncertain terms

for all time

for Hotel California is a sin against ears, intellect, everything

for freely sweating and grooving

for bet I know what we like to do

for Soon As I Get Home 7

for nobody knows the trouble I've seen

for I don't know about this amazing grace

for Ben E King

for Gloria Gaynor

for I wish I was single again

my pockets would jingle 8

for jingle is the fizz of the lyric naked

to please yes, but also to insinuate and why

it is not the real thing 9

nor for simple but when you were little

for in 20,000 Roads Baton Rouge signals devastation 10

for the highway crews side of the job

I say it sure is a bummer 11

for you whistle
past the graveyard

for if we make it through December 15

for to perform for you

for no cover Tuesdays at 6

for La Ve En Rose

for Sly and Family Stone

for somewhere over the rainbow

For rendition and rendition’s sake

for alone on the road deep in the night

for everything’s getting bigger but our love 13

for the (repossessing) furniture man

for Billie Joe MaCallister

for these boots

for Frank never sang a syllable unintelligibly

much less a word

for Kevin Keaney to sing Summer Wind (8/31/04)

for karaoke nights at the Colma Bowl

for happy birthday
 to you

por Buddy

for Precious 15

for spending one hour a day alone with my grief

for a kid’l eat ivy too

for the whole lost ship of them

though no one sings for the whale

ever at all

for Roky has always been here before

for the Creature With the Atom Brain

for I’m not Buchanan

For I don’t look like him but I am him

for you are going to miss me

for I walked with a zombie

for you don’t love me yet

for the social and political injustices

for two headed dog

for please judge

for something extra

for I pledge allegiance

for I promise

for never say goodbye 16

for Alma Mae

for persuading the hack to hang it up

for the great emotional connections

for the great emotional wrenchings

for our town

for Saras Bread Company

for Kossoff sounds like molten gold 18

for Don Cornelius

for more

for play

1 Otis

2 Neil Young, "Tonight's the Night"

3 Peter Tosh

4 Ernie K-Doe, Emperor of the Universe

5 "I don't understand"

6 Jolie Holland

7 Al Green, Full of Fire

8 the Menhayden Chanteymen sung

9 a Copping of the Diction of Christopher Smart

10 Graham Parsons "now I know just what to do"

11 Richard Russell, Light Maintenance Foreman, Booneville NY

12 Merle Haggard a Plumber from Wasco

13 Legendary Stardust Cowboy

14 Bella Kittinski

15 Bryant, the Truth

16 Roky Erickson Titles or Lyrics of

17 Iris Dement

18 Paul All Right Now

Is the 2013 Nissan Altima attractive enough to compete?

2013 Nissan Altima

The Nissan Altima has always been third fiddle to the perennial favorites in the segment, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The Altima is perfect for someone who wants a reliable, safe family car, but wants a little more sportiness and personality than the bland Camry or Accord. However, when Nissan unveiled the new 2013 Altima at the New York Auto Show, I was, frankly, disappointed. With new beautiful designs from Ford, Hyundai, and Kia, why would anyone looking for "sportiness" and "pizzazz" go with this Altima? Click through for my reasoning...

Personally speaking, I'm typically not a fan of Nissan's designs, but I admit that Nissan makes reliable, futuristic-looking cars and accordingly has a strong following. The new Altima has a lot of the same design features seen on the rest of Nissan's current lineup, chiefly the weird concave grille (Versa) and the kinked headlights and taillights (Maxima / 370Z). The wavy line on the side is mildly interesting, but it doesn't go far enough to elicit much emotion. The interior is attractive enough. Having not driven or sat in the new Altima, I can only comment on the pictures I've seen so far, and I am overall underwhelmed.

2013 Ford Fusion
In contrast, Ford surprised everyone when they unleashed the new Aston Martin-like Fusion design. Not only will this car be one of the best looking in its class, but also it will arguably be one of the best looking cars available period. Seriously, if sportiness and design are important to you, why would you buy the Altima over the Fusion? Some people may argue that Japanese quality is better, but Ford's reputation has improved quite a bit in recent years, and is probably comparable to the Japanese competitors, for all intents and purposes.

