Getting Familiar with the Nissan Leaf

The most popular car we supply is, naturally, the Nissan Leaf – the most popular electric car in the UK and, in fact, the world. However, being a Renault ZOE driver, it is relatively unfamiliar to me. I’ve only driven it twice, once way back in 2012 and the second time more recently during the test drive day last December.

For a while I felt I ought to become more familiar with the Leaf and, having joined the e-Car Club, it seemed like the Club gave the perfect opportunity. I therefore decided on a free afternoon to book a Leaf from the Club for a couple of hours (it costs £6 per hour) and to take it for a spin.

There are three Leafs permanently parked up in Northampton town centre, close to the Derngate Theatre. They are connected to charge points so they are always ready for use. Having booked one online I went to pick it up, and that’s when things went a bit wrong.

e-Car Club Nissan Leafs outside Northampton Derngate (Image: T. Larkum)

e-Car Club Nissan Leafs outside Northampton Derngate (Image: T. Larkum)

The website gave instructions for unlocking the car which worked fine – you just need to use your access card on the windscreen sensor. However, it didn’t give clear instructions on the process for releasing the immobiliser – in fact, I didn’t even know there was one. Being unfamiliar with the Leaf things seemed to be going fine: it appeared to power up and then reverse gently out of its parking space. What I didn’t realise was that there was actually no power to the drivetrain and it was just rolling backwards down the slope from the pavement.

After an embarrassing time getting pushed to the kerb by passers-by I investigated further and found a PIN-machine in the glove box. Once given the correct number the drivetrain came to life and we were ready to go. I later found out that there were detailed instructions in a log book folder in the passenger door pocket.

Charging the Nissan Leaf at an Ecotricity Rapid Charger (Image: T. Larkum)

Charging the Nissan Leaf at an Ecotricity Rapid Charger (Image: T. Larkum)

First of all we just took a quick trip back home, and then headed out for a longer run. I took it up and down the motorway for a while to get its charge level below 80%. That gave me the chance to try out a fast charge at Rothersthorpe Services (at Junction 15A of the M1). I found the Chademo connector very fiddly and it took a couple of attempts before I was comfortable inserting it correctly and getting the charge to work. I was also caught out by the fact the dashboard screen needs to be powered down to accept a charge (and you can monitor it by blue LEDs on the top of the dash). This is in contrast to the ZOE where you monitor the charging through the dashboard screen.

Anyway, learning about these issues and the differences from the ZOE was precisely the point of the exercise so I deemed it a success. After this time spent with the Leaf I felt much more comfortable driving and charging it, and felt ready to undertake a long journey in one.

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  1. Pingback: Visiting Ecobuild by Nissan Leaf | Fuel Included

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