DOUGLAS A. BOLDUC

Nissan Leaf provides some twists on road to EV future

Recharging the Nissan Leaf at home using a standard plug.

Photo credit: Douglas A. Bolduc
Douglas A. Bolduc is managing editor at Automotive News Europe.
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A week spent testing Nissan’s new Leaf was frustrating logistically but encouraging overall.

The adventure started on Monday when the driver who dropped off the car in my southern German town handed over the Leaf with a remaining range of 20 km.

Gulp!

He had come from Cologne, which is about 600 km away. He did his best to factor in recharging stops so I wasn’t upset. I also wasn’t too concerned about my limited range.

I knew there were chargers in my town.

What I didn’t realize is that they required a special subscription. That’s my fault for not doing my homework. Now I needed a Plan B.

The driver briefed me on the two charging cables in the Leaf’s trunk.

One of them would allow me to “re-fuel” using a standard plug at home.

That’s what I did on Monday afternoon, boosting the range up to about 100 km.

That allowed me to do a bit of testing.

The acceleration was superb. The handling was solid as was the entire vehicle. It doesn’t take long for the Leaf to feel like a car you could drive every day.

My favorite feature is the e-Pedal, which provides braking when you lift your foot off the accelerator. It’s an intuitive technology that takes just minutes to understand and appreciate.

The car offers an Eco mode, which is understandably sluggish to conserve power.

Combine Eco mode and the e-Pedal and the performance was too mundane for me on our curvy country roads, but it was perfect when crawling along in stop-and-go traffic. Once Eco mode and the e-Pedal were switched off, the Leaf took on a whole new demeanor that really upped the fun ratio.

After the journey, which included two family members who found the Leaf roomy and comfortable, we still had about 70 km of range. That was not enough to quiet my range anxiety.

Fortunately, I remembered that our local Nissan dealer has a fast charger. I called and was told I could use the charger on Tuesday. The cost would be 5 euros. This, however, was not for the electricity. The dealership is not allowed to charge for power because it’s not a utility. The 5 euros was for the use of the parking space next to the charger. Another interesting twist.

It took about 2 hours to get the battery up to 100 percent. At that point the Leaf’s range was 265 km.

In between multiple short trips around town I tried to introduce the car to as many friends and neighbors as possible on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Leaf won over most although those loyal to German brands predictably nitpicked about fit and finish.

One feature that drew universal dislike was the beeping noise the Leaf makes when reversing. Yes, it's a wise safety feature because the car is so quiet, but it also made me think I was driving a school bus. Fortunately, with the press of a button that uber-cautious feature could be silenced.

With the driver due to arrive on Friday to return the Leaf to Cologne, I put the car back on the home plug. The Leaf has a long journey, as do we motorists as we try to make traveling by car less detrimental to the environment. If this first taste of EV life is any indication, it is going to be a great and worthwhile adventure.

You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at dbolduc@crain.com.

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