Our Cars: Nissan Leaf Tekna

4 April 2019: Explained: What is an e-pedal?

The Details

Current mileage 10,366
Claimed range 168
Actual range 110

One of the things that's got a lot of people talking about the latest generation Nissan Leaf is the fact it offers one-pedal driving. One pedal what? One. Pedal. Driving. Like the dodgems at the fun fair. It’s a really simple system, but with a confusing name: e-pedal. It has nothing to do with e-mail or e-commerce. Or e-books or e-business. We’re guessing that the ‘e’ in e-pedal probably stands for electronic. Like the ‘i’ in iPhone stands for internet...

Push the pedal to go, ease off the pedal to slow. It’s simple, but it does take a bit of getting used to. The first time I used it was when I was reversing in a gravel car park. It was a classic case of nothing happened and then the car launched back. Not the best start. In fact, most times when I’m manoeuvring I preferred the standard two-pedal mode, especially in the early days.

Of course, you still get a traditional brake and an accelerator so using the e-pedal isn’t compulsory for Leaf motoring... unless you want to be one of the cool kids. But we’ve found it pretty good in most circumstances.

Cruising around town or on the motorway is where the e-pedal is totally at home. Think of it as an extension of the engine braking you’d get in a car with an internal combustion engine – only smarter. Under braking, the car is able to harvest energy that is normally lost. And, just like taking your foot off the throttle, the car will eventually come to a complete stop. On the whole, the engineers have done a good job. As you ease off the pedal, the braking is quite light. Come off the pedal completely and it progressively goes from light to firm braking.

Nissan _LEAF_031

Switching from 'D' to 'B' increases the amount of braking available when using the e-pedal.

There is just one flaw in it – and that’s what happens when you’re forced to brake harder using the pedal. Imagine the scene: your cruising to a stop at a set of red lights when a pedestrian runs out in front of you and you need to perform an emergency stop. If the car’s sensors have seen it, they’ll take over and automatically brake. But if you’ve spotted the potential problem in your peripheral vision, your human reaction time will be far quicker than the machine.

So here’s the sequence of events. You spot the hazard, come off the e-pedal completely and go for the brake. Problem number one – the brake pedal doesn’t follow the e-pedal braking, so you have to go through all the extra pedal travel before it ‘bites’. The second problem, is that the car hits a weird neutral spot for a split second as you make the transition from braking with the accelerator to braking with the brake pedal. It actually stops braking as you make the switch.

This all adds up to a much longer braking time than your brain has anticipated and calibrated for. And it’s this that means, right now, we’re not convinced the e-pedal is a good thing. So far, we’ve only found two workarounds. The first is to use the car in ‘eco’ mode. This hangs on to the braking longer and doesn’t seem to suffer the same ‘dead spot’ – but that’s not ideal as running the car in ‘eco’ mode compromises performance and comfort.

The second is to switch the car to from ‘Drive’ to ‘Brake’ on the three way selector. ‘B’ mode, as it’s called, was conceived to offer more braking and stop the car running way when going down a hill. Again, it hangs on to the brakes better and minimises the dead spot.  

« Earlier: Seven things we love about the Nissan Leaf     Later: What's the best way of charging my Nissan Leaf at home? »

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