Posts Tagged ‘cleaner and greener vehicles’
Choosing to travel green is pretty straightforward when it comes to short distances or long commutes. When it’s the former, I will always choose to go on foot or, if I need to get there a little quicker, by bicycle. Longer commutes, especially when traveling alone, I choose public transport. The distance I have a problem keeping energy and cost efficient are those medium length commutes, regular journey’s under 30 miles usually when I’m in the process of transporting something or some others, for example supermarket shops, trips to the dentist, after school clubs – the kind of journeys which are otherwise known as ‘mum’s taxi’ trips.
That’s why I’ve been really keen to find out more about the Nissan LEAF, as not only is it energy efficient, it’s ideal for small hops and inner city driving.
This week I was invited to the O2 to test-drive the new Nissan LEAF around the streets of London. Timed to coincide with the changes to the London Congestion charge, (1st July), which now excludes more vehicles including hybrids, the British-built LEAF 2013 models, Visia, Acenta and top of the range, Tekna, each with ‘over 100 adjustments’, qualify for a new Ultra Low-Emission Discount and continued to be exempt from the £10 a day congestion charge.
So, after a 40-minute trip around our capital’s most famous streets what did I think?
Starting with the aesthetics, of course, the first thing to note is that the new LEAF has had some styling changes, albeit very subtle, including 16” alloy wheels, body coloured wing mirrors and black suede-effect trim, the latter, I’m sure is a result of listening to the woes of previous owners who found the original white trim impractical, particularly for those who have the pleasure of regularly transporting young children in their LEAF! Interestingly, more than 60% of the plastic used on the new interior is made from re-cycled materials – including used water bottles!
On the subject of transporting, there has also been an increase of 5cm legroom for rear passengers, great for younger children, though I’m not sure how a comfortable a couple of gangly teenagers would find traveling in the back. In addition, as the football-sized electric motor has been relocated from the boot to under the car, there is now an extra 40litre capacity, making the boot ample size for a ‘big shop’ or pushchair, though it may be a bit of a squeeze for both.
As my first ever experience of driving an electric car, I was very surprised at how nippy, yet smooth the drive was (0-60 time of 11.5 seconds). Pulling away from traffic lights and out of junctions, there is plenty of power and quick acceleration to give you enough confidence to maneouvre where you wanted to be, whilst being in complete and calm control. Talking of calm, the complete lack of noise in the cabin positively adds to the driving experience, with no revving engines or gear change noise, you get a sense of Zen-like calm as you meander your way through the busy streets and trust me, in the middle of London at the height of the tourist season, this is quite an achievement!
In fact as the car is so quiet, Nissan engineers have designed new windscreen-wiper motors as the noise created by an internal combustion engine usually disguises the sound of normal wiper motors.
That said, it’s important to keep an eye on your speed, with no audio clue to guide you, you can soon find yourself going a little faster than you intended.
Of course you can’t talk about EV without mentioning range or the dreaded ‘range anxiety’. The good news is this has been increased, from 109 miles to 124 miles in a single charge, however this will depend on how you drive and also the conditions you drive in. When using air conditioning or heating, the range will drop to approx 90 miles, not a problem if you plan to use your LEAF for small trips around town.
To help increase the range, the LEAF has a new regenerative braking system which returns up to 94% energy to battery, plus an eco mode which reduces acceleration and increases range too, so with a little effort on the drivers part, range can be managed and marginally extended during your drive.
Other energy saving features include the Eco routing feature which can be activated to plot energy-saving directions to further increase range as well as the new Bose Energy Efficient Series (EES) seven-speaker stereo system which has lighter woofer and digital amp and uses 50% less electrical energy than a normal car hi-fi.
Energy can also be saved using the Nissan’s LEAF’s unique CARWINGS smartphone app, amongst many features, owners can ‘call’ their car to check the charging status of the battery and find a local charging station, as well as being able to remotely turn on the heating and air conditioning from their device, so their car is at the optimum temperature before it is even unplugged.
When it comes to charging, there’s further improvements as the new LEAF can now be fully charged in as little as four hours when using a specialist 6.6Kw charging point. Using a domestic socket charging will take between 10-12 hours. Furthermore, Nissan assure us that there is an ever-growing network of charging points springing up all over the country, indeed there are 1,300 on-street charging points in London alone, however in more rural areas, for example where I live, this number is significantly reduced – my nearest public charging point is 20 miles away. That said it’s interesting to learn that British Gas are now offering all home owners the chance to have an electric vehicle hook up installed free of charge at your home – even if you not a British Gas customers, here’ a link to further info on this – British Gas electric charging
Here’s comes the crunch, the price. Ranging from £20,990 for the Visia, £23,490 for the Acenta and £25,490 for the Tekna – all with the Government’s Ultra Low Carbon Car Incentive of £5,000 already deducted, the LEAF is still a pretty hefty price to pay for what will most probably be a second family car.
