After winning World Car of the Year a few years ago,we have been waiting patiently for the Leaf to find its way to our shores and it certainly doesn’t disappoint, but the whole green mobility isn’t something South African motorists can fully wrap their heads around though.
Maybe it’s the plug-in-and-charge compared to filling-up-and-go that we not quite used to yet, but the Leaf is actually a pretty simple car to live with, provided you plan your drives.
Allow me to explain: the Nissan Leaf arrived at our office with a 122km range, more than enough to get me home and even run some errands. The key, however, is to charge the vehicle while it stands around - in the evening while you sleeping or during working hours, so should you need it, it has the necessary range.
Alternatively, you can pop into your local Nissan dealership for a 30-minute ‘quick charge’, which will give you an 80% charge.
There’s something soothing about commuting in utter silence as no tailpipes means no emissions - only a fully electric drivetrain featuring a 24kWh lithium-ion battery pack linked to a front-mounted 80kW electric motor propels the car along like a Buddha’s monk. The Leaf can take you to motoring nirvana.
But although it feels smooth on the road, it can kick-off with some vigour, boasting 254Nm of torque.
The cabin also isn’t a bad place to be, as it’s fitted with loads of creature comforts such as air conditioning, electric windows and radio with CD and USB, essentially meaning you’re not sacrificing luxuries in order to go green.
Nissan has packed the car with energy saving features to make it as efficient as possible. For instance, a switchable eco driving mode is available as standard, which reduces throttle sensitivity and mimics the driving characteristics of conventional vehicles while also encouraging economical driving habits to maximise the batteries’ driving range.
Add to this eco-friendly tyres with low rolling resistance and a noise-conscious design, as well as a roof spoiler with integrated solar panel which feeds the conventional 12-Volt battery with solar power in order to minimise the impact of ancillary systems on the main battery pack.
Admittedly, the Leaf and electric mobility have some ways to go if it’s to be fully embraced as there are still shortfalls. The range being the biggest concern, because of the sheer size of SA and longer travelling distances we have compared to European countries, the Leaf will have to be a secondary car in your household.
Furthermore, given our shoddy power supply, load shedding and the inability to charge your Leaf is a real concern. The initial purchase price is also on hard to swallow as it starts at R446 000 and comes standard with a 3-year/100 000 km mechanical warranty and 3-year/90 000 km service plan.
But look at where mobility is going, Nissan is certainly leading the way and took a brave step introducing it to SA. Being the first to do anything is always tough and I’m sure this product will evolve and improve, and I feel lucky to have driven the next piece of motoring history.