Once, I might have been deterred from attempting such trips by the prospect of having to wait for hours while the batteries recharge. But in reality, I won’t have to, because in those situations, the Leaf is rarely likely to need a 0-100% charge. In most cases, a strategic top-up from, say, 30% to 80% in 30 to 40 minutes is enough to allow me to complete each journey. That I can handle.
Admittedly, I’ve tried this quick-stop approach only a couple of times so far, but it appears that other EV drivers are doing likewise and, to me, it seems quite liberating. It not only reduces range anxiety (by not letting the battery pack get close to running dry) but also allows me to drive the Leaf at the speed I want to – by which I mean comfortably keeping up with most other traffic on motorways – as opposed to chugging along at snail’s pace, trying to eke out every last mile of range from each charge.
When it’s working properly, Ecotricity’s Electric Highway smartphone app seems like a neat way of connecting with the charging point, paying for the energy used and keeping tabs on progress. However, on one occasion the app went AWOL part-way through a top-up and refused to let me stop the process early, as planned. I had to phone Ecotricity to get them to do it remotely.
The only downside of pay-as-you-go chargers such as Ecotricity’s is that they’re relatively expensive compared with recharging at home. A 30-minute top-up, adding about 80 miles to the Leaf’s range, is roughly £6 – probably three times the cost of a full overnight charge at home. You’re paying for the speed and convenience, though, and that figure still seems like a bargain next to the cost of the petrol or diesel you’d use to cover the same distance.
Meanwhile, as expected, the ability to drive the Leaf using just one pedal is proving indispensable – around town at least. The e-Pedal function is especially convenient in stop-start city traffic and on stretches of road with lots of sleeping policemen across them. It’s also wonderful when going down ramps in multi-storey car parks, controlling the speed of your descent perfectly without you really having to do a thing.
Of course, e-Pedal is only as good as your ability to accurately judge when to lift off the accelerator, especially if you want the car to come to a complete halt. It soon becomes second nature, though – and frankly, you don’t want to use the brake pedal unless you really have to because it feels horribly spongy at first and then very abrupt. The combined effect of the two braking systems results in an uncomfortable stop, with anything that might be sitting on the back seats slamming into the footwell.
Most of the time, though, the Leaf is proving to be a highly agreeable car to drive every day. With its perky performance, absorbent ride and reasonably quick, well-weighted steering, it’s exceptionally good for commuting and zipping around town in.