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Wheeling in: Nissan Leaf
I imagine the sort of person who enjoys sudoku puzzles would just adore the Nissan Leaf.
Sit behind the steering wheel and press the starter button and a dazzling array of blue displays glisten in front of you — most important of all is the range.
Fully charged, the world’s first practical mass-produced 100 per cent electric vehicle says it can cover 110 miles. But push the air conditioning button and that drops to 90 miles. Turn up the fan and you knock off another couple of miles. Accelerate really hard and another couple of miles fall away.
Never mind the car, suddenly your brain needs to kick into gear. How far am I travelling? Can I make it to a charging station? How long will I need to charge the car to make the return trip? Do I really need the air conditioning and heating on?
A host of questions that normally never cross your consciousness when at the wheel need to be dealt with quickly, and for possibly the first time you actually start to consider the energy used in every journey.
Enough of the philosophy of electric motoring. What’s the reality?
In the Leaf, it is a remarkably practical experience. The European Car of the Year 2011 is a proper five-seater with a sensible boot. But it is the driving experience that blows you away. The Leaf has instantly responsive acceleration, real motorway cruising ability and a top speed of more than 90mph.
The ride and drive is smooth and stable and more than matches that of comparable size hatchbacks, and thanks to its 48 compact, highly efficient lithium-ion batteries and powerful electric motor, it is whisper quiet.
Electric vehicle drivers do not have to pay for a tax disc, are exempt from the London congestion charge and can park free in some cities. The Leaf is superbly equipped with a standard equipment list, including airbags, anti-lock brakes, rear-view camera, satellite navigation and comprehensive IT systems. That leaves just one option — a solar panel incorporated into the roof spoiler which supports charging of the car’s 12-volt battery, which is used for powering accessories.
The true cost of owning a Leaf is a complex affair and needs careful consideration, but if you are pretty well off, have somewhere the car can be charged every night, know you will never need to travel more than 100 miles in a day, and enjoy really thinking about the impact of travel on the environment, then the Leaf could be your perfect car.
If any of those do not apply, it will not.
Auto facts Nissan Leaf
Insurance group: 22 (1-50)
Power output: 89PS
Top speed: 90mph
Luggage capacity: 11.6 cu ft
Euro NCAP (overall): Five
CO2 emissions: 0g/km
Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles