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The future is ELECTRIFYING

2017-05-14 07:00

ECO-FRIENDLY DESIGN: Gayle Edmunds’ daughter approves of the electric Nissan. The manufacturing process for the Leaf has been designed to minimise environmental impact. PHOTOS: Gayle Edmunds

Nissan Leaf
Price: From R474 900

It’s the future, and it’s sexy.

Cars really don’t do it for me – I couldn’t care less what its torque is or how it corners. Mostly, I couldn’t tell the difference between one type and another – until now.

I managed to finagle a Nissan Leaf to test drive. Electric, baby! It’s environmentally responsible so that we can help save the planet, just in case those seven recently discovered “Earth-like” planets turn out to be a bit too far away.

The smoothly silent engine sure felt like the future pulling in. My husband, who does like cars, said it made our cars seem like dinosaurs. He cast an appreciative gaze over the bodywork and dumped his iPad to go for a spin.

Why, 109 years since the Model-T Ford rolled out of the factory, are we still using the same old, smelly combustion engine technology?

Last September, the World Health Organisation released research that found that nine out of 10 people around the world are breathing poor quality air, leading to 6 million deaths a year.

Exhaust fumes are a big part of that, and Asia is hardest hit. Which is probably why China’s biggest city, Beijing, will be replacing its 70 000-strong taxi fleet with electric cars. China is the world’s largest electric car market, with 600 000 on the roads so far, according to Futurist.com.

In Holland, if a current motion is passed, no sales of new petrol or diesel cars will be allowed after 2025. The fact that the county had all its trains running on renewable energy last year means it has already arrived in the future.

But dirty air can’t be kept behind a wall, even if US President Donald Trump thinks it can, so we all have to clean up our act to make a real difference.

Which brings us back to the Leaf. When I pulled into a Nissan dealership to recharge it, I was surrounded by people who stroked it and asked about its performance and its range. They knew the future when they saw it, and it was sexy.

The one thing I could tell them was that it goes faster and more gracefully than a leaf caught in a sudden gust of wind. No getting through the gears or revving, you put your foot down and it flies – taking on the posers in their last century petrol burners.

When I grudgingly returned the car and got back into my own petrol guzzler, I found that I felt even more resentful than usual about buying petrol to fill it up.

Luckily, the future is blowing in the wind. Gayle Edmunds

Charging is a bore

I’ve read about electric cars and seen some on the road, but they don’t really do it for me. Well, that was until a Nissan Leaf was dropped off at my office.

After a quick check and explanation about how to charge it – something I took for granted, but that would embarrass me later – I found myself interested in how it moves.

I instantly liked its spaciousness (it can easily seat five), the boot space and that it doesn’t have a lot of gadgets on the dashboard. It’s not much of a stunner, but this is not a beauty contest.

I got the car with a range of 100km until its next charge, so the first two days were taken care of. But with Saturday being my day off and one of my sons having a practice match in the east of Joburg, I was presented with the chance to drive the Leaf for a longer distance than the usual trip from home to work and back.

First, I needed to charge it – a quick drive to the Clearwater Nissan dealership, plug in and go. Or so I thought. After taking a walk for half an hour, I returned to the station only to find that the car didn’t charge. It was my fault – I should have listened carefully to the instructions.

The Leaf could not make the trip to my son’s soccer match, but I returned later to the station and was instructed on how to charge it properly.

Besides the constant charging – when full, the Leaf gives you a range of 120km – the car is easy in town driving. It’s very quick on the take-off, quiet on the road and occasionally draws peoples’ attention – they’re probably wondering what car it is or why it isn’t making a noise.

The longest trip I took was to see my eldest son at boarding school in Tshwane. Upon our return from the shops to get groceries, three of his friends hopped in and the Leaf wowed them.

It’s a good drive, but the constant plug-ins to charge were a bore. Nissan has listened to complaints about the range, as the new Leaf will be able to do about 500km after a charge. Dumisane Lubisi

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