Text by Cheryl Tay
Photos by Adrian Wong
The name Leaf makes the perfect name for Nissan’s fully electric vehicle (EV), with its high levels of environmental sustainability with zero emission and some parts being made of recyclable and renewable materials. On further research, I found out that Leaf actually stands for Leading, Environmentally-friendly, Affordable, Family car – rightly apt as the name of the world’s first mass-produced zero emission car.
First launched in Japan and the United States in December 2010, then in Europe in early 2011, I first drove the Nissan Leaf at last year’s Geneva Motor Show. The Leaf has a pleasing cute look about it and from a quick glance of it on the outside, you might not guess it is an EV, until you notice that the Leaf has no tailpipe. Yes, the Leaf releases no gases.
Powered by a 24kWh lithium-ion battery and 80kW AC electric motor, the front-wheel-drive Leaf is rated at 109bhp and 280Nm of torque, with 48 compact modules of four cells each in that battery. Driving an EV is just like driving any other car, except that it is a lot quieter and acceleration is very smooth due to having all the torque delivered from the start, not like conventional internal combustion engines.
For safety reasons, the Leaf has an approaching vehicle system to ensure that pedestrians are aware of the Leaf’s presence. A sound alert is given out from a speaker at the front of the vehicle when travelling below 25km/h and once the speed goes above 30km/h, the alert will turn off automatically. This is most useful as the Leaf is really silent on idle and minimal speeds!
While the sound of an environmentally friendly car is not foremost appealing to some – especially the high-performance cravers – the interior of the Leaf is worth admiring. Sporting a futuristic theme, the meters are all digitised amid a multitude of bright, happy lights.
Inspired by the PC mouse, the gear lever adds a deeper modern touch, reminding me of the joystick on my Playstation game controller.
Cruise control, audio system and Bluetooth can be controlled from the steering wheel too.
The Leaf is able to host five adults comfortably, one reason being its EV platform with batteries housed within the floor for optimum vehicle packaging and weight distribution.
Other than being a green drive, recycled materials are also used in building the Leaf. The seat fabric is made with partially recyclable materials, while recycled material are used for the back door trim, roof trim and headliner, carpeting and other interior spots such as the door panels and centre console storage cover.
One of the common questions that most people have about EVs is its range on one battery charge. For the Leaf, it has a stated range of 160km on a full charge. However, in Singapore’s climate, one full charge gives about 140km. It also depends on your driving and charging habits, and battery life decreases with time and use.
Charging the Leaf is just like charging your mobile phone or laptop – simply plug it in. There are two charging modes – normal and quick charge – with its charging ports in the front hood. Normal charging done with the standard charging console (wired 230V 16A industrial socket) takes about seven to eight hours for the battery to be fully charged from when the low battery warning chimes. Quick charge enables the battery to be charged to 80 per cent of its capacity in just 30 minutes but it is recommended to do that not more than once a day.
Along the way if you find your battery running low while you are still out, you can pop by one of the public charging stations. At present there are at least 20 public charging stations across the island, including some in car parks of shopping malls, but this number should increase if the EV take-up rate increases.
There are various features in the Leaf that will help you to optimise your driving style for the best fuel efficiency. In that, I discovered a little game in the Leaf using the eco indicator. Basically, there is this Eco Tree meter that indicates how economically you are driving. Each tree is grown in layers and more trees will light up as you drive more efficiently.
Another fuel-saving feature of the Leaf is the regenerative braking system where braking force is used to re-power the battery and increase mileage. This happens when the brakes are applied or when the accelerator pedal is released, as the electric motor then converts energy. To earn those Eco Trees quicker, you can switch to Eco mode while driving. This increases regenerative braking, as well as controls acceleration and air-conditioning for optimal driving efficiency.
The Leaf is part of the government’s EV test-bedding programme to test different EV prototypes and charging technologies, gathering data in the process and thereafter analysing the feasibility of EV in Singapore. Under the Enhanced Transport Technology Innovation Development Scheme (TIDES-PLUS) which waives off all vehicular taxes, the Leaf is selling for S$88,000.
Personally, I feel that electric vehicles would be suitable for small cities like Singapore. Assuming most people just travel to and from work, 140km from one single charge of the battery should be more than ample. Our infrastructure may not be EV-friendly yet, but that is a chicken-egg story as there needs to be a demand for EV cars before the infrastructure can better accommodate them. At the same time, some people are deterred from switching to EV because of the limited infrastructure. It is all a matter of mindset, as public education initiatives would have to gradually work its way to share the benefits of EV.
At A Glance
Battery: 24kWh/over 90kW laminated lithium-ion
Performance: AC motor 80kW, 280Nm
Top Speed: Over 145km/h
Price under TIDES-PLUS Scheme: S$88,000
Testdrive & Enquiries: Tan Chong Motor Sales
For more photos of the Nissan Leaf, view here.
*This was first published in Wheels Asia.