Turning over a blue Leaf

Helen turning over to her blue Leaf.

Turning over a blue Leaf means a Nissan EV this year.

Many of you I expect will have discovered that the material objects that we so desire often leave us feeling not a little flat after their arrival. Most of the fun is in the anticipation, the planning and choosing.

One of the great exceptions in my life was the ancient plywood glider that I bought some twenty-five years ago. It brought such pleasure to my life and once even lifted me on a particularly thermic day to 14,000 feet above sea level over Nottingham Road, on the way to Estcourt and back.

I am hoping that our first E-car, a Nissan Leaf, is going to do the same. It too is far from new though it does have a new 30 kWh battery giving it a range of about 150 km around town, but less on the highway. To prolong the life of the battery the manufacturer recommends you charge it only to 80% unless you are planning a longer trip. We could easily drive to Estcourt or Durban but would need to plug in before the return journey.

Electric vehicles and gliders have much in common. You can never be absolutely sure you are going to reach your destination, leaving something of a pit in the bottom of the stomach. It is the perfect car for short commutes. On the other hand, except for running out of battery power, E-cars are apparently twenty-five times less likely to break down.

However unlike my glider, our Leaf is not going to be a toy; we have no desire to be left stranded on the roadside, never a good idea in South Africa. Considerable planning of our longer journeys will be necessary. Neither a glider or an EV are a good way to get to Cape Town. For that we have a small bakkie, and could always hire a larger car for a two week family holiday.

And secondly, both gliders and EVs use no fossil fuels, and there are no carbon emissions; they contribute to a greener planet and are one more step against global warming. One interesting feature is the regenerative braking; when I left Hilton the power meter said that I could travel 117 km; by the time I had reached PMB, the battery was charged to such an extent that I could travel 153 km. Of course, it did not like the climb back to Hilton.

I read reports that the insurance on EVs is very high, but I was pleased to find that actually it was better value than the car we traded in. Nor was the licence any more than a petrol driven car.

It takes 7 hours to charge the battery from flat, drawing 2 kW of power, about the same as a kettle; plugging into a conventional socket. At municipal charges that would be R14, or R20 on prepaid. Our solar inverter handles it magnificently, so for us charging our Leaf costs nothing, and will not trouble Eskom. Our current petrol bill is about R1500 per month on our old Honda that we traded in, so a significant saving.

In 2011 the Leaf was awarded World Car of the Year, but of course there are many new entrants to the market, though in SA only very expensive Jaguar and BMW options are available. It’s seven years since the first Leaf appeared on the market; over 400,000 have been sold worldwide, saving 3.8 million barrels of crude oil per year apparently. A new Leaf e+, not yet available in SA, costs a whopping R700,000.

The E-car charging point on our blue Leaf.

With very few moving parts compared to an internal combustion engine, we are hoping for a good ten years with very little maintenance; pay back time with luck will be about five to seven years and after that free motoring. Turning over to a blue Leaf is our small bit for a greener planet.

Turning over a blue Leaf

Turning over a blue Leaf takes on new meaninging with our first electric car this January; it is the next step in our green journey.

  1. Bernard Preston
  2. Our green home
  3. Turning over a blue Leaf

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