Nissan Leaf and Octopus provide an all-British EV solution

Built at Nissan’s Sunderland factory and being fuelled and funded by Octopus Electric Vehicles seems like an automotive marriage ‘made in heaven’ and our man, Iain Robertson, delves into the relationship to underscore its total Britishness.

It is immensely satisfying to talk about Great British enterprise and none more so than when it occurs in the automotive scene, especially a fast-moving one. Being of a personal belief that anything related to environmental protection, of which EVs (Electric Vehicles) are a vital part, the decisions made must be our shared responsibility, not brand-dependent (or biased). In fact, I consider that the actions of independent Octopus are not merely perfect for the moment but are also ideal for the nation’s longer-term ‘greater good’.

Thanks to a meeting of minds with Octopus Electric Vehicles, the UK’s standalone, all-enveloping fuel, funding, adviser and total EV service provider, that is part of ethical Octopus Group, an £8.6bn British funds management company, I attended a driving event, alongside both business and private motorists. While the Austrian-built Jaguar i-Pace (fascinating machine) and German-built BMW i3 (now in EV form alone) were interesting attractions, the Nissan Leaf, is British-built.

It is the best-selling EV in Europe, having been part of the UK motoring scene since 2011. It used to be a visually challenging machine, with an organic wave-form on its flanks, a pugnacious snout and a fat backside. Yet, for the eco-warrior, it was a dream-turned-reality but suffered from early battery capacity problems, which meant that its nominal range was comfortably less than 90-miles. It did not stop a rash of potential drivers hopping on-board Nissan’s eco-bandwagon, although a fairly resolute attitude was required.

The latest version is markedly more conventional hatchback in appearance, although it still possesses enough visual clues to its ‘zero emissions’ status, even if you do not spot the declaration on its tailgate. Fortunately, Leaf also reflects the tremendous technological in-roads that have been made in the past eight years, not just in driver safety addenda but also with both convenience and operational benefits.

In Tekna trim, the top specification, its 40kWh Lithium-ion battery pack delivers a strident performance envelope. Its power output of 150bhp is accompanied by a healthy slug of instant torque, that helps to despatch the 0-60mph benchmark in an zesty 7.6s, running out of ‘steam’ at a restricted 89mph. Leaf is the only volume-produced EV in the UK, with almost 90% of its total production being exported from the company’s factory in the NE of England.

Its stated driving range has been improved to 235-miles, although around 200-miles may be anticipated safely from its efficient drive-train, which can be fast-recharged (80%) in around 40 minutes, or overnight trickle-charged from a 7kW wall-box (100% capacity) in around seven hours. As to costs, the per-mile rate for a single kWh of electricity could be a retail average of 13p, although Octopus (through Octoenergy) can provide renewable energy from as little as 5p per unit. Perhaps you can comprehend my excitement?

Helping to regenerate electricity on-the-move, the Leaf features an intriguing and revolutionary e-Pedal that transforms driving style, by enabling acceleration, deceleration and even full stopping with the simple increase, or decrease, of the driver’s foot pressure on the accelerator pedal. It is also reverse-energising the battery simultaneously. With a deceleration rate of up to 0.2G, the e-Pedal eliminates the need for drivers to move their foot constantly from accelerator to brake pedal, when reducing speed, or even stopping. While familiarity can take a little time, the e-Pedal helps to reduce fatigue and stress in daily city driving and allows the driver to use the brake pedal up to 90% less than in conventional motorcars. It is ingenious.

Naturally, Leaf is a model packed with both driver aids and safety programs, as well as an around-car TV monitoring system, which makes its popularity entirely understandable, especially as prices start at a realistic £26,690, rising to £29,890 across three trim levels (which includes the government plug-in grant). It is simply the best value and most accessible EV presently on sale in the UK.

The latest Leaf benefits from sharper steering feel and suspension that is more compliant. It is not perfect, as its ride and handling does betray the hefty lump of battery beneath its cabin floor, displaying the occasional slew of wheelspin from an over-enthusiastic junction departure. However, it is vastly improved over the original iteration and is significantly more driver-friendly. In fact, work the Leaf efficaciously and your anticipatory driving quality will improve in leaps and bounds.

While its interior décor is ‘plastic-fantastic’, the main digital instrumentation is driver-configurable and, once you familiarise yourself with the twist controller and other switchgear, as well as the plethora of ‘touch-screen’ functions, it all works harmoniously. Sadly, the steering column is only rake but not reach adjustable. The driver’s seat is also limited in rearward travel, mostly because Nissan wants to create space in the rear (perfect for taxi drivers!), which makes the command position somewhat less than accommodating for taller occupants.

Leaf can be acquired for about the same rate as a regular family car. Its trade-in values are becoming stronger all the time. Reliability is not an issue, as breakdowns are infrequent and there is an eight-year warranty just in case. However, there is zero road tax and, if you are a city driver, no congestion charges. Planning for ‘refuels’ is easy on trips and, as Octopus will inform you, there are ways and means of ensuring your electric quality of life is unsullied.

As one of the pure-EV pioneers, the Nissan Leaf has transitioned from avant-garde newcomer to mainstream normality. It drives very well, although the amount of space for front seat occupants could be more generous than it is. Octopus Electric Vehicles is a subsidiary of Octoenergy, itself a subsidiary of Octopus Group. The British Group has been investing renewable assets in all manner of people, ideas and industries, on the premise that they can help to change the world. Combine Nissan with Octopus and you have the perfect, all-British view of high-quality electric mobility and that is a story worth heralding.

‘Make Quality Count!’

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