Wednesday, May 29, 2024

iTHINK | To EV or not? We test the Nissan Leaf to find out

I’ve always been interested in nice cars, especially when I was younger. The faster, more powerful, and striking, the better it is in my honest opinion.

As I grew older, those descriptions still hold, but with additional considerations. Practicality, including space, comfort, fuel consumption, maintenance, and overall cost of ownership.

This may sound like a cliché, but the past two and half years (pandemic) have also made me realize that sustainability is something that we need to seriously consider.

Truth be told, we hear a lot about sustainability these days – how to live more sustainably by making more sustainable decisions and patronizing sustainable products and services.

Experts say that sustainability is a concept and/or practice that focuses on the idea that we need to meet our current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. This means that goods should be produced in a way that causes little (or no) damage to the environment, and electric cars are no different.

Globally, it’s no secret that transport industry has not been great for the planet. In fact, it accounts for around one-fifth of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, while road traffic accounts for the majority of transport emissions.

The largest contributor of greenhouse gases are tailpipe emissions — chemicals produced by a car with a conventional internal combustion engine as it runs.

And we all know that the Metro Manila traffic conditions is one of the worst. In fact, according to a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), our country is projected to lose ₱5.4 billion to traffic daily by 2035 if no interventions are made in Metro Manila. JICA had previously estimated that our nation loses ₱3.5 billion daily due to traffic congestion.

Given all that, what role does sustainability play in the car industry and how sustainable are electric cars? I honestly do not know. I’ll defer to the industry experts to talk about this matter. For now, what I’ll share is my experience with an actual electric vehicle (EV).

In late August 2022, I was able to experience an EV for the very first time. This was courtesy of Nissan Philippines, who generously loaned me a white Nissan Leaf for two weeks.

This is also the very first time that I’m (trying) writing a car review, which I’ve always thought of in the past, but never really acted on it — until now.

So, let me just talk about 3Ps:

Performance

On paper, the Leaf is powered by a 100% electric motor that produces 150 horsepower and 320NM of torque. I got the chance to test the performance in the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and STAR Tollway, on my way to Mabini, Batangas.

Every time I stepped on the acceleration pedal, the car just moved forward quietly and with ease, even with two adults and three kids on board. Maintaining a cruising speed of 100kms was effortless and you can feel that the motor had so much more left to give.

So, power was more than adequate for your usual travel requirements. And the good news is, there’s enough power if you go on spirited drives occasionally.

For the battery performance, just like our cellphones, it depends on how we drive or use it. Driving range will vary depending on the battery age and condition, driving style, traffic, road and weather conditions, load, etc.

Overall, I think the performance is comparable if not better than most fuel-fed cars in its weight class.

Practical

The car does not consume fuel, hence very practical considering that fuel prices are still very high.

It can sit five adults comfortably has enough space for luggage when on road trips. Speaking of road trips, best to make sure that your destination has available outlets, as the quick charging stations are still very limited, while the home charger requires direct outlets only.

Overall, I think that the Leaf is a perfect car for city driving. Quiet on the road and on the pocket. If you intend to use this car for a long time, I think the cost of ownership is well justified.

Physical

This is very subjective. In my view, the Leaf could have been designed better for a more commanding physical presence. As it is, it looks like a compact and modern station wagon. A taller and wider body could easily transform the physical looks into a compact SUV.

For the interiors, it could use some additional basic enhancements like leather seats and soft touch materials all over.

Overall, I think Nissan Leaf is a good-looking car that can still look better.

With the availability of Leaf and Kicks in the local market, I think Nissan is doing a good job in leading the shift towards a more sustainable car industry in the Philippines.

Positioning drives perception, while perception drives reputation – that’s what I think.

The author is the vice president and head of corporate affairs & communications of BPI and is concurrently the executive director of BPI Foundation

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