When it arrives sometime in the first half of next year, the Nissan Leaf e+ will be among the most practical and (relatively) affordable electric vehicles on the Australian market.
Let’s deal with the big question first. The everyday driving range of the Leaf e+ is 300km-plus. Not according to some unrealistic test standard, but driven quite normally in the all-too-real world.
We spent more than two weeks driving a Leaf e+ in the UK, covering a total of 1500km. The Nissan EV was a top-spec Tekna, so therefore had very similar standard equipment to the version that will be exported from the UK to Australia.
Our biggest single day of driving used 96 per cent of the Leaf’s fully charged battery to cover 315km. The journey was a mixture of motorway, major roads, country lanes and some town centres, and the Nissan wasn’t driven for maximum energy efficiency.
With its bigger battery pack and more powerful electric motor the e+ is a step up in driving range and performance from the version that’s been on sale in Australia since the middle of 2019.
But the improvements come at a cost. Lithium-ion batteries are expensive things. The 62kWh battery pack of the e+ brings a 55 per cent increase in energy storage, but at a price expected to be about $10,000 more than the $53,000 drive-away of the normal Leaf. Still, a price of about $62,000 would make the Leaf e+ one of Australia’s most affordable EVs with a genuine 300km-plus driving range.
The electric motor driving the Leaf e+’s front wheels through a single-speed transmission produces 160kW, a power increase of 50kW compared to the basic version. Off-the-mark acceleration is really nippy in Normal mode, despite the battery-burdened Nissan weighing 1700kg with driver on board. Selecting Eco mode blunts the responsiveness, but slightly improves driving range.
Next to the driving mode selector button is the e-Pedal switch. Turn on this feature for a big increase in regenerative braking that will bring the Nissan to a complete stop without touching the brake pedal. It can be useful in slow-moving stop-and-start traffic, once you get used to the weirdness of one-pedal driving.
The Leaf e+ is a faster charger. It can take up to 100kW from the newest fast DC chargers that are beginning to appear along Australia’s major routes. The current Leaf is capped at 50kW. The right kind of DC fast charger will deliver a 10 to 80 per cent recharge of the Leaf e+ in 35 minutes using the car’s CHAdeMO plug port.
Home AC charging is always via the Nissan’s second Type 2 charge port and the car’s on-board 6.6kW charger. Connected to a home or workplace wallbox with an output above 6.6kW a zero to 100 per cent charge will take 10 hours. Using a normal domestic power socket instead will take 24 hours-plus (which is why a wallbox is an EV-owner must-have).
The Leaf e+ is a quiet and refined drive. The motor is almost silent and never having to shift gears — there’s only one, remember — means acceleration is always smooth. Ride comfort is good, but the Nissan can become bouncy on rougher roads.
The Leaf e+ is safe and predictable to drive but the steering lacks feel and the bouncy ride doesn’t encourage enthusiastic cornering.
There’s ample space for four inside, or five with a slight rear-seat squeeze, and the hatchback’s cargo compartment is usefully large. Quality isn’t great, considering the high price, and some expected amenities are missing. The plastics are not premium, the steering wheel isn’t adjustable for reach and the front seats have manual adjustment.
On the other hand, the Leaf e+ does come standard with high-grade infotainment and driver-assist tech. And there are some nice surprises, too, such as electric heating of both front and rear seats.
The Leaf e+ highlights the problems EVs face in the Australian market, with its high-price and serious shortcomings in some areas. But that 300km-plus range removes one of the big reasons people fret about switching to an EV.
Range anxiety? It just never happened during the time I spent with the Nissan Leaf e+.
Originally published as Electric car range anxiety put to test