Text and Photos by David Nakayama, DET Corp Comms
Bangkok, Thailand, December 22, 2021– Before Tesla made driving an electric vehicle (EV) a “planet-saving” flex, the king of zero-emissions cars was an unassuming five-door hatchback-the Nissan LEAF.
Introduced in 2010 as the world’s first mass-market electric vehicle, the Nissan LEAF has led the way in making the excitement and convenience of electric driving accessible to non-luxury buyers. With a 2nd generation model introduced in 2017, it enjoyed an unrivaled position as the world’s top-selling plug-in electric car for many years.
Nissan LEAF in Thailand
While Tesla hasn’t officially launched in Thailand, EV fans have been able to get their hands on the 2nd generation 40kWh battery LEAF at Nissan Motor Thailand dealerships since 2018. Delta Thailand has supported charging for the LEAF in Thailand since it arrived and in May 2019, we became the primary provider of electric vehicle charging systems for Nissan in Thailand.
In my Delta Comms role, I’ve been lucky to work with the Nissan Thailand Corporate Communications team in many PR and branding activities to educate Thai drivers on EVs and EV charging. But after almost three years of hyping up “electrification” at roadshows, test drives and showcases around the country, it was high time to get behind the wheel myself and see if the LEAF really is “Innovation for Excitement”.
Picking up the LEAF
I finally got my chance to drive the LEAF when Nissan Thailand graciously lent us their EV for the filming of a new Delta Thailand video (coming soon!). I drove to pick up at the posh business district of Sathorn in downtown Bangkok. To skip the mind-numbing traffic of Sukhumvit Road, I went down towards our Delta head office in Samutprakarn and took the ramp at the Erawan Museum to cross the awesome Bhumibol Bridge.
Even in my humble Nissan Note, it’s always a thrill to pass the huge black triple-head elephant statue and race across the Chao Phraya River on this majestic double suspension bridge. Looking out, you can see the riverside docks and glittering Bangkok skyline. The Nissan test car depot was at the luxury residence suites of a top hotel brand. Here, I found a row of four LEAFs with five Delta AC Mini Plus chargers. Nice!
Behind the Wheel
Although the LEAF body and interior look somewhat similar to other Nissan cars (like my little Note), the similarities ended once I pushed the start button. Instead of the usual explosive ignition sound and red and orange light up on the dashboard, a pale blue silently lit up the EV console, like a computer booting up, to signal the start of our zero emissions journey.
After a couple of minutes of fiddling with the tiny gear knob, it was time to slink off to the heat of the city. The wide, clear windshield and windows let in the bright Thailand sun into the spacious interior. It’s a good size for an urban family car. I felt I was driving a regular car, minus the noise and exhaust.
To get to our filming location, I had to navigate the narrow streets of downtown Bangkok. This was a perfect time to try out the e-Pedal function of LEAF and other Nissan e-POWER cars. This function enables you to go forward by stepping down on the accelerator pedal, like a normal car, and brings you to a stop when you take your foot off.
Driving to our destination, I only used the accelerator pedal to inch our way through crowds of smoggy diesel pickup trucks, buses and motorbikes. Of course, I had to use the brakes occasionally for downhill slopes and sudden stops (always be ready for anything on Thailand roads).
The LEAF’s role in urban green lifestyle
The film location was at the brand new 66 Tower office building on Sukhumvit Road that boasts LEED Gold green building certification and a Delta City Charger fast-charging station and 2 AC Max charging stations. Wow! Our film production company was there and quickly set up for shooting at the City Charger station.
Even total EV newbies like us could get the LEAF fast charging immediately. Once you shut off the motor, you simply press the button with a charger icon to pop open the socket cover on the hood, then just plug in the Delta City Charging. Charging automatically begins and whenever you unplug, it automatically stops. Easy stuff!
Besides charging, we also filmed our actress driving up to the building and getting on and off the LEAF at the entrance. For a family hatchback, the LEAF’s understated elegance and bold car face, characteristic of Nissan cars, was a splendid match with the modern office building and youthful driver.
Hopefully, our film’s normalization of electrification with the LEAF will appeal to a discerning audience in Thailand who make green choices as part of their sustainable green lifestyle. This would be a perfect fit with our Delta message.
Final Thoughts on EVs in Thailand
As I drove the LEAF back through rush hour traffic, I wondered, “Would I be willing to own an EV like the LEAF right now?” Sure it helps cut down on air pollution, which is a huge problem in this country, and it’s probably cheaper to charge than to pump gas BUT: What about charging?
I live in a city condo that doesn’t have a wallbox charger or even a plug installed for a cord charger. The only charging options for me would be at Delta and at the very few (and crowded!) public charging stations in Thailand.
Ultimately, most EV drivers need to prepare for daily EV charging like with any other electronic device. Now in theory we can charge at the factory AC charging station (I’ve yet to see a single Delta person take up this offer) and this might cover my range for commuting on weekdays.
However, on weekends and on trips outside Bangkok, I’d have to try my luck at finding an available charger at a gas station, mall or car dealership. This is the “inconvenient truth” for most urban condo dwellers like me.
So are EVs still a white elephant that’s nice in theory but hard to own for us ordinary folks? Well, I have mixed feelings. My day driving around Bangkok with the LEAF “turned me on” to EVs. They’re fun to drive (fast acceleration and smooth driving) and great for commuting and getting around the city. Now if only the good EV models in Thailand (Tesla, LEAF and hopefully Honda E) weren’t as prohibitively expensive as Bangkok townhouses.
As for a solution to the bothersome charging issue, Delta is working on it:) So let’s see how things develop further down the road…
Nissan LEAF in Thailand: https://en.nissan.co.th/vehicles/new-vehicles/leaf.html
Nissan e-Pedal technology: https://www.nissan-global.com/EN/TECHNOLOGY/OVERVIEW/e_Pedal.html
Bhumibol Bridge: https://goo.gl/maps/crmsv2nfTfc4pbP36
66 Tower: https://www.66-tower.com/en/home
EV charging stations in Bangkok: http://www.evat.or.th/15708256/current-status
About the Author (Editorial Team)
If content is king, there must be a kingmaker. And the universal theme in my favorite stories is our innate human desire for freedom. I have a master’s degree in Chinese education and experience spanning industries and countries. As the Comms guy at DET, I’m obsessed with the stories behind our products and people. Share your stories with me @https://www.linkedin.com/in/yushi-david-nakayama/