Yesterday afternoon, I was picking up Autocar’s long-term Nissan Leaf after its first service and I was suddenly struck by a monumental realisation. My entire day’s travel, both public and private, would be purely by electrical power.
Our Leaf is coming to the end of its year at Autocar, but Nissan wanted us to experience putting it in for a service before it is returned. The press office advised me that the nearest specialist Leaf dealers were in Aldershot (not very near to Battersea) or Penge. I had to look up Penge on the map and found it hidden in that rarely explored bit of South London, between Crystal Palace and Croydon.
After a while away from the Leaf, getting back into it reminded me just what a superb inner-city car it is. Smooth, silent and unbeatable in a 0-30mph sprint. I dropped the car off and was told that it would take ‘at least’ three hours. A short enough turn-around for me to stay in the area and pick the car up later in the afternoon. But I needed a cafe where I could camp out with the laptop. The helpful chap in the service centre suggested I walk up the road to the local tram and head for Croydon.
I’d not sampled the Croydon tram before and can’t honestly remember the last time I’d experienced light rail. I swiped my Oyster card at the oddly-named Avenue Road station and rolled smoothly into central Croydon. Lunch consumed and news stories filed, I got a call at 3.00pm to say that the Leaf was ready and I trammed back.
I coughed up £115 for the ‘service’ which consisted mostly of safety checks, including very detailed brake disc, pad and tyres measurements, software updates and an anti-freeze check. Not bad value when a first service for a Micra is around £240. As I left the dealer, I noticed it had a giant fast-charger - which would bring a near-flat Leaf battery up to 80 per cent capacity in just 30 minutes. Even more impressive is that recharging is free of, er, charge.
40 minutes later, after a smooth and rapid blast around the South Circular, I was back at the ranch. Yesterday, I’d travelled quiet reasonable distances, smoothly and silently and without using a drop of petrol or diesel.
OK, I’m not going pretend that the electricity I used yesterday was not mostly generated by fossil fuel. Indeed, I do not take such a dim view of Co2 emissions as the scientific establishment. No, what really enthused me about the manner of yesterday’s travel was the effortlessness and refinement offered by electric motivation.
The most impressive thing about the Leaf is its torquey and silent engine. In the medium term, I reckon any serious luxury car has to have a electric motor driving its wheels, starting with the next flagship Rolls Royce. Anyone else like the idea of a range-extender Phantom, using electricity generated by an on-board gas turbine?