Turning over a new LEAF

Given my concerns with our environment, I have always entertained the idea of owning a purely electric vehicle. Despite my noble intentions, I was always put off by the practical limitations of the technology. The way I saw it was that these vehicles seemed to have problems with range and speed, or had the prospect of repair bills that would eat my bank balance alive.

Still, the Universe conspired and I stumbled upon the Nissan Leaf. Suddenly everything had changed. Here was something that seemed to have moved technology on enough to address my reservations. So now, after having become the proud owner of the latest in planet saving automobile technology, what are my first impressions of the car?

A lot of the information below was written by my good friend Chris, who helps write for one of the larger printed auto magazines as well as Garage Tool Advisor. When I first sat behind the wheel of the Leaf I was immediately struck by its high-tech layout, it ‘felt’ like something entirely new. Of course it is still a car with most of the important controls in the place where you would expect to find them. I still have a steering wheel to turn and pedals to move and stop.

The gear shift lever is a bit strange though and takes some getting used to, more like a roller ball that you use to select forward and reverse. There is no motor and transmission in the traditional sense, instead an electric motor drives the front axle directly. This configuration is powered by a large battery pack, the same lithium ion type you will find in your laptop computer only much, much bigger… but I digress.

The new Leaf [drool] Credit: Oards.com
After orientating myself with characteristics of the Leaf’s unconventional drive arrangement, it was time to get out on the highway. The first thing I notice is the lack of noise, there really isn’t any. Gone are the sounds of the motor revving or the whining and clunking of the transmission.

The electric motors provide the car with instant power and torque on demand. No lag here or jerky gear changes to disturb what feels like extremely potent acceleration. Later I consult the blurb and discover the Leaf has an impressive 0-60 mph figure of around 9 seconds. Because of the 3-ton floor jack I was hauling to my dad’s, it’s safe to say I wouldn’t be hitting that figure. This environmentalist is impressed, now I can be both fast and eco-friendly at the same time.


Out on the open road, the Leaf has handling to match its performance. The ride is smooth and comfortable and cornering is stable and precise. This is all good news as bends and I have history, and the relationship has not always been an amicable one.

Most of my driving involves the commute to work, add on a few extra local miles, and I will do maybe 25 miles a day. The average range of the leaf is around 80 miles, so in theory I could manage 3 days on a single charge. Still with that said, recharging is a breeze; I just pop open the flap at the front and plug it into the charger overnight. In 8 hours I am good to go with a full battery… Yeah I know, just like a cell phone.

Owning a Nissan Leaf is not just all about peace and love either, there is plenty of attitude when required. At the mall parking lot yesterday, the Leaf’s compact size and awesome turning circle meant I was easily able to snatch the last bay from under a competitor before they could even find reverse. This is payback time you petrol heads!