The second generation Nissan Leaf was launched in 2013 & having driven the Mk1 I was anticipating something completely different. Nissan claim that over 100 engineering changes have been made to the Mk2, but you’d be hard pressed to notice anything from the outside with just the bumper, wing mirror and wheel designs being altered. Almost all of the changes are under the skin with a completely new vertical ” like in a normal car ” drivetrain which uses a more efficient brushless electric motor the size of a football. The brake regeneration system is now 94% efficient & the boot space has improved because most of the charger has been moved elsewhere within the car. Also, rear passengers benefit from 53mm extra rear legroom thanks to a new front seat design & as an added bonus, the Leaf is now 32kg lighter.
By far the the most important change is the adoption of a new heat-pump heating system which Nissan claims uses 70% less energy than the heating system in the original Leaf. Now I know this isn’t something to get your heart racing but bear with me because this is the key to the Mk2 Leaf because it reduces range anxiety, which was somewhere between 50 & 90 miles depending on the outside temperature. For example, with an ambient temperature of 22 degrees C ,the new Leaf can achieve 105-113 miles in the real world, whilst driving at -10 degrees C, the real world range should be 62-77 miles. Small numbers maybe, but they could mean the difference between getting to & from your place of work for many people.
Once again I was shown around the Leaf by a Nissan salesman at West Way in Manchester, who intuitively explained the differences that the Leaf has to a normal car. He also explained the reason for the bulbous front headlights, to keep the wind noise down around the wing mirrors & the specially designed wipers, which were too loud, because being electric, both the mirror & wiper noise was too loud. I was also shown the charging point in the front of the car, the lights on the dash that show you it’s charging up & the charging cable in the boot. And, most importantly, where on the dash I could keep an eye on the EV’s range.
The Leafs interior is laid out like any car, with an automatic stick offering two options forward & reverse & felt similar in it’s layout to a number of Hybrids I had previously driven. It’s incredibly fast from a standing start reaching 60 mph in under 7 seconds, because 100 % of it’s torque is on tap all of the time. I trundled out of Manchester towards the M60 & noticed that the range was increasing thanks to the Leafs re generative braking. The motorway showed me just how quickly the range goes down though, as I sped up to a cruising speed of 70 mph, the range fell quickly from 83 miles down to 63 miles, in less than 5 miles, which was disconcerting, so I left the M60 & headed back into town. Sure enough, after a few miles in stop start traffic, the range increased again, going back up to 73.
Around town I still don’t think I’ve driven a better car. It’s basically a dodgem car, point it & steer & this makes for relaxing city driving particularly in slow moving traffic. The seats were comfortable & the space age dash board is just the right side of logical & easy to understand even for a novice like myself. The Mk2 has an improves chassis as well. The Leaf comes well equipped too. It has as standard amongst others, rain sensor wipers, steering wheel controls, a keyless entry system, LED lamps back & rear, 16″ alloys, a rapid charge socket, rear view camera for parking, CD/MPS/AM/FM with USB, i-pod, aux in connections, hands free Bluetooth with voice activation & 6 speakers. But, perhaps the most interesting new technology, with the Leaf is it’s unique telematic service, which allows the driver/owner to make a remote connection to the Leaf via PC or mobile. This means that you can set the temperature inside the Leaf before you go outside & you can charge & monitor the charge automatically as well, without leaving your home. The Leafs new SIM allows the car to update the location of charging points & Nissan claim that the car can now learn how each individual driver drives his or her Leaf. A new 6.6kW charger – which halves the charging time – is now optional.
A number of other journos have expressed their fear of range anxiety when driving a Leaf. I didn’t experience this the first time I tested the Leaf in 2012, as I only travelled around the city for a couple if hours. The big deal now, is that if you wanted to drive from Manchester to Liverpool & back, you might just about make it in the Leaf Mk2 when you probabaly wouldn’t have tried it in the Mk1. And to show that it is possible to run a Leaf day to day albeit with your own at work charging point, a Leaf specialist told me that he had an SME director who had travelled over 10,000 miles in a Leaf Mk1 around Cumbria, in just a few months.
Is it for you ? The Nissan Leaf Mk2 is actually very good & with it’s improved range, I’d happily tootle around in one day to day. However, it’s limited range, means that it won’t work for everyone. Having said that, if you only travel locally & can charge the Leaf overnight at home or at work during the day, it has to be worth a look, simply because of the cost to charge vs the cost of petrol or diesel, which is approximately £1.30 per 100 miles for a Leaf vs £6 a gallon which might get you 50 miles in a low emission diesel on a good day. Mark my words, EV’s are coming & they’re here to stay. It will be interesting to se how long it will be before we ALL drive one !