The city of Southampton sees an awful lot of ships. There are cruise ships, cargo ships and, frequently, ships carrying lots of cars as they get imported and exported to and from the UK. As a result, the air quality in Southampton is suffering from the fumes that waft from the bustling dockside right across the city. We know this, as we’ve walked up and down the quayside enough times to spot the difference between fresh sea air and cruddy marine diesel fumes.
Unfortunately though, it seems the humble car driver is being pursued about the air quality issue more than the ship owners, which seems kinda silly. More so when carmakers are doing their best to reduce emissions.
In the case of Nissan, electric is increasingly being seen as the way forwards, both in terms of getting from A to B and also improving air quality. Nissan therefore chose an opportune time to hold its launch for the LEAF e+, with June 20 being Clean Air Day.
Our first drive route in the LEAF e+ initially took us through the streets of the city and onwards towards the New Forest. Here there are plenty of trees, all doing their own bit for carbon offsetting. But, venturing out into the sticks can also be a trigger for the dreaded range anxiety that befalls anyone who drives an electric car without understanding how they tick. Or, in fact, checking where the next charging point is going to emerge.
While range anxiety hasn't been fully extinguished, the beefier battery in the LEAF e+ delivers a warm fuzzy feeling if you normally sweat bullets at the thought of finding one of those charging points.
This model comes with a larger 62kWh battery, which means more range at 239 miles on one charge compared to the 168-mile capacity of the other model. But, the tradeoff is more weight to go with it. Usefully though that added weight makes it hug the road nicely.
Compared to the standard incarnation with its 40kWh power supply the new model boasts a 160kW/217 horsepower motor. While the extra bulk does slow it down a bit the LEAF e+ is still pretty potent when you need to overtake. And, once you’ve got it up to cruising speed the car is as good, if not better than its lower-powered offering. The car is also 5mm higher due to the intricacies of having a beefier battery, but it doesn’t roll much as a result.
Cosmetically the LEAF e+ is quite hard to differentiate from the other model, though there are one or two cosmetic flourishes, most notably on the front bumper.
Inside, our model had everything you want from a saloon, with generous levels of features and functions thanks to its top-of-the range Tekna specification. We also made good use of the Nissan ProPilot suite of driver assist goodies. The sat nav and infotainment in this model are rock-solid too, as is the very cool seven speaker Bose audio output.
Overall, the LEAF e+ cabin area is a nice place to be, with those seats being really comfortable. And, now that you can go on longer runs in it they’ll be getting put to good use. This is also a surprisingly roomy car, with a decent amount of space in the rear along with a very impressive 405-litre boot that’s good for most everyday things and quite a bit more besides.
Rest and recharge
Halfway around our test drive, which was made all the more entertaining thanks to the LEAF e+’s addictive e-pedal, we stopped off further down the coast and were greeted by another first for Nissan. There, parked by the sea front was an all-electric ice cream van. We’ve all seen and indeed experienced traditional ice cream vans and had to stand next to their often horribly smoky and noisy diesel engines idling over all day while they serve up Whippy ices and the odd 99.
But, this van, an e-NV200, Nissan’s 100% electric LCV (light commercial vehicle) is a very different kettle of fish. It’s currently a one-off for ice cream makers Mackie’s of Scotland, based in Aberdeenshire. The company has a commitment to producing its wares as greenly as possible so the van, complete with solar panels and a 40kWh power plant, seems like an obvious addition.
There were soft-serve offerings and scoops of raspberry ripple on offer, plus cold drinks, all from this self-sufficient vehicle. The van also contained Nissan’s Energy ROAM, which is a portable power pack that features recovered cells from first-generation Nissan electric vehicles. Ice-cream aficionados can even track down the van, not from an old-school audible chime, but from tweets of its location.
Shades of green
Full of ice cream we hit the road again, back towards Southampton. Like any car, Nissan’s LEAF e+ does need to be driven sensibly if you want to squeeze the best from that improved battery.
We kept the car on Eco mode and even managed to push some life back into the power plant going down steep hills thanks to the way the e-Pedal lets you do your own bit of energy regeneration. Conversely, drive with a lead foot and you’ll soon see the range declining, especially with a car full of passengers.
Later in the day Nissan even went the extra mile and let us do a little bit of our own carbon offsetting by planting a tree per driver at the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens near Romsey. And, they threw in a bunch of Non Plastic Beach goodies in our hotel rooms, replacing the less environmentally friendly stuff that normally sits in the bathrooms of hotels around the globe.
Granted, there is still much work to be done if we’re actually going to save the planet, but it’s a start. From small acorns and all that…