Journey to all-electric driving

Ross Brown is a self-professed ‘techno-nut' who loves gadgets. Big, expensive gadgets.

His latest toy cost him $20,000. But he'd tell you it's more of an investment in the inexorable global drive toward emission free motoring than a toy.

Ross Brown with his new investment – a 100 per cent electric car.

It's a 100 per cent electric car - a Nissan Leaf. The green organs of a plant are such a misnomer for something that is black, hot and fast.

Ross is just one of 75,000 Leaf owners worldwide but ‘after a bit of an experiment' he's now an electric proselyte, proud and preachy.

And straight away he wants to put to bed a widely-held misconception that all-electric cars are sluggish and that you have to wait for them to crank up.

'I put my foot down and it throws me back in the seat,” he says.

The Leaf is powered by an 80kW synchronous electric motor with a 24kW lithium-ion battery with 3.3kW on-board charger. That's manual speak.

Ross Brown translates.

'It's got the power, grunt and oomph of any good car, and probably better than most,” he says.

This from a man who owned a two-litre turbo-diesel Audi.

'Certainly as much grunt as that car.”

He dabbled with the idea of an all-electric car a couple of years ago. He took one for a romp, he couldn't help himself. 'It was fascinating and surprisingly easy to drive.”

Ross had an electrically-charged epiphany. He stored the information. And when he took a career shift, selling houses, driving 500km a week and spending $120 on gas, the all-electric option became a very realistic, economic one.

'It costs me $30 to $35 a week on power to recharge the car,” he admits, 'a quarter of the [gas] running cost. You certainly notice the savings.” And these days he only visits the service station for coffee.

But what about the 120km ‘max' before the car has to be plugged in for a recharge?

'No it's not a bother, it's not a nuisance. I have pretty much got distances sussed and so it's a novelty factor at the moment. In the three weeks I have had the car I haven't gone near running out of power.”

The smart car also alerts the driver they have 15km to 20km motoring left and then as a back-up it kicks into ‘turtle mode' – 50km/h to 70km/h – until you find somewhere to park off the road or plug in.

The car has become like Ross's iPhone and a raft of other gadgets that have to be plugged in before he goes to bed each night. 'It's all fun and quite amusing at this stage.”

It was destiny that Ross Brown should own an electric car.

Way back in the 1940s when electric cars were fanciful things Ross's Dad and Uncle built their own electric powered scooter from aeroplane parts. 'The Silent Ghost it was called, and it was certainly a first for Pahiatua,” he explains.

'I am no pioneer in this field – there are a few all-electric cars around – but I understand mine was the first all-electric to be vinned [given a Vehicle Identification Number] at the local testing station.”

He is certainly part of a global trend.

'You need some early buy-in to get something going. If no-one adopted new ideas there would be nothing to adopt.”

The car certainly requires a change of thinking – but it's not complicated thinking.

'There are a few funny things. There are no gears so there's no gear shift. It's just a knob that takes the car into drive and away you go.”

And there's that silence, that palpable silence. A car ghosting in and out of parks, cruising at 100km/h and not a peep. The only noise is the slamming of doors and something called a pedestrian alarm. He hasn't figured that out yet.

'I'm not a greenie but it's nice to be part of the green wave – the emission free motoring revolution.”

After fuel savings the green factor is the big pitch – 170 million kilograms of Co2 saved globally.

It would take a forest of more than 12 million trees to process all that Co2.

And the amount saved would be equal to a gas powered car circling the earth 35,000 times. Fascinating if unprovable.

'It's going to be big,” predicts Ross. He is an owner and a devotee.

'In a country with all the renewable hydro and wind generated electricity you'd think they would be doing more to get people into electric cars. Rebates and subsidies like they do overseas.”

In the meantime Ross is going to Napier – 100km at a time – to show his 90-plus pioneer electric scooter-maker Uncle just how far electric motors have come.

It'll also give Ross time for further reflection, if he needs it.

'It was a test of faith really,” he admits. 'I was quite prepared to say that experiment hasn't worked and put the car straight back on the market. But it hasn't come to that.”

By the way – today Ross got his first power bill since buying the black phantom. It hadn't changed.



Posted on 02-04-2015 15:04 | By maildrop

He certainly is. Paid over the odds for a rubbish looking car. Has to stay overnight if he goes too far so he can recharge it, so more expense there. Makes a few savings versus gas so well done Ross. Of course, it's only "green" in few places that have hydro generated power. Most places it's no more green that a car that burns fuel. Wear your badge with pride Ross but you are not saving the world. I'd want more than a badge to drive that thing.

What about the battery?

Posted on 02-04-2015 15:41 | By dstewart

Sure, Electric Cars are clean but their batteries are not. How are you going to dispose of the battery when it dies, Ross? (Lithium batteries do not last as long as the car.) Not in my backyard, I hope. Lithium will leach into our soils forever - be careful!!


Posted on 02-04-2015 15:50 | By Kenworthlogger

It says it costs him $35 a week to charge it then goes on to say his power bill has not changed?. So which is it then??. How much does it cost to replace the batteries. I notice they avoid that one cause im guessing its about 10 grand to do that.... Ouch...

Road user charges

Posted on 02-04-2015 18:21 | By FunandGames

good on Ross, but when to many people are driving electric or hybrid they will get taxed like all other motorists.


Posted on 03-04-2015 08:52 | By Smilarkie

......... you should of done some more reasearch on your choice of fuel for your car Mr Greenie. 25% of our electricty comes from burning coal, oil etc. NZ is not 100% hydro and wind like you think. Not such a green car now is it.


Posted on 03-04-2015 19:18 | By Conzar

80% of NZ power is generated through renewable energy. We have the capacity to support 100% if it were not for the crazy grid market system. NZ is one of the best countries in the world in terms of clean power generation and so we are posed to benefit the most. By not using petrol we help save our environment. There are known methods of dealing with old batteries like recycling and using old batteries to store clean energy from solar and wind. If you want to see the effect of gas powered cars, I again advise you to visit any major city in China and breath their air.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to make a comment.