Saturday, 15 December 2018

Electric car is economical but beware a hike in prices

THE good news is that the Nissan LEAF is the best all-electric car I have driven so far. The bad

THE good news is that the Nissan LEAF is the best all-electric car I have driven so far. The bad news might be that at the rate the utility companies are putting up their prices, we might reach a point in future where it actually gets expensive to run an electric car.

You can imagine the scenario to come: an electric car, like a conventional car, becomes just another burden on the average family’s escalating domestic bill.

Surely not, I hear you say? Well, stranger things have happened. You would have to be an Eskimo living happily in your igloo at the North Pole running your household on reusable fuels to be oblivious to fact that gas and electricity prices have been creeping up and threatening to spill over.

The issue of utility bills is a hot political potato and could figure largely in the 2015 general election campaign. Conventional fuel prices — diesel and petrol — have gone up steadily in recent years and this has always been an issue with voters, so why not electricity?

Having said all that, according to the website nextgreencar.com, for motorists who clock up an annual mileage of around 10,000, “switching from a conventional to an electric car or van could save you around £800 in fuel costs alone”.

So in tough economic times for some the electric car might be a good buy although the initial outlay is more expensive than for a similarly sized conventional car. But if you are thinking of buying an EV (Electric Vehicle) you would have to go a long way to beat this week’s drive, the second generation Nissan LEAF.

The are several additional benefits: you do not pay road tax (Vehicle Excise Duty or VED), there are LEAF’s low running costs and mostly free parking at a network of public charging points. If you live or travel into London you do not pay the Congestion Charge.

At home, you can wake up to a fully-charged lithium ion battery thanks to overnight charging using an off-peak tariff such as Economy 7 — though prices vary according to region, electricity supplier and your own domestic energy use.

But what about the range of an electric car? This is one of the first things that strikes you when you get behind the wheel. How far can I get before I have to re-charge the battery? Will I get there on one top-up?

Nissan says with the LEAF, depending on what kind of a driver you are, you should get up to 124 miles on a single charge on a “leisurely drive”.

This reduces to around 76 miles on the motoroway in “very high temperature”, and about the same — 77 miles — when you are driving in “winter urban, stop-and-go, traffic jam” conditions. Suburban driving “on a nice day” should give you a range of 114 miles.

My experience is that the range has been the greatest anxiety for my passengers with any electric car I have tested.

The LEAF seems to perform the best of the bunch. It monitors your range and keeps you informed but as with anything else in life — and certainly with a conventionally fuelled car — it is down to the driver to make sure you do not run out of juice, be it electricity or fuel.

Charging the battery seems easy with the LEAF. And if it is difficult to charge at home (though I would not recommend owning any EV unless you have a means of charging domestically) there are EV charging points at motorway service stations. Plug your LEAF into the machine while you take some refreshment at the services.

There are also two pricing options: you can either buy the car and battery or just the car and lease the battery from Nissan.

But while the LEAF scores high on calming the usual anxieties of motorists with regard to electric vehicles I found its star attraction was that it actually feels great to drive.

Apart from its power source, it is as comfortable inside as any other supermini. It is also very agile and easy to drive around town.

- Price: £15,990 to £25,490, depending on whether you take full ownership of the car and battery or just lease the battery

- Using your Smartphone or laptop, you can remotely start or stop the car’s climate control or start charging

- Carwings telematic SatNav system gives the exact amount of energy required to reach your destination and where the nearest charging stations are

- You can save a significant amount on electricity costs by charging your LEAF at home overnight

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