(REPOST: Irish Times)
It was a presentation which would have made Al Gore green with jealousy, rather than environmental angst. A Powerpoint presentation (all car launches are essentially 98 per cent Powerpoint presentations) which spoke of just what an impact on the environment the outgoing Nissan Leaf has had.
In eight years, Nissan has found 300,000 buyers for the first generation Leaf, and according to the Japanese car maker’s own figures, some 3.9-billion all-electric miles have been driven by those various Leafs, which has saved a claimed 1.2-million tonnes of Co2 emissions. Or, in one of those wonderful the-same-height-as-Liberty-Hall stats, the equivalent of growing 90-million trees, the same number which are grown in France each year.
So this, the second generation Leaf has quite the eco-shoes to fill. It is, though, quite a different car. The original Leaf, with its quirky, quasi-aquatic style and off-white interior was striking at which to look (not necessarily pretty, but I rather liked it) but almost deliberately divisive. The new Leaf looks far, far more conventional. The trained eye will pick up the subtle shapes and nuances of aerodynamic efficiency, but many a casual passer-by would mistake it for a facelifted Pulsar. That is, frankly, the intention. Leaf II has to take the baton of Leaf I’s pioneering spirit and make it mainstream, acceptable, normalised.
To do that, it has to become a car which normal people, not early-adopters with the fervour of converts, must consider as suitable for their needs, and to do that it has to have more range. The original Leaf could do between 100km and 160km on a really, really good day. The later versions, with a larger 30kWh battery, could maybe stretch to 190km in real-world conditions. This one can do 270km.