What makes one get out of bed at 9am Saturday with 6 hour worth of sleep in a very cold day? Electricity! Provided by the “Nissan LEAF Tour” in Lisbon.
I had scheduled a test drive 2 or 3 weeks ago, and today was the day to engage in a first person pure electric drive. As i was rushing to Expo in my beaten diesel i wondered how it would feel as the only previous experience was in an Altima Hybrid (full electric up to about 25k/h)… after arriving on site, the check-in process was a breeze , just signing up a responsibility term and show the drivers license, and 5 minutes afterward i was seated up in a brand new Nissan LEAF with Gary (a very nice Nissan technician) on the passenger side.
So, how was it? In two words, very cool. The test drive was a tour around the outer perimiter of Parque das Nações, 10kms worth of urban and sub-urban routes (not the usual salesmen drive around the block / or in the parking…yes it actually happened to me once…). So, how is it? Smooth, silent, powerful, calm, relaxing. Really smooth power delivery, the 0-100K/h acceleration is pretty good (around 10s), and almost no noise, just a cool “jet like” wine at wide open throttle, you really don’t feel no lack of power and you can merge to highways pretty easy. Really didn’t push hard on corners, but the direction feels good (not the normal Nissan feather like steering), so as the suspension and brakes feel pretty competent. This IS NOT a sports car, but a perfect commuter car, very easy and relaxing to drive. Its like a magic carpet, that slides down the road. It must be driven to be sensed.
Afterward when i went back home in my 10 years old diesel, it felt more like a 100 year old car with all those nasty engine/transmission noises…. Back to the Leaf, it is a real car, a real solid product, not a gizmo with wheels, is a great accomplishment by Nissan. I believe that if Tesla Roadster showcased the electric car technology and inspired many, the Leaf can be the dawn of the electric revolution.
For the bad part, the ugly design, other bad point is the ugly design, and of course the ugly design. Did i mention the ugly design? How hard could it be to make a (much) better looking car? Well, lets just hope Leaf 2.0 gets better looks. Also the range, of course always the range, only 160kms (at highway better to expect around 100Kms) so this implies a oil burner as a backup car for that 1% big trips. The range issue is something that will remain for many years, as the battery capacity trend show small improvements over time, about the double of capacity for each ten years. So, maybe only a 2030 Leaf can have a decent +600Kms range, and by then we can finally trash the oil burners.
The good news in this range/battery/electric car business, is that the engine is +90% energy efficient (almost no margin of progress here), so the battery as the weak link, in 10 years from now a “simple” battery swap upgrades the car to the latest technology.
I also did some number crunching…