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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 27, 2011 @ 10:11 am

    Nissan Leaf Diary

    Michael McAleer

    We have just collected the Nissan Leaf for our first experience with the car set free on Irish soil. The car looks good. It is remarkable by how plain and normal it is without the usual promotional material plastered all over it. Painted in black, the Leaf just looks like a normal car, apart from the fact that it really isn’t normal at all. This is very different.

    The electric car seemed like it was the stuff of science fiction just a few years ago – sure, we had seen small, tiddly, glorified milk floats as the first efforts at electrified transportation but none of them could really make the grade.

    Nissan Leaf: About 120km seems to be a realistic range

    Perhaps one of the most talked-about cars of the last year, it has certainly been one of the most anticipated and now it is finally on sale in Ireland. But it is gimmick or is it a real alternative?

    The Leaf is designed as a practical five-door family car, the crucial difference is that there is no combustion engine. The Leaf stores its energy in 48 lithium-ion battery modules with four battery cells inside each module. They fit snugly beneath the floor of the car, meaning there is lots of space in here and there is a low centre of gravity too.

    There is an 80kw electric motor – that is about the same as 108hp in a conventional engine but there is 280Nm of torque, which is about the same as a good diesel. But the power and torque is all delivered instantly – and silently.

    Inside the car doesn’t require any special instruction on how to get going. It works like a standard enough automatic – but there are obviously some differences. For a start, when you start it – there isn’t really any sound – aside from some tyre noise this is about as loud as Leaf gets. Pressing the ‘Start’ button starts the flow of electricity to the motor. Select “D” and away you go……

    YouTube Preview Image

    A full charge is going to give you ‘around’ 160km of use and we say around because it isn’t yet an exact science. Having ancillaries such as air conditioning on can effect range and obviously the way you drive it will have an impact too.

    Global research shows that the average daily mileage for 80 percent of the world’s population is under 100km – if you daily round trip is around this figure then you should comfortably be able to use a Leaf without worrying too much about range.

    So what about the practical side of things? Well most people will charge their Leaf at home – it will take about 8 hours on a domestic socket, which the first 2000 electric car customers will get free of charge in their driveway. It will cost you about €2 of electricity to charge a Leaf by this method. If that is €2 for 160km of use, comparing that to a diesel car that might do 800km from a tank it would be like filling the tank of a normal car for a tenner!

    Nissan reckon that it will cost the average Leaf customer just over €230 per year in electricity charges to fill a Leaf – compare that to how much you are spending on fuel.

    Of course, the Leaf isn’t going to be for everyone. If you want to drive the length of the country, even when fast charging points are introduced you are still going to be stopping for extended periods and if you do run out of electricity in an electric car then there is no immediate solution to get you going again. Plus there is the cost. Even with a government grant, this car is €30,000 and that is about €8,000 more than the equivalent Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf.

    However this car is really well equipped – there are lots of creature comforts thrown in and it feels like a very upmarket car.

    Perhaps the greatest compliment we can give to the Leaf is how incredibly normal it is. It functions perfectly well as a standard car in that it is spacious, comfortable and practical. If you can live with the slight constraints of EV usage then this could be a hugely clever solution to rising oil prices.

    We didn’t bring the Leaf home though. The range wouldn’t have coped with the drive to my home and there are as yet not sufficient fast chargers to make the drive or wait bearable, so we will have to wait a little longer until we try an extended spell with the Leaf.

    • derek says:

      i’m liking the meganesque rear on this, nicer bit of styling than on most super minis

    • Peter Barrins says:

      It will appeal to the south Dublin set who can afford a novelty car to sit alongside the X5 or Range Rover in the driveway. Realistically, in Ireland, the range is impractical for most motorists and the additional cost – particularly for a Nissan – hard to justify. I don’t think the future of motoring lies in electric sphere. It doesn’t appear technically possible to produce a battery, at any cost, with a useful range.

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