After nearly six months with our 2019 Nissan Leaf long-termer at the tail end of 2019, a few factors became clear.
The most predominant being that electric cars do exactly what we thought they have been doing since their release – they work a treat for some people, some of the time.
In the same way that we wouldn’t recommend everyone rush out to buy a 70 Series LandCruiser or Porsche 911, the Nissan Leaf proves that where electric vehicles are strong, they can make a lot of sense for certain buyers. Which is a good thing, regardless of whether you like electric vehicles or not.
Still, electric vehicles don’t work for everyone yet – certainly not in 2020, anyway.
First up, there’s the price…
This is perhaps the key, and probably most obvious point buyers need to consider.
New technology unarguably always costs more when it is first available and, while there’s an element of that in the pricing of electric cars, the other factor is the raw materials that go into the battery packs specifically.
They cost what they cost (around $300 per kWh in 2019), and until the price of those raw materials comes down significantly (if that happens) you can expect not to see price parity between an electric vehicle and a comparable internal combustion variant.
Still, people rush out to buy the latest phone technology on the day it is released, for example, and don’t seem too concerned that the retail price drops off almost straight away – it’s the price you pay for being an early adopter.
However, cars are a big-ticket item, and Australians have proven to be a little more circumspect about wildly spending money.
So, yes, the Leaf does ‘feel’ expensive when compared to a traditional petrol-powered hatchback. However, you also need to factor in the significantly lower service costs and potentially zero 'bowser' costs. Yes, for many buyers, it will add to your electricity bill, so you also need to account for that.
Countering that, you should factor in the drive experience it can deliver. Quiet, refined, smooth, immediate power delivery and that go-kart like ability to fire through traffic efficiently with zero lag.
Further, most electric car buyers are of a different mindset in this regard as well. There are the aforementioned early adopters, those that simply want and can afford one, and buyers who have decided an electric vehicle suits their needs.
This returns me to the point of recommending an electric vehicle. If you’re on a super tight budget with needs beyond zipping around the city in a small car, they generally aren’t for you.
And, if you can only afford one vehicle, in most cases anyway, they won’t be for you either. Buyers who can only justify one vehicle will almost certainly require more flexibility from that one vehicle, be it range related, or simply ease of use.
In 2020, while the charging infrastructure is still being rolled out, a one-car family probably won’t suit an electric vehicle.
Then there’s the charging…
As we covered in our testing updates, we used pretty basic charging capability, certainly no more exotic than what is available to the average new car buyer. That was partly deliberate, but partly due to what we have access to as well.
That is, we charged via a standard wall socket at home (the most basic form of charging in other words), our wall box at work (which is what you’d fit at home if you buy an electric vehicle) and faster charging options where available (shopping centres for example).
We never had any real issues keeping the Leaf charged up and, if you had the wall box at home, you’d find the Leaf sitting at 100 percent ready to go every morning when you left for work.
Sure, there is the issue of range…
Or rather, the reality of range. About five years ago now, I bought a Smart ForTwo. I’d come back from a holiday visiting family in Europe and the little toy cars were everywhere in every major city overseas. It got me to thinking about owning one here.
Secondhand, they were cheap in Australia and I basically wanted a motorcycle with a roof. I live about 13km from the centre of the city, I go into the CBD a lot and I loved the idea of being able to park just about anywhere.
More than anything, parking was the key, but so was the pittance of fuel it would use to do the running around I needed it to do.
What I’m getting at here, is my Smart never goes more than 20km one-way on any given trip, and very rarely up to 50km one way. That means the 272km range in the Leaf would be absolutely fine for what I require of the Smart.
Sure, the Leaf is more expensive than a secondhand Smart, but if you’re an inner-city dweller for example and you need a low impact runaround, the Leaf is a perfect contender.
So, what are our final thoughts…
We really enjoyed our time with the Leaf. Charging wasn’t as difficult as many like to proclaim it might be – yet – and its range is enough for the set tasks we’d recommend it for.
I write ‘yet’ in reference to charging, because those primo parking spaces at the local shopping centre that happen to be reserved for electric vehicles are likely to get mighty busy when people start piling onto the bandwagon.
Still, if you have $50,000 to spend on an urban or inner urban hatch and electric propulsion suits your lifestyle, the Leaf has to be on the consideration set.