Popular battery electric car bows out with its head held high
Steve Cropley Autocar
18 September 2017

Plenty of water has flowed under the bridge since we took delivery of our Nissan Leaf Tekna about 15 months and 7200 miles ago.

We’ve seen the arrival of half a dozen new electric models – notably from Volkswagen, Ford and Tesla – and we’ve watched Renault extend the driving range of its Zoe supermini to a realistic 150 miles. 

All the way, the Leaf has deservedly kept its position as the world’s best-known battery electric car, a practical, Golf-sized five-door with worldwide sales reaching 250,000 at the end of last year and now nearing 75,000 in Europe. That hardly makes it a mainstreamer, but the fact that most people know a Leaf when they see one shows Nissan’s success at publicising its pioneering model. 

Our motivation for acquiring
 a latest-spec 30kWh Leaf (earlier models, going back to 2010, had 24kWh batteries) was to investigate what we saw as an emerging trend in electric cars, a tendency for them to be acquired as second family cars and soon – because of their convenience, economy and easy driving – to take the lead role. And so it proved. Our Leaf became a short-haul specialist, constantly taking people to the airport, home from work, on errands and generally proving useful. Its total mileage wasn’t impressive, but its number of journeys was dizzying. 

The art of making a Leaf work 
is never seriously to test the range, claimed at 150-odd miles on the NEDC cycle but closer to 100-110 in sensible everyday driving. Depend on the Leaf for round trips of 70-80 miles and it is a smooth, quiet, convenient joy – complete with a decent ride, solid brakes (enhanced by its regeneration system) and light, enjoyable steering. But challenge
it to go beyond 100 miles and you’d forget all the advantages (including silence, a decent boot and practical rear accommodation) as the sweat of range anxiety pops out on your brow. You don’t even count the meagre fuelling cost – somewhere between a fifth and a tenth of what you’d pay for petrol – as an advantage when you just don’t have enough of the stuff. 

Early on, in a fit of enthusiasm, we tried to use the Leaf as transport for
a 24-hour Three Peaks Challenge but failed miserably because convenient charging points, although theoretically available, were not. Our lesson was learned: the car came back to London and assumed duties that made sense. If we needed to dash to Edinburgh, we selected a convenient long-legged diesel motor, as Leaf-owning two-car families tend to do. 

Such is the speed of electric car progress that, for all our Leaf’s endearing qualities, it did strike us as nearing the end of its time. Companies with electric models in the pipeline now talk of a 200- mile range as an emerging owner’s requirement. The Leaf’s performance isn’t exactly brilliant against
others, and the cost — we’d have 
paid £28,380 after deducting the government’s £4500 incentive — is pretty solid for what you get, even if for your 8000 annual miles you’re saving the thick end of £1200 on fuel. 

Our Leaf and its peers have made important points about the practicality of electric cars. But now it’s time for a new Nissan to take the matter further. Luckily, there’s one in the pipeline. 

LIKE IT

Response - clean, quick step-off from rest is one of the Leaf’s driving delights. Refinement - you won’t find greater smoothness or silence this side of a Rolls-RoyceEconomy - power costs far less than it does in a petrol car, even at full tariff. 

LOATHE IT

Range anxiety - this Leaf’s range is shorter than that of the most modern EVs. Charging - charging time tends to make owners impatient. Home charging is best. 

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

Previous stories:

As our Leaf rolls on, impressing everyone who drives it with its comfort and refinement, I feel I’m becoming integrated into polite Leaf society.

In the course of our time with the car, I’ve spoken to more than a dozen owners (interestingly, the ones I’ve met have almost always been travelling at least two-up), all of them at charging points in the south of England, and started to learn the habits of the common or garden electric Nissan buyer. 

The first I met was at Membury services on the M4; he was on a journey with his wife from Malvern to Reading. While we each waited for our 80% charge (this guy knew very well, and I’ve since learned, that pursuing the final 15% isn’t worth the extra time it takes), he explained to me that his other car was a Westfield V8, but this was the one in which he did most of his miles.

The one place you’re most likely to meet other members of Leaf society is at those free charging stations on motorways, at around 6pm. Owners in adjacent towns or suburbs tend to drive a few miles on the motorway to pick up free ‘tickle’, courtesy of Ecotricity, to get them to work every couple of days.

This is where you witness the closest thing to EV road rage, although it never comes to that, because these people tend to be supporters of an orderly society, not the sort who want to tear it down.

But what gets the Leaf owner’s goat (I’ve felt the annoyance myself) is arriving at a charging station and finding it occupied by a plug-in hybrid, already charged to the hilt, with its owner away having a languorous coffee. Here is a car that can proceed anyway, hogging the facilities. We pure battery car owners feel they’re breaching the rules of charging point etiquette. 

As the EV constituency grows, which it is starting to do at a decent rate, it’ll be interesting to see how things evolve. Especially when Ecotricity starts charging for its facilities, as it surely must, and soon. 

Nissan Leaf Tekna 

Price £27,230 (after £4500 gov't grant) Price as tested £28,380 Economy 3.6 miles/kWh Faults None Expenses None Last seen 18.5.16 

Read our previous reports:

110-mile range isn't such a set-back 

Bigger battery, better car?

