A Year In The Life

Posted: December 28, 2012 in Nissan Leaf Diary

So it’s been just over a year now since I got my Nissan Leaf Electric Car. I have driven just under  27000km in it so far and over this time I have had lots of different situations arise some bad but mostly good. I can say I absolutely love the car and don’t believe I will ever switch back to an ICE vehicle.

Anyhow, here is my final end of year post, it is a run down of Pros, Cons and suggestions with having an EV as your daily primary vehicle.

The Car (Pros):

  • It’s extremely cheap to run (I have saved €1500+ over using diesel/more if I had previously been on Petrol). It’s also cheap to keep up, as there are no oils/spark plugs etc… to get replaced. I recently had it’s yearly service done and the only filter needed was a pollen filter.
  • It’s easy to drive, quick to accelerate, smooth as fuck and extremely quiet. It’s also a roomy car and very comfortable to be in. Oh, and it corners great because of the low center of gravity from the battery position. There’s also plenty of space to carry goods in both the boot and with the seats down, I’ve had washing machines, rabbit hutches, christmas trees and all sorts of things for recycling fill up the back.
  • Full accompaniment of gadgets, bluetooth, navigation, rear colour camera etc…
  • After 1 year of driving there appears to be no issue or degradation with the batteries. I will need to go back for a full capacity check in the new year and will update on that separately.
  • Tax rate (now A0) has gone down from €156 to €120, the A1 rate previously at €156 has gone up to €170 so the saving it better again.
  • All in all it’s a standard working driveable car.

The Car (Cons):

  • The mp3 music system is horrible (look at my earlier post on this). It seriously needs a firmware update to make it more usable.
  • The navigation buttons (on screen) are too small for when you are trying to press them and choices stay on screen for too long (like when you choose a destination, it takes a bit of time for the destination set text to disappear and start the route.)
  • The interior colour is absolutely woeful if you are anyone but a clean freak with no kids. It will pick up marks and dirt almost as soon as you leave the showroom (I believe the newer models to come out will come in a range on interior colours)
  • Slow for charge points to end up in the navigation system. I believe this is more of an NavTeq issue though. Also no updates so far for the map, my map still hasn’t got the M7/M8 extension from Port Laoise to Cashel on it.
  • During the service on the car I was asked did I want to have the windscreen wipers changed. I said no as it was 47 euro, that’s crazy for wipers. I’ll buy cheap ones.

Most situations you have will be with the infrastructure (there are many different reasons for this and cannot be blamed on any one group or company)

The Infrastructure (Pros):

  • The infrastructure is very good and is always getting bigger and more spread out. With the new 2.1m funding Ireland has received from Europe this should only get better next year, with more FCPs being spread out across the country.
  • The charge points are simple to use and have a good general reliability (getting better all the time as well). With the exception of ChargeMaster posts, although I will state that of late they have been working more and more for me.
  • The hotel charge points are fantastic, the more these spread the better. Stay over night and your car is fully charged and ready when you wake up.

The Infrastructure (Cons):

  • Parking spots. A lot of times you cannot get access to the charging posts because ICE vehicles are blocking it or the location is a bit ridiculous. This is caused by inconsiderate arseholes, who fill the spots with their cars but it is not entirely their fault, the government/local council need to paint these spots and actually fine the drivers. The smart transport bill is suppose to help with this but the Minister for Transport has yet to bring it out (even though he had a loan of an EV early this year).
  • Locations: Most charging is done at home and very few of us will have the benefit of getting a charger put into our work place so the locations of chargers are very important. They need to be more spread out and they need to be thought out better. Libraries, Cinemas, Shopping Centres, Hotels, Swimming Pools/Gyms, Car Parks & Tourist Attractions are all good locations as you stay a while at these places. Also choosing FCP locations is important too. I asked about an FCP in the Topaz station at Kill on the M7 (great location for one), I was told one was being put in at Naas. That’s ludicrous, you want me to pull off the motorway into a busy town to stop and quick charge instead of pulling into a motorway Service Station located on the M7/N7. This goes against the idea of quick charging. Finally, more chargers need to be spread out across the country. Simply look at the charge map on ESB eCars site and there are parts of the country with significant dead zones while others appear to have an abundance. This could be that some local councils are more helpful than others but I don’t know what is the reason.
  • Maintenance: It’s great to have 1000+ charging points but it’s pretty useless if they are down (obviously I am not saying that at any point all of them have been down). Generally the dual head charging points go down together so that’s considered 2 charge points down. Also the old 3 pin chargers aren’t really much use as charge points, I mean if you want to mark them as charge points why not give out the 3 pin granny cables and announce you have more than a million charge points installed because houses all have these. Also if a charge point is down, it is imperative that it is looked at that day because the charging app doesn’t get updated fast enough and having to sit and wait hours for someone to come out and have a look at the post is not a good enough solution. Also having a charge point down for more than a year is a disgrace (I am speaking of the charge point in St Agnes Road, Crumlin – which has been down since early December 2011)
  • Charge points popping up in the charging app or map that are not ready yet (Under engineering design/to be commissioned, i.e. Rathfarnham Main Street). Just leave them off until they are fully ready and tested.
  • Charge Points in dealers hidden away where they are inaccessible or exclusive to the garage (Renault in this case)

You will notice that the lists are all very small, this is because there really is nothing more or less to say about life having an EV. Yes, there can be obstacles that may impede your use but to be honest they never actually really stop your use, they are more an inconvenience than a showstopper.

