The car itself is very comfortable, and for anyone used to a Prius (or any automatic), it drives exactly like a normal car. The car is comfortable, acceleration is quite quick, and overall the car performs perfectly for city driving – my test drive was relatively short and was city based, but I am sure it would perform perfectly for mid-range journeys as well.
The range is stated to be 160km – certainly more than enough for the daily commute in a city. The car comes with Sat-Nav built in, and the available range is highlighted on the map. Obviously depending on how the car is driven, this range can change, but this is all reflected on the map in real time so you can see clearly what affect different driving styles have on your range. The car also has an eco-drive mode which reduces the rate of acceleration and hence increases the range.
The manufacturers claim that the battery will be able to maintain an 80% charge after 5 years of usage, and 70% after 10 years. This would reduce the range to 128km and 112km respectively.
The car has several nice power management features – it can be set to only charge between certain hours, so you can arrive home, plug it in and it will only start charging during the hours that you choose. You can also set it to switch on the air conditioning at a set time as well, so the car can be heated up in the morning before you reach it – as this is done from the mains it will not reduce your range for the day. The car can also communicate via a smart phone app so all these features can be controlled remotely, allowing you to check if the car is charged from anywhere you have an internet connection.
The charge time is about 8 hours from a domestic charge point, and 25 minutes from a fast charge point. There are plans for 30 of these fast charge points around the country – for details of their locations, see the ESB’s PDF here.
Overall, first impressions were very good, and I can see electric cars becoming mainstream over the next decade.
I would have some reservations about having one as my primary car, due mainly to thinking if it would be possible drive from my home in Dublin to the family farm in Wexford after owning the car for 7-10 years without having to stop and recharge.
However, for any households who based in or near a city, and who currently have two cars, I can not think of any reason not to get one if you were replacing one of the gas-guzzlers anyway. The last census in 2006 indicated that of the 1,462,296 households in the state 1,173,519 (80.25% of total households) had at least one car, and 609,270 had 2 or more cars (that’s 41.67% of total households, or 51.9% of households with a car) , so there is a large potential market for electric vehicles.
The Leaf will be available in Ireland from February 2011, and will cost €29,995 after a government grant of €5,000. With running costs of approximately 1c/kilometre, anyone doing a significant amount of urban driving should seriously consider one, particularly if it was to replace a second car that was being upgraded anyway.