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

Join the debate

Comments
12

28 June 2016
As a PHEV driver that charges I am embarrassed by the minority of "tax dodging but fuel card so sod the mpg" fellow drivers I see using the charging bays as priveleged parking but have probably never charged their vehicles ever. But travel as much as I do and you will also find LEAF drivers doing the same at times which is odd as a bit of free charge is surely always worth doing! I would like to see penalties dished out aggressively to anyone parked in a bay and not plugged in either in active charge or charge finished mode.

28 June 2016
Emmm if this is the 24Kwh version then at 3.6 mile a khw the max mileage is 86 before empty, so if you start to worry when you've got 26 miles left in the tank then you looking at a range of 60 miles, is this correct Autocar, other people are going a lot further. Please comment Autocar or better still Leaf owners. Anyhow on the positive side it works out to 120mpg equivalent with £5.00 a gallon and a khw at .15p

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

28 June 2016
A little bit of intelligent design could do away with these issues.
1 - Lay out the spaces so there's a number of spaces within reach of each charger.
2 - Does the car's charging port unlock when the car reaches 100% charge? If not, why not?
3 - The charger and car communicate to a degree, don't they? What about a system where cars unlock the port at a charge level determined by the charger. For example, have it become common knowledge that at a motorway charger, someone else can yank the cable once your car is at 80% charge.
4 - You could get even fancier with technology - a phone app that talk to the individual charge point and register the attending cars in a virtual queue, with a tracker for the currently connected car's charge level, and an alert for the next person in the queue once the current car reaches 80% that the cable is now unlocked for you to steal & plug into yours (but this times out after, say, 5 minutes and becomes available to the next car). It could also refuse to charge a car who's tried to jump the queue.

28 June 2016
Here in Switzerland one of the larger providers charges based on (a) electricity consumption (b) time plugged in. It's quite easy that (b) is the larger cost. It's based on a smartphone app. I personally think this is the way the market will go. There needs to be a business model that rewards operators for buying and installing DC chargers and the costs of equipment and space will likely be greater than the cost of electricity. It's like a restaurant who needs to have the largest number of covers rather than the biggest margin on food. As EV owners we want a good coverage and availability of DC chargers. Free will probably always be available but will likely to be slow chargers for places who want to encourage traffic.

bol

28 June 2016
It will sort out people's behaviour and further encourage those who can charge at home to do so. It will also hopefully go some way to fund more charging stations and overcome some of the current charging deserts.

28 June 2016
It was a similar situation when I had an LPG car. The 'few' garages that had LPG always seemed to have the pump near the entrance and in amongst the normal pumps. So, what would happen, I'd arrive to find two cars filling up with petrol/diesel blocking the LPG with the rest of the forecourt completely empty.... So while I was gentle stewing, the people filling up probably thought why is this loon queuing up in an empty petrol station!!!
I no longer have an LPG car....and by the sounds of it, i'm not in any hurry to go electric..

18 September 2017

"We’ve seen the arrival of half a dozen new electric models – notably from Volkswagen, Ford... "  haven't seen to many VW EV's let alone several different models.

Also final review and no clear mpg equivalent figure other than "somewhere between a fifth and a tenth of what you’d pay for petrol " what use is that.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

18 September 2017

I bought a Nissan Leaf 30kWh Acenta with fast charger last April. List  price was £31k, after govt grant of £4,500, nissan contribution of £6k, dealer discount of £2k, I paid £19,500 for a brand new Leaf. Now that makes sense. I have covered 25k miles in 18 months now with a single  service, I get free congestion charge and pay 81p for 4 hours parking in Westminster. In 18 months, I have saved £8,000 on congestion charge and parking alone. Petrol savings of £3,500 in 18 months,  I have saved £11,500 already.

add in 9% bik, the Leaf makes so much sense for me. 

 

Granted this does not work for everybody, it works for me well. The car is ideal for me 99% of the time. I cannot wait for the new leaf with 300 mile range. Cannot see myself going back to hybrid anymore, my previous 2 cars were the civic hybrid followed by the Prius .

 

 

18 September 2017

Just 7200 miles after 15mths in the hands of motoring journalists !  Has there ever been a car thats covered so little miles in the hands of Autocar hacks?

EV is a nice idea in practice but it's going to take at least another 20 years of development to become even remotely viable. Does anyone other than tree huggers really believe no more petrol/diesel powered cars will be produced after 2040?

18 September 2017
scotty5 wrote:

Just 7200 miles after 15mths in the hands of motoring journalists !  Has there ever been a car thats covered so little miles in the hands of Autocar hacks?

EV is a nice idea in practice but it's going to take at least another 20 years of development to become even remotely viable. Does anyone other than tree huggers really believe no more petrol/diesel powered cars will be produced after 2040?

Less than 7200 miles in 15 months not sure, perhaps you could research it, doesn't sound that unreal if you've a choice of a a Leaf or latest M3 in morning.

20 years to be "even remotely" viable, really, did you not read the review, or other peoples opinion of EV's (including the one above your very comment). 1 in 4 new car sales in Norway are electric already and it looks like the Model 3 will be out selling the BMW 3 series in America early next year.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lexus LC500
    Car review
    20 October 2017
    Futuristic Lexus LC coupé mixes the latest technology with an old-school atmospheric V8
  • Maserati Levante S GranSport
    First Drive
    20 October 2017
    Get ready to trade in your diesels: Maserati’s luxury SUV finally gets the engine it’s always needed
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK