What better way to spend a Wednesday afternoon than a scenic drive to lovely Akaroa? The charming, French flavoured village has some great attractions and the views are beautiful. But with a range of 130 km, and an imposing volcanic crater to climb, would one of our Gen2 Nissan Leaf full electric rental cars be up to the task of a day trip to this popular holiday spot?
We set off mid-morning on a sunny day with a range of 117km showing on our dash display (insert photo of dash display?). Full of enthusiasm we skirted the city from our office next to the airport – coming out at Halswell just as the speed limit switched from 50 km/h to 100 km/h. The first 19 km of city driving consuming only 7 km of our range. What an encouraging way to start!
We settled down for the pretty drive round farmland and Lake Ellesmere keeping a wary eye on the speedometer – fully aware that with the smoothness, acceleration and quietness of the LEAF it would be easy to hit speeds that would hurt the wallet, and the licence.
It only took us a short while to reach Little River, a sweet town ship at the bottom of the hill.

FREE fuel! Woo hoo!
Pulling into the FREE fast charger next to the Little River train station we still had an impressive 65km of range remaining. For a 62km drive (inclusive of range consuming open ride driving) we’d only used 52km of range – a net gain of 10km!
We stopped for a coffee and to pour some electrons into the car. The coffee was wonderful and we had a bit of a chat to some visiting kiwis who wanted to know more about the efficiency of the LEAF – we had lots of great things to say.
Having topped up to 117km again for FREE (we’d just travelled 62km for no cost at all, so of course we were happy) we set off to head for the Hilltop Tavern. In terms of distance it’s not very far – but there is a climb of over 600m to contend with – and this showed in our economy figures! The drive from Little River to the hilltop was only 10km but it burned 43 km of range.

Hilltop Tavern Carpark
Looking out at the wonderful panorama from the Hilltop across to Akaroa I must admit to a bad case of nerves as to whether we’d be able to make it to Akaroa and then back to the Hilltop without running out of charge. We soldiered on however and my worry proved to be unfounded. We reached the charging station at the Akaora Volunteer fire station with 74 km of range “in the tank”. We’d travelled 19 km and our remaining fuel had gone UP by 10km. The boss, and today’s driver was like a kid in a candy store – the smile on his face was more satisfied than the cat that got the canary!
We only stopped long enough to snap a picture of Akaroa Harbour before heading home – not even bothering to take advantage of the free power on offer!

Akaroa harbour from the Fire Station
The return journey to the top of the Banks Peninsula Crater (i.e Hilltop Tavern) saw us with 20km left – but we were now supremely confident knowing that we would recapture a whole lot of energy on the way down the hill. Reaching the fast charger in Little River was going to be a doddle.
And we were right! Back at the Little River town centre and plugging in we had a very comfortable 43 km of range remaining. If your math is up to the task, you will realise that we’d climbed over the hill and back –

Little River fast charger
more than 1500 metres of elevation gain and 48 kilometers of distance on only 74 km of range. We only charged for 13 minutes – just enough time to enjoy an ice cream and add sufficient charge to get our range up to 95 km before setting off back to Christchurch.
Having experienced how good the LEAF was on range for ourselves, and knowing that we had plenty in the tank for the return journey to the office, the boss was a little bit heavy footed on the return jaunt. Even after cruising at 110km/h we still had a very comfortable 20 km of range left pulling into our garage where we keep the charging pod.
So the verdict? Akaroa was as lovely as it’s always been – and as far as taking the LEAF on a 160 km day trip that saw us climbing a total of over 1500 metres? No qualms at all in providing a whole-hearted endorsement that this is the right car for the trip, smooth and quiet and best of all – with the FREE charging stations it felt like money was magically materialising in our pockets!
You NEED to try one of these cars now. If you’re looking at buying we’re happy to provide a full 7 day, no questions asked money back guarantee, or, if you’re renting it – we can do a special introductory price just to spread the enthusiasm for full electric, zero emission cars.