Turning over a New Leaf.
It was my nine year old son who said that I must no longer use the above phrase, now that we drive around in a nearly new Nissan Leaf many times each day.
An email came in from a reader asking me to write an update on how we’re getting on with the new car, and I will attempt to do so.
Driving the new baby home for fifty miles from Westway Nissan in Stourbridge was the first challenge. It had 85% of charge showing and the top range is listed as being 90 miles, so I was immediately watching the progress of the range predicter from the very first mile. Uphill showed it going down faster than was comfortable to observe, but with the B drive engaged, going downhill on the steep hills around Much Wenlock, the concern that I might not make it home was alleviated. It was most gratifying to see 3 miles put back on the remaining range while descending Wenlock Edge alone.
(I now realise it’s only worth watching the battery percentage remaining. The mileage estimate is a computer calculation which shoots the numbers up and down rather alarmingly as road conditions change. Due to all the negotiations going on about the price and the proposed breach of the contract by westway nissan, I hadn’t done any research before driving off in the car! It was an adventure into the unknown!)
Round town is great. The car hardly needs any brake, as the B drive charges the battery and acts like a brake slowing the car progressively from the moment you lift your foot off the accelerator. In fact you only need the brake if you get caught last minute by a traffic light, or an unexpected car shooting out at a roundabout. It makes town driving most restful and stress-free. That is the best thing about the car in my opinion. In turn it accelerates beautifully from the slowing mode, or from a standstill, easily pulling away from fossil fuel stone age cars spewing lung-killing nitrous oxide and death-dealing particulates. At slow speeds, genocidal vehicles cannot easily compete with the torque of a totally clean no emissions electric motor. In town, The ECO button can be left on all the time, and the restricted acceleration is no problem.
OUT OF TOWN
However, on the other hand, it took more than a week to feel comfortable going around out-of-town roads on longer journeys. Going at 70 mph is just a no-no unless you are very near to your recharging point. I keep to 3 white bars of power usage at all times except during initial acceleration to get up to speed. That means going much over 50 mph is not really a good idea on the flat. As soon as you go to nearer 60 mph battery usage goes up a lot. As national speed limit on A roads (not dual carriageway) is 60 mph, 50 mph is not too bad, but with a big truck pressing behind, it is not too comfortable either, and you feel the push coming from behind you. It’s nicer to turn off busy single carriageway roads and find alternative routes through peaceful countryside, although on dual carriageways, everyone can overtake you, so no problem.
Charging is quite a thing to get your head around too. I started at home like most people and found I had to mount the kerb (private road with no pedestrians) to get close enough to the open kitchen window to dangle the cable across to the car. I had been advised not to use my extension cable. I used the socket in the kitchen for a week, when another electrician advised me I actually could use the extension cable as long as I paid it right out, so it wouldn’t heat up. So now, while I await the contractors to instal an outside socket nearer the car’s parking place, the extension cable dangles out of the open bedroom window instead. The cable is fully paid out criss-crossing the front lawn, and our nighttime security is not undermined, as it was when we left the kitchen window open until midnight in the first week.
I decided not to go for the government grant to instal a faster charger at 7.7 kwh, as I am quite content charging the car slowly at home. It adds about 10 miles of range an hour which is plenty at night time (about 3 units an hour or 40p depending on your tariff), and also is all we need during daytime too. I won’t therefore have to have an unsightly device stuck on our wall, with someone’s brand name advertising itself. As the house is the end of a terrace built in a mock Georgian style, it wouldn’t look right even on the side wall. The garden is very nice and the plants, and I don’t want something from the 21st century spoiling the overall Georgian effect. I am probably the only person in Britain to refuse a free charging unit, but that is how I see it. I don’t care how much money it would save me. I don’t want it. I will put a faster charger in at the office however, where there is no grant, as a quick charge there would be useful from time to time, not to mention that others will no doubt be using it before too long.
At home, I will get an outside double socket put next to the meter on the outside wall which no one will even see. It might cost me £25 or so in total, plus a small or cut down extension cable of about two metres which I will keep in the car, and it will be a simple and easy operation, giving a full charge by morning. Slow trickle charge is best for the battery anyway, I am told.
If all that information is a little dull for many, I apologise, but for people buying electric cars and there will soon be millions of us, such details are important.
HYBRID CARS vs ALL ELECTRIC
Talking to people round town, I feel I should advise you not to buy a hybrid car, which seem very expensive, and are not adding much to the party from any point of view, environmental, economic or anything else.
