The final error: Renting a Leaf.

I’ve been reading about electric vehicles, especially cars for several years already. I think the hottest thing electric around the time I started obsessing over them was something in the lines of Th!nk city, so not much of a real car, but still interesting.

I’ve also been going on about electrics for a while now, especially since the Leaf and Tesla Model S entered market. They seem like the vehicles that are turning the electric vehicle into main stream technology. Except of course in Finland. This is the land of rhinos after all (a kind of an inside joke), so it’s quite likely we are still running gasoline, diesel and wood gas (O.o) cars for years after the rest of the world has moved on to bev, fuel cell and probably even micro fusion vehicles.

I made the error of calling a Europcar rental at Vantaa Aviapolis, some 15km from our home and nicely midway to the in-laws and asked them for a Leaf rental for two days. I was prepared to wait a couple of days to get the car, but there was no waiting list of any kind. I got the impression I was one of the very, very few to even ask about the car.

Later in the evening my significant other, Tytti dropped me off at the rental and continued to the in-laws. After getting some paperwork done a younger guy went with me outside and showed me around the car. A lucky thing I’ve read so much about the Leaf and electric cars in general as the guy didn’t seem half as sure where things are as I was =P At the very least he showed me where the charging receptacles and the 240V charging adapter are.

When I departed the rental yard (and a free chademo charger with two spots) I could hardly believe my ears. The sound of silence while driving was pure awesomenessessess. Put the car on drive, lift your foot off the brake and off you go, without making a sound. I haven’t driven a lot of conventional automatics either, so the ease of driving took me a bit off guard too. After leaving the yard and a smaller street I turned onto Tikkurilantie and floored it. The instant acceleration from a standstill was pure joy and for a moment I was a bit unsure if I was going laugh or cry.

After visiting the in-laws I only drove the car home and plugged it in. We live in a row house, so getting a charge was a bit more involved. I ran a 20m heavy duty extension cord from the 16A socket next to our front door to the side of the road and connected the charger to the cord. There was no trouble charging overnight, but I did check the extension cord, the connections and fixtures for heating every now and then. There was no abnormal heating whatsoever.

The next morning (Wednesday) we made a trip to Helsinki, from there to the Jumbo shopping centre in Vantaa and back home. We did some 80km from full charge and there was about 80km more charge left so it felt like the guess-o-meter actually guesses quite well, having guessed we’ll go around 164km on a charge. It took us 7.5 hours to fill the missing 80km to the battery. Tytti also test drove the car in the late evening and she had to concede the car is quite nice to drive.

Later that night I took the car for another spin (heck, you gotta test it well when you rent it for two days). It’s been a long time since I last went motoring just for fun, but that time it felt kind of nice thinking that I wasn’t actually burning anything polluting, so driving for fun didn’t make me feel a bit quilty. I took to central Nurmij√§rvi (if you can say so), spun around at a gas station, received a couple of unfriendly glares and took the scenic route back to Klaukkala. Back there I tested the acceleration a couple times at red lights and just drove around on the smaller streets where the speed limit is 30km/h. Driving that slow in an electric is awesome just because it’s so quiet and effortless.

The next day I had to take the car back to the rental. It was the first time I felt I didn’t want to return the keys for the rental and go back to driving one of our Peugeots (Our 1007 and 407 wagon had beat the living daylights out of rental Volvos, Fords, Fiats and whatnots in pure driving comfort) and I made sure the clerks at the rental heard that =P I also tested connecting the quick charger when I parked the car at the rental.

Tytti came to me laughing that my red lights are something a bit different. She drove behind me in our 407 and told me that she hardly managed to lift the clutch when I was already disappearing in the horizon. And she’s not any slower at red lights on the 407 than I am.

I was left with the feeling that somehow I need to get one of those electrics as my daily driver as soon as possible. Here’s for hoping winning the national Lotto. =D