Earlier today I test-drove a Nissan leaf electric car, one of only three in the State I’m lead to believe. It’s in fact the same car that features in this month’s EarthCare, but at the time of writing I did not know I was going to be lucky enough to have a drive.
First impressions are that it blends in with the plethora of hatchback on the road today, it’s certainly no head turner. The only giveaway is that the bonnet is very small and houses the charging point. Entry is via central locking, once in the driver’s seat things start to look a little different, no ignition/steering lock key, just an on/off button, which if pressed in unison with the brake boots up the computer, it even has a start-up jingle like a computer. There is an information screen behind the steering wheel and a digital speedo up under the heavily raked windscreen, a second central touch screen controls A/C, stereo and sat nav, it also displays the image from the rear camera whenever the vehicle is put into reverse. When I first started the Leaf the info screen said I had full battery charge and an estimated range of 90 km. Instead of a gear-lever there is a trackball which when rolled forward put the car in reverse and when rolled backwards puts the car in forward, confusing? No because to some degree it emulated a conventional automatic selector. Push the N button and it goes into neutral The park brake is a paddle switch, up for on and down for off, the icon on the info screen lets the driver know the status of the park brake.
OK we are ready to drive and this is where things are very different. It is easy to drive and one quickly becomes used to it. That first take off is smooth and silent, no matter how often I am told electric cars are quiet I still did not expect total silence. First lesson, what the driver cannot hear other road users and pedestrians cannot hear. In central Fremantle I quickly became accustomed to people starting to step out in front of the car, then seeing it and stepping back, I even detected a scowl from someone who must have thought I was sneaking up on them on purpose. As I said it is easy to drive with brisk acceleration at the speeds I was doing in a built up area. It gets one from A to B quietly, comfortably efficiently and without using fossil fuel (unless it’s charged with black electricity), but was it fun to drive? For me no, but maybe getting pleasure out of driving got us into this mess of global warming and traffic congestion in the first place. At close to $60k it’s not cheap, but in my humble opinion is better than the current stock of Hybrids, which are now being challenged by small diesels in the frugality stakes. Zero litres of fuel per hundred kilometers is an appealing concept, especially if you get to charge the batteries for free, as can be done at Queensgate carpark.
Cars as personal transport are going to be with us for a long time to come and the Nissan Leaf is definitely the sensible way forward. I look forward to the other manufacturers releasing their electric models in WA soon.