By Khulekani Dumisa (@sirkhulz)
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Those are lyrics from John Lennon’s Imagine. John Lennon did not live to see the world he was challenging us to strive for. The more I think about it, nearly 40 years after his brutal death, the world is still quite a way off from seeing the Lennon utopia expressed in the beautiful words above.
I did experience a utopia of a different kind in the past week with one of our test cars, the all-electric Nissan Leaf. I must confess that Range Anxiety, described as a worry on the part of a person driving an electric car that the battery will run out of power before the destination or a suitable charging point is reached, being a factor until I got to the handover point which was the Nissan Dealership in Melrose Arch. I remember being engulfed in excitement at the giant leap Nissan had taken and that for the next 7 days, at least from a transport perspective, I would be contributing zero emissions to the environment.
Apart from the fact that the Nissan Leaf is an all-electric car, it is a pretty normal car in all respects. It has roomy cabin and a modern dash with a futuristic looking multi-function display drive computer and a generous touch screen in the middle. The spec we drove came complete with heated leather seats for the front and rear passengers. The boot is pretty decent too. The Nissan Leaf would easily be mistaken as the spiritual successor to the Nissan Tiida to the non-discerning eye.
The Nissan Leaf is unbelievably quiet that for reversing, you get a reverse camera and a back-up beeper (usually reserved for trucks) to warn passers-by that your car is moving in reverse. The ride is comfortable and remained so even in some harsh Joburg roads. The 80 kW and 254 Nm motor which brings power to the wheels at almost the same time as when you engage the petrol (oops, the accelerator) will leave many Formula 1 VW Polo drivers seeing red at the ultimate South African robot-to-robot Grand Prix.
Our Leaf had a total range of 195 km although we always charged up to 130 km. 130 kms might not seem like much but with relatively short return trip to work, it meant I had to charge the car once every two days. And this happened because I chose to drive the car on the highway. You might have guessed this already, the Leaf and the highway are not friends. Think Superman and Kryptonite. On the odd day where I behaved like a proper Leaf driver and avoided the highway, I actually returned home with a decent range still. How is that possible you may ask, the Leaf has your normal drive mode (D-mode) plus B-mode drive which cleverly recharges the car’s battery using the solar panel on the rear-boot spoiler as you drive along, especially when you are braking. You can feel the difference between D-mode and B-mode. The breaks become a bit harder with the latter. This might irritate you but will never be uncomfortable and if you have bought into the point of the energy efficiency of the car, this will be a minor sacrifice in the greater scheme of things.
So, you have bought into the zero emissions lifestyle. The question on your mind will be where you can charge your Leaf if you are not at home. That’s where you might struggle a bit. Whilst Nissan has invested quite a bit in its recharge infrastructure, things are still in its infancy stage (although if you get your hands on a public rapid charger you will get 80% charge in just 30 minutes). You will not struggle for example if you live in the Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg whilst the same cannot be said for you if you live elsewhere. The best solution is still to charge at home. These teething issues are easily forgotten when visiting petrol stations and parting with your hard earned cash is not a part of your lifestyle anymore.
The Nissan Leaf retails from R474,900 and is a decent car. In fact the Nissan Leaf is a car of the future that is here right now. The Nissan Leaf competes with the BMW i3 which retails from R606,800.
The Nissan leaf comes with a 3 year service plan and a healthy 6 year / 150,000 km warranty
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