So, I’ve finally experienced a full-on winter’s weekend in the Nissan Leaf. And, since I sold my house last month, I no longer have a home charger. From now on, the Leaf can only be charged at the Autocar office car park.
I left the car park on Friday evening after the Leaf had been given a good, long, recharging session, from our Chargemaster wall-mounted box.
Thanks to low ambient temperatures (it was close to freezing on Friday night), the Leaf’s brain estimated a potential range of just over 70 miles at start up, though that soon dropped to about 65 miles once I’d covered a couple of miles.
The trip back to my newly-rented (and chargerless flat) is 11 miles at a steady 30mph gait, with a short blast up the A3 to Roehampton. On Saturday afternoon, I did a two-mile round trip run to the charity shop (a house won’t squeeze into a small flat…) and another two miles into central London, parking up in Pimlico Green.
When I got back to the car at 10pm, the snow had really kicked in and I found the Nissan wearing three inches of snow on its horizontal surfaces. As I wiped it down for the short run home, a passing dog-walker said “I hope you haven’t got far to go.” Well, quite, but it is the battery rather than the snow that is more of worry. By now - just 16 or 17 miles from leaving Autocar - the Leaf was estimating the range at just 30 miles.
Interestingly, I thought the Leaf handled the snow extremely well, hardly breaking traction and proving very easy to bring to a halt. Certainly I left car behind me for dead as I drove up the snowy incline of Albert Bridge over the Thames.
I’m not sure why this was: it might be because the torque delivery to the wheels is very evenly metered out by the electric motor. The braking at low speeds is also via the electric motor, so the same evenness of stopping power might apply.
On Sunday I took another trip over the river - under three miles as a round trip - and the range was showing just 25 miles; a cold night seemed to have knocked off 20 per cent of the potential range. I almost turned around and re-parked, but thought I should stick to my typical weekend’s activity.
This morning, slightly warmer at 2degC, the range was showing 20 miles. With an easy 11 miles into the office, outside of the rush hour, there should have been room to spare. There was: half a mile from the office, the ‘low battery’ warning flicked on.
By the time I was parking in the Leaf’s parking space, the range had flicked down to 11 miles. (This shows how confusing the range estimator can be. I had travelled just under 11 miles using just 9 miles of ‘range’).
So, in about the worst conditions you can expect in southern England, and after a full charge of the battery, the Leaf gave me 30 miles of driving, with around 11 miles to battery exhaustion. In these conditions, 45 miles seems to the absolute maximum range for the Leaf though, in reality, the risk of running out of juice mid-journey means that the real-world range is rather less.
Clearly, the usability of the Leaf has been seriously reduced by the loss of my home charger. Plugging it in every time it was parked ensured the Leaf was the definitive urban car. Without it, especially in the winter, the Leaf is much less effortless.