Hyundai Sonata
The current Hyundai Sonata has been around for a couple years now, but it still looks awesome. Its Mercedes CLS-like lines are almost too classy (if that is possible) for a car that costs sub-$25k. Unless you still have an (unfair) bias against Hyundai, or if styling is not important to you, I cannot understand why anyone would buy the Altima over the Sonata. And...the warranty is better too.

Kia Optima
I have real trouble deciding whether I prefer the Optima or the Sonata; honestly, I still haven't made up my mind. Both cars are so refreshingly attractive. I've driven the Optima Hybrid and was impressed by the car's dashboard, which seemingly wraps around the driver. The quality was top notch, the engine was peppy, and the exterior of the car is gorgeous.

Returning to my original point, I fail to see how the Altima competes: it is perceived to be not as good as the Camry or Accord, but doesn't have the sex appeal (interior or exterior) of the Fusion, Sonata, or Optima. And don't forget, the new Chevy Malibu will also give the Altima some added competition. I'm not sure I love the new Malibu's styling, but I think it is more harmonious than the Altima's.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

McLaren MP4-12C Sighting!

McLaren MP4-12C
After a brief hiatus, the blog is back! Picking up where I left off...I had the pleasure of spotting a McLaren MP4-12C valeted in front of a fancy hotel the other day. Click through for some more pictures and commentary.

McLaren MP4-12C

In the 1990s, the name McLaren was synonymous with the fastest car in the world, specifically referring to the McLaren F1. (That title was of course later destroyed by the Bugatti Veyron). In the 2000s, McLaren collaborated with Mercedes on the SLR, and then last year, as a standalone company, McLaren released the MP4-12C you see above.

A few things I like about the car:
  • The design is the prototypical expression of a sports car. In other words, if I was playing Pictionary or DrawSomething and I was asked to draw a "sports car", I'd probably draw something that looks like the MP4-12C.
  • The MP4-12C certainly drew a crowd. A consistent flow of people - including both car enthusiasts and regular pedestrians - huddled around the car, taking pictures, posing, and glaring its beauty
  • The interior is very simple and ergonomic. There are few buttons or knobs, and the center stack looks quite similar to the Porsche Carrera GT
  • The rear active aero is SICK. All cars should have it.
  • And yes, the McLaren name still carries the same cachet that it did in the 90s
  • While I have not driven this car, listening to Jeremy Clarkson driving it on Top Gear affirms that the engine sounds amazing...
  • Above all, the rarity of this car speaks for itself. I may never see one in the wild again...

McLaren MP4-12C
And a few things I don't like about the car:
  • At over $230k, there are quite a few other competing exotic sports cars to choose from, such as the Ferrari 458, Aston Martin DBS, Mercedes SLS, Lamborghini Aventador, Audi R8, and others. I have to say that the design of some of those cars carries more intrigue than the McLaren
  • The front end design of the MP4-12C is not very exciting and perhaps a little squished. From afar, I might mistaken the front end for a last-gen Hyundai Tiburon (which, I might add, is not a bad looking car!)
  • According to Jeremy Clarkson, the MP4-12C was too restrained and not as fun or engaging to drive as the 458 Italia. Sometimes too much technology is not a good thing.
  • What a stupid, forgettable name...did they really need to add the "12C" to the end? Simply "MP4" would have been bland, but adding the "12C" makes it bland and confusing. It sort of reminds me of the Merkur XR4Ti (what does it mean, and why is the "i" lowercase?)
All-in-all, would I buy the McLaren MP4 if I had $230k? Not sure, given the stiff competition (and having not driven it myself...anyone want to let me drive theirs?), but given the excitement and intrigue the car stirred up just sitting in front of this hotel, I'd definitely give it a hard look.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Year in the Journey: My Nissan LEAF One Year Review and a New Infiniti EV Someday?

It hardly seems possible, but we've been driving our Nissan LEAF for a full year and over 11,000 miles.  We love the car. I can truly say that this is the most interesting car I've ever owned.

