From owning a previous generation Leaf for over a year as my daily driver, how does the current ZE1 model compare - and does range really matter as much as we are conditioned to think it does?
Dan Hockin, an electric vehicle enthusiast, has been cruising around in electric vehicles since 2019. He started off with a 30kWh Nissan Leaf AZEO and has recently been enjoying the experience of driving the Good Car Co. Nissan Leaf 40kWh ZE1 while offering test drives in Adelaide. In this blog, he shares his firsthand experience with the car, delving into its range capabilities and even embarking on a road trip halfway to Melbourne and back!
Dan Hockin: The Leaf I'm currently driving, courtesy of the Good Car Company, is a sleek white hatchback with a stylish dark blue roof. It boasts impressive specs, complete with Pro Pilot, Apple Carplay/Android auto, LED auto headlights (including high beam), radar-assisted cruise control with lane assist, and a birds-eye rear view camera. In addition to all these great features, it also has heated front & rear seats, as well as a heated steering wheel, making it perfect for the chilly winter weather in the beautiful Adelaide Hills.
Looking back a few years, I had the pleasure of driving a 2017 Leaf with a 30kWh battery for over a year. My daily commute covered 80km/day or 20,000km/year, taking me from the Hills to the city via a mix of freeway and country roads. Although the Leaf's real-world range was around 160km, I never had any concerns about running out of power and managed to save approximately $3,800 in petrol costs over the course of the year. With an annual service cost of just $150 and zero repairs needed during my ownership, it was truly an affordable and reliable mode of transportation. However, for longer trips, I was grateful to have my wife's EV with a range of around 230km.
So how does the 40kWhLeaf compare and does the extra 10kWh (up from 30kWh) mean more freedom and greater options?
As I embark on my usual commute to the city, I can't help but notice that I no longer find myself constantly checking the odometer, and any worries about running out of range have vanished. With a full charge on a chilly morning, the car shows an impressive range of 240km. As I start driving, I immediately feel the instant warmth from the seats, steering wheel, and cabin - no more waiting for an engine to warm up!
As I merge onto the freeway, I appreciate the extra power that comes with the Nissan Leaf 40kWh ZE1. With just a quick press of the blue Pro Pilot button, I can activate lane assist and engage the radar assisted cruise control. I lean back and enjoy the comfortable interior.
Another upgrade over the older Leaf is the updated infotainment system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity. This critical addition brings the car up to par with new rivals and the modern expectations and convenience of Google Maps, Spotify, hands free calls and text etc.
During my descent on the freeway into Adelaide, I am pleased to see a gain of 12 km of range and an increase of 3% in battery level. Whilst this is something we have now grown to appreciate on EVs, it's definitely not something you would experience in a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) car!
As traffic started building up and I found myself in stop-and-start driving, I couldn't help but love the new e-Pedal function. The regenerative braking in the 40kWh ZE1 is incredibly strong, and once you get used to it, it provides a smooth one pedal driving experience. I no longer need to use the brake at all, and this not only improves efficiency but also enhances the overall driving pleasure. It's a shame that this feature was absent on many new (and more expensive!) EVs I recently tested, which is truly disappointing and a missed opportunity, in my opinion, for a more enjoyable and efficient driving experience.
Incorporating charging into my day
Getting into town, I park at the local street charging spot for two great reasons - first, the charging is free for the first hour, and second, there are no parking fees! It's a win-win situation. As someone who has been driving EVs for four years now, I've noticed how my refueling strategy has evolved from the days of fossil fuels. Instead of specifically setting aside time to go to a petrol station, fill up, and then continue on my way, I now seamlessly incorporate charging into my daily routine. This allows me to make the most of my time by engaging in more valuable activities while the car charges.
After my meeting, I'm delighted to find that the car has fully regained the range I used to get here, which means I can head back home without needing to charge tonight.
A quiet emissions-free country drive
On the weekend, I'm excited to explore the local bush for a hike and some birdwatching. One of the things I appreciate most about driving an EV is its complete silence, allowing me to enjoy the peacefulness of driving along quiet gravel roads with the windows down, simply listening and observing. It's not only a pleasant experience for me, but I also believe that both the flora and fauna benefit from the absence of harmful emissions and noise. Moreover, the car handles dirt roads exceptionally well, effortlessly climbing hills with its instant torque and providing controlled descent on downtracks thanks to the ePedal. I recently test drove a Kia e-Niro that offered similar one-pedal driving, but it also came with a hefty price tag of over $76k. In comparison, the car I'm driving today only costs $28k and has the added advantage of already having paid its carbon debt as it's over 3 years old.
