Nissan Leaf electric car is a powerful mover
IMAGINE your car is not just transport. Getting from A to B could soon be a byproduct of the greater good.
The Nissan Leaf has the capacity to haul the family and power the home.
One of the few electric vehicles currently available to offer bidirectional power, it's conceivable that the Leaf will get you home from work and then supplement your power supply when energy is at its most expensive.
Think of it as a mobile power network.
Experts predict employers will soon offer free charging at work as part of job sweeteners, as will big supermarket and retail chains looking to gain more punters through the door.
Savvy consumers will be encouraged to fill up on free power and then supplement the electricity usage at home.
Sound like sci-fi nonsense? It's closer than many predict.
It also makes the $50,000 required to get a Leaf in your driveway somewhat more enticing.
One specification means there's no time comparing derivative columns. For your $50K investment it comes with leather-trimmed seats, climate control, 17-inch alloys, heated front seats and steering wheel, satnav, and an eight-inch touchscreen with high-quality resolution equipped with smartphone mirroring apps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is all connected to a seven-speaker Bose stereo system.
Only five colours are available: red, ivory, grey, black, and white with a black roof.
Warranty coverage is five years and unlimited kilometre. Battery cover is eight years or 200,000km, with a guarantee which Nissan says protects against battery capacity loss (less than nine bars out of 12).
Nissan has got serious about the distribution compared to the first iteration of the Leaf, so it's being sold and serviced at 89 dealers nationally which improves accessibility. Servicing is average cost of $288 over the first six services, with intervals annual or every 20,000km.
Five-star safety was awarded by Australia's crash authority, and the Leaf comes standard with radar cruise control to maintain a safe distance from vehicles in front, rear cross traffic alert which stops the driver reversing into unseen oncoming vehicles (really useful in carparks), warnings if the vehicle wanders within the lane and autonomous braking that applies the anchors if a collision is detected.
Among the other features are traffic sign recognition to constantly monitor speed restrictions, automatic high beam, around-view cameras to making parking simpler and an audible sound to ensure pedestrians hear the Leaf below 30km/h.
Families could easily cope with the Leaf as the primary transporter.
Batteries under the floor enable a 400-litre boot, good enough for a couple of large suitcases, along with generous space front and back.
Despite the high-tech complementary within, all the operations and buttons are straightforward.
Finding your way through the various menus via the central touchscreen is easy, while the driver also has a digital display which can be configured with a range of information regarding driving range and charge times.
There is only one USB point up front - modern cars really need more given our reliance on smartphones and other devices for all occupants.
The stubby sunvisors need some small extensions, like the ones found in the Patrol, to help block out the sun when it hits the side window.
Electric power doesn't mean a vastly different experience behind the wheel.
Instant maximum torque is the greatest change from a normal combustion engine, which means serious pace from standstill. The Leaf is quick off the mark, faster than most mainstream cars with 7.9 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint, with light steering.
Using the "eco” mode might improve the Leaf's range but it dulls the acceleration response. Others like the Tesla, Jaguar I-Pace and BMW's i3 are quicker.
The Leaf isn't bad in a bend either, but to be fair this is more about basic transport and functionality rather than carving through country bends.
Using the e-pedal takes some practise. When the toggle is flicked the driver doesn't need to brake, instantly losing power and the regenerative power goes back into the battery. It's fine in traffic, but near impossible to use when trying to park due to the jerky nature.
Standard mode in the Leaf proves far more enjoyable and is close to what most people would regard as "normal”, and depending on conditions it will achieve about 270km from a full battery.
Most owners will charge at home and treat it like a phone to maintain near capacity in the battery. Use a basic 15-amp power point and it will recharge in 24 hours, yet the majority are forecast to invest about $2000 in a home fast charger to bring that time down to eight hours.
Figures suggest it would cost the average motorist less than $800 a year to fuel the Leaf against about $1800 for a four-cylinder petrol hatch of similar size. Those with solar power could achieve the same feat for less.
I'm what the marketing types call an early adopter and I'm taking the first step in saving the world one drive at a time.
This is the first step toward zero emission motoring - just don't think about where that electricity at home is coming from.
HYUNDAI IONIQ ELECTRIC PREMIUM FROM $48,990
Boasts an accurate driving range and impressive driving dynamics, generates 88kW/295Nm from 28kWh battery. Smaller boot, with real-world range of about 230km.
TESLA MODEL 3 FROM $66,000
The rear-wheel drive Standard Range sedan has a range of about 460km and an ability to hit 100km/h from rest in 5.6 seconds. Four-year warranty, bigger boot than the Leaf at 542 litres.
Treat the Leaf as a car and a home battery, and suddenly the $50K price tag takes on a different view. It's a good all-round performer, but still too expensive for those keen to go green.
AT A GLANCE
PRICE $49,990 plus on-roads (costly tech)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5 year w'ty, 8r battery; service $1388 for 5 years
MOTOR 110kW/320Nm; 40kWh lithium-ion battery (quick)
SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, blind spot and lane departure alerts, radar cruise control, around view monitor (solid)
RANGE 270km; 16kWh/100km (est)
SPARE Space-saver (expected)
BOOT 405L, rear seats also fold (good)