The Nissan Leaf has been robustly advertised over Christmas on UK television, proudly announcing its status as “2011 Car Of The Year”.
While alternative fuel cars are probably the future, I have to question this one.
First, it costs £23,990. That’s about 30% more than a reasonably specified MINI Cooper D, with similar on road performance.
It does benefit from a zero road tax rating, but then, so does the MINI. But, there are some big downsides. The quoted range is about 100 miles and reviewers have had ranges of about 47 miles in city driving. So, it’s not one for the motorways, and not really one for the cities either. I live about thirty miles from the centre of London, so it would be a sixty mile round trip – and I don’t think my nerves could stand the adventure of the possibility of getting stranded on the M3.
Then, there’s the issue of a British winter. When it gets cold, ‘normal’ cars use excess engine heat to warm the cabin. This one will have to use battery power, reducing the range even further.
They say you could save about £1,500 a year on fuel. Let’s do some maths.
To save this sort of money, you’d need to do almost 14,000 miles a year. That’s 38 miles every day, quite a lot for a car with a short range. That’s an average, many people will have driving patterns that include days with no driving and others with hundreds of miles. I’ve calculated this against a car doing 40mpg, petrol at £1.20 a litre and a charge costing £2.40 (the battery is 24KW/h).
Now, the car is warranted for 3 years or 60,000 miles, and the drive train and battery for 5 years / 60,000 miles. That means if you DO use the car for 14,000 miles, the battery will be out of warranty just after four years. How much will that cost to replace I wonder? It will be in the thousands for sure.
If it’s £4,000, then your average mileage of 10,000 miles will save £1,080 miles a year, so £5,400 after five years. Murphy’s law dictates that the battery will need replacing once the warranty has expired, so that should leave you £1,400 better off than a 40mpg car.
The MINI does aver 50mpg, that will save you that extra money in the first place, and the car is cheaper to start.
So unless you are a raving ecologist and willing to pay significantly more to feel good about doing your bit, what’s the point?