I’ve just driven from my home in Gloucestershire into central London, an unremarkable journey of around 90 miles. I did this drive in the 100% electric Nissan Leaf, technically still unremarkable as it has an advertised range of 100 miles, so surely....
Well, about 70% of the route is on a motorway/highway/freeway or big fat road with lots of lanes where most people break the speed limit all the time.
I didn’t break the speed limit, in fact I stayed a little under it, in the slow lane with the trucks and coaches, oh the humiliation, the masculinity shrivelling embarrassment of not going faster than everyone else. I had to wear a false beard and dark glasses in case anyone saw my ignominious shame.
I’m joking of course. I was pootling along in the Nissan Leaf with the latest episode of ‘This Week in Tech’ playing via Bluetooth from the iPhone in my bag and I was happy as Larry.
The first 30 miles wind through the picturesque Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire countryside, which means there's lots of hills, which means the range drops a little. I went through the lovely market town of Chipping Norton, now infamous for the ‘Chippy Set’ who live in and around the town. PM Dave Cameron, delightful flame haired Rebekah Brooks, caring liberal Jeremy Clarkson, many members of the Murdoch family and numerous other right wing, bitter and judgemental members of todays power elite. It’s a lovely area…. and breath out…. and relax.
I then stopped at the Kidlington Nissan dealership and plugged into their fast charger, they don’t make Leaf drivers pay for this service. As the pictures show the battery was only 2/3rds depleted when I arrived and it took a cup of coffee and 15 minutes to top it up.
The journey from Kidlington (outside Oxford) to London is 57 miles, all of it on highways. I kept a fairly constant 65 mph which, if you try it, it’s surprisingly relaxing. I caught up with the news on the radio and listened to podcasts, all controllable from the steering wheel.
When I got to London I had an estimated 29 miles of range left, it would have been more but while climbing up the hill near High Wycombe on the M40, there were loads of trucks all jostling around and I just put my foot down to get past them. If you need to, the Leaf really whips along, I’m not going to reveal my top speed at that moment, it was high and there was still some chump in a Audi SUV trying to overtake me.
Now, as you can see in the above picture which I took when I got to London, the estimated time to a full charge is 5 hours 30 minutes. This is based on the car taking a charge from a standard UK 13 amp 240 volt outlet. The 16 amp charger I have at home would do this is around 3 hours, a fast charger would get this to 100% in less than 30 minutes.
I drove straight to an NCP (car park) to use a public charging point. This is by far the most expensive part of the trip. Although the electricity is essentially ‘free’ (there is an annual £100 membership fee for a ChargeMaster card which allows you to charge at any point as many times as you like) I do have to pay for parking.
Re-charging the car is effectively going to cost me something like £15.
Just to balance that out, £15 won’t even buy you three gallons of petrol or diesel but let’s leave that.
My return journey will be the same, drive back to Kidlington, just a safety top up and back home.
So this is telling me two important things. Getting over 100 miles out of a Leaf is very possible but probably not on a motorway. People have got well over 100 miles on a charge at a constant 50 mph on a flat road, however a fast charger just gives you the confidence to make a longer journey without anxiety.
I was just checking it could be done, it can and it can be done very easily. If there was a fast charger at the motorway services it would be even easier, if there were dozens of public charging posts in London it would be easier, but even with the scant supply of places to charge, it is currenty possible.
Oh yes, and one last thing, all the pictures were taken when I was stationary, with the park brake on, not moving.