17.8.2010 Nissan LEAF (electric) review
The Nissan LEAF (Leading, Environmentally friendly, Affordable, Family) will change the way we think about cars. As most cars spend 97% of their lives parked and 80% of drivers cover less than 30 miles daily, the LEAF's 100 mile range could suit more people than we'd like to admit. Servicing is minimal (tyres, brake pads etc) and the batteries can be recycled so the main concerns are initial price and residual value as the car and battery pack ages.
Review by Russell Bray for WhatGreenCar.com
Absolutely electric. Err, sorry, but because an electric motor generates instant torque rather than having to wait for revs to build up, the LEAF is very fast off the line and would beat most V6 petrol engined cars to 30mph. Shows what a synchronous electric motor that generates 107bhp and 206lb ft of torque can do for you – and in near silence. Though things ease off after that, 0-60mph takes 11.8 seconds. Top speed is 90mph so it’s as far from a milk float as you could get and can tackle motorways though it will murder the limited range.
Precise and predictable with body roll well controlled and better than I expected with a weighty (330kg, 600 lbs.) pack of 48 laminated lithium-ion batteries on board but at least they are (mainly) under the front and rear seats to keep the weight down low. Easing off the LEAF coasts easily with the familiar slight grinding drag you seem to get with regenerative brakes. The ride gets a bit pitchy over bumps but the car stays on your chosen course. These low rolling resistance tyres are good for economy but don’t have the grip of normal tyres.
Slightly Noddy-like/Wacky Racers child-like design with a low snub-nose front made possible by the absence of an internal combustion engine and all the attendant cooling and plumbing. Lift the bonnet though and the electric motor has been made to look like a normal engine. Strange fluted headlights are shaped to deflect air past the door mirrors to reduce the more noticeable wind noise with such a quiet car. High speed charger unit behind rear seats reduces boot space. Length 4445mm. Width 1770mm.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Almost comically easy to drive. Push a button, wait a few seconds for the systems to power up, with an amusing little Japanese tune on this model, slide the gear selector into ‘drive’, release the handbrake, press the accelerator and you’re away. You notice immediately the quick steering and strong brakes.
All round vision is good and the seats fine for the limited range available. Only gripe was that the cabin of this close-to-production prototype used impractically light colours for a family.
Usual kit such as central locking, electric windows, air-con, power steering plus satellite navigation with some extra tweaks. Although most LEAF owners will choose to charge at home or at work using a conventional electric socket, the driving range can be shown on the screen along with any close by low- and high-speed charging stations. Although there only a few hundred across the country (most in London), some supermarkets are interested and may provide juice for free to encourage shopping there. Slow charging will take 6-8 hours from empty, while on fast, the battery would recharge to 80% power in 30 minutes. Unusual kit includes a timer to select what hours you want to recharge on cheap overnight electricity. A smart phone app will enable turning on the LEAF’s heating/air conditioning before going to work for peak range and performance.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Very cheap to run once bought though there are concerns about second hand values, especially if the battery pack failed and after ten years’ use when a new pack could cost around £10,000. An overnight charge from normal household power socket would cost £1 to £1.50. Covering 12,000 miles would cost £115 to £170 compared to £1,570 for a small petrol car averaging 40mpg. No CO2 emissions so annual road tax is zero, and teh LEAf also receives the full 100% discount from the £8 daily London Congestion Charge. Some London boroughs and other towns are offering free parking for electric vehicles.
Zero local air pollution and quiet operation in cities (the car emits a loud-ish pitch whistle to warn pedestrians) make electric cars ideal urban transport. Even taking into account CO2 emissions from old style coal-fired power stations electric cars emit 20%-40% less CO2 than petrol cars and are effectively carbon-free on renewable 'green tariff' electricity. Nissan says the batteries will still have between 70-80% of their original capacity after ten years use. Extensive recycling plans are being made to reclaim materials from them. Overall, more than 95% of Nissan LEAF can be recycled. LEAF options will include a solar panel on the tailgate to charge the car’s 12v systems. All these reasons make the LEAF the greenest in its class with a WhatGreenCar rating of 14. Its likely to be the best-in-class for some time to come...
Model tested: Nissan LEAF
Body-style: Five-door hatchback
Engine/CO2: 107bhp, 80kW synchronous electric motor
Trim grades: One
On-road price: from £ 23,990
Available to pre-order: Sept 2010 for 2011 delivery
Review rating: 4.0 stars [Ed. gives it a 5.0!]
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