I think I’ve caught the EV bug. For those not in the know, that’s the Electric Vehicle bug. I’ve seen a few driving around, and there’s no denying that I’m a little bit fascinated at the thought of an all-electric car. So, when Scott from Gluyas Nissan suggested I road test the Leaf for a few days, I jumped at the chance.

There’s no denying that electric vehicles (EVs) are the future — they’re cheap to run, more efficient than petrol engines and better for the environment. The government has even set a target of doubling the number of EVs in New Zealand every year to 64,000 by 2021. But are they the future in Mid Canterbury?

So, with just 51% charge showing on the clock, my first stop is the Super-charge station in the West Street carpark, but Scott came along for the drive to run me through the process. Easy.

Twenty minutes later I’m fully charged with a range of about 180km’s available. It’s an odd feeling starting the Leaf and hearing – nothing. Unfazed, I zap about town, in and out of meetings, keeping a close eye on my power consumption. I have a 50km drive home at the end of the day, and I don’t want to come to a grinding halt!

Size-wise, its similar to the current Spirit Magazine car, so I’m making comparisons. I’ll appreciate the luxury of the heated sets and heated steering wheel in winter, but for now I’m liking the rear-view camera on the dash, and the fact that I can out-zap the other cars stopped at the lights!

The drive home is easy. On the highway, it holds the road well and has great pickup when you want to overtake on the open road. I’ve settled into it now. It’s really no different to driving any other car – just quieter, and I’m feeling rather smug about saving money and saving the environment!

Once home, Randy has to take a drive, and I invite a couple of car-enthusiast neighbours over to check it out. First impressions are a big thumbs up.

I still have almost 50% power, but I’m concerned about how far I can travel on it, so I re-charge the battery overnight, attaching the adaptor into the normal three-pin outlet. It’s a lot slower than the Super-charge station in town, but easier, since I don’t have to worry about other vehicles needing to plug in.

Back in town next morning I want to return it fully charged so I queue at the charging station, and chat to another Leaf driver, who is charging his wife’s ‘shopping basket.’ They’ve owned it over a year, and love it.

So, let’s get to the nitty gritty. Bearing in mind that I travel 50km’s each way to get to work every day, without going into detailed costs, I estimate that I would save close to $500 a month on petrol usage, almost $6,000 a year!  That’s huge!

There’s no maintenance or servicing required either, just a WOF; the batteries have approximately 15-year life, are recyclable, and overall, EV’s are better for the environment and our health.

The down-side for me would be ‘charging stress.’ I think the distance I travel, and the fact that the car is used regularly during the working day, puts me marginally outside the profile of the ideal EV driver. There’s an App you can download to tell you where the closest charging station is, but for just a couple of days, I didn’t bother. I can see how that would be enormously helpful if I was a city driver or driving an unknown route.

Something to bear in mind, is the likelihood of Road User Charges being implemented in the next few years, so the cost savings are likely to change, although not dramatically (my opinion). Electricity costs could also change.  The technology will also advance so who knows what the future holds?

My conclusion: The Leaf was great fun to drive, very zappy about town, and in my opinion, ideal for anyone driving less than 100km’s a day. I’ll be watching out for a longer life battery and I’ll definitely be taking a closer look.

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.