10th February 2020
Having driven the latest Nissan Leaf a few times before on short drives, I’ve been impressed with it. So, the prospect of spending a week with one had me excited. How would an EV fit in to life in semi-rural Scotland where charging options can be fewer and further between? First impressions are good as the latest Leaf, as my wife puts it, looks like a normal hatchback. High praise, eh?
After a few drives yesterday, this morning meant my first chance to try out charging the Leaf e+. In Scotland, ChargePlace Scotland provides free EV charging to make it a much more cost-effective choice. Finding a charge point was simple in a nearby supermarket car par and it was simple to hook up the Leaf. As this was a 50kW charger, it took less an hour to have the battery up to around 90% capacity.
A meeting in Edinburgh is the ideal excuse to try out the Leaf on a longer drive. It’s 45 miles from home to the city centre and the Nissan shows 169 miles of range. Easy peasy. By the time I make it into Edinburgh, however, the range has more than halved and finding a charge point near my destination isn’t easy as they are all occupied. So, it’s a very gentle drive home keeping pace with HGVs.
Another day, another charge point visit as I don’t have a wall charger at home and cannot safely run a cable to the car if I can bag a space right outside the house. One thing that strikes me is the Leaf, like many EVs, has it charging socket at the front. When many companies have a policy of reversing into bays for safer exiting, this conflicts with easy charging. Flat battery or break company rules? You decide.
One of the big draws, no puns intended, of the Leaf for me is its simplicity. To select drive, you just prod the stubby lever into the forward or reverse. With the e-Pedal and ProPILOT systems, you quickly learn to drive while barely touching the brake pedal. Not only does this make for smooth progress, it maximises brake regeneration, which has become a minor obsession of mine this week.
Back to another charge point in Stirling. With no home charger, this has become a bit of a chore as I have to park quite far away from where I want to be. The first charger isn’t working and the other is occupied by an EV that’s not even hooked up. So, a look on Zap Map finds another and finally the Leaf is connected to the grid. Only downside is I’m now 15 minutes late for an appointment.
The Nissan is quiet, spacious, extremely well made and efficient, as well as having a good ride and handling. As a car to drive, I like it a great deal, but I think I’d need a lot longer than a week to make the shift in mindset to living with an EV year-round. The charging network needs improvement and battery range still doesn’t deliver quite enough flexibility for someone like me often drives to further flung places with no charging options.