The LEAF has been completely reliable.  The only trips back to the dealer were for a software update and for the free six and twelve month checks.  The battery check at the twelve month visit showed a clean bill of health with five stars on each of the measures, which include charging history, driving history and storage history.  Note that our LEAF got this clean battery health report despite the fact that we usually charge the car to 100% rather than the 80% that Nissan recommends for "Long Life Mode".  We charge to 100% because we want the car to always be ready for any unexpected driving need.  One charging note: we set the charging timer to start charging only, but not to stop charging.  So charging ends when the battery is full and the charging plug stays connected until the following morning.  I'm not sure if this charging practice allows the LEAF's battery management system to balance the cells better, but we certainly seem to have a healthy battery.  The only service that the car has had besides checks and software updates was a free tire rotation.

My impressions of the car are no different than they were when I wrote my first full review at two weeks into the journey.  Link  Over the last twelve months, the LEAF has impressed us further by its reliability and by how well it has served our needs for all of our local driving.  It is definitely our primary vehicle.  The car is roomy enough for a couple to feel very comfortable in the open and airy front seating area.  And the rear seat is good for our adult children and their child in a car seat, with room in the hatch area behind the seats for groceries, diaper bags, beach chairs and the like.

As a driver's car, the LEAF is fun to drive because of its instant smooth torque, its effortless steering and the quiet of the ride.  People often try to compare electric cars or hybrids with similar gasoline ("ICE") cars so that they can try to calculate the "payback period" of the extra cost of the electric drive train.  But comparisons like this are often misguided if other factors than strictly fuel economy matter to the buyer, because electric cars like the LEAF are more than just an electrified version of a similar ICE car.  This is because electric cars have the benefit of the smooth, quiet drive train that takes the car into a new category.  Basically, it's a much nicer car than the ICE car that seems like a close comparison. I'm not exaggerating when I say that driving the LEAF has much in common with driving a small luxury car.  Electric cars also have the convenience factor of allowing the driver to never have to visit a gas station again.  So making a "payback period" calculation is often no more realistic than trying to make the same kind of comparison for a Lexus 350 against the Toyota Camry with which it shares a platform, or the same calculation for someone who chooses a BMW 3 Series instead of the "equivalent" Toyota (which really doesn't exist).  The cars are not equivalent, and the buyer who chooses an EV is choosing a nicer vehicle in many ways.

As a person who is fascinated with the latest technical advances and with measuring the energy efficiency of devices that I use a lot, the LEAF provides me with a constantly fascinating driving experience.  For instance, there is no other type of car that actually regains energy when driving down steep hills, and that's fun to watch.

And then there's that little thing about driving free of any fuel charges and without polluting.  Because we have solar panels on our home's roof  that produce more energy than we use in the home, by charging the LEAF at night we haven't paid anything for fuel for the 11,000 miles plus that we've driven the car.  And we haven't used any imported oil to fuel the car either.

Even if we didn't have solar power, I've found that our cost per mile on electricity would be less than four cents per mile.  That's less than half the cost of driving a Prius and about one fifth the cost of driving a gasoline car that averages 25 mpg.  At today's four dollar-plus gas prices, if you drive a car 12,000 miles per year, that translates to an annual savings of about $600 on fuel for a Prius and over $1,400 for that 25 mpg car.
EDIT: Here's a link to an article about a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists that illustrates the savings by US region: Link

I haven't mentioned anything about the incentives that we got to lease the car.  I will say that the tax credit and rebate that were offered were enough to get me interested in the LEAF when I wasn't sure if it was a good fit for us.  But the car has turned out to be so much better than I expected when I first saw it.  Would I have leased the car without those incentives?  I probably would have because I really wanted to try an electric car. The incentives just made it easier to make that early adoption decision.  For new car shoppers now, with a lot of good information available about how good the car is, the decision may be easier.