However, there is good news, as well as buying the car outright, Nissan has introduced their new Flex scheme so you can either buy the car outright or buy the car and lease the battery or lease both. The second option, buying the car and leasing the battery, will cost from £189 per month – that’s less than the cost of a month’s London Congestion Charge payments.
This monthly payment is for customers who decide to buy an entry-level LEAF Visia at £15,990 (after receipt of the Government’s £5,000 plug-in grant) on the “Flex” battery lease scheme, and includes the cost of the monthly battery lease.
Under LEAF Flex, the battery leasing arrangement is built-in to the financing package, bringing prices down and making monthly payments more manageable.
After a £4,083 customer deposit and a Nissan contribution of £1600, a LEAF Visia Flex customer pays 36 monthly payments of £119, plus £70 per month for the monthly battery lease on a 7,500 miles-per-annum contract. At the end of the three-year term, they either make a one-off final payment of £7905 to complete the purchase of the car and continue to pay the monthly battery lease for as long as they retain ownership, or hand back the vehicle.
With the same deposit, the LEAF Flex battery lease scheme brings the monthly cost of the LEAF Acenta down to £239 and the highly equipped LEAF Tekna to £289.
A similar petrol vehicle, say a brand new Citroen C4 Picasso from £17,500, would be cheaper to buy at the outset, but when crunching your numbers, be sure to consider the added exemption from Vehicle Excise Duty that the LEAF enjoys, plus the freedom from the £10 a day congestion charge London dwellers endure and of course, the running costs of just 2p per mile.
Here I am driving the half-LEAF, displaying the inner workings of the all electric LEAF
In conclusion, if I lived or work in central London and was in the market for a new, second family car, I would be very tempted by the LEAF. It’s a great looking car, ideal for short trips around the city and with the exemption from the congestion charge, could very much make shorter trips into our capital less expensive than travelling on public transport. Plus, with zero emissions it’s great to know that your regular commutes would not be contributing to the pollution that our capital still suffers.
However, living in the country, with a limited network of charging points, I’m yet to be convinced that ‘range anxiety’ wouldn’t kick in whenever I needed to travel further a field. Sure I can hook my car into a charging point en route, but what if I’m pushed for time, or all of the charging points are engaged? Realistically the LEAF would only ever be used for short hops, meaning as a family we’d still need to rely on a second car to take us on long trips.
Perhaps the real test for me would be to live with and use the LEAF in my own environment, using it for regular trips as well as adhoc journeys, then, if it lived up to Nissan’s promises, maybe I’d seriously consider heading over to my local Nissan dealer to hook me up.
To find out more about the Nissan LEAF and to book a test-drive yourself visit www.experiencenissanleaf.co.uk
As hybrid cars become ever more popular and more environmentally conscious drivers switch to a dual powered car, an increasing number of people are becoming interested in the arguments concerning the pros and cons of such vehicles.
Whether hybrids, such as the new Lexus UK models, are a better investment than petrol powered cars has been hotly disputed for a while now, with drivers split between the new form of hybrid power and the more traditional petrol motor.
Here we take a look at the pros and cons of hybrid cars over their petrol-powered ancestors:
Cars such as a Lexus hybrid are in their element when it comes to driving in built up, urban areas. This is due to the way in which, at slow speeds, they only use their electric motors thus conserving a great deal of petrol and reducing emissions.
It also helps that as you slow down and brake, more electricity is generated to charge your batteries. This means that you’re essentially refuelling your car every time you slow to a stop.
One of the greatest benefits of a hybrid car is its multi-engine power. The fact that it has both an electric motor and a petrol engine means that it is optimised for use in any driving situation.
For zipping through the city, the electric motor is perfect for stop-start driving while at higher, cruising speeds the petrol engine kicks in as the most efficient form of power. Brilliantly, if you need power from both engines, when you’re overtaking for instance, most hybrids will be able to manage this with ease.
Rising petrol prices
The fact that petrol prices are continuing to rise means that hybrids are becoming a more attractive option for cash-strapped motorists. Fewer trips to the pump results in more money in your pocket but this could cause the initial price of such vehicles to grow.
