Arrow

Posts on this site are never sponsored.

Nissan Leaf Plus 2019 review: an underrated and practical EV

If you’re looking at a new EV (electric vehicle) in Canada, there are only a few comparable cars that have over 300km of range: the Tesla Model 3, Chevy Bolt, Kia Niro, Hyundai Kona, and Nissan Leaf Plus. The Nissan Leaf Plus is a worthy and practical option. Here’s a firsthand review.

Nissan Leaf S Plus back

Nissan Leaf S Plus side

Nissan Leaf S Plus front

What comes with the S Plus model?

Other reviews for the Nissan Leaf Plus are usually for the SV or SL Plus, since that’s the demo that the reviewers are given. This review is for the basic model: the S Plus. It is the “bigger battery” version of the standard and iconic Leaf, with a 62kWh battery instead of a 40kWh battery. Some of the features of the base S Plus are a backup camera, front collision detection, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, an 8-inch touch screen, and Bluetooth phone connection capability. Side detection would be nice, but having never had that feature and been taught to relentlessly shoulder-check, I don’t really know what I’m missing. I also miss the fact that almost every new car nowadays doesn’t have a CD player anymore. Other than that, it has everything I need, as a family with a young child.

Interior and trunk space

The interior is spacious, and the seats have decent lumbar support. The back seat space does not feel cramped, although if you have a car seat, you might find yourself moving the front passenger seat up a bit more than you would have otherwise liked, leaving the front seat a bit cramped. Visibility out the front and back windows and side mirror are good, comparable to my previous sedan and better than what I saw in the Kira Niro and Hyundai Kona.

Trunk space is good (easily fitting groceries, a stroller, or suitcases), without needing to bring down one of the back seats. It’s easy to fold both of the back seats down if needed. The trunk space certainly beats that of the Hyundai Kona.

The normalcy and moderness of the Leaf Plus

One of the great achievements of the Nissan Leaf Plus is that it looks and feels like a normal car, other than the details that make it an EV. The ride is smooth, and I don’t feel or hear the road much. The regenerative braking is smooth and it’s hard to tell when the friction brakes kick in. It feels like a well-made, well-thought-out modern car.

The gear shift is a bit non-standard compared to the “straight line” shift I’m used to, but I was able to adjust almost right away.

Nissan Leaf S Plus centre panel

e-Pedal and eco mode

A couple of the Leaf’s EV features are the e-Pedal and “eco mode”. The idea of the e-Pedal is that when you step off the accelerator, the car brakes for you, achieving close to one-pedal driving. You only have to use the brake if you need a more sudden stop than the automatic e-Pedal brake provides. I found this a fun novelty in stop-and-go traffic, but it didn’t really improve my driving experience or make it more “relaxing” as some other reviews found.

Eco mode gives you more range by essentially making it so that you have to push the pedal down harder to get it to accelerate faster. In other words, it limits, somewhat, the usual instant torque peppiness that you should find in any EV. However, I use eco mode as my standard mode, even on highways. When I need more power, I just push my foot down harder!

Range

The range of the Nissan Leaf Plus is officially stated as up to 363km on a full charge. It’s easy to achieve this and more (up to 400km) with city driving and eco mode… and without the heat on.

Nissan Leaf S Plus range on eco mode with heat off

With normal mode, highway driving, and the heat on, I expect closer to 300km of range. Turning on the heat decreases the range by about 10%, but keep in mind that in a gas car, the cabin heater also decreases your range.

Nissan Leaf S Plus range on eco mode with heat on

It’s just that in the EV it makes this very clear, since it’s not just a digital fuel gauge (percent battery remaining) but it also estimates how many kilometres you have left to drive.

Range is also negatively affected in the cold, and I was also warned about additional concerns about being able to charge the battery in extreme heat, since the Nissan Leaf Plus’s battery is not liquid-cooled. However, this is not something I’m worried about in Metro Vancouver.

Charging times

If you plug the car in through a standard wall plug (Level 1) using the included adapter, you might get a charge of 2% battery per hour. Using a Level 2 charger (most public chargers, or something you can install in your home) you’ll get up to about 10% battery per hour. With public Level 2 chargers, depending on how much kWh it draws, this could be less. Level 3 chargers are really fast, which can apparently get your battery to 80% in 45 minutes are rare where we are (Metro Vancouver), so I don’t think about them.

