I bought a £1,500 electric car: was it a mistake?

April 26, 2024 by

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Mat Watson has bought an old Nissan Leaf through Carwow for £1,500, but is it any good or would you be better off spending that sort of money on a petrol car instead? 

Electric cars have come a long way in the past decade, with developments in battery technology meaning most EVs can now comfortably manage over 200 miles on a charge. The trouble is that new EVs are jolly expensive. The Nissan Leaf is one of the cheapest you can buy, however it still commands an asking price of £28,500.

But what if you only have a fraction of this to spend and you want a taste of the EV life? Well our very own Mat Watson may have just what you’re looking for. He’s bought a 2013 first-generation Leaf for just £1,500, but how does it hold up today?

To find out, he’s going to drive it until the battery dies to see how far it can still go on a charge, see how much of the battery has died over the last decade, as well as give his new purchase the usual extensive Carwow road test.

£1,500 Nissan Leaf range test: how far will it go?

And it didn’t get off to a flying start. After charging the car fully overnight, the Leaf was showing a range of just 59 miles. From new it was meant to have 124 miles of range.

To make matters worse, the Leaf couldn’t seem to make up its mind on how much range it actually had. After just 300 metres of driving it lost six miles, saying that it’ll run out of juice in just 53 miles.

The destination was a battery testing facility around 40 miles away to see how much life is left in the Leaf’s pack.The way things were going though getting there seemed unlikely.

Just over 10 miles in the news was pretty bleak, with the car’s computer showing just 32 miles of range remaining and 30 miles to go to the destination. However Mat was about to be blessed with some good luck in the form of some town driving.

That may sound very dull, but those few miles of slow driving, coupled with the fact it was downhill so he can make use of the regenerative braking, means the Leaf’s range jumped back up to a whopping 40 miles. Result!

Sadly this was followed shortly by some 60mph roads, and that didn’t do this old Nissan many favours. At the 24-mile mark we’re down to just 18 miles of range, meaning the car had actually somehow lost 41 miles.

With 13 miles to go things started to look up, because the Leaf’s range was falling much more slowly. With two miles left it’s showing 13 miles remaining, and Mat actually made it to the testing facility with 12 miles worth of juice left.

But this is a Carwow range test, so we’ll come back to the battery’s health later. What we really want to know is what happens when it dies. Onwards we went.

We rejoin the action with five miles of range remaining. The car’s sat nav is telling Mat to pull over, the battery indicator is flashing and all those hills we managed to roll down on the way to the facility we now have to climb back up.

As Mat hits 60 miles on the trip computer he gets the dreaded tortoise icon on the dash and power is seriously limited, then with 60.9 miles covered it’s all over. The Leaf rolled to a gentle stop and all there is to do now is wait for the RAC to come to the rescue.

Handily, the car actually broke down in an ideal spot for a truck to pull in front and hook up. It’ll also still go into neutral and the handbrake will disengage so it can be manoeuvred, something which not all electric cars do in our experience.

So despite all the uncertainty, our £1,500 Nissan Leaf actually surpassed its predicted range from the start of the test by a couple of miles, but what happened to the other 64 miles of range it had when it was new?

£1,500 Nissan Leaf battery health

The lifespan of an EV’s battery was a hot topic when this Leaf was new, and it still is today to some extent. You see, batteries do degrade over time and you’ll lose some of the original capacity as the years and miles roll by, so how’s our pack looking?

When it was new the battery had a 22kWh usable capacity, and this would have provided up to 124 miles of range – according to official tests. Using a clever app and a dongle for the car’s OBD port, we can actually see that our car’s battery has 70% of its original capacity remaining.

This means there is 15.4kWh of usable capacity left, which in theory should yield around 87 miles of range. We’ve already shown this not to be the case, but if you drive purely around town then it would likely get much closer to this figure.

£1,500 Nissan Leaf verdict: should you buy one?

This is the million dollar question, or at least the £1,500 question. In reality, it will depend massively on what you need your car for.

If you need to do regular long-distance motorway trips then a cheap Leaf isn’t for you, however there are plenty of situations where picking up a car like this could make perfect sense.

Let’s say you’re after a second car for nipping around town or commuting shorter distances to work, and you have access to a charging point at home. In this instance, the Leaf could fit the bill perfectly. It’ll be cheap to buy, cheap to run and, thanks to a lack of complex moving parts, it should prove to be very reliable.

Looking for an easy way to change your car? Then Carwow is the place to go. You can sell your old car for a great price, and get the best deals on a new one. All through our network of trusted dealers and all from the comfort of your home. Tap the button below to get started today.