FINAL REPORT - 20th March 2019
There were always two parts to running a Nissan Leaf for six months. Firstly, we were investigating how easy it is to live with an electric car and, secondly, how good the Leaf was as a vehicle to live with.
On both points there were mixed results.
Living with a fully electric car was easier than I expected. However, I couldn’t have done this without the back-up of a conventional vehicle. The main reason for this is time or range – depending on how you view these things.
Charging up on a rapid charge point takes about 45 minutes in the Leaf and if your destination is more than 60 miles away, you’ll need to do that at least once a trip.
Unfortunately, that charge time adds a lot to travel time, and if you’ve got immobile commitments such as the school run, this is often time you cannot spare. Rapid charge points at meeting locations would also solve this, but I never found any.
On the up-side to the EV, it worked brilliantly for shorter, local, journeys where you could just plug-in at home. So we definitely saved money in fuel and tax.
Unfortunately, the Leaf itself didn’t always shine. Ours had some electrical and mechanical gremlins, including a failed aircon unit, connectivity issues, climate control with a mind of its own and a few other electrical bugs.
That said, it was quick and quiet to drive, and looks stylish. The experience certainly wouldn’t stop us going electric again.
Sixth Report - 6th February 2019
Last time I mentioned I wanted more range and more rapid-charge points. Now that winter has set in, the range aspect has become even more acute.
This was highlighted on a recent round-trip journey to Gatwick. It’s a journey that I’ve done in the Leaf a few times in warmer months and had no issues whatsoever with range because I live 40 miles from the airport and the 130-mile summer range has been easily long enough that I didn’t bother charging while away for 24 hours.
However, the latest journey took place when the temperature was hovering around freezing and I was slightly surprised when I got to the airport and only had 74 miles of predicted range left.
Fortunately, the weather wasn’t quite as cold on my return journey, but I still suffered the full range anxiety I thought I’d left behind months ago. Now I have to plan for only 100 miles of realistic range if the temperature drops.
And while we’re talking about cold weather, Nissan really needs to improve the Leaf’s cold/wet weather traction and the traction control. With all the Leaf’s hefty torque delivered from zero revs, the Leaf (on eco tyres) spins its front wheels very easily with anything other than the gentlest accelerator applications. And the traction control doesn’t seem to rein things in, you just get a flashy orange light on the dash to tell you the wheels are spinning.
Update - 12th December 2018
Our Nissan Leaf will go 130 miles between charges, so you’d think that it would be fine for most business trips.
However, a lot more planning and time is needed for any meeting that’s more than 50 to 60 miles away.
If you’re busy, be that work or family commitments, then stopping for about 45 minutes on any 1.5-2 hour-away meeting just isn’t practical, and I’ve yet to have an appointment next to a rapid charge point.
More than once now I’ve had meetings about 80-100 miles away and had to take my wife’s diesel car because I didn’t have that spare 45 minutes around dropping, or collecting, kids from school and still make my meeting and get home on time.
I still want more range and really, really want more rapid charge points.
Fourth Report - 28th November 2018
So how much does it really cost to drive the Nissan Leaf? If fully electric cars are to take off, there are a number of hurdles they need to jump before fleets will take them on, and one of the most important is the cost-per-mile question.
In our case we’ve plugged in and filled up with electricity in a host of different places, mainly to try them out, rather than out of necessity.
Public charging is mostly more expensive than home charging, although there are a few free points around. On the motorway we’ve paid up to 35p a kWh.
However, it’s my home charge point installed by Chargemaster that has delivered the vast majority of my electricity to the Leaf.
I’m not on a green or particularly special tariff so my electricity costs me 12.5p per kWh. On average I’m getting 3.4 miles per kWh from the Leaf – and miles per kWh is the equivalent of mpg in a conventionally fuelled car. From there it’s a simple bit of maths to give you result of just less than 4p a mile.
Probably unsurprisingly, just like in a petrol or diesel car, if you adjust your driving style to be more efficient and use the Leaf’s ‘eco’ mode it’s quite possible to get 4.2mpkWh, which then sees the cost per mile drop to less than 3p.
Update - 31st October 2018
Officially, the Leaf will go 168 miles between charges. And for the first few months with the car I have to admit to avoiding longer journeys.
