We head off on a daunting 350-mile round trip in our electric hatchback
Steve Cropley Autocar
19 May 2016

Nearly all of my 2000 Leaf miles have come so far from shortish, sub-100-mile journeys, well within our new 30kWh car’s realistic range of about 110 miles.

It has been easy: there are cosseting semi-fast chargers at home in the Cotswolds, at my weekday London base and at the office in Twickenham. The Nissan has been universally useful, refined and enjoyable.

However, I’ve been secretly berating myself for not manning up and attempting The Big One, whereby you lay an elementary plan then set a course for the far horizon, trusting the facilities on the way and when you get there.

The chance came a couple of days ago. I had an appointment in Sheffield in the late morning and some more business back in London in the evening. That meant I could leave fairly early and learn lessons from the 170-mile outward trip, applying them on the way back.

At first I was cautious, drifting carefully up through London to the base of the M1 then cruising at 60mph (the speed I’d learned was efficient from talking to other Leaf owners) thereafter. Most of the time I tried to tuck in behind one of those 58mph trucks — which allowed me to cruise with two blobs of power on the display that shows how much you’re drawing from the battery, rather than three. It worked; on a still, sunny day, the distance I’d travelled and the distance to go added up to 130 miles, which seemed like plenty.

But it was boring, so I developed a better technique. Driving the Leaf enhances your awareness of gradients, so on gentle downward slopes I’d emerge from behind my friendly truck and tickle it up to around 70mph. Then on the next up-slope I’d find another helpful HGV and go back to two blobs. Lesson one: gather speed and cut time by going fast downhill.

At 80 miles I stopped to recharge, not so much from need but boredom, the Ecotricity recharging ‘bowser’ (easy to use and, in my experience, reliable) showing I still had 38% to run. Within 20 minutes we were back to 83%, but the last 15% — I gave up at 98% — took as long again. Lesson two: don’t bother with the final 15-20% charge on fast chargers; it comes slowly.

We made better time than expected (this often happens; tow a race car over a long distance and you often develop a pleasant rhythm), so I stopped a few miles from Sheffield for another 8% tickle, meaning that when the meeting was over the car was ready for 80-odd miles homeward from the off. And this time I seemed better at picking 65mph high-top vans to sit behind.

I arrived in plenty of time for my 7pm meeting, not at all fatigued (comfy seats) but feeling good because the trip showed we had covered 356 miles for minimal fatigue — and zero expenditure.

Truth is, it was easy. Better still, I won’t feel daunted next time. For the Leaf owner, this is an important threshold to cross.

Price £27,230 (after £4500 gov’t grant); Price as tested £28,380; Economy 3.6 miles/kWh Faults None Expenses None

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The electric Nissan Leaf has its work cut out competing with cheaper mainstream cars - but it does make a case for itself

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Comments
18

19 May 2016
I can't think of a more stressful way of driving and paying a ridiculous amount of money for the privilege. No thanks.

289

19 May 2016
quote "I can't think of a more stressful way of driving"
Me too Rybo, cant think of anything worse....not to mention spending too much time around potentially lethal and unpredictable trucks.
Sorry Steve, you are welcome to this one!

19 May 2016
Amusing as these articles are motoring magazines have to come round to the idea that electric cars are not for the 25% of the population (who all seem to pop up on line to say how the cars don't fit their needs) who do over 200 miles round trip in their commute. They are for the rest of the population who simply never travel over 50 miles in one go.

If you are regularly travelling over 150 miles a day can I suggest that a diesel car is going to be the vehicle you need.

19 May 2016
You have to wonder about a trip that involves driving behind trucks. Might as well thumb a lift on one !

19 May 2016
Definitely not a good idea "tucking in" behind trucks on motorways or anywhere as they usually cannot see you and also you are not aware of what is ahead. I think electric only is good but this is not the most pleasurable way to travel at all.
Nice honest review though of a subject that is gaining momentum.

19 May 2016
But slipstreaming to save "free" electricity seems a tad obsessive! Long journeys sound like a bit of an adventure into the unknown (which quite appeals to the enthusiast in me), but clearly this car is not suitable for many. I'd be interested to know what affect frequent rapid charging has on battery life?

2 June 2016
LP in Brighton wrote:

I'd be interested to know what affect frequent rapid charging has on battery life?

A very fair question. Apparently there are some owners that have only rapid charged theirs and after several years and a relatively high mileage have had no issues whatsoever.

19 May 2016
One thing that I think needs to be stressed is just how relaxing a trip in an EV is. The absence of much of the noise and those displays which show real-time consumption mean that journeys become far more relaxing. I now find when I drive my ICE car I've started to adopt a more relaxed style of driving. It probably means that I'm a safer driver.

The thing that puts me off more long trips isn't the range but the density of rapid chargers here (Switzerland / Germany). That's coming quickly and with the big German brands all making a push for EVs I'm convinced we'll see a rapid roll-out, especially along German main roads.

bol

19 May 2016
Nice to see a balanced approach to an EV from a petrolhead. No, they're not suitable for everyone, and some people for whom they'd be ideal will always find a good reason to reject them, but for a lot of us they're the future for very good reason. Cheap, relatively environmentally responsible, fast in the real world and fun. Hopefully the next Leaf will be a bit less polarising to look at too.

19 May 2016
Whenever Autocar gets its hands on an electric car (or anybody in the press) the first thing they do is go on a long trip with it. Despite the fact they're not yet meant for that.

When they test an MX5 they don't use it to move house.

When they test a 911 they don't try to fit two wheelchairs and a granny in the back.

When they test an MPV they don't enter it into an F1 race.

So why do they try to do long trips in an electric car?

This time it actually managed it pretty well. But really, don't try to make a point with this sort of thing Autocar. Electric cars as they stand are for short journeys.

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