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It appears meatballs are stopping me from saving the planet!

It appears meatballs are stopping me from saving the planet!

by Tom Martin (May 2021)

MEATBALLS are preventing me from saving the planet. 

I’ve come to this rather worrying conclusion after trawling the classified ads to see how little a secondhand electric car is going to set me back, and arriving at a decade-old Nissan Leaf whose three owners have put 93,500 zero emissions miles on its digital odometer. It looks good, with an MoT until November and a full history of it being doted on by Nissan main dealers. It’s advertised for £3850, and I reckon if I twisted Greta’s arm a little she’d let me leave the forecourt for £3500 – but I’d do so in the knowledge that meatballs, specifically the Köttbullar variety that IKEA do in their on-site cafés, will be tantalisingly out of reach. 

Before you write to  The Champion’s letters page to accuse the bloke who does the motoring column of having a downer on electric cars, I’ll put it on record that I’d happily have a Tesla Model X or a Porsche Taycan in my garage, and even own up to having a soft spot for Renault’s faintly ridiculous Twizy. However I’m also firmly of the belief that you get more for your money if you buy secondhand, and that you’re helping the environment by not using up the world’s scant materials by knocking an entirely new car together.  

Normally that sort of Man Maths is reserved for cars running on deceased dinosaurs, but if you extend that logic to electric cars you end up at the decade-old Leaf… …with its decade-old batteries. Back in the day Nissan reckoned it was good for 110 miles, but after 93,500 miles and ten years of being plugged into the mains at the night, its outgoing owner reckons it’ll now do just 45, and it could be less if you’ve a heavy right foot or it’s a bit cold out. All of which means that if I set off from  The Champion’s office for Warrington’s best-known purveyor of flat-pack furniture to stock up on Köttbullar and Billy bookcases, it’d conk out somewhere on the M57 on the return trip.  

I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of the batteries costing five-figure sums to replace but while the cost of electric car tech is going down all the time, it’d still cost more than this Leaf’s £3850 asking price to reinvigorate its range to even close to the 110 miles it’d cover when new, and I’m not sure that I’d be prepared to lavish that much on a decade-old Nissan. This, I suspect, it’s why it’s worth barely a tenth of its original asking price. 

Sure, I know that for the vast majority of us, two-thirds of our journeys are under five miles, and that my own mileage has been reduced drastically by working from home – but on the few days that I do commute it’s a 50-mile round-trip. Plenty of new electric cars will easily accomplish that, but until the cheapo secondhand ones can crack it too, I think it’s unreasonable to ask those who can’t afford it to fully embrace the nation’s lunge towards zero emissions motoring. 

My daily driver is a 22-year-old Toyota that cost a quarter what the Leaf does – and it  always  manages the meatball run. Enough said. 

David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly 

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