Blog : Nissan Leaf and the weekend’s pottering

Keith Adams

Nissan Leaf not being filled up with fossil fuels, yesterday...

Nissan Leaf not being filled up with fossil fuels, yesterday…

The Nissan Leaf goes back tomorrow, so I’d see how it performs as a weekend car, as well as my usual commuting chariot.

As you know from my last blog, the car suits me down to the ground in a workplace situation – my commute is less than 30 miles a day of stop/start extra-urban driving, and as I’m lucky enough to have a drive and garage, I have a ready-made charge point for the car. The compromises of a short range (compared with a petrol powered car) and lengthy recharges, therefore, pale into insignificance for me.

For that alone, I am sold.

However, I thought I’d play with it during the weekend, too. I know I’ve offset a fair amount of fuel during the week, so driving my SD1 or Alfa wouldn’t be a problem for me – but basically being a skint Northern skinflint, I thought I’d use the Leaf for running around shopping on Saturday, and then to run to the BMC/BL Rally in Peterborough on Sunday (a 60-mile round trip). On Saturday, it was fine – and once again, those who rode in it loved the silent smoothness of the thing, praising it to the hilt.

We had a near-miss with a BMW X5 driver, who decided it would be fun to try and overtake me through the 30mph Wollaston village just as I was about to turn right. My passenger said that it was probably because we were heading towards the open NSL stretch, and said BMW driver didn’t want to be stuck behind a beard-wearing hippy in an electric car… I just assumed he was stupid. But maybe that does raise a point – people do assume battery cars are slow; my experiences are far from that.

It was a 60-mile day of running around in the end, and when I got the Leaf home, it needed a few hours of charging from my low-capacity domestic mains electric supply.

Sunday’s run to Peterborough was more interesting. It was an early morning start, so no need to run air conditioning – and with a full battery, as I snicked the drive lever into D, it promised a 91-mile range. However, that came down quickly (in Eco mode) on the A14 dual carriageway, as there’s no chance for the clever regeneration system to work – but I went into this being determined not to suffer from range anxiety. Once onto the single-carriage A605, we were back to positive territory thanks to claggy, slow moving traffic – and more than a couple of times, the Leaf proved very handy at overtaking here.

We arrived at the show with 62 miles range showing – not a bad performance at all.

On the way back, the range did start to slip alarmingly in open space, unhindered by traffic, but once in the 40mph A605 flow, it once again proved more than capable of losing miles off its range more slowly than the actual miles remaining. The last leg of the journey – 15 miles on the A14 – were spent in D, flowing with the faster moving cars, and again, the range dropped quite quickly. But not enough to get concerned out, thus proving that the Leaf can cut it in today’s quicker traffic as long as you’re not on a long return journey.

I’m still slightly flummoxed by Top Gear’s handling of the Leaf. The idea that ‘the Boys’ would find themselves in Lincoln, stranded and without power, is slightly ridiculous. They’re clever blokes (far more so than me, as they make real money from writing about cars), and know the score, and yet the TG viewers are supposed to believe that they were caught unawares by their cars’ lack of range.

Methinks it’s more a case of not letting the truth get in the way of a good story. And that’s what TG is all about: three guys cocking around in the name of entertainment.

During my week with the Leaf, I’ve found it to be perfectly good at what it does. It isn’t perfect, but I do see this as being the beginning of what promises to be an exciting future. We’re offered genuine automotive choice for the future, be it battery, hybrid or hydrogen, and that’s something we’ve been unable to say for a very long time (it used to be petrol or diesel, like it or lump it). Battery cars aren’t there yet – we need 300-mile ranges and induction charging before they are really there – but the Leaf offers a glimpse of an oil-constrained future, and it’s maybe not as grim as I feared in the past.

I do believe that I could live with this car – but only in addition to my petrol powered classic/classics.


Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created in 2001 and watched it steadily grow into AROnline. Is the Editor of Classic Car Weekly, and has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, Classic Car Weekly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

17 Comments on "Blog : Nissan Leaf and the weekend’s pottering"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Maffc says:

    Interesting reads your last couple of blogs about the leaf. Almost has me sold on the idea of an electric car, but not yet.
    2 things
    The Leaf – IMO it’s just ugly – that back end especially.
    It seems to be a common theme that most bespoke electric or hybrids such as the Prius & insight are ugly. Lets have some nicely designed ‘eco’ cars.
    Plus as you mention, range and recharge rate are an issue currently.
    A bit of way to go for electric tech yet. Hydrogen fueled generators powering electric motors might be the future.
    (Shame extracting hydrogen from water costs more energy than we’d get from the hydrogen itself – imagine a car fueled by water)

  2. JonBoy says:

    i too agree this has to be, along with the Nissan Juke and Nissan Micra (note to self – do not buy a Nissan)has to be one of the ugliest cars i have ever seen.

