New Nissan Leaf brings mainstream electric motoring closer

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Nissan has launched the new LEAF in Ireland with a host of changes and a lot of optimism for the future. 

Crucially, the new car has a vastly improved journey range on a full charge thanks to higher capacity 40kW batteries. It mean there’s a 50% increase in range to 378 kilometres (NEDC) and a 38% increase in power to 150PS compared to the outgoing model. In real terms that figure will be somewhat reduced but you can expect somewhere in the mid 200’s depending on how you drive it.

While those figures may not yet be at the optimum, they go a long way to lessening range anxiety for those taking longer journeys and add quite a kick when taking off.

Charging time vary from 40 minutes to achieve an 80% capacity at fast charge points, 7-8 hours for a full charge at home or at on-street charging points and way more than that – up to 20 hours – if plugged into an ordinary three-pin plug with the ‘granny cable’.

On a first drive in the car from Nissan headquarters in Dublin to Brooklodge near Arklow in Co. Wicklow the route took us over the Sally Gap, over the Dublin Mountains and back via the M11 motorway. That’s a round trip of approximately 170km didn’t lead to much range jitters and the car was returned with 61km of charge left in the battery when the journey was finished. It proved how capable the car is and how, with clever driving techniques saving and regeneration of power was much better than the old car. 

With first deliveries of the New LEAF already in the showrooms, there are four variants with prices starting at €26,290 for the XE entry model (including €5,000 Government Grant), rising to €32,600 for range-topping fully equipped SVE grade versions. 

The styling of the new car is certainly more in tune with other cars in the Nissan range while advanced technologies, including ProPILOT which gives many of the functions needed for autonomous driving eventually. 

Electric vehicles (EV may still only be a fraction of cars bought by Irish buyers, but that figure is likely to shoot up and there are more and more enquiries ebery day. Nissan expect sell around 1,000 units in the remainder of 2018. They’re telling us that running costs are around 85% less than petrol or diesel cars and maintenance is almost 75% cheaper. 

For business customers and the self employed the introduction of the 0% BIK on company vehicles in the 2018 budget, free on-street charging and convenient home charging, it’s not surprising an increasing number of drivers are considering going electric.

All models come with Nissan e-Pedal as a standard feature. When switched on, the e-pedal function allows the driver to start from a standstill, accelerate and brake and even bring the car to a controlled stop solely by using the throttle pedal. In the XE grade safety features include: Lane departure warning, Intelligent emergency braking with pedestrian recognition, Intelligent lane intervention, Cross traffic alert, High-beam assist. The base model also comes with Nissan Intelligent Key and start push button, 6.6 kW on-board charger and 50kW ChaDeMo rapid charge port as standard. 

Furthermore, the SV Version has the NissanConnect EV 7″ touchscreen telematics system which includes active charging, eco-routing, driving range, and nearby charging stations. Smartphone App integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is also available as standard on SV. 

SV Premium adds features such as Heated seats, Around-View Monitor, Electric Folding Door Mirrors, Auto-Dimming Rear View Mirror, Moving Object Detection and 17” Alloy Wheels, it includes an option of ProPILOT. The launch edition LEAF grade, which is now sold out included the above mentioned SV premium features, with the addition of ProPILOT function as standard. 

ProPILOT is a revolutionary driver assistance technology designed for motorway use in single-lane traffic. It combines steering assist, acceleration and braking that can help the driver workload in heavy motorway traffic and long commutes. The ProPILOT system uses a radar sensor that detects the vehicle ahead and a forward-facing camera that detects lane markers. 

Top of the range SVE grade includes ProPILOT Advanced Driver Assistance System, Bose Premium Audio with 7 speakers, Leather Heated Front and Rear Seats, Full LED Intelligent Auto Headlights, all as standard. 

Nissan have worked wonders with the overall handling with stiffened suspension added thelow centre of gravity generated by the weight of the batteries fitted into the floor of the car. 

The steering is more active and responsive in the hand and the cornering is sharper and more precise than heretofore but, regular Leaf drivers will probably not be asking too many hard questions from the car. 

All Nissan Leaf models come with a full-sized spare wheel and two charging cables; one for on-street rapid charging and home use, the other is what they call a ‘granny cable’ which means that you can charge the car from a regular three-pin plug when a designated charge point is not available – your granny’s house!

Gerry Murphy