Turn over a new Leaf with Nis­san

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - MORE ON SUNDAY - Chris Evans

This week’s theme is anx­i­ety. We all worry and fret to a dif­fer­ent de­gree, but 95% of all our wor­ries sim­ply don’t ex­ist. They are com­pletely made up by us and will never come into be­ing. We send our­selves mad by cre­at­ing prob­lems to which there will never be a so­lu­tion, be­cause these prob­lems will never be there to be solved.

Eck­hart Tolle’s The Power Of Now may be the great­est work of non­fic­tion ever writ­ten. Time called it ‘mumbo-jumbo’ when it first came out. Mil­lions of copies later, they don’t tend to men­tion that so much.

When it comes to elec­tric cars, stay­ing in ‘the now’ also pre­sents its chal­lenges for me. The past, a gloomy shadow of bat­tery power dis­charged; the fu­ture, dom­i­nated by the frag­ile prom­ise of charge re­main­ing. It’s all I can do to keep my eyes on the road. So it was with great trep­i­da­tion that I awaited the ar­rival of this week’s tech­no­log­i­cal box of eco-friendly alchemy.

By Jove, by Ge­orge, by cracky, if it ain’t yet an­other two-tone paint combo, the third in as many weeks for us. In­side and out, the Nis­san Leaf could pass for a Hyundai, a Honda or a Toy­ota, noth­ing in its de­sign par­tic­u­larly set­ting it apart from the rest of the crowd from the Ori­ent. The holo­gram-style front grille is about as in­di­vid­ual as it gets.

Round the back, ac­cess to the boot is via a man­ual tail­gate that, once opened, re­veals an av­er­age-to-gen­er­ous space for your own bits and bobs, along with the bags of elec­tric charg­ers that come with the car.

Of which more later. Com­fort­wise, there’s room for five (at a gen­tle squeeze) cos­seted in var­i­ous ma­te­ri­als, some of which are re­cy­cled to fur­ther bol­ster the Leaf’s su­per-green cre­den­tials. Equip­ment-wise, there’s the Ap­ple CarPlay (and An­droid Auto), a touch­screen with smar­tish graph­ics and a main driver’s dis­play that looks more like a sci­ence les­son than the stan­dard speedo and rev counter af­fair. This is in to­tal con­trast to the ar­chaic switchgear, which looks more Hal­fords circa 1982 than Hadron Col­lider to in­fin­ity and beyond. Bizarre. Weird. Why?

The Bose sound sys­tem in my model, on the other hand, is bloody mar­vel­lous, as is the end­less scroll of ve­hi­cle sta­tus data and di­a­grams, most of which re­late to volt­age, range and charge. The four I cared about most were: 1) The bat­teryper­cent­age in­di­ca­tor. 2) Range. 3) The power and re-gen in­di­ca­tor. 4) The near­est charge point lo­ca­tor.

Which brings us on to the main body of this week’s re­view. A re­view of two halves. Part One: Charge! I have to con­fess, I had a prob­lem with this. There is no doubt that the Leaf is a mod­ern-day all-elec­tric mir­a­cle, cur­rently the most pop­u­lar elec­tric car on the planet no less, that can not only be charged cheaply from mains elec­tric­ity but also from a Nis­san-pro­duced so­lar-power charg­ing pack fit­ted at your home.

This means that your car could – the­o­ret­i­cally – cost you ab­so­lutely noth­ing to run. On top of that, the Gov­ern­ment of­fers a grant of up to €5,000 to­wards the cost of buy­ing an elec­tric car. Wow and wow again... as long as you don’t have to travel more than 160km in be­tween charges. This was my is­sue.

De­spite a claimed range of 378km, I was sweat­ing from the off ev­ery time I em­barked upon my reg­u­lar 160km so­cial com­mute of As­cot to West Sus­sex – the equiv­a­lent of Louth to Dublin and back.

From a fully charged stand­ing start, there seemed to be no dis­cernible rate of dis­charge from thereon in. At speed on mo­tor­ways and dual-car­riage­ways, the range seemed to fall off a cliff com­pared to the more se­date stretches of road. All I could think was: ‘Please God, if I do run out of juice, any­where but the Hog’s Back or the M25.’ But that’s not what this car is for. Part Two then: Poo­tle & Pot­ter. For which the Leaf is purr-fect. No stress, no con­stant on-board cal­cu­lat­ing, wor­ry­ing and won­der­ing who will come to the res­cue should things go flat as a pan­cake pow­er­wise. With all the pre­vi­ous un­cer­tainty now gone, the lively drive be­comes much more… not so much fun as al­most zen-like, thanks to the silent elec­tric mo­tor. A bizarre calm that can be fur­ther en­hanced by turn­ing on the car’s cruise con­trol and semi-au­ton­o­mous pi­lot sys­tem.

There’s yet more ic­ing on the cake to lighten the load with the e-brake. Once se­lected, merely lift­ing one’s foot off the ac­cel­er­a­tor causes the Leaf to brake pretty much as nor­mal, a bit like a dodgem car. This si­mul­ta­ne­ously har­vests

TO DRIVE IT IS AL­MOST ZEN-LIKE

power that feeds back into the bat­tery. Even just re­call­ing and writ­ing about this eco-won­der is mov­ing me closer to my per­sonal in­ner lily pond.

But the thing is, you ei­ther have to be un­be­liev­ably or­gan­ised or have such a reg­u­lar, short­ish com­mute that charg­ing your Leaf be­comes as ha­bit­ual and ef­fort­less as brush­ing your teeth. If that sounds like a bit of you, then the Leaf may well be the best an­swer to guilt-free mo­tor­ing there is.

In the mean­time, I would like to re­claim full and con­scious own­er­ship of my very own ‘now’, un­til next week, that is.

Which never re­ally comes, ac­cord­ing to Eck­hart.

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