Nissan Leaf, motoring review: If we took a leaf from Norway's book, this would be a winner

 

PRICE £15,990 (inc £5,000 government grant)
ENGINE CAPACITY Lithium-ion battery modules with electric motor
POWER OUTPUT (BHP@RPM) 108 @ 3,900
TOP SPEED (MPH) 89
0-62 (seconds) 11.15
RANGE (miles) 124

It's still quite rare to spot an electric car in central London, or in any other British city for that matter. Though there are more models on sale than ever before, from BMW's new i3 to this, the second-generation Nissan Leaf, sightings of one outside of the gleaming dealerships alongside the A40 are rarer than sightings of gold-plated Rolls-Royces in Knightsbridge (sadly, reasonably common some days).

In central Oslo, though (where I went last week to see how Norway has embraced the electric car), it couldn't be more different. Instead of Ford Fiestas, you see Nissan Leafs, and instead of luxury Jaguars, you see the latest Tesla.

Why is this? You might think that Leaf owners in Britain get it easy with a £5,000 government grant, no road tax and no congestion charge in the capital, but compared with their Norwegian green compatriots, they are being fleeced. In Norway, there is no tax on the electric car, no tax at the dealership, no company car tax, free charging in town, free parking and use of the bus lanes. This means a Nissan Leaf costs far less to run than a VW Golf.

It is madness that we don't have the same benefits here in Britain, a country where most commutes are less than 60 miles round-trip (according to the Department for Transport) and electric cars such as the new Leaf will do 124 miles on a charge.

The electric boom in Norway began when the current crop of new models came to the market just as the government brought in real tax benefits. It doesn't take a genius to do the maths here; the British government's tax regime is keeping us from electric cars.

The new Sunderland-built Leaf is certainly up to the challenge, with 100 changes over the old model, including a new aerodynamic bumper and grille and 32kg less weight. The car's heating system – a killer of battery life – now uses less energy, while charging can now be done in just four hours at home with a 32-amp home charger costing £99. Or if you're in town, you can achieve 80 per cent capacity in just 30 minutes from a fast-charging point.

It even drives like a European city car, with heavier steering giving more feel. Now all we need is our politicians to pay attention; we'd like a tax cut, please.

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