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First report: Nissan Leaf long-term test

Date: 06 August 2018   |   Author: Pete Tullin

The Nissan Leaf is the world's bestselling electric car but is it a realistic business proposition? We'll be spending the next few months finding out.
Nissan Leaf 40KW 150 Tekna Auto
P11D price £32,835 including £4,500 government EV grant
As tested £33,930
Range 235 miles
Battery size/power 110kW/150hp
Mileage 5,322

First report - Plug and play

We can all recall significant events that changed the way we view the world. That first kiss, that frantic fight in the playground and throwing away those pesky L plates are just some of mine. 

Although driving a prototype Nissan Leaf in 2009 wasn't one of those life-defining moments, it did give me plenty of food for thought on the flight back from Japan. 

Could Nissan really expect us to accept an all-electric vehicle as our primary form of transport? 

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Would a restrictive range mean planning every journey with a map and compass? 

How many times would you be able to recharge the battery before it gave up the ghost, and as a consequence, how much would a Leaf be worth come resale time? 

More fundamentally, how much would it cost to charge the thing? Could a programme to install electric chargers throughout the country really come to fruition? And if so, would anyone really be willing to hang around drinking gallons of tepid coffee as they waited for the battery to re-energise? 

Questions, questions, questions.

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Fast forward nine years and a lot of those original questions have been answered but there are still a few nagging doubts surrounding EV ownership, so we'll be spending the next few months with Nissan's latest Leaf to see if these head-scratchers are deal-breakers. 

Nissan reckons most drivers don't do more than 50 miles per day, whereas business users and I often undertake journeys in excess of 100 miles in one hit, so that'll definitely put the Leaf's official 168-mile range under severe pressure. 

As for forward planning, well, my middle name is spontaneity - actually, it isn't, it's Arthur - but the thought of not being able to just drop everything in an instant, as I wait for the Leaf to charge, is something that will take some getting used to.

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So far, a combination of charging from home, a process that I usually let bake overnight, or charging from a 7kW box, which can take up to eight hours - many thanks to the gratis supply I get whenever I play a round of golf at the RAC Epsom - have seen me through the majority of my leisure trips. 

As for those longer business trips, the Leaf has an additional heavy-duty socket that will allow me to charge up to 80% from a 50kW motorway supercharger in about 40 minutes at a typical cost of £7.50. However, there is a rumour circulating that you can only do this once on an extended journey and any subsequent 50kW charges will take considerably longer, so I'll definitely be putting that one to the test. 

Despite the inconvenience of sniffing burgers in a motorway service's cafe, you don't have to be Einstein to work out that the Leaf is going to be significantly cheaper to run than an equivalent fossil fuel car. 

The Leaf's phone app that allows me to keep an eye on the battery's status also calculates how much I've forked out to charge it, so there will be no need to get the abacus out to calculate just how much it is costing to run. 

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I've already discovered that driving the Leaf takes a wee bit of getting used to.  There are very few reciprocating parts under the bonnet, so it is eerily quiet when you're cruising along and, when you lift off the accelerator pedal, you immediately feel the car slowing down. 

You can increase this effect by pressing the e-pedal button, which makes the regenerative braking effect so pronounced you barely have to use the brake pedal. 

Conversely, press the power boost button and, despite the Leaf's near 2t kerb weight, you're instantly propelled into hot hatch levels of performance. 

The Leaf is stacked with plenty of creature comforts and the latest safety kit, including a semi-autonomous driving feature linked to the cruise control that will steer and brake the car for you on the motorway, always providing you keep your hands on the steering wheel.  

So, all things considered, I'm looking forward to an interesting few months ahead.



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