However, back at the start of August I had a meeting, some 122 miles away. The timing of the meeting meant I had plenty of time to recharge on the way at an Ecotricity rapid charge point and then top up to 100% at a Tesco near my meeting.
With 160-plus miles showing I then made it all 122 (mostly 70mph motorway) miles back in one go and it was still showing 13 miles range when I arrived home, giving the Leaf a real-world range of about the 135-mile mark.
Range anxiety over.
The more observant of you will notice the Leaf has changed colour in the pictures. This is due to (a) the courtesy car we had while the aircon was fixed and (b) we’ve now got our hands on the more business focused N-connecta trim level for the rest of the test after first trying the top-spec Tekna version.
So, what do you lose by ‘only’ going for the mid-spec N-connecta?
The Bose stereo has gone (along with the space-robbing amp in the boot), as have full LED auto headlights, and the Propilot semi-autonomous cruise control is now specified as an option. I’ll let you know if I miss either of these things in the fullness of time. What you also lose is £1500 off the P11D, which is a win.
However, this doesn’t mean the N-connecta is stripped out. Still standard is the brilliant e-Pedal regenerative braking system, Apple CarPlay (and Android Auto, if so inclined), 17-inch alloys, 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with satnav and connectivity, climate control, 360-degree parking cameras, heated front and rear seats, power-fold mirrors and heated steering wheel, plus a host of other goodies that would shame most top-spec models.
Update - 5th September 2018
I am cool again. This is strictly in the literal (rather than fashion) sense thanks to repaired air-conditioning on the Nissan Leaf and its return to my driveway.
Nissan reported all the air-con needed was a re-charge and that there wasn’t a refrigerant leak. This is odd because the car has done less than 3000 miles and clearly the air-con should last a bit longer without the need for re-gassing.
When quizzed, Nissan agreed, saying it was “mysterious”.
Also mysterious was the e-pedal problem, where the regenerative braking stopped working a couple of times.
Nissan techs were unable to replicate the issue despite extensive testing.
Second Report - 8th August 2018
The air-conditioning in the Nissan Leaf decided to pack up on the hottest weekend of the year on a trip to a local National Trust property.
The car just wouldn’t blow cool air into the cabin, my kids complained, and my father-in-law was left unimpressed by his first trip in a full electric vehicle. It’s not what you need in a heatwave.
A week or so before I’d noticed the climate control was being temperamental, often blowing hot air into a hot cabin until, a few minutes later, it realised I’d set it to maximum cooling. However, I had read on some Nissan Leaf web forums that this wasn’t completely unheard of.
I would have booked the car into my local retailer, but the clever e-Pedal regenerative braking system (which I use all the time) also started playing up with some less-than-amusing consequences. When you lift off the accelerator with e-Pedal, the car is supposed to give maximum regen. If it fails as you approach a junction (as it did for me, twice) and you find yourself coasting, rather than slowing, it’s rather unnerving.
So the car’s gone back to Nissan for some love, attention and hopefully a fix or two. Until then I’m in a rather good, though not electric, Micra.
This could be quite a challenge. I’m switching over from the Vauxhall Insignia – a large estate with a diesel engine and a range of much more than 600 miles.
My new long term test car is a new Nissan Leaf, the totally electric family hatchback with a range of 168 miles.
So why the change?
Over the past six months with the Insignia it has become clear that while the big boot and long range sound great on paper, the reality was that the vast majority of my journeys were short and local, usually with either just myself on board or me and one of my kids.
So the theory is that an EV will work for my needs.
For me, running the Leaf isn’t about going green – I don’t have a special ‘green’ electricity tariff – it’s about saving money. Where the Insignia was costing 12p a mile in fuel, the Leaf is running at 2.5p a mile. If I continue to do 1000 miles a month, that’s a saving of £95. For a 20% BIK taxpayer, there’s also a further £20 a month saving or £40 if you’re in the 40% bracket.
And the only major change to make this happen has been the installation of a home charge point, something that was done swiftly and easily through Chargemaster.
Now all that remains is to see how easy it is to switch to a full electric vehicle with minimal disruption to journey planning or changes to travel plans to accommodate this new electric lifestyle.