    For a lot of people, the looks of a car are as important as its eco credentials, i wouldn’t touch this with an organic stick

  3. johnos1984 says:

    I disagree about the Leaf looking ugly. A neighbour has one and yes it is different but after a few days I began to like the look of it

  4. ross a says:

    no no no.. They’ve got the system wrong. Why charge the batteries when you can head to the ‘battery station’ and have your battery pack changed with a fully charged pack? The technology to do this exists but needs a global standard along with a strong plan for the infrastructure to be put in place..

  5. Tony says:

    Not convinced that the environmental benefits are that great when one looks at the overall impact of the complete package. However fossil fuels WILL run out and we do nee to start planning for a future without them

  6. Dave says:

    AFAIK, electric car mains leads have standard connections now, so I wouldn’t count on inductive charging anytime soon. GM’s EV1 had it, but I guess they didn’t push for it to be adopted when the Volt/Ampera were coming. As it is, having the Volt and Leaf using the same leads is a bigger deal than inductive charging anyway.

  7. Graham says:

    Very informative blogs.

    I’d like to know what happens to the range figures when lights, wipers and heater are in constant use which would be common in the winter months…

  8. Hilton Davis says:

    I agree with Graham… severe weather winter motoring will be a test of a Leaf’s stamina!

  9. Will M says:

    These are going to become more and more relevant as the oil starts running out (ignoring the Global Warming tax myth) unless we want to find ourselves in a Mad Max scenario.

    I agree with Ross A.

    The battery tech should be similar to gas cylinders.

    When it empties, take it to the filling station and exchange it (with money obviously) for a fully charged one.
    The filling station then charges the empty one which it can charge money for later.

    Obviously the petrol (sorry, Freudian slip) – filling station would need testing equipment to check that the battery isn’t done. And if so, send for refurbishment / recycling. All of this would be factored into the costs.

    As battery tech gets better, the batteries appearing in filling stations gradually get the better battery tech (which is abstracted from the car itself and so easily upgradable).

    However, to fully cut the limited fossil fuels out entirely, we need to ignore the greens (!) and go fully Nuclear. The latest Nuclear tech is fully safe.

  10. Chris C says:

    I would still prefer a (bio)diesel hybrid which could be recharged overnight (using wind generated power) if preferred – terrific fuel economy and less risk of being stranded. Hopefully Peugeot will show the way forward.

  11. Russell G says:

    What if isn’t windy at night when you plug your diesel hybrid in? What about the environmental impact of building windfarms? (the offshore ones use thousands of tonnes of concrete). The only reliable choice is clean nuclear power (solar could be an option for some countries but indium is in short supply for CIGS PV cells). The German answer to no nuclear power is to buy electricity from France (to appease the Greens), um how do they generate their electricity? Renewables may have a place but to rely on them is folly.

  12. Will M says:

    Nuclear power and innovations such as hot-swappable battery packs at charging/service stations.
    In a way I am jealous of those who were brought up in the modern scientific-era 50s/60s.
    The other day I was waiting outside an X-Ray waiting room, port-war modernist hospital, the warning signs were typical mid-20thC era, getting a feeling that when nuclear research was new, it was this dynamic, exciting thing in an optimistic age. Promises such as boundless unmetered nuclear generated electricity by the year 2000!
    Unfortunately it never came to pass, as we got ever more pessimistic after the likes of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. All we get fed from the media is an ever ending stream of pessimism, whether it be the news, the soaps, or even motoring programmes which brush off innovations as unworkable novelties all the while celebrating unaffordable sheer luxury motoring which, pessimistically, can’t last as oil resources run low.

  13. Guzzibasher says:

    “The latest nuclear tech is fully safe” !? Nothing is fully safe (er… been to Japan recently?)

  14. Paul says:

    Isn’t ugliness eco-unfriendly?

  15. Gareth says:

    It’s £26,000! For that reason, “I’m out”.

    It looks pleasant enough and I’m sure it’s a nice drive. However, people forget that we’re destroying the planet getting at the precious metals to make the batteries – I’m given to understand that they don’t last long either.

    Frankly, I’ve got my fingers crossed for Hydrogen cars but until then, I’ll keep my LPG power V6 and V8 petrol cars thank you very much…!

  16. Chris C says:

    Russell G…

    Probably getting offtopic but IMO offshore windfarms (nearly as bonkers as “carbon” capture and storage due to the inevitable atmospheric oxygen depletion) are NIMBYism gone bezerk. If building in the sea why not make it tidal power? Windmills aren’t the total solution by any means – geothermal also seems to often get overlooked.

    James May likes hydrogen – as long as it doesn’t explode.

  17. Will M says:

    Guzzibasher – you are comparing the latest tech with an ancient nuclear station in Japan?

    Geothermal would be nice, we are sitting on a ball of flaming magma, why can’t we harness that to give us our electricity?

    (Anyone who has played Bioshock will have seen a useful example)

Have your say...