Like it or not, electric cars are coming & Nissan are one of the manufacturers who got in on the act early, launching their first generation Leaf back in 2011. Company Car & Van drove both the original, which at a push would take you 50 miles on one charge & the updated version in 2014, offering around 80 miles on single charge. The latest all-new model takes things a step further, coming as it does with a range of 150 miles, which is a much more appealing range than before.
Not only does the latest Leaf go further between charges, it’s also a more conventional looking car. The original would not have been out of place in a Gerry Anderson TV show, but the new one looks not too dissimilar to Nissan’s own Pulsar. The front end has the familiar Nisan grille, above which sits the flap that gives you access to the electric charging socket. This now has two inputs for standard & fast charging cables. At the back, the rear light cluster sits high on each corner, merging seamlessly into the tailgate. Indeed, you’d be hard pressed to know this was an EV although the Zero Emission logo on the right rear tailgate corner is a bit of a giveaway.
We were testing the range-topping Tekna, with an OTR price of 328,390.It’s nicely specced, with full LED headlights, 17″ alloys, a gloss black B-pillar, front fog lights, LED signature rear lights, privacy glass & metallic paint. Step inside & the cabin looks & feels very Nissan. The dashboard has some soft touch plastics, although it’s definitely not premium in quality & comes finished in black & chrome. The seats are also black & part leather & suede & come heated. On the centre of the dash sits the 7″ TFT screen, above which there are two heating vents. The steering wheel features buttons to control the multi media system, including the hands-free phone & cruise control. The cabin is spacious with plenty of room for four adults to undertake a long journey.
The Leaf is just as safe as a conventionally powered Nissan. It comes equipped with 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, brake assist & hill start assist. The Tekna also comes with blind spot warning in the door mirrors, cross traffic alert, intelligent lane intervention, lane departure warning, intelligent emergency breaking with pedestrian recognition. Added features on the Tekna include ProPilot, ProPilot Park & an intelligent around view monitor, which comes with parking sensors, moving object detection & intelligent driver alertness. Like similar systems on other cars, this can suddenly put your brakes on when you least expect it. The set up is sensitive & if it detects a parked car as you turn a corner, you can find yourself literally stopped in your tracks !
I keep going on about conventional cars when comparing the Leaf, but to my mind, after range anxiety, boot space concerns customers because of the space taken up by the battery. There’s no such problem in the new Leaf. With all seats in use, the boot offers 385 litres of storage. Fold the 60:40 split rear seat’s flat & this increases to 1161 litres. There’s plenty of room for the two charging cables with a couple of nets on either side of the boot to tidy those cables away.
I have driven EV’s before, but if you haven’t, you may be pleasantly surprised at just how easy an EV is to drive & also how relaxing it is. The Leaf is very quiet. In the cab you can just about here the rumbling of tyre on tarmac, but otherwise nothing. It’s quick too, with a 0-62 mph sprint achieved in just 7.9 seconds. All of this is achieved effortlessly. Top speed is only 89.5mph, although as you’ll find out shortly, this isn’t a car you’ll want to drive much past 70mph.
The old Leaf featured regenerative braking. This version goes a step further with what Nissan call the e-Pedal system,which comes fitted to every model. This can be selected by pushing a button in side the car & as we found out, works best in town, rather than on the motorway. Turn on the e-Pedal & the Leaf literally slows down for you without you needing to brake. It feels a little weird at first, with the right-hand pedal offering resistance, as if a large elastic band has been put on the accelerator. but after an hour or so behind the wheel, it quickly becomes second nature.
Every Leaf model has a 148bhp electric motor that’s powered by a 40kWh battery. I am lucky enough to have a Rolec charger at home, so the benefit of this, is that it makes running or owning a Leaf so much easier. When fully charged, the range on my test model showed 178 miles. I took a 50 mile motorway round trip to Chester & back & discovered that at a constant 70mph on the motorway, the mileage goes down at a similar pace as a conventional car, i.e. mile by mile. However, go much faster & the range falls much quicker. Speaking to colleagues who have had the opportunity to drive a Leaf for several months, confirmed that 70 really is the fastest you’d want to go, especially if you’re travelling upwards of 100 miles on the motorway. This allows you to guarantee how far you can travel, before planning a pit stop at a charging station. Any journey of 120 miles & above, taken purely on the motorway will require a stop & a re-charge, so do bear this in mind.
Luckily, I spent my week in the Leaf driving mostly locally, 10 miles here, 20 miles there & I was able to re charge it at home to full power in a couple of hours or so. From empty with a 7kW charger such a the one I have, this would take 7.5 hours, or 21 hours on a household plug, making the home charger a no brainer. Stop off at a fast-charging point & this charges to 80% of full power in 40 minutes.
The attraction of running an EV for business users, is the cost that they are to run. Although the distance that you get from your battery, very much depends on how you drive, how much weight you have on board & the outside weather – the cold & strong wind hinder economy – it can work out to be significantly cheaper than a conventional petrol or diesel car. Drive carefully, alone & in Summer & 168 miles can be achieved, although 150 miles is more likely. Drive the Leaf as if you were in a petrol or diesel & this may fall, but I genuinely think that 130 miles is possible.
Furthermore, having zero tailpipe emissions also means that the Leaf qualifies for the maximum government incentive for buyers of Ultra Low Emissions Vehicles & it’s exempt from the London Congestion Charge. You’ll also save on annual VED rates. From the second year onwards, electric cars incur no VED, whereas you would be paying at least £130 a year, even on an alternative fuel vehicle. And, there are savings over a petrol or diesel car with BIK. The Leaf will be taxed at 9%, compared to 22% for a low emission diesel car that emits 100g/km of CO2.
Furthermore, like every Nissan car, the Leaf comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty.standard for the class. But, there is also some extra cover. Because the Leaf is an electric car, the Leaf comes with a five-year/60,000-mile warranty on all the dedicated EV components & for eight years/100,000 miles, the battery warranty cover protects against capacity loss of more than nine of its 12 bars, as shown on the capacity gauge.Service intervals on the Leaf are every 18,000 miles & Nissan also offers a system of fixed-price servicing options, starting at £149 for a minor service on an electric car, designed to be cheaper than on a petrol or diesel model.
In the words of Al Pacino in Heat, ” what have we got ? ” The latest Leaf is another step up for EV cars. Range is better, quality has improved, the cost to buy has come down & it looks ‘normal.’ Only the customer can decide if running an EV will work for them. From my perspective, I believe that with a home charger, the Leaf makes an excellent car for business users who cover shorter journeys. Those fleet users who rack up big miles would find the Leaf difficult to live with & the stop-start nature of charging every 120 miles would soon take its toll.Nissan are to be congratulated on the latest Leaf, but already Nissan need to be planning ahead, as the new Hyundai Kona EV has just been launched & this it’s claimed can run to 250 miles on a single charge.
Better than almost all 3.75/5