Our cars: Nissan Leaf - September
Driven this week 60
I jumped into the Leaf on Tuesday for the 20-mile commute home. According to the dashboard readout, I had 70 miles range, so in theory the journey home and then back into work the next morning would be fine without a charge.
When I got into the car the next day, the range had gone from 40 miles to 30 just by starting up the car – so would I get back into work or would I be stranded somewhere on the M3?
I needn’t have worried – got to work with 11 miles to spare.
Week ending September 23
Every car brings compromises. Sports cars handle, but there’s room for only two. MPVs can carry your life, but you won’t get many thrills on an empty country road. We accept the flaws to get the benefits we each require.
Still, few models in recent history can have demanded such intimate analysis of your own lifestyle before buying than Nissan’s Leaf, the car that brings fully electric tech to the masses. Put simply, you can’t even consider running a Leaf if your each-way commute is north of 40 miles. It will be impossible.
For those who’ve missed its accompanying blaze of publicity, the Leaf is a Focus-sized, plug-in electric hatchback. Its stated range is 109 miles, and a full charge on a standard three-pin plug takes around eight hours. The good news is that on a cheap tariff it could cost as little as £2 to charge. The bad news is that once the juice has run dry, you’re stuck – and Britain’s charging infrastructure isn’t good enough to offer on-the-hoof charging.
Which is why I collected our Leaf from Guy Millar, the electric vehicle specialist at West Way Nissan in Aldershot. It’s close to where I live and 30 miles from the What Car? office. Guy’s other main duty is to sell Nissan’s ultra-rapid GT-R sports car; incidentally, the irony is not lost on him.
Does Guy actually have to stop people shelling out the sum of £25,990 (after Government rebate) for their own good?
‘We do have to be pretty stern and brutal when it comes to making sure a Leaf will fit the customer’s lifestyle,’ he admits. ‘We just have to make it clear that while the real-time range predictor is very accurate – so you can trust it for every mile it offers – you can’t go along with the needle on the bottom like you would with a fuel tank.
‘However, for every person affected by the range, there’s another who’ll come in, take it for a test drive and be blown away by how smooth, fast and refined it is.’
He’s not wrong there. In its first few days with us, the Leaf has demonstrated an unparalleled ability to provide calm, unruffled progress in the very situation that delivers the most stress: urban driving.
Equally, though, it’s given me a shot of range anxiety, when a routine airport run turned into an economy challenge. More on that and other compromises next month.