Nissan Leaf: ‘Much more than simply a car with an electric motor’

A white Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf
0-62mph 7.9 seconds
Top speed 89mph
Range 235 miles
CO2 0, while driving
Clean, efficient, silent, relentless… the cars of the future will all be powered by electric motors. Yet this advanced technology actually dates back to Victorian times when battery-powered horseless carriages shimmied around the streets of London and Paris. The first land speed record was set in 1898by Count de Chasseloup-Laubat in an electrically driven Jeantaud – he briefly touched 39mph.
Fast forward a century and we still have electric vehicles buzzing about our streets – and none has been more successful or influential than the Nissan Leaf. More than 300,000 have been sold since it was first launched in 2011, making it the most popular EV of all time. Building on that success is the second generation of the Leaf – and it improves on its older sibling in almost every way. It’s bigger, faster, more comfortable and more pleasant to drive. It travels further between charges and it achieves 80% of its full charge in just 40 minutes. This means that, though almost all the driving we do is short distance and EVs can cope with that, the promise of longer-distance cruising is now tantalisingly close. You could drive the 400 miles from London to Edinburgh under full electric power with just a 40-minute coffee stop en route (you never want to pass Tebay services anyway).
If you have never driven an all-electric car before, it can take a while to get used to. The utter silence is unnerving. I am never sure if I have turned the car on or not. The moment you touch the throttle and it creeps forward always gives me a small jolt of panic. It feels as if you are rolling downhill with the handbrake off. Press the pedal harder and the instant torque and smooth acceleration is addictive. Electric motors don’t have gears, so the swoosh from 0-60 is completely seamless.
Nissan has worked hard to make the Leaf so much more than simply a car with an electric motor. It is brimming with aids to make your ride safer, more connected and more effortless. The car has ProPilot, a suite of systems that deals with everything from traffic jams to keeping your distance on the motorway. It will steer for you, park for you and even bring you to an emergency stop. It’s autonomous driving as far as the law currently allows. Or you can switch off all the gadgetry and have fun driving it like an electric dodgem. The heavy floor-mounted battery creates a low centre of gravity so it corners with virtually no body roll.
One thing which will throw you is its e-Pedal. Flick this button and you can drive the car with one pedal. You press the throttle as usual but remove your foot and the car applies automatic regenerative braking. The quicker you lift your foot the heavier the braking.
The Leaf swept up dozens of awards the moment it was launched – all well deserved. But the true measure of its standing in the automotive world is that it in no way feels like a gimmicky electric car. It feels like a real car for the real world. Count de Chasseloup-Laubat would have loved it…

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