Our 1st Year with the Nissan Leaf

The first year of owning an electric car for us has been a bit of a mixed bag. The car itself has been great and we use it for our everyday, local trips but using the car for anything over its typical max range of 80 miles (40 miles each way) requires a bit of a planning. In fact, so much planning that it really is not at all practical. Yes, it is possible to do longer trips. I proved that last year by driving my Leaf from Cornwall to Scotland but it took literally days of planning and 3 days of travel each way. So long trips are possible yes but this is not at all a practical or sensible way forward. EVs need more range (250+ miles) and fast charging stations need to be as widespread as petrol stations are now before they become a truly practical way to go long distances.

Will this happen? Right now, for me the jury is still out and even if it does then it will be years given the rate of progress of the past year. Last year saw a great deal of interest in electric cars with the launch of the Nissan Leaf. Several charging networks were launched such as POLAR, Ecotricity, Little Chef and even Nissan announced a donation of 60+ fast chargers to the UK. However, I now sense a bit of a hiatus.

Ecotricity installed 10 charging stations at Welcome Break motorway service areas in a blaze of publicity but it has now gone very quiet since with no new announcements of additional stations coming.

Little Chef did the same. It announced their network again in a blaze of publicity for that also to stall with only 11 stations installed. Well, I say “their network” but of course it isn’t their network at all. It is the POLAR network. To be honest, being POLAR, Little Chef has not had to commit any substantial capital to it. POLAR is paying for the charging stations and SSE is paying for the electricity so it isn’t surprising that there is little impetus. Little Chef have no real financial investment in the success or otherwise of the network as POLAR is taking all the risk.

There has been another announcement recently from Waitrose with them announcing the installation of charging at 150 of their stores. Sounds good? Well no, not at all. They too will be POLAR.

Nissan have gone very quiet too. They announced the donation of 60+ fast chargers. Where are they? There has been no announcements and no suggestion that they are actually on their way.

Zero Carbon World has been a bit of a breath of fresh air in many respects with its open and free Zero:Net charging network. But even that has been disappointing with only 78 installed to date. Their target of having 1000 installed by the end of next year is looking very optimistic indeed. I don’t blame Zero Carbon World though. There is a general lack of interest from the business community that must change if EVs owners are to be supported enough to make EV ownership acceptably easy. Right now it is incredibly hard to use any EV for anything but local trips. Of course, the exception to this is the Tesla. Tesla owners are in a different world right now… a world normal people cannot afford and it looks increasing likely that the world of easy, long distance EV travel will remain only with those willing to spend £70K+ on a car for some time to come.

So, are companies now starting already, after just one year of the return of the EV, to lose interest?

One thing that is contributing to the lack of interest from owners and potential owners is POLAR. The POLAR network is a closed, membership only, network that means to use it you must pay a subscription and that subscription is ridiculously pricey. So pricey in fact that I know of not one EV owner that is actually considering joining and I think that POLAR themselves could be the first of many nails in the coffin of EVs in the UK. POLAR may not realise it but their very greed and lack of customer awareness will be their downfall and potentially that of the EV too for a long while to come.

There are alternatives to POLAR but POLAR seem to be the only ones aggressively marketing and so it is no surprise that they are winning. However, it is a short-lived victory if no one actually joins and the likes of Waitrose, Little Chef and who knows how many others in the pipeline, will eventually lose faith in EVs and pull out. This has already happened in the USA with Costco. They have removed electric car charging from all their US stores because “no one used them”. It could happen here too with Waitrose, Little Chef etc unless we stop this POLAR disease spreading.

There has been another setback recently too – the Vauxhaul Ampera. It is being launched at around £33k after the government £5K subsidy. That is way too high especially as there are other EVs entering the market this year at prices way below that. Nissan has also announced that the price of the Leaf is likely to fall once it is built at Sunderland next year so this makes the Ampera look ridiculously expensive. Vauxhall has done almost no publicity about the Ampera… it is almost as if they want to keep it quiet. Very strange. I was very excited by the Vauxhall Opel Ampera/Chevrolet Volt but I now feel that with the general lack of interest from either the public or the manufacturers committing to do what it takes to see them succeed I feel that EVs are rapidly becoming a bit of a damp squib.

EVs being anything more than a novelty for quite a while.

Am I disappointed with My Leaf? For short journeys no. It is a great car for everyday, local use and able to do most of our trips. However, for anything more than 40 miles we always need to carefully consider whether we should take the Leaf or the diesel car. If we only had the one car then the Ampera would be a better (but expensive) option but we need 2 cars and so right now it makes sense to have a diesel as the other one.

Year 1 grade for the Nissan Leaf: B+

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