The Good Oil: Nissan Leaf love
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The Nissan Leading Environmentally Affordable Family car (that’s “Leaf” to you and I) is a vehicle that many New Zealand enthusiasts love to hate.
Why? Partly because it’s a very obvious symbol of a future without the combustion engine. Partly because the first-generation model looks funny and doesn’t have to (it’s not even that aerodynamic). And partly because staggering popularity as a budget-priced used import brings with it a certain stigma.
The Good Oil understands all of that. But the Leaf is also a car to be celebrated. It was the first truly mass-produced Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) in the world at launch in 2010. It showed the world that BEVs could be viable, reliable and durable.
That durability has stood the Leaf in good stead as a used import in NZ, which in turn means it’s the vehicle that has introduced thousands of ordinary Kiwis to BEV technology.
At the time of writing there are 13,298 used-import BEVs registered in NZ; most of those are Leafs. A quick check on DRIVEN.co.nz reveals over 300 of them for sale right now (the cheapest is $6995).
The Leaf hit the half-million global sales milestone at the end of last year. Nissan reckons that translates to 16 billion clean-air kilometres driven and 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 kept out of the environment.
Over the past decade, the Leaf’s battery capacity has increased by 160 per cent and its range 120 per cent.
If you like your stats even stranger, Nissan also says a Leaf can regenerate 744kWh of electricity under deceleration and braking every year/18,000km, which is enough to power a mobile phone for 372 years. Handy.
Leaf has proved Kiwis with affordable used-BEV motoring for years now. And in the face of climate emergencies and Clean Car Standards, when we’re all bemoaning the fact that there are no truly affordable new BEVs, remember that not so long ago Leaf offered that too.
In 2014, Nissan NZ slashed the price of the new Leaf from $69,990 to $39,990, in a loss-leading move to kick-start BEV sales (well, with the help of some excess cars from Australia).
But in an age of low awareness and virtually no public fast-charging infrastructure, the Leaf just quietly went away until the second-generation model was launched in 2019 (currently from $61,990). Imagine if we could have that $40k brand-new Leaf back now.