One does not have to be a 20something ‘woke’ to appreciate how the Leaf can contribute to making our air more breathable
Remember during the height of the Enhanced Community Quarantine lockdown a little over a year ago how clean and blue Metro Manila’s skies were? How the once thick layer of smog that blanketed the capital suddenly vanished after cars and public transportation were given a rest. For many of us, it was a rare moment to see Metro Manila so clean and quiet.
Our reliance on cars and PUVs as the main forms of mobility over the years has had an impact on the quality of air we breathe. Emissions, as the byproduct of the combustion engine, have become a part of our daily lives. So much so that when we suddenly stopped driving for a month or two last year, we could immediately see the benefits of an environment without unhampered vehicle use. Skies were bluer. The Sierra Madre mountain range could finally be seen in detail from afar. And the metropolis suddenly became quiet and tranquil.
That brief experience was shared around the world as global lockdowns ensued and it has led many to accept that perhaps, now is the right time to consider other means of propulsion for four wheels.
When Nissan Philippines launched its highly-praised Leaf electric vehicle in the country last month, it did so with full knowledge that it will not be the car the masses will flock to. Despite its pro-environment credentials, despite being a “Zero Emissions” vehicle, the Leaf’s sticker price alone at P2.798 million, is enough to make people shopping for a normal everyday car cringe. But that’s just it, the Nissan Leaf is no ordinary car. And it will take a very comprehensive marketing effort by Nissan to educate the buying public of its merits.
The EV bandwagon
In the automotive industry, we have seen many fads come and go when it comes to engines and propulsion. There was a time when Common-rail Diesel Injection (CRDI) was touted as the best solution to provide the ideal balance between power and efficiency. When that proved sketchy, small displacement turbo engines became the norm. This trend also floundered as its real world performance did not live up to its promise.
Electric vehicles on the other hand seem to be making more of a lasting impact in the industry. Nissan was the first to truly mass produce an EV with its first generation Leaf in 2010. More than 500,000 units of the nameplate have been sold worldwide as of December 2020. And as other car manufacturers follow suit with their EV offerings, even declaring that electrification will be found in their full lineups in the coming years, it will soon look like a shift to battery powered mobility is not too far off.
The Nissan Leaf seems to be a step ahead of its usual contemporaries. The company has better understood the market over the last 11 years and has made the Leaf even more friendly and intuitive to use.
Driving the Leaf is said to be an all-new experience altogether. Its optional e-Pedal system lets you propel and stop the car using only the accelerator pedal. The electric motors’ resistance provides the braking and at the same time recharges the batteries. Combined with Brake Mode, and barring any emergency stopping scenarios, one can cruise around town hardly touching the brake pedal. Wouldn’t this be a boon on stop and go EDSA?
With its 40KW electric motor producing 150PS and 320 Nm of instant torque doing the business, the Leaf can accelerate up to 100km/h in 7.9 seconds. This is the same torque range you will find in lower displacement CRDI engines guaranteeing a bit more fun from the get go. With the Leaf, acceleration is instantaneous while being unfrantic. There is no engine noise as EVs go, making your time inside the Leaf as relaxed and calm as a golf cart.
Common car comforts
The Nissan Leaf has been designed for the mass market. As a front-wheel drive hatchback, it is about as practical to drive as any other 5-door ride except that you are not adding harmful emissions to the air we all breathe.
The Leaf’s MacPherson strut front and Torsion Beam axle rear suspension, along with its ventilated front and rear disc brakes are just about as typical as a typical car can go.
Like any other family car that can seat 5 people in relative comfort, the Leaf has the usual list of creature comforts checked out. It has cup and bottle holders, USB charging points for your mobile devices, and even Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are integrated into its 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with 6 speakers.
Up to 435 Liters of cargo space is available in the trunk. This expands to 1,176 liters when the rear seats are folded. So it should be versatile enough to throw in some luggage and Balikbayan boxes from an airport run.
Aside from the electric drivetrain, driving aid technology is where the bulk of your money for the Leaf goes to.
Intelligent Cruise Control lets the car control speed and braking to maintain a constant distance to the car ahead. High Beam Assist dips the halogen headlamps to low beam when a vehicle is detected ahead. Intelligent Trace Control manages the brakes in a turn and lets you have a more optimal line on winding roads. Intelligent Emergency Braking warns a driver first of an impending collision and automatically brakes the vehicle to help you avoid it. And an Intelligent Around View Monitor with 4 cameras gives you a 360-degree view of your surroundings while alerting you if it detects a moving object nearby.
Then there are the usual features found in more expensive cars such as Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Intelligent Driver Alertness, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning and Intelligent Lane Intervention as well as Hill Start Assist. All these systems add up to providing you a safer and more confident time behind the wheel of a Leaf.
Who’s in charge?
Being a fully electric car that runs on lithium-ion batteries, the Nissan Leaf will eventually need to top off on charge as its energy store depletes.
Rated to travel up to 311 kilometers on a full charge, the Leaf is good enough for a couple of days’ run up and down EDSA on a commute to work. Charging it can either be done with a dedicated 220-volt socket Home Charger, which will take up to 18.5 hours. Or a Wall Box charger installed at home for an estimated 7.5 hours from low to full. Much like leaving your mobile plugged in at night to charge. But the Quick Charger is by far the fastest way to get juice, at approximately 40-60 minutes to top up the Leaf’s batteries.
Nissan Philippines has assigned six of its dealerships to sell the Leaf. And it has also equipped them with Quick Chargers exclusive for Leaf owners to use. The latest showrooms that have started selling the Leaf are NIssan Matina in Davao City and Nissan Tagum. So now, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao Nissan customers have the option to experience Nissan’s version of the electric vehicle.
The price of admission
At a shade under P2.8 million, the Nissan Leaf is not cheap. One can easily purchase a high end 7-seat crossover from other car brands at that price. What you are paying for, however, is the experience to drive something new, something you are not used to. It is to satisfy your inner compulsion to be unique and to be different and all while helping save the environment. To play a part in the evolution of future mobility.
One does not have to be a 20-something “woke” to appreciate how the Leaf can contribute to making our air more breathable. All you need is the willingness to be part of the solution.
IN main photo: Nissan Italy managing director Marco Toro hands over the keys to a white Nissan Leaf to the president of the Governorate of Vatican City State Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, who is also the president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State
Motoring and motorsports are two of Mikko’s greatest passions. Combining more than twenty years of professional automotive photography and videography experience with years of touring car racing competition, and a deep understanding of the car industry, from both the manufacturers’ and consumers’ points of view, have given him a unique and insightful perspective in the motoring beat.