We've had the Nissan Leaf on the Autocar fleet for two weeks and are now getting a feel for the brave new world of battery-powered driving. Life has been made easier by the fact that not only do I have the British Gas-installed charging point on my driveway, but the Autocar car park has also been fitted with two Chargemaster charging points.
The biggest worry about using the Leaf - being able to park it near a charging point - has been overcome. All of which is jolly useful because my early investigations into our local public re-charging infrastructure in the centre of the capital have revealed plenty of short-circuits.
On my first weekend of Leaf ownership, I took the car into central London because the extraordinary Bloomsbury Square car park (built as two underground spirals, one inside the other) has reserved parking for electric cars. When I arrived, however, the spaces were marked as being reserved for a well-know central London law firm.
These charging-point equipped spaces are listed as a public amenity, so I'm not sure how they could have been annexed. But rather than risk the blog being superinjuncted, I won't name the firm until I've made further enquiries. Incidentally, the Bloomsbury Square spaces also used an industrial three-pin socket, so the Leaf's charging cable (which uses a domestic plug) wasn't compatible.
Today I took the Leaf back north of the Thames to use the charging point guidance that's built into the sat-nav. The nearest road-side charging point was in Pimlico, though the sat-nav miscued and guided me to the wrong side of a dead-end street. When I did find it, the charging point was dead, possibly because it has been slightly dislodged by a reversing lorry.The next two nearest charging points (one near Hyde Park corner and one in Berkley Square) were already being used. Hyde Park by a pair of G-Wizzes and Berkley Square by an Aixam and G-Wiz combo.
Electric cars can park in the charging bays for four hours, so there's little chance of rival EVs moving very often from the precious spots. Indeed, while we rolled past in the Leaf, another G-Wiz came scuttling by, hoping for one of the Berkley slots.
Charging aside, driving the Leaf takes quite a bit of brain-recalibration. It's plain weird to get out of the Leaf and into the Jaguar XJ and be shocked at the lack of drivetrain refinement in the Jag. But then, there's no combustion-powered car that gets anywhere near the Leaf for smoothness, refinement and torque delivery. You do find yourself pedalling the Nissan very gently (although it is capable of a very impressive 0-40mph sprint), encouraged by the 'distance to empty' read out and the power meter.
I find myself carefully eking out every kWh from the battery pack, but the result is the most extraordinarily relaxing driving experience.