What can be done to improve the uptake/use of EVs in Ireland:

The media could start giving correct unbiased information. Having to watch shows like Top Gear literally lie about the way a car performed or setup situations in such a way so as to show the car in bad light is ridiculous for this day and age. It’s not just foreign media either, repeatedly I have attempted to have a text message read out on “The Last Word” showing the other side of having an EV only to not have it read or the question not put to one of the so called experts, while I have to listen to crap like “it takes how long to charge” and “the range will be sufficient for a very small portion of the population”, as if charging it for 6-8 hours while your in bed actually affects you, and as if 80% of the population drive more than 50 miles each way to and from work. When the petrol prices were a big topic my text on running an EV was ignored, when I replied about range being sufficient for most people it was ignored & when I tried to show how motor tax on an EV had gone down this year it was ignored. This type of 1 sided information is not very helpful at all and for anyone who uses the standard 3 statements; They are too expensive, the infrastructure isn’t there & the batteries don’t last long enough – think back a  few years, you were saying that about mobile phones. Now they are everywhere, it will happen the same in this situation.

The government say they want to be environmental and to help with the uptake of EVs in Ireland. So why don’t they show a bit of initiative then. Make motor tax on EVs nothing. Make parking free and the spots be painted and only for EV use. Make tolls free for EVs. I personally don’t think that having use of the bus lanes is going to change anything, they are barely monitored as it is. Now, you tell someone living in Blanchardstown, who works in Stillorgan, that they wont have to pay for the toll twice a day, nor will they have to pay for that 8 hours parking and that the parking spot will be clear for them, that there’s no yearly motor tax and that the price of doing the journey will be significantly lower. You’ll see how many people consider an EV next time it comes to buying a car. I mean, when there is a significant uptake of EVs, then they can tax us. At the moment they’re hardly making much on us.

More FCPs are needed in motorway service stations or just off them. Busy towns and built up areas are counterproductive.

Granny cable inclusion, I know all the reasons and excuses for and against these but they are just another thing that helps in giving you the confidence to be able to go where you want. I use mine quite a bit when I’m up in Dublin as the nearest chargers to where I stay are quite a bit away.

The smarter transport bill. This needs to get sorted and councils need to act by painting and signposting that a spot is EV only. About 2 weeks ago I stopped in Stillorgan for something to eat after bringing my friend to the hospital. The CP on Old Dublin Road was covered by ICE cars but just down from it there was free spots. I have seen this in numerous places, Rathmines, Crumlin SC etc.. It’s like drivers are attracted by the lights. Also a week later I drove slowly to Nissan HQ from Crumlin on – – – to charge, this was because I knew I wouldn’t get a spot just down the road at the Crumlin SC and there’s no point in even mentioning St Agnes Road charger.

New CPs need to be spread out a bit more. There are a lack of charge points in North Dublin and also in other parts of the country. I think it would help if you could look at the map and see charge points more even spread out making you trust that you will be able to safely make it to one.

Exclusivity of chargers in Renault garages needs to stop & also in Dundrum Shopping Centre, (this could be a prime location). If they are worried someone will lock the charger and they will not be able to use it, surely they can be made it an override RFID card. Also if Nissan dealerships have to hide an FCP in the back where it is inaccessible for large parts of the day, they should have at least a charger outside like in Deansgrange but Kilkenny’s setup is definitely the best way to go.

Repair engineers need to be spread out more around the country. This is just to speed up fixing of broken charge points. I believe this will be coming in soon.

Finally, more local councils need to make the effort (like Bray) in getting charge points in. Especially in locations that they want people to visit, public libraries etc…

So after all that I re-iterate again, although there are places for improvement and sometimes an obstacle can pop up in your way, I have truly loved having my Nissan Leaf this year. It was well worth the money and I cannot envisage going back to ICE. Everyone who takes a turn in it is always amazed by it.

I look forward to the next year and with the improvements coming all the time expect it to be even more pleasurable than 2012.

  1. Bart says:

    It is yet unknown whether SEAI EV grant will be made available from 2013. This will be a serious pickup limiting factor making EVs at least €5K dearer: http://www.seai.ie/Grants/Electric_Vehicle_Grant_Scheme/EV_Grants/Electric_Vehicle_Grants_Overview.html

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