Not Tesla brought the first mass-produced electric family car. That was in 2010, two years before the Tesla Model S, the Japanese Nissan with the Leaf. He looked as wimpy as his name, which, under its green cloak of ‘leaf’, is an abbreviation for ‘Leading, Environmentally friendly, Affordable Family car‘. Weep with me.
Unwillingly, there was much to admire about the faceless Leaf. It was affordable, spacious and practical. Only that range was bothering me. First 120 kilometers, later – thanks to a slightly larger battery – 180 with pain and effort. Tesla laughed. Yet 300,000 of them were sold worldwide to early adopters. I know an idealist who drove it to England and rented a camping site in that country that was still poor in charging stations to be able to charge it. Now there’s a new one that can go far in the current-mature climate of 2018. With a 40 kWh battery, according to the outdated, but eagerly seized by Nissan marketers, NEDC measurement cycle, it will cover 375 kilometers. A little less vociferously, the brand admits that according to the new, more reliable WLTP measurement (Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure) rather be 270. Still a creditable step forward, and it gets even more fun. A version with a 60 kWh battery is on the way. If it covers 400 kilometers for a price that remains well below fifty thousand euros, Nissan can farm well. That’s what it looks like; the Leaf 40 kWh costs 35 grand, and it seems to me strongly that Nissan will charge additional astronomical surcharges for 20 kWh. In addition, the group claims that it is not affected by the delivery problems that nipped the theoretical success of the Opel Ampera-E in the bud. It is striking that Nissan is cautious about delivery times.
Not a bad word about the car. It looks much better while retaining its proven qualities of space, comfort, silence and luxury. The black fake grille with a deep blue 3D pattern works wonders for presentability. With now 150 hp, it is considerably faster than its predecessor. The e-pedal is fine, the accelerator pedal with brake function. When you let go of the gas, the car brakes on the engine to a standstill if desired, so that you can let the brake pedal rest after some practice. The semi-autonomous ProPilot system also keeps the Leaf more or less independently within the lines when cornering, although this is of little use because the car asks you to grab the steering wheel about every ten seconds for safety reasons. But in the micro-intervals between the contact moments it works, uch.
Like pounds of a hunger striker
When departing from Zaltbommel, in the middle of February, the screen shows a range of 301 kilometers. They fly off on the highway like a hunger striker’s pounds. Above a hundred it certainly goes fast around the freezing point. When switching on the air conditioning, you can see the range on the screen decrease by 20 percent. Then you understand why the Leaf, like many electric cars, has apparently power-hungry facilities such as steering wheel and seat heating. They heat the driver more energy efficiently than the guzzling stove. Yet you always turn it on in the winter with passengers on board and the corresponding threat of fogged windows. Within Brabant, on B-roads with many traffic lights, the free fall stabilizes and after the first section of 104 kilometers remains a range of 131 kilometers or 58 percent battery capacity, with heating switched off 148 kilometers. That result is not alarmingly behind the WLTP specification. Based on previous experiences with electric cars, I suspect that the Leaf should be able to reach about three hundred kilometers at temperatures above 15 degrees. I drove the car permanently in eco mode, which cuts the power by a few tens of horsepower. You don’t notice that; he stays fast enough. With a charging speed of 50 kW, the Leaf is suitable for fast charging stations that spread across the country like an oil slick.
Curious about his market share for 2018. He might well keep new pragmatists from the more expensive Tesla Model 3, which by the way is still not there yet. On the other hand, it quickly faces competition from the electric Hyundai Kona, which is expected to be on the market this year with 40 and 64 kWh batteries for comparable amounts. The latest version, according to the WLTP measurement, wow, 470 kilometers on one charge. As a German car dealer I would be very concerned.