Nissan Leaf

So, the Nissan Leaf. The price has come down a bit since it was first launched. It was too expensive then and I think it’s still too expensive now but I’m glad it’s here. It was a courageous move to launch a proper electrically-powered family hatch when it did. Apart from assorted Renaults, I don’t think there have been very many other pure electric-drive cars launched.

There’s a Focus which is even more expensive than the Nissan. There are also assorted Germans coming from Audi, Volkswagen and Mercedes, none of which are going to be cheap. Better men than I have done sums which show that the cost of running a Renault Zoe including the battery lease offers marginal savings over a diesel hatch like a Clio. I don’t know about that. Diesels have their own issues in the form of their particulate emissions of course and as someone whose nicotine-kippered lungs don’t function quite as well as they should, I am grateful for every reduction in PM10 levels.

BMW i3BMW got in there ahead of the other Germans. Unlike the others, BMW chose to develop unique vehicles to carry their electric drivetrains. Audi, Mercedes and Volkswagen have developed electric versions of the A3, B-Class and Golf respectively and Mercedes has borrowed tech from Tesla. It’s also a bit expensive but it’s a BMW so we sort of expect that. In fact, it’s less expensive than the Focus Electric in its basic spec. The Focus is very well equipped but so is the i3 and just look at it. The Focus is the facelifted version so it looks a little like an Aston Martin but the i3 looks like the future.

I’m smitten with it, very smitten. It’s made from carbon fibre and has suicide rear doors and the interior is probably the most gorgeous I’ve seen on a car in several yonks. It’s odd-looking on the outside, but good-odd. It’s much more to my taste than the Nissan Leaf. The Leaf looks like it’s on its way to a geography lesson. The BMW on the other hand is definitely on its way to a BDSM masterclass.


Meanwhile the Tesla Model S is on its way to mug an XFR, and then steal an M5’s lunch money and sneak up behind an S-Class. I’ve seen a few of these out and about and they glide. It’s a shame that the rumbliest, grumbliest V-twin motorcycles in the world are knows as Electraglides because if ever a product deserved that name, it’s this one. There is a new one which has a second motor driving the front wheels giving it 690hp in total. It’s such a Q-car that it’s really a q-car. It doesn’t even shout about not shouting about its performance. It even has a reasonable range. You can’t get a green one any more which seems a little ironic, but still.

I don’t think electric cars have been this sexy since the days of the Jamais Contente. (The world landspeed record holder in 1899, look it up. It was driven by a famous Belgian and everything.)

There are still people insisting that the power for personal mobility be produced locally using fuel cells and maybe that’s true but I think it’s adding an extra layer of unnecessary complexity to the system. You need to produce the hydrogen, distribute it and then process it on board the car before you generate your electricity. It all seems inefficient compared to plugging in like you do your mobile phone or your laptop.

 Anyway, I’ll have an i3 in orange. You know how I feel about orange cars.

This Isn’t Going To End Well

I heard about this story on the Transport Evolved podcast which I listened to this afternoon. My thanks to Nicky Gordon-Bloomfield, the podcast’s host. You can hear the podcast here. Transport Evolved is a green transport podcast with a strong emphasis on cars which come with a plug attached. It has a bias but it’s worth listening to because it’s the only extant podcast on electric vehicles which is made in the UK. I’d planned to do a review of the show at some point in any case because I find it interesting. I’ll do that when I’ve had a chance to talk to Nicky.

In the meantime…

Tesla Motors, the makers of my favourite electric car, have issued a lawsuit against Top Gear, the makers of my second favourite motoring-based nonsense show claiming that the show fabricated scenes depicting the failure of its Roadster and scripted the conclusion of the test before carrying it out. I can’t believe that this will end well for anyone concerned, other than the lawyers both parties will be obliged to pay to argue their cases in the British courts. They’re going to coin it. What’s more, they’ll be coining it at the expense of the Licence Fee payer, at least as far as the defendants are concerned.

I watched the film again this evening and it was a remarkably positive review apart from the conclusion in which Clarkson said that the Tesla doesn’t work in the real world. He considered that £92,000 was quite a lot to spend on an electric Elise, even if it goes like stink and handles quite well. He was worried about the range. He said it was 200 miles but that they would get about 55 miles if it were driven hard at track speed. The brakes failed during the test and required a fuse to be replaced before they worked effectively again. The motor overheated, the car went into a reduced power mode and the car was seen being pushed into a garage or hangar at the test track.

Tesla is worried that this constitutes bad publicity and is damaging to their reputation. In my opinion, they’re wrong. I loved the film and was excited to find out more about the car as a result of seeing it. Like the presenters of the show, I think it’s far too expensive but unlike them, I don’t think that the range is an issue. The problems with the motor and the brakes would almost certainly not be repeated in everyday use. It’s not as if Tesla is the only company to be on the receiving end of an indifferent review. TVRs used to be pasted for their unreliability and idiosyncrasy. The Aston Martin Vanquish was lambasted because the belt for its power steering pump slipped off and had to be replaced not once but twice during a test. The Bentley Arnage shredded its tyres. The Prodrive P2 made Jeremy chunder and the Nissan GTR almost broke his neck.  In each case, the problems were brought to attention in the test and the manufacturer hasn’t sought redress in the courts.

I really think this is a bad idea for Tesla. They’re going to look foolish and churlish if it ever reaches court. I can only hope that they’ll see sense and withdraw the suit before it gets there.