Man approaching car in New Norfolk
On the road

Road test: Nissan Leaf e+

Dale Campisi tries out the future of cars with a drive to New Norfolk in the 100% electric Nissan Leaf e+.

If we assume that the average lifespan of a car is around 10 years, it is quite likely that your current car will be the last one you own that is powered by an internal combustion engine and fuelled solely with petrol. An electric future is becoming a reality today, which is how we find ourselves testing out one of the frontrunners of the race, the Nissan Leaf e+.

The increasing market visibility of electric vehicles (EVs) like the Leaf is largely due to rapid improvements in battery production. Just a decade ago, lithium-ion batteries were $1100 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Today they are around $100 per kWh. Bloomberg recently reported that by 2023 car manufacturers would be able to sell EVs for the same price as traditional combustion-engine vehicles. Car manufacturers are driving the growth in sales. Of the world’s 20 largest manufacturers, 18 plan to increase EV production, and at least 10 of them have self-imposed targets to go 100% electric. Already there are 31 different EVs on the market. Next year there will be 58. A number of governments, including Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Ireland and the Netherlands, have already committed to banning sales of internal-combustion engine vehicles by 2030. Without a car manufacturing industry, there’s no question Australia will be going electric too.

So, what does it feel like behind the wheel of a car of the future? Style-wise, the Nissan Leaf e+ looks like any other small to medium-sized car on the market, just with leather seats. Intelligent Mobility provides a 360-degree view of your surroundings – keeping you out of trouble and inside the lines of your parking space at the shops.

The e+ comes with a 62kWh battery, which delivers a range of 385km – effectively banishing the thought of range anxiety.

Driving over the New Norfolk bridge

Credit: Stu Gibson

Inside the spectacular Nissan Leaf e+

Credit: Stu Gibson

Emissions aside, weight is the characteristic that sets this car apart – it’s about 100kg heavier than, say, a Toyota Corolla. Coupled with individual wheel braking, it makes for a smooth ride along the curves of the Lyell Highway toward New Norfolk. Nevertheless, it can also move from zero to 100km/h in under seven seconds.

As for the difference between the Leaf e+ and its base-model counterpart, that comes down to battery size. The e+ comes with a 62kWh battery, which delivers a range of 385km – effectively banishing the thought of range anxiety.

The B-Mode e-Pedal braking feature will be of particular interest to drivers keen to maximise their battery performance. When the e-Pedal is engaged, automatic braking is provided as soon as you ease off the accelerator, which delivers regenerative charge. The early morning jerry lifts as we cruise into Mood Food in New Norfolk. This is currently the last fast charge point before Derwent Bridge, midway to the next in Queenstown. The 50kW fast charger with its easy-to-use terminal will fully recharge most EVs in under an hour, at a merciful distance from the petrol bowsers. (You can also recharge the Leaf’s lithium-ion battery at home on a standard 240v electrical socket in about eight hours.)

Black Swan, New Norfolk

Credit: Stu Gibson

Rear of Nissan Leaf e+

Credit: Stu Gibson

Next, we seek coffee at Black Swan. You’ll find this petite cafe and specialist bookshop tucked away on Stephen Street in New Norfolk a light-filled addition to a town in the middle of a contemporary renaissance. Black Swan has attention to detail in spades: from the curated collection of books to coffee and cakes, and impressive joinery underfoot.

Up the street, sisters and empire builders Tammy and Donna Baird and mother Sue are receiving new stock at the Drill Hall Emporium. You can easily lose an hour exploring the array of antique country house furniture, kitchenware, hardware and paintings sourced from across the world. Next door, Miss Arthur sells homewares, and Flywheel a short walk away is the sisters’ own letterpress studio and stationery goods store. On our way out of town we drive through historic Willow Court, with its avenue of vintage car bodies.

The future really is electric, and it’s comfortably guilt-free inside a Nissan Leaf e+.

The specs

Pricing: $64,990
Safety: ANCAP 5 Stars (2018)
Engine type: AS synchronous electric motor
Battery capacity: 62kWh
Range: 385km battery-only
Max. torque: 340Nm @ 3283rpm
Max power: 160kW
Body style: Hatchback
Transmission: Automatic
Drive type: 2WD
Seating: 5
Fuel type: Electricity
0-100km/h: 6.9 seconds