Autovolt Magazine

Living the High Leaf – Long Term Update

One week into Leaf ownership and the car has already proved a more than useful tool. Of course, being accustomed the ways of an EV and familiar with charging helps but it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that electric cars just work.

So far, 136.3 miles into my time with the Leaf and my total expenditure on “fuel” has been a mere £0.45. Why? Because I’ve only charged the Leaf once at home and that means it’s working out as far less than 1p/mile travelled. This impressive figure is, of course, only attainable while there’s free electricity on tap around the country. So far, I’ve taken advantage of a Source East 3.5kW charge point in Watford, while attending a comedy evening and another CHAdeMO rapid charge Source East point at my local Nissan dealership – just because I can. They’re a nice bunch there too, which makes it all the more worthwhile. Crucially, I’m not going out of my way to do this. I’m not purposely saying to myself that I won’t charge up at home – instead I simply haven’t needed to. Most of my journeys are under 10-miles and it’s surprising how many times you can jump in and out of the Leaf to travel these distances without a moments thought about the battery capacity.

The lowest charge so far has been 35%, good for another 48-miles according to the range gauge. Perhaps more critically, apart from the slow charge at Watford over a couple of hours, I’ve not hung about waiting for the car to charge. Instead I’ve simply plugged in and left it to its own devices. However, there’s one small but significant exception here, which is when plugged into the CHAdeMO at the Nissan garage. I’ve actually used the time to write this. In that short space of time it has taken me to write this up, the car’s charge has increased from 35 to 65%. Err. 66%. Obviously, I don’t intend – or need – to charge the car to 100% here, as my next few journeys are likely to be well within a one-hundred mile round trip distance. In other words, the 130+ miles that my range gauge tells me I am able to do with a 100% fully charged battery isn’t really needed.

I admit that I might not represent people who live in rural areas, but I don’t exactly live in the city centre myself. Hertfordshire is one of the Green Belt counties, something that’s fast being eroded by new homes. Anyway, my point is the roads I travel are varied and give a good overall indication for a car test. Shops and the station are within ten miles no matter which ones I choose to visit, but depending on the time of day I can either travel via country lanes or be stuck in traffic. The six-mile commute to the station and back can take anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour! When I have to travel further there’s plenty of range in the Leaf to do so and if I know in advance that I’m travelling a distance, I can simply charge at home – hence the £0.45 cost so far. For my general week’s travelling though, I don’t need to charge at all and can rely on the 30kWh battery capacity and never experience range anxiety.

There’s nothing quite like trying this for yourself and you don’t need an electric car to do so. Simply take a note of the distance you travel every journey. My bet is 99% of you will be well within the 130-mile range my Leaf is currently indicating it’s capable of.

My first week with the Leaf has, however, been slightly unusual in that I had a Tesla Model S on loan too (it’s a tough life), which has meant less driving in the Leaf than is typical. That being said, most of my Tesla driving was to test the Autopilot system and not actually get anywhere in particular.

I am fortunate enough to have a charge point at home, but not having one or living somewhere you cannot install one, such as a flat, shouldn’t necessarily put you off electric car ownership. In fact, when I was last at Thurrock services I met a Leaf owner who had never charged anywhere other than public charge points because he lives in an apartment and his total energy costs during the year he had owned the car was zero. He had subsequently set himself the easily achievable challenge of never paying a penny for electricity for the duration of his Leaf lease.

My Leaf is now at 94% charge thanks to speedy CHAdeMO charging and with that short 24-minute stop I’m off. This also makes me realise that had I been in a petrol car, my nearest fuel station is about a ten-minute drive away so after filling up and returning that would have been a comparable trip in terms of time. Yes, you don’t have to fill a petrol car so frequently, but then again I wouldn’t have been able to write this article while standing at a pump either…