2018 Nissan Leaf e-Pedal Tested: Getting to Work Without Working the Brakes

2018 Nissan Leaf; Cars.com photos by Christian Lantry

Nissan's redesigned Leaf electric vehicle (EV) features the e-Pedal, a feature that allows for driving with just one pedal. When activated, pressing the accelerator still moves the car forward, but reducing pressure actively slows the car down; completely releasing the accelerator engages friction and regenerative brakes, and it can even keep the car at a stop on hills.


Related: 2018 Nissan Leaf to Have One-Pedal Operation

Nissan's promotional materials tout that using the e-Pedal model can improve the commuting experience, so we thought we should find out if it was practical — or even possible — to complete a full Monday morning commute from my home on Chicago's North Side to Cars.com's downtown headquarters — a distance of 9.7 miles (and a drive that can take upwards of an hour if I'm really unlucky).

Using the Nissan Leaf's e-Pedal does take some getting used to. I tested it out on my commute home the Friday beforehand and a little over the weekend since I'm naturally inclined to let my foot off the gas and coast before braking when in moving traffic. With the electric car's e-Pedal engaged, the brakes engage, the brakelights come on and the vehicle starts slowing down more quickly than in a two- or three-pedal car.

Letting off pressure too quickly causes the car's movement to stutter a little as brake pressure increases abruptly. Learning to ease off the pedal smoothly takes some time and would make for a highly unpleasant experience for passengers.

Speed is an enemy of the electric car's e-Pedal. Traffic going home on Lakeshore Drive can — eventually — reach 50-60 mph, and that first drive home in the Nissan Leaf was a herky-jerky experience trying to maintain a safe enough following distance and keep up with traffic.

On city streets, the experience is much better once you learn the pace at which the Leaf will slow down with Nissan's e-Pedal engaged. I even tried parallel parking with it, and it can be done — but I'm sure I looked like a first-time driver with the number of abrupt stops and starts as I tried to feather the Leaf's accelerator.

When Monday morning rolled around, I was ready to fully commit to the Nissan Leaf model's e-pedal. I left my neighborhood, merged back onto Lakeshore Drive heading south and ... immediately entered stop-and-go heavy traffic, the e-Pedal's natural environment. Unsurprisingly for a Monday, that didn't let up the whole way to the office. I recommend adding a little bit of extra following distance when using the Nissan EV's e-Pedal in stop-and-go. With heavier shoes, I found it a bit too easy to depress the accelerator pedal enough to where the all-electric Leaf would start to creep forward. (That's not going to be an easy thing to explain to the car you just rear-ended.)

As a driver, the experience was overall quite pleasant. Using the e-Pedal requires some acclimating, but once you reach that point, it becomes something of a game to try to avoid the brake. (In my best Stephen A. Smith voice) But! You should always be ready to apply the brake in an emergency situation; it's faster and safer than just hoping the e-Pedal stops you in time.

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