Nissan Leaf launch night

Electric vehicles have been around a very long time, somewhere in the first half of the 18th century Robert Anderson of Scotland invented the first crude electric carriage, since then we’ve had milk floats, delivery trucks, fork lifts and all manner of bikes. The motor industry really only dabbled in battery powered cars, usually modifying one of their current line up to run on electricity before scrapping the idea. Not until the last few years has any major research gone into battery power, mainly because of laptops and mobile phones, there was no point in having a laptop if you could only use it for a few minutes before you needed to charge it again, the same applied to cars. Most of the incarnations of electric vehicles out there run on truck batteries, now I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to pick up a truck battery but they weigh a ton, but the only way to provide more power was to put in more batteries which made things like fork lifts weigh literally tonnes.

You can’t do this to cars, because you need somewhere to put things in cars and if you have a boot full of huge batteries you have a problem. So the car industry noticed that laptops were able to stay on for a couple of hours at a time using a very small power supply, and some one decided to link lots of these batteries together giving us the very modern electric cars.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote on these very pages about the Renault ZE road show, it was great to see a company get so enthusiastic about a product, they seem to really believe this is the current way forward.  At the moment there isn’t a proper alternative to our petrol and diesel cars, sure there’s hydrogen but in all seriousness it’s going to be years before you’ll see any cars in showrooms that can run on the stuff, whereas batteries are already here.

Tonight it was the turn of Nissan to show the Irish public the Leaf, they invited everyone from every medium using Twitter, Facebook, newspapers even the radio to get as many people to the Grand Canal Theatre for tonight’s launch.

It’s a fantastic setting around the Theatre, I’m sure that’s why Nissan choose it, all the people milling around gave a nice buzz to the launch. At 10pm the lights were turned out and a wall opposite the covered car came to life with a huge video playing, the DJ put on some rumbly music and the tension mounted. There were men on stilts dressed as some kind of alien moving around point lasers at the kids, the tension mounted even more when the music got a bit more bass in it, the crowed hushed and with great pomp and splendour, that included some dry ice the covers were lifted off the Nissan Leaf. The young man who stood next to me said “Is that it?”

That’s the crux for Nissan, what they are launching looks for all the world like a normal family hatchback, it’s not like they are launching some kind of sports car that will give the young lads a wet dream, or make the older guys feel younger, it’s just a normal car. There are however some major differences between driving a Leaf and driving a normal car. The biggest of these differences is obviously that the Leaf is wholly electric powered, there is a theoretical limit of 160kms, but in real life that will be far less when you take into account hills, stop-start driving, passengers and the biggest factor of all, driving style. If you rip along between the traffic lights you will eat the electricity, but if you take care when driving you never know you just might get the 160kms out of the little car.

Nissan say the estimated annual charging cost will be €232, and that’s cheap. They also say there’ll be a quick charge station every 60km (approx) on all national routes; they will also put a free home charging point for the first 2000 customers.

There’s a huge effort gone into the launch of the Leaf in Ireland, but there will have to be an effort put by the future owners, you will have to learn a new way of driving to get the best out of the Leaf, still it’s great to see a car company put on a great show for the public, I wish all at Nissan Ireland the best of luck with the venture.

You can reserve your new Leaf at you need to pay a full refundable €232.

You can see and drive the Nissan Leaf at various locations around Ireland, log on to for more details and to book a test drive.

I’ll have a video up later