We've acquired a new Leaf, five years after we ran an early one, to see what progress has been made
Steve Cropley Autocar
21 April 2016

The single factor that will do most to set battery electric cars free, experts are always saying, is a meaningful increase in their range.

Not only will this boost their usefulness, but it will also shorten the period of popularity of arguably heavier and more expensive plug-in hybrids, seen by most as the low-CO2 stopgap we need on the way to true zero-emissions cars.

We agree.

It’s why we’ve decided to run a Nissan Leaf on our long-term fleet again, having had one nearly five years ago when the concept was new.

The pioneering all-electric Nissan, British-built and now the world’s most popular electric car, has just become available with a 30kWh battery that gives it 25% more on-board power in a package no bigger or heavier than before.

As Leafs go, ours is a bit of a ritzmobile: a top-spec Leaf Tekna that comes complete with a Bose hi-fi, a handsome set of 17in alloy wheels and all the touchscreen telematics you could want.

It’ll warn you if your charge won’t complete a route. It’ll tell you what charging points are ahead on a journey and whether they’re free and working. And it’ll also tell you remotely about its state of charge via your smartphone.

If it weren’t for the government’s plug-in car grant (£4500 in this case), the Leaf would set you back £32,880. As it is, you’ll pay £28,380 (including an optional 6.6kW charger).

That’s still a solid price — £5000 more than our Vauxhall Astra SRi diesel, for example — but bear in mind that while the Astra will cost around £3000 to £4500 in fuel over a three-year life, the Leaf should cost £300 to £450 in electricity.

We’ve been driving it for only a few weeks, but our Leaf has already amassed 2000 miles without really trying.

The main driving characteristics are well known by now: it’s extremely quiet and comfortable compared with anything in the bracket and can beat many saloons costing twice as much for refinement.

However, even with its extended range (the statutory range is now quoted as 156 miles), you still have to work out its actual capabilities. And fight off range anxiety in your own head.

One of my main journeys is a 95-mile, mostly motorway schlep from London to Gloucestershire, and although many Leaf veterans insist the 30kWh model will easily beat a true 110 miles (cruising at the 65mph everyone seems to think is the optimal maximum), you still have to believe it’ll truly be delivered.

Yet there’s absolutely no doubt this Leaf is considerably more capable and practical than its predecessors.

With my kind of driving, which involves being careful about deploying power without making a fetish out of it, the reliable range is 110-115 miles. The only caveat is that you must beware headwinds.

If there’s a strong one blowing, it can cut 10-15 miles off your capability, and there’s nothing you can do about that. It also cuts your range if you’re driving a petrol or diesel car, mind, but the matter is never so critical.

As far as driving goes, our car doesn’t seem to have quite the strong, clean step-off I remember from the earliest cars.

It might be my imagination, but it’s no secret that the step-off from standstill uses such huge gobs of power that every electric car maker does its best to limit consumption by dulling accelerator response.

Still, this is a smooth, quiet, comfortable and convenient car and is now much more practical for a user like me. The latest change doesn’t quite set the electric car free, as it were, but you can now clearly see that one of these days it will.

Price £27,230 (after £4500 government grant) Price as tested £28,380 Options 6.6kW charger £1150 Economy 3.6 miles/kWh Faults None Expenses None

Our Verdict

Nissan Leaf

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
9

21 April 2016
Autocar's "long term" test will discover this car at its best, and may never show how much the range deteriorates in winter with the requirements of heating and lighting plus inferior battery performance. Regarding acceleration being wasteful, I suspect this isn't the case because the heavy power demand is simply turned into useful kinetic energy. Heavy braking is much worse since it squanders that energy as heat; best brake early and gently to allow regenerative braking to recover as much of it as possible.

21 April 2016
People said batteries couldn't get more powerful and stay the same size and weight, that's progress. Anyway I'm not sure if the Leaf is targeted at people who do regular 100 mile commutes. Anyhow I think this is a land mark car and I'm beginning to see at least one a day now. After 2000 miles you'd think Autocar could do a mpg figure equivalent, 250mpg???

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

22 April 2016
It's there in the data panel - 3.6 miles per kWh. This compares with around 1 mile per kWh which the average petrol hatchback achieves given that every gallon of petrol contains roughly 50 kWh of heat energy. This shows just how efficient an electric car is, however it also confirms that the Leaf will go just 108 miles on a full 30 kWh battery charge. Using the full battery capacity in this way may however shorten its life.

22 April 2016
It's there in the data panel - 3.6 miles per kWh. This compares with around 1 mile per kWh which the average petrol hatchback achieves given that every gallon of petrol contains roughly 50 kWh of heat energy. This shows just how efficient an electric car is, however it also confirms that the Leaf will go just 108 miles on a full 30 kWh battery charge. Using the full battery capacity in this way may however shorten its life.

22 April 2016
LP in Brighton wrote:

It's there in the data panel - 3.6 miles per kWh. .

Read it again there's no mention of "mpg", 3.6 miles a kw for a 30 kw battery equals 108 miles yet the article says it'll easily beats 110 miles. So for comparison sake with petrol at £1.08 a litre and economy 7 at .08p a kw (or .17 daytime) and Autocar now being best placed could they please us what the actually mpg figure they're getting.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

22 April 2016
How come only Tesla understands that electric vehicles need to look good?
Why should we buy the stuff that nightmares are made of, like this hideous thing?

Aussie Rob - a view from down under

22 April 2016
Aussierob wrote:

How come only Tesla understands that electric vehicles need to look good?
Why should we buy the stuff that nightmares are made of, like this hideous thing?

Let's not forget that the Leaf is still (and always was) one of the first of its kind. The next model will look streets better. Teslas aren't really oil paintings and have their own flaws from what I've experienced. The BMW i3 is arguably a good looking electric car.


"Work hard and be nice to people"

22 April 2016
If you care about the environment recycle an old car and run that for a while, don't add to the waste with a new car sourced from faraway lands. Anyone paying £28,000 for this and claiming it's good value needs their head examining. Tesla at least appreciate that in order for anyone to take electric seriously a range approaching that of a tank of fuel and not looking like a 1970s invacar are the minimum requirements.

23 April 2016
It comes from Sunderland! Also the emissions from a car are 85% from usage, so the old car argument doesn't really stand up, especially when you consider the emissions coming out of the back in a high population density area.

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