Join the mailing list

Click here to read our privacy policy


Subscribe to emel's RSS Feed Subscribe to emel's RSS Feed


A Leaf for the Environment

A Leaf for the Environment

Issue 85 October 2011

As the momentum gathers for car manufacturers to make environmentally friendly vehicles, Fazeel Ashraf test-drives the latest addition.

There is nothing like rocketing prices at the petrol pump to get people thinking ‘environment’. Obviously, it goes without saying, our moral compass is directing our thoughts towards the light (the light is currently green, in case you are wondering), but it is funny how the environment moves closer to our hearts when fuel prices are not so low. Well, there is now a big fat green hand pointing you in the direction of the nearest fuel-efficient vehicle with a placard saying, ‘I told you so....’

Nissan is the latest manufacturer to venture into the fuel saving fray with its electric-only Nissan Leaf. The selection of the name Leaf appears to have been taken straight out of a GCSE marketing book, and while it may be a tad self-righteous, it hammers the point of the Leaf down to a tee.

It is certainly quirky with its appearance — the front looks like it has been modelled on a Kuala while the rear has an almost MPV quality to it. There are no fancy badges screaming ‘look at me; I am driving a zero emission car red vinyl wrap’. In fact, there is no fanfare at all. Start the car up, and apart from the lights changing on your dash, everything is eerily quiet. The first order of the journey as with every single journey is to check how much charge is left on the vehicle. On full charge, the car has a range of just over 100 miles. That’s right, only 100 miles! Whilst that may put off any travelling light bulb salesman, when you actually think about it, the majority of us will travel well under 100 miles on our daily commute.

On the road, the Leaf is exceedingly comfortable to drive — somewhat belying its ‘high tech’ engineering identity. While technically the Leaf should be near silent when driving along, Nissan have added an artificial rumble when travelling up to speeds of 15mph — to warn unsuspecting pedestrians. Driving the Leaf is as easy as it comes. Not as sharp or as sophisticated as a Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra, but decent nonetheless. Zero to sixty will take twelve seconds, and once the Leaf is in motion, accelerating from fifty to seventy is rather quick thanks to the electric motors, which means merging into traffic won’t be a heart-in-mouth experience. The Leaf has a top speed of 90mph, but at that speed — aside from breaking the law — you end up using precious battery juice so fast, it just won’t be worth it. The Leaf strides ahead of any other electric car Vinyl Wrap on the market, and unlike the G–Wiz I tested a while back, it won’t blow away in the wind. Driving the Leaf has its perks — not in an adrenaline, goose-bumps sort of way, but an amusing, wacky, fun sort of way. You drive the Leaf and you feel as though you are refusing to follow the system, smirking and laughing in the face of any petrol station you pass. ‘Those crooks will never see my face again!’ (well at least until I hand the keys back).

OK, enough clowning around; it is getting dark now and it is time to head home. The range meter is not being overly generous and turning on the air-con means more precious miles are pilfered from the range. The same seems to happen when you turn the heater on; so when it is cold and you need those extra few miles, pack a thick jumper as well.

The interior would make a Debenhams store look couture, while the numerous displays and lights would not be amiss in a 1980s Amstrad catalogue. Having said that, the Leaf incorporates all the latest technology: a rear-view camera comes as standard, along with an on-board computer to look up nearby charging points — and when it comes to charging you have various options. So, just like your phone, at the end of the day you have to go home and plug your car in. Plugging into your normal wall socket will see your Leaf fully recharged in about 12 hours. Purchasing a home charging unit available from Nissan will see your charging time cut by four hours, and lastly whilst they may be limited in numbers, there are various public charging points dotted around cities.

So here we have it; a zero emission car that costs pennies to recharge and will fulfil 90% of your motoring needs. Is there a catch? Of course there is. Firstly, while the actual car might not be emitting any CO2 emissions, the electricity that is required in producing the energy to charge the Leaf certainly does. Just because it is not happening in the wake of your motoring, it does not mean you can feel totally smug about saving the earth. Secondly, and most importantly, the Leaf will cost you an astonishing £25,000. That is, after the £5,000 subsidy the government will give directly to the manufacturer, making the Leaf a £30k car. Certainly not the last word in bargain motoring.

Clearly, the Leaf is not for everyone who is sick of paying incredulous fuel prices. The car’s range will limit you to travelling calculated distances — at least until public charging stations become more prevalent. And with a £25,000 price tag, it will be hard to convince people to see the light. However, like with every new piece of technology, the price will eventually fall. If your daily commute is predictable and within the cars full charge limit, the Leaf is an interesting alternative. Tree huggers get in line now.

Bookmark this

Add to DIGG
Add to
Stumble this
Share on Facebook

Share this

Send to a Friend
Link to this

Printer Friendly

Print in plain text




Leave a comment


Sign in or Register to leave a comment