The Start of an Era?

Many years ago I started to hear in the media about Hydrogen fuel cells and how they would revolutionise transport; removing our dependence on oil and making the car clean and environmentally friendly. 10 years on I am still waiting. I suppose that if you think about it there was always going to be little chance of the hydrogen fuel cell car succeeding. The technical issues are immense and I could not ever see a distribution network of filling stations for hydrogen ever being developed. But what do I know? A lot of highly skilled and talented people believe that I am wrong and that hydrogen is the way of the future.

Of course, cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells are really electric cars. The fuel cell is powered by hydrogen but all that the fuel cell does is generate electricity and so ultimately the car is powered by electricity. Once you realise this fact the concept of a hydrogen fuel cell car becomes less of a mystery. If hydrogen creation and distribution is a major problem with hydrogen fuel cell technology then it makes sense to just do away with the hydrogen and just power the electric motor in  some other way. Batteries seem the obvious choice and so I put my faith in electric vehicles (or EVs) as being the most likely technology to take over from fossil fuels in the future.

Battery technology has come on hugely in the past few years. When I first started looking at alternative technologies for powering cars the only batteries available were lead-acid. They worked well but were bulky and very heavy. Now days things are quite different. With the advanced Lithium-Ion batteries of today EVs can have a range of up to 300 miles with a battery pack that is of a sensible size and weight. 300 miles is still the exception though and typical ranges of 50-100 miles are the norm right now but as more EVs appear on the market so more money will be pushed into battery development and I expect battery technology to allow ranges similar to those of petrol/diesel cars in the next few years.

So this brings me on to this blog. In spite of the technology leaps over the past few years EVs have never been taken seriously as a viable alternative to petrol and diesel. EV owners were always seen as being a little eccentric and sometimes rather geeky. Well not any more. 2011 will see a complete change in the landscape of the car. This year you will see several EVs launched, and many more announced, by major manufacturers and the first of these to hit the UK is the Nissan Leaf. This blog is my stories, thoughts and musings of the Nissan Leaf. I took delivery of one in March 2011 and the first month has been a bit of a rocky ride for me. It hasn’t been all plain sailing and I will try to cover why in future posts. Needless to say though, I still have our Nissan Leaf and I expect that from now on we will always have an electric car of some description.

So why the Nissan Leaf? Have you not driven one yet? Obviously not or you would know the answer… it is the first purpose-built, 100% family sized EV (Electric Vehicle). It is 100% electric in that it has no petrol or diesel engine. Just an electric motor and batteries that are charged up from the UK 230V mains. It is smooth. It is cool. It looks great and drives superbly. The down side? Well the range is about 70-100 miles between charges but for 80% of all journeys in the UK that is more than adequate but it isn’t cheap, at about £26,000 after a £5000 government subsidy.

Having said that there are already over 600 orders taken in the UK and over 24,000 in the USA so for a brand new technology and a brand new way of looking at your transport requirements that isn’t at all bad in my opinion.

Currently, the Nissan Leaf is manufactured in Oppama, Japan while Nissan tune their production processes and get up to speed. They expect to be at full production in March 2011 with additional manufacturing centres in the USA by 2012 and in Sunderland, UK by 2013.

This is going to be a big winner for Nissan and for the UK.

… and who am I? Paul Churchley, AKA Snaxmuppet. I live in Saltash, Cornwall and this is the story of my electric car ownership and in particular the story of my Nissan Leaf.

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