Owning a Leaf: Top 5 pros and cons

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 MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Greg Ball, the first Nissan Leaf customer locally, shares his experiences in owning SA’s first first mass-produced EV. Image: WHEELS24, SERGIO DAVIDS ~
It's November 2013 and the Nissan Leaf has dropped into South Africa as the first production battery-car available here.

The Leaf is powered by a 24kWh lithium-ion battery pack feeding an 80kW/245Nm AC motor which sends power to the front wheels via a single-speed auto. According to Nissan, the Leaf has a range of 195km (comparable to two-litres/100km) with zero CO2 emissions.

It sells for R446 000.


Just how useful is a car that takes eight hours to recharge and can only (maybe) go 194km?

Greg Ball, MD of Airco SA and the first local Nissan Leaf customer, shared his experiences of owning the first mass-produced EV in SA.

Ball and his family live a green lifestyle. His house and business derive power from solar energy and neither is on the national electricity grid. His water storage tanks and vegetable garden mean his family’s carbon footprint is significantly lower than that of the average South African household.

Wheels24: Why did you buy a Nissan Leaf?

Greg Ball: “I decided to purchase the Nissan Leaf as it enables me to realise my desire to go green and further my efforts to reduce my family’s carbon footprint. Being in the green energy solutions business, I'm now also able to set an example to my customers and my two young children who are learning how to approach their future.

“It’s a great family car with plenty of space and features. I live a green lifestyle and the Leaf is well suited for my family’s needs. I see it as a milestone; my first EV – my small contribution towards a solution to a global problem. I think motoring is going to change and going EV isn’t going to be an option, it will be the future.”

W24: Can you list pros and cons of owning a Leaf?

1 It doesn’t use petrol or diesel
"Not having to rely on fossil fuels fits into my goal of reducing my carbon footprint. I have the means to recharge it with renewable energy"
2 Low insurance
"Driving an EV means you have a lower risk profile compared to drivers of conventional cars. This means that your insurance premiums will be lower."
3 Reliability
"There’s little chance of mechanical failure. There are few moving parts so you won't need to worry about expensive part replacements."
4 Quiet and comfortable
"I like having a comfortable, spacious car and the Leaf provides this. At first I was a bit disorientated by the lack of noise but I’ve come to like it. I like quiet driving and listening to music."
5 Making a difference
"Owning Leaf enables me to be part of the change I want to see in the world."


1 Range
"Vehicle range is going to be a constant issue unless you manage it well. Until we create a more efficient power source, range is going to be a flaw in EVs. My advice is to have a second vehicle for longer trips. I own a Volvo S60 and use it for longer trips."
2 No sound
"If you enjoy the roar of a V8 this isn’t going to be for you. The lack of engine noise isn’t disorientating but some drivers might miss it."
3 Infrastructure
"The recharging infrastructure of EVs is still in development and as such cannot facilitate large uptake of EVs. Nissan has rolled out quick-charging stations with more to follow which makes the Leaf more appealing. Owners should be mindful of their charging needs."
4 Not for long trips
"While the Leaf is a great city car it’s range limits its practicality for longer trips. It’s targeted towards city drivers and those who have a green lifestyle like me. As I mentioned, having a second vehicle for long trips is advisable."
5 Not for a petrolhead
"If you’re into performance cars and have a need for speed, then this is one vehicle that won’t fit into your lifestyle."

W24: Any advice for potential Leaf owners?
GB: “You have to consider your travelling patterns and make adjustments as recharging the Leaf will be your top priority. You might be surprised by your driving habits and could find that a Leaf will suit your traveling habits.

“Getting energy into your Leaf will be a primary concern. If you adopt energy conservation techniques in your home, you’ll not only be able to accommodate recharging your Leaf you’ll find that your overall energy bill will drop too.

“If you don’t have access to a quick-charge station, a second vehicle is advisable for longer trips. If you spend the majority of your time in a city or conduct short trips, then owning a Leaf will be perfect for you.”