This is a Guest Post written by Ben Jones.
In 2011, Nissan will be releasing its first all electric vehicle. The vehicle named the ‘Leaf’ is capable of a top speed of 92 mph and has a range of 200 miles between charges. Nissan have also been applauded for the Leaf’s appearance. So is it the start of a revolution road car revolution?
Critics have been surprised at how ‘normal’ the Leaf appears. Previous attempts at electric vehicles such as the G-Whiz have been criticised for this, as well as a lack of space in the cars due to the space needed to fit the lithium batteries. However, there are no such problems with the Nissan Leaf, which has more than enough room for the average family with five comfortable seats. Despite the extra size, weight is not a handicap on the range and speed. 92mph is more than sufficient on UK roads and the car apparently has no obvious problems when going up hills, while a 200 mile range is more than enough to get the average commuter to work and back every day.
Two of the other handicaps of environmental vehicles in the past has been the price and the fact that there are no well established car manufacturers having a serious attempt at electric vehicles. A lack of established manufacturers will soon not be a problem, with a stampede of car manufacturers all planning on introducing electric vehicles in the coming years. However, unlike these other manufacturers Nissan has priced the Leaf aggressively with it being available from £23,350. At first glance this does appear to be far more expensive than a Ford Focus which is now available to buy from £15,545 which is almost £8,000 less. However, this is before the reduced running costs are considered. The Leaf does not require road tax due to the fact it doesn’t produce C02, and the fuel cost savings are remarkable. Recent research suggests that the average UK motorist now spends about £1,700 per year on fuel alone. However, running costs of the Leaf would drop this annual expenditure to just £200, which is a saving of £1,500 every single year. Another hidden benefit is insurance, with Collette Walsh of Moneysupermarket.com stating that most car insurance firms will normally offer discounts of about 5% to drivers of environmental vehicles, which equates to a £46 for the average UK driver. Suddenly, the initial extra expense doesn’t seem so bad.
The obvious problem with the Nissan Leaf is long journeys. If you are going on holiday with the family in the UK, the 200 mile range simply won’t do. This wouldn’t be so bad if there was somewhere to power up the vehicle, with the Leaf equipped with a quick recharge feature, which enables it to recoup 80% of its total charge in just 30 minutes. However, at present there are not enough recharging facilities. The government has pledged £11 million in funding to help introduce recharging facilities in all major UK destinations according to the BBC, but this programme isn’t set for completion until 2015. By this time Nissan are expected to have introduced the second edition of the Leaf, which they are hoping will be capable of 400 miles between charges.
The answer to the question of whether of not the Leaf is the beginning of the electric car revolution appears to be a resounding maybe. There are a lot of positive elements regarding the adoption of the Leaf, but until more people commit to buying an electric car the recharging facilities around the UK will likely remain limited. However, the only way that people will commit to buying an electric vehicle is if the recharging infrastructure is already established. This is therefore a vicious circle, and the government simply needs to continue ploughing money into it to alleviate the problem. £11 million simply isn’t enough to tackle this rather serious issue.