North East Connected

Testing whether electric vehicles measure up

Motoring Writer IAN LAMMING is on a charge after driving the new Nissan Leaf

NOW let’s keep a sense of proportion. Lesser electric vehicles I would not have even bothered to drive.

But Nissan’s latest Leaf – in e+ form – makes the boldest of mileage claims. The very specific 239, not 238 or a rounded up 240, but 239, makes the Leaf just about usable as a means of transport but you have to plan and hold your nerve.

Firstly, how accurate is that figure, a mileage which equates to 100 per cent charge. Well, I’m sure, on a flat road, at ambient temperature, with no wind in its way, it would be just fine.

But real life conditions on this occasion start with a frozen windscreen and windows. It’s also cold and dark, there is a head wind and the topography along the 62 mile school run is hilly to say the least.

Start the defrost and demist routine, stick on the lights and heater (don’t even think about using the heated seats and steering wheel) and dare to drop out of ‘eco mode’ to catch and overtake a lorry in the crawler lane on the steep climb ahead, and the goalpost move.

After 60 measured miles the distance to flat has dropped by 100 miles. Given I have to drive another 20 miles away from home and then return the same 80 mile route I’m not going to get there and back on a single charge and the range anxiety kicks in.

Time to use the satnav then, which very helpfully tells me where the nearest supercharger is fixed. Just six miles away from school at a nice hotel – great – except when I get there it’s out of order. The next one is 12 miles away at an A1 service station, so not too bad then.

But pulling up to the thankfully empty charging bay the instructions tell me I have to download an app. That would be fine except my phone is going crazy and won’t allow it. Time to give the charger helpline a ring and five minutes later a call centre operative finally picks up my call. After handing over all my credit card details she is able to start the charging process remotely and off I go into the soulless service station for a mocha. Around 45 minutes later I try to remove the umbilical chord but it’s stuck prompting another call to the helpline and another three minute wait.

Still, I’m now 80 per cent charged and ready to roll safe in the knowledge I can complete my outward journey and get home again on the charge.

Once home it’s time to plug into a domestic source which is going to take about 14 hours to reach full charge from about 25. It’s all very stressful, like trying to use your mobile for important calls when the battery life is showing red, or like driving a conventional car with a quarter tank of fuel and you can only use one brand of petrol.

As a car the Leaf is great to drive, very well specified and comfortable to ride in. It could pass as Micra’s slightly more modern brother and is well appointed and equipped with bags of tech and great cabin ambiance.

Unleashed from its eco shackles it is incredibly rapid thanks to 200+hp from the motor and ride and handling are excellent.

Is it fit for purpose? Yes and no. If you don’t go far from home, I can see how it would work very well for many people and the fact it requires no fossil fuel is a welcome blessing as you whisper from A-B in a manner that would be saving the icecaps and the whales.

My crazy commute and lifestyle, sadly, rule it out as a workable means of daily transport. My constitution just wouldn’t stand it, unless I could find some way of plugging it into all that nervous energy, of course.

Fact File
Nissan Leaf e+ Tekna
Engine: electric
Power: 217PS
0-62mph: 7.3secs
Top speed: 98mph
Range: 239 miles (combined)
Transmission: auto
CO2 g/km: 0
Price: £36,820.00

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