Nissan Leaf

10 Sep, 2010 11:53am Andrew English

Does Nissan's newcomer the Leaf top of the electric car tree?

Verdict

3
The Leaf goes on sale to coincide with the Government’s £5,000 electric car grant, and incurs VAT at 20 per cent – both of which are factored into the £23,990 price. While the charging infrastructure is still poor, with a claimed 100-mile range, this is the most practical electric car yet. It’s not perfect – it takes eight hours to recharge, is much pricier than the average diesel family hatch and isn’t much fun to drive. But it works, and bodes well for the future of electric cars.

Before Volkswagen’s battery-powered Golf arrives, Nissan will start selling its Leaf. When it goes on sale in February, it will be the world’s first mass-produced electric hatch. Order books are open now, so it’s close to fruition.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Nissan Leaf

Following a drive in Japan, we caught up with the Leaf on European roads. And it’s shaping up well. The Leaf is a striking car in the flesh, with its elongated nose and peculiar headlamps. The interior is airy, with space for five adults and luggage.

Its 250kg lithium-ion battery pack is carried under the rear seats and floor. Minus points include cheap-looking plastic trim, plus a slightly awkward driving position.

The digital dashboard can be difficult to read, and manoeuvring is not quite silent, as Nissan has deliberately given the car a low-speed rumble as a warning to pedestrians. At higher speeds, the Leaf emits only a faint jet-engine whine.

The car’s range is quoted at 100 miles, although the maker admits that enthusiastic use of the accelerator, running at high speeds and blasting the air-conditioning in hot temperatures will drag this down to as low as 70 miles.

From the off, it’s clear that the Leaf has more than adequate performance around town. And while it tips the scales at 1.6 tonnes, it is light and agile at low speeds, although the over-assisted steering feels slightly odd.

The top speed is 90mph, while the benchmark sprint from 0-60mph takes about 12 seconds. The Leaf is a strong performer, more than capable of holding its own on the motorway, which isn’t always the case with its single-speed electric rivals.

In corners, there’s limited roll, although the Bridgestone eco tyres can squeal in protest. Attempts at spirited driving are discouraged by the numb steering, while the enhanced regenerating braking effect, which can be dialled in via the central gearknob, is fiddly and intermittent.

On smooth roads, however, the Leaf’s ride is comfortable and the brakes are strong and progressive. It all adds up to being the most viable electric family car yet.

Rival: Mitsubishi i-MiEV
At around £25,000, the battery-electric four-seater looks expensive. Its claimed 80-mile range is optimistic, and still too short, while there’s not enough power from its 16kWh lithium-ion battery, either.

Disqus - noscript

"It’s not perfect – it takes eight hours to recharge"

What car is perfect? It takes 8 hours to charge? so what? what do people do when they are asleep? Oh by the way Auto Express, you did omit the fact that on a fast charger the leaf's battery can be brought from 0% -80% in around 15mins, which is more than enough for most people to get home!

How many people drive more than 100 miles a day, or 70 if the case is that with high use of the a/c and heater will reduce range?

Rather than think of the negatives of Electric cars, I can think of negatives of ICE cars. Fuel costs, Taxes, And maintenance.

And because of emissions regulations, cars, in particular diesel cars are going to rocket in price. And they are also becoming less reliable, for the fact they have to be more and more complicated because of the extra mechanics involved in emissions regulation and control.

The electric car is coming, and is the future. The ICE has reached a stage where further investment in research is not worth it, and to expect people to pay more and more for them is just plain wrong. We were denied electric cars in the past, not just because of battery technology, but because some car companies did not want to spend the money on research and development. GM sold the rights to the batteries to chevron Texaco, and so it was the end of the electric car! Only were the batteries to be sold in Hybrids, and so came the birth of the Toyota Prius.

I believe in the U.K people get grants to install photo voltaic solar panels and wind turbines, The Irish Government do not offer any such incentives as of yet. We do get offered half the rate for production compared to the E.U average ( typical )

Anyway, the incentives are there for a lot of people to install renewable energy and charge their cars in the process, Cheap energy on the horizon, and transport. And I'm all for that!

Anyone who wants long range electric car range, should then consider the Opel Ampera. It's got a 1.4l petrol generator that does not drive the wheels. And offers the potential for very cheap motoring!

We are just a few years away from a real electric range of around 300 miles, the batteries are in the lab, using silicon nanowire technology, Currently it offers up to 4 times the capacity and is estimated to be on the marked in 2012!

"It’s not perfect – it takes eight hours to recharge"

What car is perfect? It takes 8 hours to charge? so what? what do people do when they are asleep? Oh by the way Auto Express, you did omit the fact that on a fast charger the leaf's battery can be brought from 0% -80% in around 15mins, which is more than enough for most people to get home!

How many people drive more than 100 miles a day, or 70 if the case is that with high use of the a/c and heater will reduce range?

Rather than think of the negatives of Electric cars, I can think of negatives of ICE cars. Fuel costs, Taxes, And maintenance.

And because of emissions regulations, cars, in particular diesel cars are going to rocket in price. And they are also becoming less reliable, for the fact they have to be more and more complicated because of the extra mechanics involved in emissions regulation and control.

The electric car is coming, and is the future. The ICE has reached a stage where further investment in research is not worth it, and to expect people to pay more and more for them is just plain wrong. We were denied electric cars in the past, not just because of battery technology, but because some car companies did not want to spend the money on research and development. GM sold the rights to the batteries to chevron Texaco, and so it was the end of the electric car! Only were the batteries to be sold in Hybrids, and so came the birth of the Toyota Prius.

I believe in the U.K people get grants to install photo voltaic solar panels and wind turbines, The Irish Government do not offer any such incentives as of yet. We do get offered half the rate for production compared to the E.U average ( typical )

Anyway, the incentives are there for a lot of people to install renewable energy and charge their cars in the process, Cheap energy on the horizon, and transport. And I'm all for that!

Anyone who wants long range electric car range, should then consider the Opel Ampera. It's got a 1.4l petrol generator that does not drive the wheels. And offers the potential for very cheap motoring!

We are just a few years away from a real electric range of around 300 miles, the batteries are in the lab, using silicon nanowire technology, Currently it offers up to 4 times the capacity and is estimated to be on the marked in 2012!

sorry for double posting, I'm having problems with my internet connection!

Key specs

* Price: £23,990 (inc. Govt grant)
* Drivetrain: AC synchronous (brushless) electric motor driving front wheels/92-cell, 24kWh, 90kW (121bhp) NEC lithium-ion battery
* Transmission: Single speed, front-wheel drive
* Power/torque: 107hp/280Nm
* Range: 100 miles (claimed)
* 0-62mph: 12 seconds (est)
* Top speed: 90mph (limited)
* Equipment: Air-con, electric power steering, electric mirrors/windows, cruise control, reversing camera
* On sale: February

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