Living with a Nissan Leaf electric car

Living with a Nissan Leaf electric car
Living with a Nissan Leaf electric car

How has Nissan’s pioneering EV fared after 15 months in our hands?

We’ve lived with our Nissan Leaf for more than a year now, covering over 7000 miles in quiet, zero-emissions, feel-good comfort. Once a pioneer, rivals are now arriving in droves, although the Leaf has remained the best-selling electric car in the world throughout.

Electric cars are still a rarity, but people are familiar with the Leaf, and this visibility is helping Nissan develop a reputation as a bit of an EV pioneer. That’s why we decided to run one – to see if the reality could match up to this excited hype, and make sure all those early adopters wouldn’t be disappointed.

Our Leaf was a later-spec model with 30kWh batteries: the original models had a 24kWh battery pack, which did limit the range perhaps a bit too much. Our one had a much more usable real-world 100-110 miles, and a claimed 150-mile range if you took it steady, making it perfect for round trips of around 80 miles.

Its reputation as a brilliant short-haul specialist is undoubtedly why the overall mileage isn’t enormous, but this is simply a reflection of the realities of battery-powered cars. If you do venture beyond 100 miles, range anxiety quickly becomes stressful and all-encompassing, meaning it’s best instead to keep it in its natural habitat and enjoy the silence, roomy boot and surprisingly practical VW Golf-sized interior.

Mind you, after more than a year with it, and the launch of half a dozen major rivals, it did begin to dawn on us that the range was becoming a bit more of a limiting factor than it first was. Rivals now talk of 200-mile ranges, as indeed is Nissan with the all-new Leaf that’s due next year. That’s the reality of being an early adopter: the pace of change is so fast, what seems impressive one year won’t be so great the next.

What we hope will remain is the overall feel-good vibes you get from being a Leaf owner. Take charging it up, fore example. On the road, we’ve met several fellow Leaf owners at charging points, all cheerfully happy to chat with us and compare notes about ownership.

We met one chap at Membury services on the M4. His Leaf was offsetting the Westfield V8 sports car he had in the garage at home; like us, he unplugged at 80 percent charge, knowing the final 15 percent isn’t worth the long wait to squeeze in.

Several others we’ve met at free charging stations on motorways during the evening rush hour. Apparently it’s been a bit of a thing to grab a free charge on the way home, which we’ve noticed in a few instances slightly hinted at EV road rage, although most owners are far too polite for that.

Indeed, the most annoying encounter we’ve had during our time with the Leaf is arriving at a charging station to find it occupied by a plug-in hybrid vehicle. These are cars already equipped with a petrol engine so don’t need to charge up in order to get home. It’s breaking the unwritten rules of electric car etiquette. Discussing this with fellow Leaf owners showed we were not alone here.

Gossiping about other, ‘lesser’ models with fellow owners of our well-loved electric car: yes, that’s how much the Nissan Leaf got under our skin. We’ll be sad to see it go – but excited by what the fast-evolving future of electric car motoring has in store.

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