In a hybrid, you don’t get nearly enough miles to make having an electric car enjoyable. One friend has a Mercedes hybrid and wishes she hadn’t bought it. She only gets 10 electric miles. The hybrid Volvo XC90T only gives 14 miles (claiming 20 miles which it doesn’t do. Read the people in the States who’ve had them longer than in Europe where they are just coming out). The new Nissan Leaf 40 Kw coming out in 2018 claims much higher mileage – up to 235 miles. I would be sceptical and say maybe 150-180 miles. That will cost you about £26,000 new.
The current model, as I have purchased, ( there are plenty around at the moment second hand, as well as new, as peoples’ leases end from purchases made between 2011 and 2015) can be picked up for between £10,000 and £15,000 – new for £18,000 or so down from £31,000 as it’s now in its last few months, and it offers plenty enough miles for a local runaround.
In addition we are saving about £250 on petrol every month, so it effectively has cost us about £5000 all considered (£13,500 the full price to be paid with £4000 down and 36 payments of £265 or so, interest free, to come, which offset nicely against buying no petrol. Electric might be £20 a month.). For that price it seems like a bloody miracle.
Adjusting to owning an electric car – It takes just two weeks to a month to get your head around it all, and it can be a little nerve-wracking on occasions. But then, as you get used to it all, your life seems much easier with a fully electric car. Mine is the Nissan Leaf Tekna 24 Kw. There is a 30 Kw but they are few and far between, and quite a bit more money.
The kids love the music and the map display, which makes finding places easy. The wife likes the heated leather seats. I like not having to turn into gas stations.
For longer journeys you need patience or a second conventional car, which most families have anyway. It might only be a few more years though and long range electric cars (300 miles) will be available for a reasonable price.
One more thing.
PEDESTRIANS AND OTHER ROAD USERS
Pedestrians. These are now a problem as they can’t hear you coming. I watch every pedestrian and cyclist very carefully. The funny thing is that many, even after they see you, still don’t react much, half expecting a quiet car to give way to them, as if silence means lack of speed, and deceleration. It will take pedestrians quite a while to get used to electric cars. Meantime be very wary and especially watch out for people with headsets on, who don’t even hear the old type of car, let alone ‘the silent assassin’ as one friend has nicknamed me or my car? recently. Headsets and electric cars are two technologies on a collision course, which will cause endless grief. How long will it take before wearing headsets on roads is banned? It is a very necessary development that should be expedited. As for those gazing into their phones while jay-walking, what can I say?
Taken as a whole, the joy of silence, lack of pollution and lack of stress means it is no hardship to slow down to accommodate pedestrians and other road users. It’s like going back in time to allow your fellow human beings more of a chance on the road. Certainly much more than I used to do in my petrol 2.2i Mazda, which seemed to demand to be driven as fast as safety would permit. My passengers prefer me going around more gently too, or at least less aggressively, they say. I really have, it seems, turned over a new leaf, and I’m very pleased with my new purchase.
Other car drivers, not electric ones, get a bit hissy around electric cars, especially when you use the breaking battery-recharge as they have to brake behind you. It doesn’t actually lose them anything as you are usually approaching a stop which is why you’re slowing. If they toot-toot you in anger as happens occasionally, often when you’re changing lane, toot-toot back immediately. They will have to get used to the change of having electric cars on the road. It’s their problem, not yours. If they had a battery car too, and got rid of all the toxicity they’re firing out for humanity to breathe, which they will before long, then they will get it, and be happy too. Until that time, expect a bit of toot-tooting every now and then, especially from drivers driving like I used to do!
Leaf drivers worldwide rack up 1 billion miles travelled
THE COSTS OF NOT GOING ELECTRIC
A lot of the stress of being on the road is knowing how much it’s costing. Imagine how drivers will feel once they realise they can save hundreds of pounds every month on petrol/gasoline, and buy £20 of electricity instead, plus zero road tax. My first complete month’s spend on petrol, leaving the old Mazda parked on the front, moving only once, was exactly £0.00. I left the handbrake on though, which was a mistake as the brake discs rusted, except the bit where the handbrake pads gripped. As I released the handbrake, it gave a jerk and the car drove off making an ominous clunk, clunk, clunk noise when braking. I should have just left it in gear without the handbrake on. Despite that minor error, that car might last plenty more years as it’s only to be used very occasionally. Two cars with near to zero fuel cost, half the road tax, and near to zero depreciation has to be something that should interest everyone, I would have thought. The financial gains from turning over a New Leaf at this moment in time, are unstoppable. Check them out for your own benefit. Seriously, it’s worth the effort and the change. I can assure you.