Nissan’s electric Leaf recently reached a pretty significant milestone – half a million of the environmentally-friendly hatchbacks have now been produced and sold around the world.
If memory serves (and I’m a bit of an electric vehicle geek, to be fair), the very first Leaf was delivered to its owner in California in December 2010 – and earlier this month, a certain Maria Jansen in Norway took possession of car number 500,000.
That’s quite an achievement for Nissan – and the company should be very proud of its role in encouraging people to consider electric motoring. Moreover, their forward-thinking in developing Leaf in the first place has spurred other manufacturers to follow their lead, and design and bring to market electric vehicles of their own.
Of course, the sceptics among us will say nothing can be manufactured in large quantities without creating a carbon footprint of some kind and that’s certainly true.
However, what can’t be denied is that the car is, and has been since its inception, entirely emission-free – and the quality of the air we breathe has become a huge talking point in recent years.
The Leaf we have on our fleet at the moment is a limited-edition model with an enhanced output of 214bhp thanks to its beefy 62kWh battery. It’s capable of travelling 239 miles on a single charge (combined cycle) with Nissan claiming city driving could deliver up to 319 miles.
With its powerful motor, acceleration from 50mph to 70mph is nearly 13 per cent quicker than a car equipped with Nissan’s 40kWh battery – and our car’s top speed of 98mph is also around 10 per cent higher.
Two other things worth mentioning at this point are that the car is equipped with a couple of very clever bits of Nissan technology – e-Pedal and ProPILOT.
Nissan says the e-Pedal will be a new driving sensation for many and they’re not wrong! It cleverly allows the driver to start, accelerate, decelerate and stop using only the accelerator pedal. It’s claimed to deliver a seamless, smooth drive but I’ve found the deceleration a little bit too rapid for my liking so have switched it off. (To be fair, however, my driving style is probably becoming more sedate as I get older…)
I must confess I have yet to put ProPILOT to the test but it’s essentially ‘driving assistance technology’ designed to reduce fatigue and increase confidence.
So what have we been up to behind the wheel of OY19XMG for the past couple of weeks? Well, apart from routine nipping around town and general errand-running, the car was taken from our South Coast stamping-ground up to London for a photoshoot.
It was the first chance I’d had to really stretch its legs and it performed superbly. Whilst in the Smoke, my photographer colleague snapped some pictures of it at a rapid charge point in a car park beneath a rather grand square just off Oxford Street.
To be fair, the car didn’t need to be charged up – it would easily have coped with the trip we had embarked on without any bother – but the pictures turned out well and we’d got the car up from around 40 per cent of a full charge to 96 per cent for the princely sum of £6.42 – and in double-quick time too.
The return leg of the journey was notable for perhaps the most treacherous driving conditions I’d ever experienced! A torrential deluge led to some pretty scary flash flooding and at one point a full-on 6ft wave crashed over the car, created by a truck in the adjacent lane. (To be fair, it might have been an ark.)
Our car didn’t miss a beat, however, and felt sure-footed and composed in the appalling conditions, thanks perhaps to its low centre of gravity, a feature of many electric vehicles due to the way the batteries are housed in the chassis.
You could almost say life with our Leaf has been plain sailing so far…
Model (as tested): Nissan Leaf e+ 3.ZERO
Motor: 62kWh electric motor
Max speed: 98mph
0-60mph: 6.7 seconds
Range: 239 miles (combined)