Nissan Leaf arrives on the streets of the UK

Journalists in the UK got their first chance to drive the world’s first mass produced electric car this week, and it left them asking a few questions.

Although it has been restricted for use to journalists so far, it will not be long now before ordinary motorists will be getting a motor insurance quote on a Nissan Leaf.

The car billed as the world’s first mass produced zero emission car is really noticeable for its lack of exhaust pipe but apart from that looks remarkably ordinary from the outside. The Leaf will be eventually built at Nissan’s Sunderland plant and so many workers in the UK have a vested interest in the car.

The Leaf has a range of around 100 miles fully charged, which makes it first and foremost a car for commuters. Already in London there are a number of charging points and the cars on-board computer informs the driver of his proximity to them, this feature is a must at the moment and the real sticking point for sales of the Leaf will be access to charging points.

The computer also informs the driver of the distance he can travel before recharge, giving the shortest distance he will get if he drives aggressively as well as the farthest point he can reach driving economically. Nissan estimate a careful driver will run up costs of about £2 driving 100 miles and with a top speed of 90 mph, the car should provide all that is necessary for the average commuter.

The car is recharged via a three pin plug just the same as those in homes across Britain and really is a matter of opening a flap on the bonnet and putting the plug in. There are obvious issues for owners who don’t have a drive or garage as it will mean trailing a cable from their property over the pavement to fit in the car, the same problem could apply to the charging station in the towns and cities although the ones already in place in London only require a cable length of around 2 metres.

Another unusual feature motorists and more importantly pedestrians will have to get used to is that the car engine is completely silent. Nissan have installed a speaker at the front of the car that activates at 20mph and creates a sort of turbine noise that will alert pedestrians that there is a vehicle behind them.

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