No chance of our practical EV leaving us cold: you can pre-heat it – 5th December 2018
Nissan’s slightly unconventional – some might say innovative – method of heating and cooling the Leaf’s interior has always puzzled me a bit, even going back to the first-generation model.
All of the regular controls to adjust temperature, fan speed and the rest are present and correct, but there’s also a ‘heat’ button on the control panel that you must push if you want actual hot air to come out of the vents.
This is because, in the absence of any hot exhaust gases to recycle for air-warming purposes, the Leaf is fitted with a heat pump that supposedly does the job in an energy-efficient way. The heat pump works by drawing in and compressing outside air to create heat that’s then blown into the cabin, using less power than running an electric heater.
This is relevant because I’ve been using the car’s climate control timer every morning in recent weeks to pre-warm and demist the cabin in advance of me setting off to work.
The condensed version of the owner’s manual suggests that the timer works only if the car is plugged in to the mains, but that didn’t sound right to me, so I had another read of the main manual and it was somewhat clearer on the fact that the car can be pre-warmed via either the mains or the high-voltage drive battery (the latter for no more than 15 minutes, as I understand it).
I’m still not sure I fully understand how it all works, but it seems to be doing the job reasonably well even when the charger isn’t connected, leaving the cabin warm and mostly mist-free on cold mornings, at the expense of chopping a few miles off the range. The side windows still seem a bit reluctant to clear properly, though, and the unheated door mirrors take even longer.
Talking about the size of the owner’s manual leads me on to the subject of the Leaf’s practicality. Not only is the glovebox big enough to accommodate said tome with room to spare, but there’s also lots of other useful storage space, from a sizeable cubbyhole beneath the armrest between the front seats to a useful, sloping slot at the base of the centre stack, lined with grippy rubber, that’s ideal for a phone or a car park ticket.
Interior space is impressive too. The fact that the Leaf is significantly longer than its closest rival, the Volkswagen e-Golf, means you get not only more leg room in the rear seats but also a much bigger boot (435 litres versus 341 with the rear seats up). Although the Leaf doesn’t come with a height-adjustable boot floor like its rival, leaving quite a big lip at the entrance, its extra depth and length make it much more accommodating and accessible than the e-Golf’s fairly shallow space, even though I still find the electric tailgate switch awkward to locate and use.