Monday, August 10, 2015

Nissan Leaf - Conclusions

Well, this has been an interesting weekend. We tried to do all our normal stuff, except using an electric car.

The Leaf is a lovely car, and our time with it has transformed both our views. Susan has become more accepting and less sceptical, and the opposite is true for me. My initial range anxiety in getting the car home gave me a bit of a scare.

The car is lovely to drive, and well equipped. The single gear automatic make acceleration very smooth; the ride is lovely, and the car feels spacious inside. Driving the automatic is very appealing to me; it is so simple to drive, and makes exits from junctions very simple and safe. The cruise control is not as sophisticated as I had expected and often overshoots the required speed (by a few mph). As for space - the rear seat has tons, however the boot narrows towards the back, making it quite tricky to get the parcel shelf out and in, if required.

The in car entertainment is super, and easy to use. Another quibble I would have about this demonstrator is that it wasn't fully linked up to the list of charging stations, often telling me we were 40-50 miles from the nearest, when there were many within 10 miles.

The quietness of the car is nice too. However on one occasion I found this to be a problem, as I approached a family who were cycling, they clearly had no idea there was a car approaching from behind. I had to wait behind until one noticed me and alerted the rest. Even with the artificial noise, I suspect this would be a relatively frequent occurrence.

For me the biggest issue with the car would be the requirement to plug it in and out at the house all the time. In the rain and wind, when all you want to do is run from the house to the car, another stop would be required at the front of the car to unplug.

However, none of these niggles would stop me from buying the car, it looks like a great choice. The reason we decided against it in the end was purely financial. It had to work out cheaper than the existing car over the two years, and while it was close, it wasn't cheaper. When I worked out the exact TCO for both cars, the Leaf's price per month went up, and the C4 came down. I'd need to count the cost of the charger installation at the house for the leaf. I had made some mistakes in mixing up the 12 month and 24 month costs too, which artificially skewed the figures. There was also the risk of selling the C4 and getting the value we needed privately from it.

In the end it was disappointing not to be driving a new car with cutting edge technology. It would have been great to be an early adopter, and do our bit for the planet. But the original goal was to save money overall, and this goal slowly slipped from sight. We considered paying the little extra for all we were getting, however with everything else that's going on at home financially and otherwise we thought it just was not wise right now.

It's been a great experiment, and I commend Donnelly and Taggart Nissan, Eglinton for their help in the process.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Nissan Leaf - Picking up our test vehicle

Well, that was a bit of a disaster. I left work early to call into the Nissan dealership as arranged to pick up my Nissan Leaf for our extended 4 day trial, and when the guy went to check the car it had 8 miles range left!

Now, they would have gladly rescheduled, but they offered me a car with 40 miles range on it as an alternative to do my 20 mile trip home. It was raining hard, and I knew the last 10 miles of my journey contained a lot of hills.

But I didn't want to reschedule - these 4 days are a good 4 days for the test, so it should give us a good impression of what it is like to live with the car.

Well, the 30 minute journey home taught me what "range anxiety" really is. I tried to minimise my use of the window fan, with it regularly steaming up. I drove at about 50 mph, slowing up the traffic.

I made it home with 11 miles to spare! We put the car straight on the charger, which is of course the slowest charger, as it gets plugged into a normal socket. This seems like the worst mistake a dealer could make when handing out one of these cars - having someone instantly worried about getting home - on their first journey!

Anyway, after a few hours on charge we decided to go out for a drive. It drives really nicely, smooth and quiet, apart from the fan and splashing of the puddles. We drove around town, just to get used to the car; more the automatic gearbox than anything.

We also tried to plug it into a carpark charger, which turned out to be simple.

Overall, I'm pleased to have the opportunity, but tonight has made me much more cautious about the idea, and also more resolute that we should have the 32A / 6.6kW charger at home.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Nissan Leaf - investigations and extended trial

Periodically I get out a spreadsheet and figure out if there is any way under the sun I can reduce my motoring costs. I have often wondered if a hybrid car would do better MPG than my current 1.6 diesel C4, but the figures are pretty similar, even though a hybrid car would cost far more to buy.

I did the sums for an electric car, and I figured out that if the range would suit, it would be cheaper. And with the Nissan Leaf being out for a few years, there are good examples available at reasonable price, second hand.

However, as I researched on the web, I simply got more confused, so many options, so many different opinions, so I decided to call into a dealership to see on on my way home from work.

I was impressed by the car, by all accounts it seemed normal, and well kitted out. I asked about the financing, and it turns out that with the current £5000 government discounts, and Nissan's eagerness to sell, you could have one for about £250/mth, with a reasonable deposit. This is a 2 year deal, and afterwards you just give the car back. The fuel costs for the car (electric bill) should max out at around £50/mth, which is much less than what we currently pay (go here for a shock at how much your car actually costs you: ).

Financially, this seems cheaper than either of our cars, however, for my drive I think it is not practical - I have 48 miles to do each way, meaning that I would really need to charge at work - and this currently is not possible.

But it might be a practical option for our other car. We decided to investigate further, so we went for a test drive, and although the rain was so heavy I had to slow down to see the road, we liked the car. After working through some figures with the dealer, we decided to arrange an extended test drive to see how the car performed in our everyday lives.

We pick the car up on Wednesday night, and leave it back on Monday morning, so two work days and two weekend days. Really looking forward to seeing how this goes.