Nissan has sold more than 420,000 Leafs (Leaves?) globally since the first generation launched in 2010, so it's not a stretch to call the Japanese company one of the innovators in electric vehicle development. Certainly as we know it in 2019 anyway.
Chief among the most impressive numbers related to the second-generation variant now on sale in Australia are the 40kW/h battery, a claimed 270km driving range, and the price – $49,990 before on-road costs.
What the Nissan Leaf has undoubtedly done is bring an air of affordability to the segment. Sure, it's still not as affordable as a conventional hatchback, but the Leaf originally made electric vehicles affordable to more people than they otherwise would have been.
It's primarily for those reasons that we decided we needed a Leaf in the CarAdvice long-term garage. Hyundai is offering two electric vehicles now, too, of course – Kona and Ioniq – so there are other affordable options out there now, with the Leaf right in the mix.
You don't need to spend more than $100K to get into electric vehicle ownership if that's what suits your lifestyle. And, of course, we're running an electric Kona long-termer in the CarAdvice Melbourne office. Yes, the Tesla Model 3 starts from $66K, but that's a long way from $49,990.
We'll take a close look at range, especially real-world range, over the next few months. After all, that's the thing most people want to talk about – after price, of course – when it comes to electric cars.
In theory, the 270km range works nicely for the average daily commute, with most of us at CarAdvice having somewhere between 20km and 30km to travel to work each way.
For me, a 20km trip each way wouldn't even require a charge for the full five-day work week (200km total, give or take), so the Leaf has a range that places it squarely in that second- or city-car category. Now, the Leaf isn't the car you buy if you're driving around Australia, but that's not the point.
If you have $50K to spend on a second or city car, however, the Leaf starts to make a lot of sense. More so when you factor in keeping it topped up via a conventional 10-amp socket at home overnight.
We're going to test whether you'll even need a specific charger at home. Further, if you never leave the confines of the city, and range is never going to be an issue, the Leaf makes even more sense.
We've also got some deliberate variations we're going to factor into our testing runs over the next few months, too. I'll commute specifically in only the Leaf, for a few weeks. Might be hard if Nissan drops a GT-R into the garage, but we need some discipline in the procedure.
During the time that I'm driving the Leaf, I can charge at home in my garage (conventional 10-amp) and at work with the Tesla wall box, given we have one installed at CA HQ.
Next up, Rob Margeit will commute in the Leaf specifically for a few weeks, and he can only charge at CA HQ. Like me, he has a reasonably short commute, so his trick will be to factor in work-charging only (or other infrastructure) for his usage, given he has no charging ability at home.
This will be relevant for inner-city residents with street parking, no parking near their house, or simply no easy access to a power outlet.
Then, Sam Purcell will use the Leaf specifically for a week for his much longer (70km each way) commute. Sam, like me, will access a 10-amp socket at home, and also use the CA Tesla wall box as he works out his usage for a much longer daily drive. The trick for Sam, if he doesn't charge overnight, for example, will be working out whether he needs to divert anyway on his way to or from work.
There's a lot of discussion about the whole concept of 'range anxiety', but all I find is that you're a little smarter when planning your trips. Especially if charging isn't as easily accessible to you. You're finding now with mobile phones, for example, that we tend to just plug them in whenever we have the chance to top them up, and I reckon that will be the way forward with electric cars.
For our initial video, we stopped in for coffee at a shopping centre that had free charging, so I plugged the Leaf in for 45 minutes or so, just to top it up. It makes sense no matter how short your visit, if the Leaf is only going to be sitting in a parking space anyway.
So, stay tuned over the next few months, and we'll keep you updated with what we find in regard to our Leaf long-termer. If you believe the experts and everything you hear and read, this is the way of the future, whether we like it or not.