While this isn’t such an issue if you’re using a hybrid car in the city or on smaller roads, some people may find the fact that there aren’t too many large hybrids on the market a bit of a restriction. If you need huge amounts of space and are used to being able to squash a large quantity of luggage into your car, finding a sufficiently sized hybrid may require a little work.
Distinctions between hybrids
One thing you have to remember when buying a hybrid is that they don’t all work in the same way. As such, it’s important that you recognise that some ‘mild’ hybrids won’t fulfil the same potential as a ‘true’ hybrid.
For those who are unsure of the distinction, the differences are relatively easy to understand. For any car to be classed as a type of hybrid it must undergo a number of processes. The defining characteristics of these vehicles are features such as the capacity to have an idle-off function or for regenerative braking to be included.
Hybridisation, the process of turning a vehicle into a hybrid, is claimed by some to take five steps. The stage or step reached by a particular vehicle then determines whether or not it is a ‘full’ or ‘true’ hybrid or a slightly inferior form – the ‘mild’ hybrid.
Cars which reach stage three, and thus featuring idle-off capacities, regenerative braking and power assist with smaller engines, are classified as mild hybrids. Those vehicles which reach the next stage and offer electric-only drive are classed as ‘full hybrids’ with cars that are able to provide extended battery range (stage five) considered a ‘plug-in’ hybrid.
Camden’s stars have gone electric to promote the use of environmentally friendly vehicles and improve air quality.
In partnership with electric vehicle manufacturers Camden Council is offering local businesses free two-week electric vehicle trials to encourage more companies to consider zero-emissions cars or vans.
One of the main barriers to their uptake is a lack of willingness to invest in new technologies without seeing the benefits first hand. The trials give them the chance to find out for themselves that electric vehicles are great for inner London.
Vehicles currently available are: Nissan LEAF, Tata Ace EV Mini Truck, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Renault Kangoo Van ZE, with more vehicles due to be added as they become available.
To launch the project for Camden, comedienne and Camden resident Victoria Wood tested out an electric Nissan LEAF. Meanwhile other Camden celebrities – author Ben Elton and actor Derek Jacobi – have also shown their support for the trials.
Following her trial Victoria Wood said: “Electric cars are a great idea and I was really interested to see what it would be like to drive, especially as I have started to recognise what a problem air quality in London can be. Going electric took a bit of getting used to as it was completely silent but overall, the electric car was really nice to drive. It quickly felt just like a real car as I nipped about and it is so much better for the environment and improving air quality.”
Ben Elton said: “I often notice the polluted air in central London and think that schemes like this – which help to encourage businesses to adopt new cleaner and greener vehicles – are a really fantastic way to make London a nicer and healthier place to live. Electric vehicles make so much sense in London, with zero tailpipe emissions and being easy to drive, before long they’re going to make other cars look really old fashioned.”
Derek Jacobi said: “It’s great that Camden is working in partnership with these manufacturers to help local businesses try these cleaner and greener vehicles for themselves. It sounds like a really innovative and exciting project which will help to make London’s air much healthier and more pleasant.”
Camden Council’s Cabinet Member for Sustainability and Transport Cllr Sean Birch, said: “Electric cars are a very important and practical way to improve air quality. Camden is the perfect location for electric car use and we want to get as many businesses as possible to take up electric, reduce the use of polluting petrol and diesel and protect the environment for us and future generations.”
Benefits of electric cars include:
* electric vehicles produce no air pollutants and can significantly reduce CO2 emissions
* they are extremely easy to drive
* they are quiet
* they are exempt from the London Congestion Charge and they provide tax breaks for company car drivers.
* they are exempt from road tax
* Electric vehicles qualify for a 100% first-year capital allowance
* they have extremely low running costs and they often benefit from reduced parking charges
* there is also a £5000 government incentive available
To book a trial call 0207 974 2260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s not just businesses that will benefit - early next year Camden Council will also be organising a day where residents can test drive electric vehicles.
The trial will include:
* The all-electric Nissan LEAF hatchback, which costs less than £2 to fully charge, and gives a potential range of over 100 miles.
* The Ace EV is a fully electric mini truck that can be charged from any 3-pin socket. It has a payload of 500 kg and there are three standard body versions available: flat bed drop side, tipper or box van.
* The electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV city car is ideal for driving in London. As well as being zero-emission, it’s quiet, refined, can seat four people, reach 81 mph, and has a range of 93 miles.
* The 100% electric Renault Kangoo Van Z.E. makes much more sense than a petrol or diesel vehicle for short urban delivery cycles as it is zero-emission, easy to drive, and has very low running costs. It is also suitable for longer journeys as it has a range of up to 106 miles with payload of 650kg.