New Nissan Leaf has got pedal power ... now will price give it pulling power?
First drive: Hush-quiet on the road, and special e-Pedal meant that I rarely had to use the brakes - even in busy California traffic
You can take a break from braking in Nissan's new electric car, the LEAF.
It took me a while to get used to its e-Pedal technology while driving around Pasadena, California, this week. But when I got it right, it was great.
Basically, the e-Pedal lets you accelerate, decelerate and stop just by adjusting pressure on the special pedal/accelerator. When I lifted off, regenerative and friction brakes automatically brought the car to a gradual stop.
And it stayed put on some slight slopes until I pressed the pedal again.
Of course - and this is important - you still have to use the conventional brake pedal for sudden stops (I did a couple of times). I reckon you'd master the best way to work the e-Pedal in a couple of days.
The secret is to judge the distance to stopping. I wasn't great at it initially, partly because I still had it in my head that I'd slow and then brake, but I improved a lot in the middle part of my drive before drifting a bit again. Just takes a little time.
But of course you needn't bother with it at all and can drive like you normally would. I had no bother accelerating though; this was quick and sharp.
The LEAF is due in Ireland in February with official prices disclosed mid-December. They have already announced pricing for a special launch version. Its trim level is third up the range from entry-grade and will cost €29,590. Interesting to see what the entry-level will be.
I can tell you that here in the US the new car is being priced at $690 less than the old one - a sign of an aggressive push in a market still madly in love with its gas guzzlers.
The new car looks immeasurably better and the inside is a lot easier to live with. I felt there was a smidgen more room, though it is marginally longer, wider, lower and built on the same platform as the current model.
The second row of seats (plenty of knee and headroom) was elevated, but my driving position felt quite high too. In a tasty cabin, the seats in my test model were excellent.
The one thing I noticed above all was the lack of noise. It must be one of the quietest, hushiest cars I've driven.
They are claiming its new e-powertrain gives it a 40kWh capacity (up 10kWh) and boosts range to 378km, but I'd say realistically you'll get 270km/280km.
The automaker is being criticised over not going for longer range, but counters with figures claiming typical owners will only need to charge once or twice a week.
There's an increase in torque and power (now 150PS) and a claimed top speed of 144 kmh. All made for a zippy drive, I can tell you.
The new lithium-ion battery pack takes four to 16 hours to charge on a home socket (from zero) and up to eight hours with a 6KW home charger. But you'll get a quick charge to 80pc on the public system in 40 minutes.
They have a ProPILOT driver assistance system - not as standard - which you can use to keep you centre lane and a safe distance from the car in front.
ProPILOT Park can control steering, acceleration, braking and gear selection to automatically guide the car into a parking spot.
In Ireland, the distributors expect buyer numbers to double (to 500 or so by my reckoning) next year, with the recent BIK relief adding momentum. Road tax is €120 and €10,000 combined VRT rebate and SEAI grants apply.
But price/spec and especially cost-to-change will be crucial. Like the e-Pedal, they're the factors that accelerate, or slow, people's inclination to go electric.