Our Electric Car Update

So, as I haven’t been blogging recently I thought I’d bring you up to date with where we are with owning our two electric cars – our Nissan Leaf and Vauxhall Ampera.

Nissan Leaf Update – 2yrs 6 months and 18,400 miles

We were the first (or nearly the first – a debatable point), to take delivery of a Nissan Leaf in the South-West in April 2010 from JFE Nissan, Exeter.

We loved the car right from day 1 and as you can see from the miles it is our main car for everyday trips. In a day it can do anything from a short 2 mile trip to the supermarket right trhrough to a trip to Buckfastleigh for one of my hobbies at 50 miles return. It copes superbly with those and everything in between.

What the Leaf is less good at is longer trips. It has a realistic range of about 70 miles in summer and 60 miles in winter and although it has a rapid charging system (0-80% in 30 mins) only nearest rapid charger is in the Nissan dealer in Exeter and as it is only available during their opening hours so that pretty much rules out using the Leaf for longer trips.

Once we are past Exeter then there is a growing network of rapid chargers open 24/7 installed by Ecotricity in cooperation with Nissan and so travel throughout the UK is becoming easier in an EV. However, until I can get past Exeter ( and back again) outside opening hours I think we are mostly restricted to more local use.

As far as the car itself is concerned… I wouldn’t want to be without it! It is cheap to run (about £2 for 100 miles) and a dream to drive. We have had almost no issues and the battery is showing no signs at all of reducing in capacity – so much for the “replacing the battery every 5 years” myth put about by the likes of Top Gear!

Vauxhall Ampera Update – 1 yr 3 months and 17,300 miles

We bought the Vauxhall Ampera as a direct consequence of not being able to use the Nissan Leaf for longer trips and again, we have not regretted it.

The Ampera is a hybrid. Not in the same way as the original Toyota Prius or the Honda Insight. The Ampera is a “plug-in” hybrid. It is plugged in exactly like the Nissan Leaf and will run for 40ish miles on battery alone but when the battery is discharged instead of stopping like the Leaf it automatically and seamlessly switches to the petrol engine and just carries on. It has a petrol range of about 300 miles on top of the electric 40 miles.

This makes the Ampera a car that requires no special planning or charging locations to use for long trips. You just plug in and charge when and if you can and if not then just drive on petrol just like a normal petrol car.

In practice this is a great combination. At home, when we can charge every night, the car is great for similar trips to the Leaf making for almost free local travel. Then for trips that the Leaf cannot do the Ampera then comes into its own and allows us to do the first 40 miles on battery then the rest of the trip on petrol. It is very reasonable as far as petrol use goes too returning on petrol alone about 50mpg at sensible speeds.

The car has been pretty good so far as far as reliability goes but we have had a few niggles regarding the software. It all works pretty well but there are some bugs still remaining and the stanav will not use full postcodes which can make finding out of the way places difficult. However, in spite of these niggles, overall we are very happy with the Vauxhall Ampera.

The Future…

I am going to try to blog more now about my experiences with the Leaf and Ampera. Hopefully you will get more of an idea of what it is like for us to own an electric car and with luck you will see that most of the stories you hear and read about regarding EVs are in fact – complete rubbish!

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