You might be worried that even with a Level 2 charger it takes you 10 hours to charge your car, and more than 2 days on a Level 1 charge. That seems like a lot. But keep in mind that you are probably not driving over 300 kilometres in one day, and maybe not even 60 kilometres (which is likely less than 20% of a full charge), and as a result, you can get by to only charge it a bit at a time.

I don’t have a charger of any kind in my shared parking garage, but I am lucky to have several public charging stations within a couple of blocks of my residence. Therefore, I am able easily to park at one of those spots on my way home sometimes and walk back to pick it up later. I also take every opportunity to plug the car in at our various destinations whenever there is a public charging station available. I hope to eventually get a standard wall plug (not even a Level 2 charger) in my parking spot. If I’m able to plug the car in for 10 hours per night, that’s about 20% per day, and I can’t foresee using more than 140% (20% x 7) of the full battery charge per week.

Other EV notes

  • Most public chargers are free to use, but note that some are in pay parking spots, so you still have to pay for the parking, just not the electricity.
  • “Getting ICE’d” means an EV charging spot is occupied by a gas (internal combustion engine) car. In my opinion, if that happens to you, chill out and move on. Don’t passive-aggresively post their licence plates online. Many EV charging spots are not exclusively for EVs.
  • In BC at least, you’ll want to download 3 apps:
    • PlugShare: a map of all charging spots with user-contributed tips and experiences
    • Flo: needed to charge at some spots even if they’re free
    • ChargePoint: needed to charge at other spots even if they’re free

Recycling flexible plastics in BC: take them to London Drugs

If you’re a Metro Vancouver resident, chances are that you bring your own re-usable shopping bags to the store. You might even bring your own re-usable produce bags. Then at home, between the compost, paper recycling, container and hard plastic recycling, and plastic bag recycling (back at the grocery store), what remains in your garbage can is mostly other plastics (and, especially during allergy season, tissues).

Now there’s a place for all that other plastic. In our house, that other plastic includes frozen fruit packaging, baby food stand-up pouches, crinkly snack bags such as chips, granola bar wrappers, bubble wrap envelopes, and much more.

Flexible plastics: frozen food packaging, baby food stand-up pouches, chip bags, granola bar wrappers

London Drugs now accepts what they call flexible plastic packaging. That’s of course in addition to all the other things they accept such as Brita filters and batteries. In its blog post about the flexible plastic packaging program, it mentions all of the examples of packaging they accept. I find the flexible plastic packaging versus soft plastic packaging distinction a bit confusing, but there are a lot of items in the list, and in the comments section, they do their best to answer consumer questions.

The post also states that the collected plastics will be used for recycling research and development. In other words, the material won’t necessarily be recycled yet. For now, at least it’s being kept out of the dump with the long-term goal of recycling more of it.

TubShroom review: yes, it prevents my bathtub drain from clogging

There is a never-ending and annoying supply of gadgets and widgets that solve every household problem, whether you knew you had the problem or not. The TubShroom is one of them. But it works, at least for me.

I was tired of my bathtub drain clogging what seemed like every couple of months. The shower started to pool fast, the water drained slowly, and I got a lovely soap scum ring in the tub. Sometimes the plunger did the trick, sometimes the drain snake / auger, and sometimes the dreaded Drano. Often they’d only work partially. Naturally I wondered whether there were issues with the pipes.

Thankfully, the success of the $15 (CAD) TubShroom proved that it was essentially just long hair from my family members, along with shampoo and soap bunching up. This is what the TubShroom looks like after about a week in the tub:

TubShroom with hair

(Sorry, it’s a bit gross, but if it didn’t look so gross that would show that it doesn’t work.)

I’m sure that it does not catch “every single hair, every single time” as it claims, but it catches tons of long hairs that would have otherwise caused a backup further down in the pipes. The TubShroom essentially causes a mini-backup every week or two, but it’s so straightforward to remove all the gunk, and I would much rather do that then have a major backup that I cannot see or access.

Yes, a mesh strainer tries to do something similar, but when we had one, it never seemed to catch as much, nor was it as simple to clear out.

I can confirm that the TubShroom is easy to install. It’s flexible yet sturdy enough since it’s made of silicone. It fits right in to where my normal tub stopper is. Just make sure that you have a standard 1.5-inch drain. I cannot guarantee that it will work for you, but I can say that the TubShroom works very well for me and I can recommend it.

