Last week we part-exchanged our treasured Nissan Leaf (30kWh) for a Hyundai Kona Electric (64kWh). Although we’ve been Electric Vehicle (EV) owners for over two years I couldn’t have predicted, and I’m really surprised, how fundamentally this upgrade has effected the way we use and feel about EVs. Learning about EVs is clearly an experiential process.
In 2019 as part of the process of moving out of our motorhome and into our new-found home, and becoming grandparents, we decided that the time had come to upgrade from our fairly aged, humble Toyota Aygo. We were very keen to be part of the move to EVs and so bought a secondhand Nissan Leaf (30kWh). This had a range of 120miles and on average this is what we got. When we exchanged the Leaf we had achieved an overall average of 4.1 miles per kWh – 30kWh x 4.1miles/kWh = 123miles. However, this was an average and varied a lot between the warm summer months and the winter. The other thing you learn as a new EV driver is that you never run the battery flat (hopefully) so you’ll always want to land at a charging point with at least 10miles in hand – that effectively reduces the range to 110miles. Then, if you’re using fast chargers to make a long journey, these generally do not fully charge your vehicle and usually stop at 80% or 90% charge, so you probably only get 80 or 90miles of real driving between charges on a car with a range of 120miles.
During the two years of Leaf ownership we only needed to do 5 or 6 non-local journeys and so these limitations didn’t affect us much. However, we did need to adopt a different mindset for these journeys. Firstly, we had to think in terms of reaching the first charging point (not our final destination) and then moving on to our final destination after a fast charge. Ideally, the charging point would be a nice hotel which served decent coffee but often it was a lorry park in a motorway services – not so nice. On one occasion we had to fast charge twice on a journey and the battery temperature became very high. The Nissan Leaf does not have an active battery cooling (or warming) mechanism. It relies on airflow I believe.
A surprise with the Leaf was the fact that moving to an EV was no compromise in terms of performance or vehicle comfort. The Leaf was the fastest accelerating car we’d ever owned – admittedly, we’ve never owned a performance car. It had a Bose sound system, an LCD display for the navigation system, 360degree cameras and so on.
So in summary, our Leaf experience was very positive and as a result we vowed that we would never go back to a non-all-electric car.
When we bought the Leaf we decided we needed to change our approach to car ownership. In the past we’d bought secondhand cars, run them for many, many years, incurring higher and higher repair bills and then needed to find a large amount of money to start the cycle again. When we bought the Leaf we bought it fairly new (two years old) with the idea of changing it after three years for another ‘nearly new’ EV. The only challenge to this plan was the fact that when we moved to part-exchange it, the Leaf had depreciated much more than we thought it would – a whopping £4,000 per year. After the initial shock, we reconciled our feelings with the thought that we’d contributed to the move of the population to EVs by making secondhand vehicles a lot more affordable!
There were other things that pushed us to upgrade. With the COVID lockdown easing we wanted to be able to make longer journeys more easily and my 65th birthday was approaching! We went back to JustEVs, where we’d bought our Leaf, and found a 64kWh Hyundai Kona Electric on their website. It was a bit of an impulse decision (my birthday was fast approaching) but having made the decision, I binged on Kona Electric videos and reviews and realised that we’d probably made a very good choice.
Anyway, we’ve just done a 425-mile round trip, cruising at 72 miles an hour at every opportunity at not had to use a fast charger at all. Incredible! The journey went like this:
- First leg – 200 miles – arrived with 75 miles in hand
- Overnight trickle charge using the 13amp ’emergency’ cable
- Second leg – 100 miles
- 50-minute charge in a Tesco car park in the evening (free)
- 50-minute charge in a Tesco car park in the morning (free)
- Third leg – 125 miles – arrived with 35 miles in hand
We literally experienced no ‘range anxiety’ at all and drove as fast as legally possible. We spent no time ‘waiting’ for the car to charge, all charging was done at our destinations and these were only ‘top-ups’. We planned the legs of our journeys as you would for a non-electric car, that is from starting point to destination and not from starting point to fast charger. This really was a game-changing experience. We are now planning a trip to our friends in the Dordogne – something we would not have contemplated in the Leaf.
Summary of other observations
- As well the increased battery size, the Kona is much more efficient than the Leaf. The ‘lifetime’ efficiency we achieved with the Leaf was 4.1 miles/kWh and that was with careful, mostly non-motorway driving. The efficiency plummeted at speeds over 60mph. With the Kona, when travelling as fast as we legally could we got 4.8 miles/kWh. This was a very big and welcome surprise.
- When we started the last leg of the journey, the Kona predicted we’d do it with a cushion of 35 miles and that’s exactly what happened. Our experience with the Leaf is that predicted mileage never quite matched what we actually achieved.
- The Kona has predictive cruise control which is brilliant. This means, that when cruise control is on, the car slows down automatically when it comes up behind and slower moving vehicle. When you move to overtake it returns to the cruise control speed. This works really well in normal driving conditions and is brilliant in congestion situations. In slow moving queues you can have the cruise control set to 70mph and the car will just move (and stop) with the queue without any intervention from the driver.
- Finally, I should just mention that the Kona appears to benefit from a lot of the technology that will eventually move to driverless cars. The ‘Lane Keeping Assistance’, which you can turn off, helps keep you in the right place in the road. So, for example, when you move to change lanes on the motorway and you don’t indicate you will feel a slight resistance in the steering wheel. There’s no resistance if you are indicating. It has blind spot warning. This appears as amber indicators in the exterior rear view mirrors and in the ‘heads up’ display. These amber lights are accompanied by a beep if you try and move into a blindspot occupied by another object (vehicle or person). I got a beep when reversing from a supermarket car parking spot when another car ‘appeared from nowhere’ (like they do in car parks).
I could go on, but I’ll leave it there for now. I’m happy to answer any questions – just leave them in the comments.