New Nissan Leaf EV Test Drive

2019 Nissan Leaf 08

The Primary Criteria

2019 Nissan Leaf 09

I believe that there are three primary criteria for an electric vehicle to become mainstream in Australia.

1. Cost

On the road cost to be less than $50K. Closer to $40K would seal the deal.

2. Range

A range of at least 400 km. Closer to 500 km would be better.

3. Charging

More...

Overnight charging to 100% from a regular home power point. 2-3 hour charging to 100% from a high capacity power point. 20-30 minute charging to 80% from public charging services.

P.S. I don't believe that the lack of charging infrastructure will be an issue. There's already more of it in place than most people realise and adding more doesn't require the capital outlay of a service station. There are no underground tanks and distribution is via cable, not hose. It lends itself to a distributed model. For example, instead of a handful of service stations with 8 pumps on a main road, we might have a shopping centre car park with 300 parking spaces equipped with chargers.

Some Secondary Criteria

2019 Nissan Leaf 10

There are always any number of secondary criteria that affect a particular individual's decision to purchase this car instead of that one.

It can be as simple as needing boot space to accommodate a particularly large pram or a set of golf clubs.

It might be the existence of secondary safety features such as lane divergence warning, adaptive cruise control or a heads-up display.

Buyers of electric vehicles already see themselves as being on the cutting edge of technology and are likely to expect their vehicle purchase as reflecting that.

How Does the Leaf Stack up?

2020 Nissan Leaf Concept

2020 Nissan Leaf Concept

In a word... close.

1. Price (less that $50K on the road).

Nissan have obviously aimed for this, with the Australian price set at $49,990. Unfortunately, on the roads bring this to a few thousand over the $50K mark, so not there yet.

Will the government (federal or state) subsidise the purchase of an electric car, as governments in other countries have done? Maybe. It depends on whether they see the need to be seen to be doing something about carbon pollution. I wouldn't hold my breath, but it's a possibility.

2. Range (4 - 500 km).

Definitely not there yet. The Leaf's rated range is 270 km using the WLTP standard and, as you'll see from the test drive recorded below, real world driving returned 250 km. Definitely not enough for an Uber driver, or for Australian distances generally.

This one's just a matter of time.

Even with the current Leaf, there's a higher capacity battery version on the way. So hopefully soon.

3. Charging.

Nissan Leaf Charging Station

A full charge from a domestic power point can take around 18 hours, so simply not an acceptable option except as an emergency backup.

A dedicated home charging station such as the one shown can deliver a full charge in 6 hours, so perfectly OK for the overnight charge at home. It's an extra cost to factor in, of course.

Commercial charging stations use DC (Direct Current) for a fast charge.

One of these will charge the Nissan Leaf to 80% in around 60 minutes.

While this is a big improvement, I think it's still too long for most people, including Rideshare drivers. You can accept 20 - 30 minutes. That's just a nice break from driving and enough time for a cup of coffee and a snack. Anything longer than that requires a lunch time break.

So in summary, I believe that the Leaf is close on all fronts, but not there yet.

We'll see what 2020 brings.

2019 Nissan Leaf Test Drive

This test drive and review was carried out by Car Advice. You can read the full review at https://www.caradvice.com.au/778030/2019-nissan-leaf-review/ but here are some highlights:

"The first-generation Nissan Leaf launched in 2010.

Despite growing competition, it's still the world's best-selling pure-electric vehicle, and the fact there's a second-generation model (the one pictured here) makes it unique in the motoring world.

No other pure-electric nameplate has been carried into a second generation, although the 2020 Renault Zoe will change that when production starts. To cut a long story short, this little Leaf is a big deal in the electric world. And it's finally on sale in Australia.

Priced from $49,990 before on-road costs, the 2019 Nissan Leaf (which is similarly sized to a Volkswagen Golf or Hyundai i30) slots between the Hyundai Ioniq and Kona Electric on price. It'll do 270km on the WLTP combined drive cycle thanks to the 40kWh battery pack under the floor, and is powered by an electric motor with 110kW and 320Nm.

The company's experience with electric drivetrains is apparent from the second you start the Leaf. It's remarkably smooth and whisper quiet, even compared to its plug-in rivals from Hyundai.

Some electric vehicles are tuned to shock drivers with a huge slug of low-down torque. There's no eye-popping initial surge in the Leaf. Instead, the power delivery builds gradually off the line towards a buttery-smooth crescendo. The throttle has a long travel, which helps drivers mete out the power precisely as well.

Nissan claims the 100km/h sprint takes 7.9 seconds, which feels accurate in the real world. Unlike some other electric vehicles we've driven, the Leaf resolutely refuses to break traction on heavy throttle inputs once you're up and rolling, although the motor's torque can get the traction light flashing away from traffic lights if you're determined.

It's unremarkable in the best way, quietly (and competently) going about its business. With that said, the e-Pedal system takes some getting used to. Essentially a fancy term for aggressive regenerative braking, the e-Pedal allows for one-pedal driving in most situations, slowing the car at up to 0.2g when you lift off the throttle.

Once you're tuned in to how it works the system is excellent, and almost entirely negates the need for the brake pedal – which is wooden and tricky to modulate, even by electric standards – around town. Although the e-Pedal can be switched off, there's no way to more finely adjust how the regen’ operates; something Hyundai offers with the wheel-mounted paddles in its electric vehicles.

Unsurprisingly, the Leaf does its best work around town. The steering is light and direct thanks to a quicker rack, and the suspension is tuned to filter out potholes, speed bumps and pimply surfaces. There's a real sense of refinement about the ride and handling tune, which combines with an abundance of sound-deadening to make the Leaf a serene place to spend time.

Tyre roar and wind whistle from the pillars are notably absent at highway speeds, too.

A single trim grade is offered, and it wants for little. LED headlamps, privacy glass, electric folding mirrors, automatic headlamps and wipers, and keyless entry are all standard. There's also seating heating front and rear, and a heated steering wheel. Oh, and the Leaf is the first Nissan to get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in Australia. Hallelujah.

On the ownership front, the Leaf has a five-year warranty and coverage for eight years or 160,000km on the battery. The latter kicks in if the battery degrades below 75 per cent of its original capacity.

Nissan has 89 dealers on board to sell and service the Leaf so far, and has turned to JET Charge to install and maintain charging infrastructure across its network."

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Phil Lancaster

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