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An electric car helped me pass my fourth driving test

Aisling FitzGibbon

The Nissan Leaf 

The Nissan Leaf 

I did my driving test three times and failed. The first time wasn’t the worst as the only real complaint by the tester was that I was driving too close to the white line in the centre of the road. Too close,yet I had majestically performed my three- point turn and driving around the corner manoeuver. It didn't impress him as he told me in no uncertain terms that I'd failed. Most people fail the first time I was assured so any crushing disappointment was postponed. The second test however triggered an adrenaline induced nervous response causing me to make too many mistakes to mention. The vast amount of driving lessons in the lead up to the test had been in vain. This time the disappointment rolled in like tumbleweed crushing my confidence.

Although my family had moved over to an automatic electric car, I was advised by a posse of aunties to do my next test in a manual.  Irish aunties, given their status, can be very persuasive. Their rationale was that unless I did my driving test in a manual I would be forever fated to drive an automatic. Their voices clashed with that of my mum who said to do it in the electric car as most cars in the future would be electric. Her words fell on deaf ears as I frantically practiced in my aunt’s diesel car. In comparison to the lightness of the electric, the diesel car felt like a hybrid between a tractor and a tank as I manoeuvred my way between the highways and the byways of the town and outskirts. Still I persevered and so it came to the morning of driving test number three.

Surely I would get it this time. I had practiced lots, changed to a female instructor and felt reasonably calm and positive. But there is a gap between thinking positively about passing the driving test and actually passing it. The tester said I was deliberating too much, ergo not competent. What about third time lucky? Blaming myself at this juncture would have fractured my already traumatised psyche so I did the next best thing and blamed the car. I knew it had to be the car, that heavy ponderous lump of metal and the gear stick that needed furious yanking.

Not one to be deterred, I decided I was obviously fated for an automatic electric car and took to driving it everyday. For anyone who has not driven a Nissan Leaf car before, it drives so effortlessly and is super responsive. There is no annoying gear stick so all concentration is on the road. There is no having to gear down coming to corners or to a stop sign. The car smells pristine from having zero emissions. Zero emissions means no environmental guilt as it doesn't affect air quality. The car has a futuristic feel about it and is remarkably roomy for a small car. When I stop on a hill, the car has the sense to stay put and not roll backwards. Ah the joys of an intelligent electric car.

Driving test number four. The day arrived. I told nobody I was going for the test so there was no expectant audience waiting with baited breath. Soon there was just me and the driving tester who seemed to be falling in love with the car as we whizzed together through the town. I could tell he was impressed. When we stopped at the end of the test he wanted to see how a battery could power the car without the complications of an engine. Good job I had looked this up on YouTube the night before and was able to tell him what was what under the bonnet. Phew.

I passed. Sing hallelujah!!!  I am only licensed to drive an automatic but who cares? The Nissan Leaf and I are friends for life. It has so many good qualities. 60% of the plastic in the car is from recycled water bottles and by the end of its lifespan, 99% of the car can be upcycled into another Nissan Leaf. The batteries will keep their charge up to 80% after a decade and they too are recyclable. There is little or no sound from the car even at a higher speed on the motorway. What’s not to love about this car?

Furthermore, with its zero emissions, the electric car is the answer to air pollution in towns and cities. Diesel cars in comparison pump out carcinogenic substances into the air, thereby effecting our health. Home charging points are installed for free by the ESB so we can charge overnight at home using off peak electricity. It costs between 10% to 15% of the cost of petrol so the car is very economical to run. Road tax is 120 euro a year. The charging stations,available in most towns and cities in Ireland, are free so any long journey costs nothing. Currently the Irish government is providing a 5,000 euro grant for buyers to purchase electric cars in their efforts to incentivise sales. In Norway 25% of all new car sales are electric and by 2025 there is a proposed plan to ban conventional car sales. In Ireland we could make that environmental leap to embrace the future that is electric.