Do I have any complaints or criticisms about the LEAF?  I certainly do. I would like more driving range.  With experience, I've learned that the LEAF realistically has a range of 70 to 80 miles.  It can be longer, up to 100 miles or more on local highways with top speeds under 50 mph, but with the frequent use of freeway speeds that is almost unavoidable in our suburban areas, 75 miles or so is about it.  Living about 45 miles outside of the local big city center, round trips into the city or to pick up friends at the airport are hard to do without a charging stop along the way.  A realistic driving range of 100 to 120 miles would make the car so much more usable for us.  Though the acceleration of the LEAF is good off the line and up to 40 or 50 mph, I would like a bit more power for a more enjoyable driving experience.   The front drive architecture and the simple beam rear axle also limit the LEAF's handling potential, and I would prefer rear drive with an independent rear suspension.  The car needs a more accurate driving range display (called "DTE", Distance to Empty) and a real state of charge meter that shows the percentage of battery charge remaining.  I would have liked the choice of power seats and leather in place of the fabric that is standard on the car (leather can be installed by after market suppliers for about $1,000).  The carpeting in the car is barely adequate and it resembles thin felt that pills up if you scuff it.  The floor mats are an absolute must have, but happily, they do eliminate the carpet problems.

All of that said, though, the good qualities of the LEAF shine through.  When I think of the LEAF, I think of a really pleasant and fun driving experience with the luxury of smoothness and the quiet to allow normal conversation at all times.  In the LEAF, Nissan has done an incredible job of building a reliable, usable, simple and enjoyable car.  The fact that it is electric and saves us money as we drive it are bonuses.

Myths and Misconceptions about Electric Cars
The one year point seems like a good time to mention some of the misconceptions and myths about electric cars.  I covered these in a previous post, so I'll just paste that text here, with a few additions:

How long does it take to charge?: About four hours, most nights, while we're sleeping.  Quick charging stations are being installed which will charge a LEAF to 80% full in about 30 minutes.
Is it slow and pokey, like a golf cart?: Absolutely not.  The LEAF is peppy and quick, like a normal small car, but it does it with incredible smoothness and quiet.  It also climbs hills like a champ.
Doesn't charging an EV just shift the pollution to the power plant?:  No, even if all of the power came from a coal-fired power plant, the pollution and CO2 produced would be less than from the same number of miles driven with a gasoline car.  And don't forget that drilling, transporting and refining that crude oil into gasoline uses a bunch of power and causes even more pollution.  By contrast, electric cars can be charged using power from cleaner sources, such as hydro, wind, geothermal, natural gas and solar, as our car is.
Won't we need to build a lot more power plants to charge EVs?: No.  EVs are most cost effective when charged during late night hours, when electrical demand is low.  We could put millions of new EVs on US roads without building a single additional power plant.
What about maintenance costs?: So far, our maintenance costs have been zero.  That includes the one year maintenance at 12,000 miles and the first maintenance at 7,500 miles, which included just a tire rotation and some inspections.  Because the LEAF has so few mechanical parts as compared with a gasoline car, maintenance costs are expected to continue to be low.
But what about the cost of replacing the battery?:  The main batteries of the LEAF are warrantied for eight years and 100,000 miles.  When they need to be replaced, the cost will be several thousand dollars.  But these costs are expected to drop over time, as have the replacement costs of Prius hybrid batteries.  And compared with the expected maintenance costs of a gasoline car over eight years, the costs will likely be similar.  But our choice was to lease the LEAF for 39 months, so we won't be paying for any battery replacements.
Will all of those dead batteries end up in landfills, causing an environmental problem?: Unlikely.  Once the battery packs will no longer hold enough power for use in an EV, they will still be useful by power companies or solar or wind power generators to store the power made during peak times.  In addition, the batteries can be taken apart and many of the parts re-used for future battery packs.
Aren't electric cars dangerous because they are prone to catching fire?:  No.  Gasoline powered cars with large tanks full of flammable fuel and an engine based on thousands of explosions per minute are much more prone to catching fire.  Gasoline car fires number in the many tens of thousands per year.  Only one Chevy Volt has caught fire, and that was three weeks after a government crash test, after which the car was improperly stored without discharging its battery as the manufacturer recommends.
What problems have owners been having?:  Very few, really.  Some have recently reported that the sidewalls on the tires are not very durable, and there has been some edge wear on the front tires.  The car lacks a spare tire, which, given the relative fragility of the tires, seems short sighted (though the LEAF comes with three years of roadside assistance and towing).  Some windshields have cracked, but this is common on new cars, as the glass is made thinner to reduce weight.  The brakes are grabby at very low speeds, like when driving slowly in parking lots.   There have been a very few reports of unexpected electronic faults, but these have been unusual and sporadic.  Some owners feel that the paint is thin.  The climate control is designed so that if you need to defrost the windshield, the heater must come on, which reduces driving range.  There may be a few others, but that's about it.