Notes on efficiency
On my daily commute, the Leaf impressively averages 6.6km/kWh or 15kWh/100km. It's worth noting that many more expensive EVs struggle to match this efficiency, often using 18-25kWh/100km, with the exception of Tesla and Hyundai/Kia offerings returning sub 15.
Not bad for a 5-year-old car ;)
Again - I'm appreciating the value proposition of the 40kW Leaf.
How does the Leaf go on a road trip?
I was curious to see how the Leaf would fare on an interstate trip, so I decided to mimic the Adelaide - Melbourne trip. And guess what? I made it without any issues! The car performed beautifully and I didn't run out of range, although charging speeds were slower than newer rivals (and their associated price tags…)
Finally this is a car that can handle interstate road trips! With the extra 10kWh in the 40kW Leaf, all it takes is some planning and allowances for charging time.
My Road Trip Plan
My plan was to embark on a road trip from Adelaide SA to Nhill, Victoria and back, a distance of approximately 700km, to mimic the typical Adl-Melb haul. This leg of the journey represents the more challenging half, as once into Victoria charging stations become more frequent, so this provided a clear representation of the entire Adl-Melb trip.
For reference, I completed the entire Adl-Melb-Adl trip in a Kona EV over 2 days without any charging issues last month, achieving an impressive efficiency of 16.8kWh/100km. I was curious to compare the Leaf's performance and determine if the slightly slower charging speed (50kW compared to the Kona's 88kW) would be problematic.
Road trip insights
The Leaf ZE1's range is adequate and makes Adelaide-to-Melbourne possible with current charging infrastructure.
I want to give a big shoutout to Chargefox and Evie for their amazing chargers. I had a smooth charging experience without any queues or issues apart from one broken charger screen that thankfully, didn't prevent me charging.
Not only that, but stopping to charge also gave me the chance to chat with curious locals. It was interesting to see their surprise at the affordable prices offered by The Good Car Co, as many thought that EVs were only for those with a budget of $50k or more.
During my highway drive, I did notice a slight decrease in efficiency, which is common for most EVs. The Leaf's range on the Good Car Co website listed as 198km for highway driving & 234km for town driving, proved to be accurate, noting that this will vary depending on the battery's health.
The car performed flawlessly during the long trip, providing a comfortable and safe driving experience at the speed limit.
For the first two rapid charges, the car was able to achieve a charging speed of 48kW. However, for all remaining charges, the speed dropped to 23kW with the car's battery management software restricting charging speed in order to avoid overheating. It's important to mention here that the car was "on" for a total of 12 hours, either driving or charging, which is not a typical scenario.
I believe that if you had more time and included a 1-hour lunch stop (not for charging), this issue could be avoided. I also note that the majority of people will not be using a Leaf for this duty (ie. repeated rapid charging over the course of just one day), but it was refreshing to me to see it is possible for occasional holiday trips.
Here are some statistics from the trip:
- Total distance: 642km
- Total cost: $60
- Average efficiency for the trip: 6km/kWh or 16.7kWh/100km
- Total charging stops: 6 (3 each way: Tailem Bend, Keith, Kaniva)
- Total charging time: 235 minutes or 4 hours
- Average charging time: 39 minutes
- Total driving time: 8 hours
- Total energy used: 107kWh
In summary, I believe the 40kW Leaf is a genuine contender for most peoples' lifestyles
The 40kWh ZE1 Leaf is a big improvement over the previous generation, in tech, connectivity and range.
The value proposition for those looking to reduce their environmental impact is excellent, especially if the car is primarily used for daily commuting, with a 4WD available as a second vehicle for off-road trips or towing.
Thanks to the new RAA network, EV chargers are now conveniently located at intervals of under 200km. This makes the 40kW Leaf a strong contender for most lifestyles, including occasional longer interstate trips, as long as you have the time.
Why not give it a go for yourself? You’ll be making a positive change for our planet and saving some hard earned at the same time! Win-Win 🙂
.Thanks to Good Car Co for the opportunity!