I got to drive my first full electric car recently, the Nissan Leaf.
It was an unusual experience, as it brought out range anxiety, which by the way, is a real thing.
I thought it was just me initially but I see other drivers of electric cars also have fears about not being able to reach their destination. I think if I had a home charger, I wouldn’t have felt this way, which is good news for potential buyers. Just buy the home charger.
My first impressions of the car wasn’t so much the looks (if you’re buying the Leaf that’s not a priority), but how quiet it was. I switched it on for the first time and waited.. and waited.. to hear some sound, any sound. Eventually I realised the car was already “running”. It was quite welcoming, the lack of noise. And so noticeable when driving off initially.
When the car was dropped off, the driver just pointed out how the gears work while the car was switched off. It was pretty straightforward, like any automatic car.
I planned my trips carefully to make sure I could go where I needed to and still be able to get back, and take it for a charge. It wasn’t that simple. However, when I made a conscious effort to drive it economically, it was great. In general, I’m not an economical or fuel efficient driver. I wanted the aircon switched on of course; we were in the middle of a heat wave.
To drive it economically, you need to have the gear in B, which is a regenerative braking system. And if you look at the dashboard in the pic below, the less dots fill up on the right side from the white dot onwards, the better. I couldn’t take a pic while driving to show you the last four dots appear green, when it’s regenerating. If you using this method you can really get better “mileage” from the car.
I remembered how a simple 20km trip used more than 35km because I had the aircon switched on and I was in a hurry. So on the way back, I managed to keep it down by using only 10km, however, when I got the last uphill stretch near my house, it used a lot.
There were several times I did drive it economically, the car notifies you by the little leaf indicator on the dashboard. You just need to make sure the leaf appears fully as you drive.
As I mentioned earlier, if you want to buy this car, you are obviously going to buy the home charger too. It doesn’t make sense if you don’t, or you have to rely on charging ports at the Nissan dealerships. As far as I am aware, it can also be charged at BMW i dealerships too. I think if I did have one (I guess it was impractical to get one for the week loaner), I would not have felt range anxiety. But I just couldn’t help but stare at the battery indicator; felt like carrying a smartphone around and worrying if you will get through the day.
Charging the car is quite simple. You don’t actually need assistance. The car just needs to be switched off before you press the charging button, which opens the port. You plug in the charger and it starts. The car charges to 80% in 30 minutes.
The Nissan Leaf is meant for city use, and for quick trips. As it stands with pricing in South Africa, R446 000, and the home charger around R30 000, it’s definitely meant to be a secondary car for those who can afford it. If you have the money, it means never paying for fuel again. Can you imagine?
After driving an electric car I learnt something about myself – it’s not for me. I’m always in a hurry to get from point A to B; and need air conditioner. For me to have driven economically on the Leaf required effort. Maybe someday my driving habits will change, who knows!