Infiniti LE Concept EV at New York Auto Show, 2012

A New Infiniti Luxury EV Concept
Since we're leasing the LEAF for 39 months, at this time it isn't too early to be looking ahead for our replacement EV.  In this fast changing, highly technical new growth area of automotive design, new types of EVs are being designed to fill several automotive niches.  As I mentioned above, I would like our next EV to have a longer range, at least 100 and preferably 120 or more realistic freeway miles.  I'd like more luxury features such as power seats for finer adjustment of the seating position.  And I want more power and a car that handles better in the corners and at speed.  A new concept car from Infiniti promises to satisfy some of those desires.

Nissan Corporation's luxury brand Infiniti showed their first all-electric concept car last week at the New York Auto Show.  The concept is called simply the Infiniti LE Concept.  Other than Tesla's Model S sedan, the Infiniti is the first luxury EV to be shown for the US market.  Infiniti says that the concept car represents about an 85% accurate view of the car that they will sell here in 2014, about two years from now.

Before I write further about the LE Concept, I want to be certain to talk about the size of the battery pack in the car.  The concept car has a battery pack that seems to be identical to the LEAF's 24 kWh pack.  With the LE being a larger and certainly heavier car than the LEAF, and with its more powerful motor, the driving range of the LE is likely going to struggle to be even as long as the LEAF's range.  In my opinion, that is not acceptable in Infiniti's first luxury EV.  While Nissan continues to label the LEAF as a 100 mile car, it is well known that the LEAF has a shorter realistic driving range.  Infiniti definitely needs to put a larger battery pack into the production version of the LE so that owners will be able to make use of the more powerful motor for performance without sapping the range significantly, and have the option of extending the range to over 100 miles with more gentle driving at freeway speeds.  Nissan would obviously like to leverage the manufacturing costs of the existing LEAF platform, including the battery, but to essentially make the Infiniti LE a LEAF with luxury but the same or lesser driving range would be a big mistake.  Other than Infiniti's existing customer base, a potential source of customers for the LE is current LEAF owners.  A good proportion of us will tell you that MORE RANGE is our primary desire in our next EV.  In fact, many of us will not buy another EV without the option of more driving range when we need it.

Now back to the specifications of the Infiniti LE Concept.  This is a five passenger sedan, apparently with a trunk rather than a hatch.  The motor has more torque and more horsepower than the LEAF's motor, with 34% more horsepower (134 hp vs the LEAF's 100, though I recently read that Infiniti says that the difference is only 22%, who knows??) and 14% more torque (240 lb-ft versus the LEAF's 210).  Infiniti says that the focus in the LE Concept is on performance with luxury rather than solely on economy.  While most of Infiniti's recent cars have had rear drive, the LE Concept uses the LEAF's front drive platform.  Hopefully, Infiniti will fit an independent rear suspension in place of the LEAF's simple twist beam rear axle and will be able to deliver on the promise of a good handling car.

Infiniti LE Concept showing Wireless Charging Dock beneath rear bumper

The LE Concept appears to have a great deal of luxury built in, including sport power seats with partial leather coverings and an interior design that is high tech and elegant at the same time. Photos of the instrument panel appear to show a state of charge percentage display as well as a distance to empty mileage display, something for which LEAF owners have been asking Nissan for some time.  Being an Infiniti, it isn't surprising to see a feature called "Around View" for parking assistance.  But the "Wow" feature that Infiniti has included is wireless charging.  While the LE Concept does have standard ports for plugging in charging adapters, it also features inductive wireless charging.  Inside the car, under the trunk is an inductive charging device that receives magnetic energy from a charging device on the garage floor underneath the car in order to provide charging energy.  Infiniti has an elegant solution for positioning the car for wireless charging.  The Concept features automatic parking for hands-free positioning of the car in the garage so that the car's wireless charging mechanism is directly over the matching device on the garage floor.  This seems to be the ultimate and most appropriate feature for the company's first luxury EV, providing as it does an answer to some potential buyers' concerns about the ease of plugging in for charging.

