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FREEWHEELING October, 2011

scotland . c om

Prepare to turn over a new LEAF

FreewheelingScotland.com — Driving the way forward


NISS A N L EA IT MAY STILL BE early days, but zero emission motoring has started to show the way we might be hitting the road in the not too distant future. While hybrid technology has been around for some years, it’s only in recent times with the introduction of passenger vehicles such as the i-On, C-Zero and i-MiEV – created in a triple partnership between Peugeot, Citroen and Mitsubishi – that the move to all-electric vehicles has really started to accelerate, albeit still rather slowly. Earlier this year, Nissan launched their electric car, the LEAF, onto the British market, and the Japanese marque’s version is something of a revelation. On the inside with its light and airy cream and grey interior and blue-lit digital dash and instrument panel, the car has a certain futuristic look about it. However, viewed from the outside, there’s no indication that this car is different from any petrol or diesel-powered vehicle that you see on all our roads. The LEAF sits on its own purpose-built platform and for comparison is around six

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inches longer than a Vauxhall Astra and a little less than four inches longer than a Ford Focus. But, because the battery packs are located under the floor in the centre of the car and it gets its power from a small electric motor, there is much more passenger space available inside the cabin. This makes the LEAF a truly comfortable five-seater. Nissan have designed the car using what they call their “smart fluidity� principle, which they say combines pleasing flowing lines with aerodynamic efficiency. This is noticable when viewed from the side, the flowing shoulder line sweeping up from

the front wing to the rear of t where it then drops in a freemotion over the rear wheel. One noticable omission is t radiator grille, instead the slo end housing nothing more th which contains the vehicles p point and a larger hood for a electric motor. The back view is dominated window framed by thin, boom

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the back door, -flowing swirrling

the existence of a oping solid front han a small hatch plug-in charging access to the

d by a large merang-shaped,

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NISS A N L EA F vertical tail light strips, while the absence of an exhaust pipe and a “zero-emissions” badge on the boot lid, gives the game away as to what really is powering the vehicle. Conventional in looks, much the same applies to the way the car drives and handles. Power feeds in instantaneously from the 109bhp electric motor which generates a healthy 280Nm of torque. This in turn propells the LEAF from a standing start to 62mph in a respectable 11.9 seconds when given full throttle, but in truth, you get the impression it is far quicker, possibly because of the near lack of noise coming from the vehicle. Nissan have limited the LEAF’s top speed to 90mph in order to help maximise the vehicle range, a range that will see the hatchback cover up to 109 miles from a full charge, depending on weather conditions and the way in which the car is driven. I put the LEAF through its paces around Sheffield, taking in a mix of traffic conditions from stop/start congested city driving to faster open road sections while outside the city limits. And I have to say I was highly impressed at just how the car handles. With its low centre of gravity – thanks to all the heavy battery packs located under the floor – the LEAF

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compared well to any modern vehicle with an automatic gearbox. Silky-smooth on the uptake, stable through the corners with to its kart-like handling, the LEAF is a brilliant allrounder, and because of its high-positioned seats – again attributed to the positioning of the batteries – occupants sit quite high and in turn get a great view of the road ahead. Charging the car is simple by connecting to a specially-installed charging point at home. Using this hard-wired unit the LEAF can be fully charged in eight hours. The charge can also be topped up at any of the growing public charging stations, such as those available at dedicated on-street parking places and at shopping malls or even by plugging into a normal domestic power supply. However, these charging points offer only a 10amp supply so it can take up to 12 hours to fully charge the batteries. It is also possible to quickly charge the car via rapid charging points which recharges the battery to 80 per cent capacity in just 30 minutes. The location of these points are programmed into the LEAF’s on-board satellite navigation system.

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The LEAF stacks up well against its main conventional competitors. Priced at £25,990 after a £5000 Government grant, owners will then pay around £2 in electricity for an overnight charge. This means it works out at less than 2p per mile to run, a fraction of what a combustionengined car costs. Another benefit for company drivers is the saving made on benefit in kind tax which can work out at more than £200 per month. The Nissan LEAF takes the idea of electric vehicles to a new level, and with more to come from the likes of Chevrolet, Vauxhall and Renault in the pipeline, watch out for some electrifying times ahead.

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NISSAN NISSAN LEAF LEAF Price: Price: £25,990 £25,990 Power Power source: source: 109bhp 109bhp electric electric motor, motor, driving driving front front wheels wheels through through CVT CVT automatic automatic gearbox gearbox Max Max speed: speed: 90mph 90mph 0-62mph: 0-62mph: 11.9 11.9 seconds seconds Range: Range: 109 109 miles miles maximum maximum CO2 CO2 emissions: emissions: Nil Nil Warranty: Warranty: 5yrs/60,000 5yrs/60,000 miles miles

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