The Nissan Leaf: Test Driving the Nissan ELectric Car
The one brilliant thing about electric cars being made by the major manufacturers is that you donít have to travel cross country just to find one. Theyíre now just down the road in your local dealerships. Thatís one HUGE advantage to publicising electric cars to the masses and hopefully it makes most people think twice about electric when they go to buy a car.
So on the first day we showed up to test the car, unfortunately by the time we got there it had already run out of charge! There are so many people looking for a test drive that by the time we got there it was finished for the day. There is a fast charger in most Nissan dealerships with the Leaf now but when we were there it had yet to be set up. A quick charger can charge the batteries to 80% in 30 minutes but a normal charger of 220/240V would take about seven hours.
So we went home and came back the next day to a fully charged Nissan Leaf ready to test. One of the first things you notice is the big touch screen where the radio should be. It is packed with features such as sat nav, energy use statistics, battery range left, and a pretty cool rear camera which comes on when youíre reversing. It can also show you where all the nearest charge stations are on a map which can be quite handy when youíre running low on juice in an unfamiliar area.
The leaf uses an electronic handbrake and once thatís off you just pull the little knob where the gear stick usually is back into drive and off you go. Straight away you can feel the difference in acceleration. As I took off down a straight stretch of road I could feel such a smooth instant acceleration that you really donít get from an ICE (Internal Combustion engine) car. The 80kW electric motor in the Nissan Leaf produces 280Nm of torque to give you that great acceleration.
What I could also feel was how the Nissan electric car is so much like any other regular car. When youíre cruising along at a steady pace you start to forget about the fact that youíre in a state of the art electric car and it feels like just any other automatic Nissan. This can have its advantages and disadvantages too.
In the back seats you may notice that your feet rest a little higher than in the front. This is because the batteries are kept under your the seats and the footrest. There are 48 modules of laminated li-ion batteries which can output more than 90kW of power. The low position of the batteries gives the car a lower centre of gravity and helps the ride of the car. Nissan claims that these batteries will still have 70-80% capacity after 10 years.
There is only one version of the Nissan Leaf available in Ireland. Along with the sat nav and rear parking camera, it has 16Ē alloy wheels, cruise control, climate control and of course LED headlamps to save on the energy used up by all those extras!
I think that overall Nissan have done a brilliant job of bringing electric cars to the mainstream. It remains to be seen how well they will do with the Nissan Leaf. Unfortunately most people around seem to see it either as a novelty or else as a risk at the moment with many people fearing it will become obsolete in a year or two like an extremely expensive old iPhone.
This will always be a fear that people will have to get around if they are truly serious about a cleaner, more environmentally friendly future and many other manufacturers will find this a big challenge to tackle.
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