How to install a Samsung 960 Evo in a ThinkPad T470

I recently installed a Samsung 960 Evo SSD hard drive in ThinkPad T470 laptop (after having already purchased and received the laptop with a standard hard drive in it), and it was much more difficult than expected.

What worked was to do the following:

  • Buy the 01AX994 (hard drive adapter bracket) and 00UR496 (M.2 SSD cable) from Encompass, an OEM Lenovo parts seller
  • Put the Samsung 960 Evo drive in the bracket above, attached to the motherboard via the cable above in the main hard drive slot in the machine
  • Put the existing hard drive (that came with the ThinkPad T470) in a standard SATA USB enclosure, but don’t boot from it
  • Put Clonezilla on a bootable USB stick, and boot from Clonezilla, so that I could copy the old hard drive to the new SSD

Even though this was technically still cheaper than just buying the ThinkPad T470 from Lenovo with an SSD in the laptop in the first place, it took weeks to get the correct parts, and I certainly wish I’d paid the extra money up front.

To help provide context for the above, this is what didn’t work:

  • Putting the Samsung 960 Evo SSD directly in the ThinkPad T470 without having to purchase additional parts. There is an M.2 slot in the machine, but the physical space available to put something in that slot is way too small to put the 960 Evo. Had I purchased the ThinkPad with an SSD already in it, the necessary slot would have been available in the standard hard drive area.
  • Putting the Samsung 960 Evo SSD in a third-party internal hard drive bracket. I thought the StarTech.com M.2 to 2.5 inch SATA converter (7mm height) looked and sounded perfect, until I discovered firsthand that the 960 Evo does not fit in it. This is because the 960 Evo is an “M key”, as opposed to a “B key” or “B+M key”. I was never able to find a generic, internal hard drive bracket / M.2 to SATA adapter that supports the “M key” connection.
  • Putting the Samsung 960 Evo SSD in a third-party external hard drive USB enclosure. As per the point above, the “M key” connection on the 960 Evo makes it unsuitable for a standard SATA USB enclosure. There might be such an external enclosure that supports the “M key” connection out there, and hopefully this becomes more common over time.
  • Booting Windows from the existing hard drive (that came with the ThinkPad T470) from a USB enclosure. The goal was to use Samsung’s Data Migration software to copy the existing drive and operating system to the new SSD.

Clearly I had and still have a lot to learn about SSDs!

Airbnb for Business review: simple business trip accommodations

Airbnb has become a very useful option for business travel. It can be cheaper than a hotel, but you can also often get a more convenient location and better amenities such as a kitchen. You also have many more options in case you want a place with multiple rooms.

Airbnb for Business has made normal Airbnb much more convenient for my small business. Just like Uber for Business, you can have multiple sub-accounts that can all charge trips to the main account and credit card. This way, employees can choose their own accommodations and book their own trips! Before I started using Airbnb for Business, I’d have to play middle man and make a booking on behalf of my employees; this took up my time and I’m sure the hosts would have preferred dealing directly with the person who would be staying at their place.

Once an employee is added to an Airbnb for Business account, they have an option to specify on a booking that they’re on a business trip:

Specify business travel

This then allows them to select the option of charging the trip to the company credit card. This way, they don’t have to use their own card and wait to get reimbursed. They also don’t have to have the company credit card in their possession.

Select your company credit card

If an employee already has an Airbnb account, they don’t have to create another account for business purposes. They can simply add their work e-mail to their existing Airbnb profile:

Enter work e-mail separate from business e-mail

From an administrative standpoint, I can see all trips made by my employees in the Airbnb for Business dashboard. This centralizes the information I need to do accounting.

Reporting dashboard of company trips

I can of course add and remove employees under the business account. I can also add “bookers” who can book on behalf of other employees, and “managers” who can view the report information.

Add employees, bookers, and managers

I can also manage the credit cards on the business account and assign different cards to different groups if needed.

Configure which credit cards can be used by which groups

Lastly, there are e-mail notification settings. I can choose to receive an e-mail for every booking, and I can also get special alerts if the nightly rate exceeds a particular threshold.

Receive e-mail notifications for every company booking

I highly recommend Airbnb for Business. While the basic Airbnb service has its own merits, I appreciate how it is providing tools for my small business that traditional hotels could have provided long time ago!

(And no, they did not pay me to write such a positive review!)