The headlights use LEDs and switch on automatically. There are cruise control and traffic sign recognition.

Nissan LEAF

And most fun of all, there’s the “e-Pedal”. The car comes with an accelerator pedal and a brake pedal, like a regular automatic car. But you can switch it to “e-Pedal” mode, and the accelerator pedal then combines both functions. If you back off on the pedal, regenerative braking is engaged to slow you down. The more you back off, the faster you slow. The brake lights illuminate so that people behind you aren’t surprised. You can come to a complete halt, even on up- and down-grade slopes. The brake pedal still works, in case you need to stop even more promptly.

Pricing and release

The new Nissan LEAF is about the expected size for a 1.6- or 1.8-litre car, but weighs perhaps thirty per cent more, thanks to the battery. It certainly looked comfortable and well-appointed. Unlike some cars, it doesn’t scream about its differences visually, apart from the Zero Emissions logos in several places on the body.

Nissan anticipates the release of the Nissan LEAF here in the middle of 2019. It isn’t ready to suggest even a ballpark price yet. I’d note that the equivalently specified SL model in the US is priced starting at $US36,200. At today’s exchange rate that puts it north of $AUD51,000. Actual final pricing is likely to be higher than that, short of significant exchange rate movements.

Nissan noted that there’s a trade-off with costs. You pay more up front, but running costs are lower. Consider, a full battery will give you 270 kilometres (we’ll just go on the claimed figures). That uses around 40kWh of power. Ignoring losses, that means buying 40kWh from the power grid. At a price of around 20 cents per kilowatt-hour, that works out to $8 for 270km. My own comparably sized Japanese car has a range of around 540 kilometres on a tank of petrol. Half filling the tank (for 270km) generally costs around $35.

According to the Australia Bureau of Statistics, the average passenger vehicle in Australia travels around 12,800 kilometres per year. For the Nissan LEAF, you’d be paying around $380 for that distance. For my car, around $1,660.

It sounds to me like Nissan is onto something regarding those running costs.

A note on distances

I’d quibble about one thing: the average daily 38 kilometres of car use in Australia. The Kantar TNS report sources that to a 2017 Australian Bureau of Statistics survey. That figure didn’t appear in the survey. I think it was derived by dividing the average annual number of kilometres driven by “motor vehicles” by the number of days in a year. This worked out to 37.58, easily rounded to 38.

But “motor vehicles” seems to include trucks and so on in addition to cars. From the same report, I could calculate an average for “passenger vehicles”. That worked out to 35.14 kilometres, so the Australian average is even lower.

But how meaningful is that number? Distributions matter just as much as averages. I might catch the bus to work every day but drive across the Nullarbor a few times a year. You and ten other people might drive your cars an average of two kilometres per day, while an Uber driver might do 500 kilometres.

The Nissan LEAF has become hugely more practical with the increase in range, but potential purchasers should still consider not just their average, but the distribution of their driving practices.

Read more from Nissan about the LEAF here.