So it has been three years….!!! Since I bought the Nissan Leaf. Although it obviously feels like far less time has elapsed. In fact, I have been conducting an informal psychological experiment at work, by asking my patients how long they have had their filling or crown that has failed, and they underestimate the time that has passed by a factor of between 1.5 and 2 times. I think this is generally how much we underestimate time passing, so next time you think back to how long ago a thing was, try doubling the estimate and you’ll be in the ballpark.
I digress. So battery health 80%, mileage 39378, age-of-vehicle 6 years. Bars of battery health 11/12. Issues this year, none. Really, none. The car has performed admirably. Even with my 80% healthy battery (remember, if you can, that I started with 86% 3 years ago, when the car was 3 years old) I can still comfortably drive to work, only charging to 80% routinely, to continue to preserve the battery health, even on a winters day with wind, rain and darkness all around me and the heaters, headlights and sound system all fired up. Often there will be enough charge to drive back, but I choose to top up the battery at work, as I can. In summer when none of these are required except the sound system, then I can usually drive there and back again without the pleasant but firm voice issuing “low battery charge” from the said sound system, during the return journey, to warn me there are about 10 miles left.
So despite my hope, that I might have to look for (make/adapt/tinker) a replacement battery for this car, it seems that it is really not necessary yet and my screwdrivers and curiosity to dismantle the battery pack will have to be stifled for now. The anticipated market in aftermarket battery packs has not materialised, as there is no real demand for them yet. Battery longevity has exceeded the manufacturer’s expectations, and this can only be a good thing both for owners of EV’s and potential owners.
So where next? Well for me keeping the Leaf. I am not bored with it yet, as I have been with almost every other car I have ever owned. Why is this? I feel its a combination of factors. Firstly its performance does not degrade like most petrol/diesel vehicles I have owned before, the motor is not yet wearing out, and it is not likely to. Whilst the battery capacity slowly decreases, as I have said before this is equivalent to the fuel tank getting smaller, not the engine getting less powerful or less responsive. Secondly, it’s so incredibly cheap to run. Unless you are an 18-year-old driver, insurance usually costs less than fuel, but in the Leaf whilst insuring it costs around £500 per year (I live in Bristol) the fuel/electricity costs are probably £300-£400 per annum to cover around 8000 miles. That’s around 5p per mile in fuel costs. A bit of googling reveals the cost of riding a 50cc scooter to be around 10p/mile.
What about EV’s in general? Well, the early-adopter phase is now moving into the mainstream phase. There are a wealth of EV’s on the market now boasting considerably higher ranges than the original offerings like the 2011 Leaf. Again, as I have alluded to before, this extra range isn’t necessary for an EV to be a very useful vehicle for most drivers, but it is a necessary marketing bullet-point, which will convince fossil fuel car drivers out of their old vehicle and into an electric one. Public chargers are now far more numerous, but still resistant to consolidation into one app, or card to rule them all, which is necessary for full EV adoption.
The concept of smart energy grids, and the rise of microgeneration, and the relative surplus of energy at certain times, like when the sun is shining and the wind blowing, mean that use of EV’s as home energy storage systems promises an even brighter future.
The government has introduced a notional target of 2040 to phase out fossil fuel cars, but this is unnecessary in that the benefits of EV driving will generate the organic replacement of the internal combustion engine, in new passenger vehicles well before this date. But it’s nice to put out there, that this is the direction of travel, in case anyone still thinks it’s a fad, that will fade away before then.