BMW i3 Concept at the New York Auto Show, 2012

The other EV that seems most interesting to me at this time is the BMW i3.  I really like BMWs for their performance focus, and the i3's rear drive architecture and light weight carbon fiber body structure make it very interesting.  The BMW is a smaller car than the Infiniti, seating only four instead of five.  And BMW has apparently decided to keep the battery size small, aiming for a driving range of about 90 to 100 miles for city use.  That factor, along with the car's smaller interior dimensions, may keep me from getting the BMW as my next EV.  BMW is reported to be planning an optional small gasoline range extender engine for buyers who need longer range from their i3, but there may be serious performance compromises when the range extender is in use.  Lots more remains to be seen about these two fascinating EVs over the next two years, and you can bet that I'll be watching the developments closely.
BMW i3 Concept at the New York Auto Show, 2012

The Numbers:
2011 Nissan LEAF SL Placed in Service: March 30, 2011
All Home Charging Done Using: 240 Volt Aerovironment/Nissan Level 2 EVSE
Home Solar PV System: 24 Sunpower 215W panels totaling 5.16 kW DC mounted on a 20 degree South facing roof.
Total Solar PV Power Generated for Net Metering Year Ended February 2012:  8,568 kWh

Month:  March 2012
Total Miles at Month End: 11,249 
Miles Driven in Month:  1,032 miles
Electric Power Used for Charging in Month: 320 kWh (measured at wall power source, includes public charging)
Public Charging in Month, Power Use:
 52.3 kWh 

Charging at Home in Month, Power Use: 267.6 kWh
Energy Efficiency, Month of March 3.23 miles/kWh (wall to wheels)

Total Charging Energy Used, Lifetime: 3,519.3 kWh (Includes public charging)
Energy Efficiency, Lifetime:  3.20 miles/kWh (wall to wheels)
Energy Efficiency, Lifetime:  31.29 kWh/100 mi (wall to wheels)
Number of Home Charging Days in Month: 21
Most Electric Energy Used for Charging in a Day in March:  20.7 kWh  (5.6 charging hours)
Least Electric Energy Used at Home for Charging in a Charging Day in March : 7.4 kWh  (2.0 charging hours)
Average Electric Energy Used for Home Charging in a Charging Day in
 March :  12.7 kWh  (3.4 charging hours)
Household Power Used for Month:  823 kWh (without car charging)
Total Power Used for Month:  1,091 kWh (includes car charging)
Solar PV Power Generated for Month:  738 kWh
Net Power Used or Sent to Grid for Month:  353 kWh net used
March Electric Bill, So Cal Edison, Schedule TOU-D-TEV:  $35.20 
 (A charge in this amount will be added to our net metering total charge for the year.)
Solar Net Metering Year Total Cumulative kWh Used at Month #1:  329 kWh (Total kWh net used for the net metering year. This is total household and EV charging usage minus solar PV generation.)

Solar Net Metering Year Total Cumulative Cost at Month #1:  $35.20 (Total energy and delivery costs for all power usage for the net metering year.)
Cost for Charging Car in March:  $0.00
Cost per Mile:  $0.00
Cost for Charging Car, Lifetime: $0.00
Cost per Mile, Lifetime: $0.00  

(If We Didn't Have Solar Power, Est Cost for Charging Car in March: $34.79)
(If We Didn't Have Solar Power, Est Cost per Mile in March: $0.032) 
Average (Mean) Miles per Driving Day in March:  36.4 miles

Average (Median) Miles per Driving Day in March:  28.5 miles
Longest Day's Driving in March:  85 miles (charging mid-trip)
Longest Day's Driving in March Without Charging: 68 miles
Shortest Day's Driving in March:  4 miles
Number of Times we Took the Prius Instead of the LEAF Due to Low Charge: 1
Unexpected Low Charge and Unable to Reach Destination:  Never