Turn over a new Leaf with Nissan
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.