It’s often the little things that make life pleasurable. And if you’re an electric car owner who happens to live somewhere where there are extremes of heat or cold, preconditioning — where the car can be programmed to preheat or precool the cabin for you before your departure — certainly goes in the list of things that make your day-to-day life a little more bearable.
Indeed, if you’ve been driving electric cars for as long as we have here at Transport Evolved, there’s a significant chance you find yourself frustrated with a lack of cabin preconditioning choices whenever you happen to sit behind the wheel of an internal combustion engine vehicle.
Unless you’ve spent any time with a car capable of preconditioning, the chances are you’re completely oblivious to its existence in electric cars. And we think that’s a shame, because we’d list it as one of the top perks of plug-in vehicle ownership, next to low running costs, cheap fuel, and all that instant torque electric drivetrains provide.
Nissan Europe seems to agree with us, and it has just released a new online ad extolling the virtues of cabin preconditioning in the best possible way: showing how easy it is to clear off snow and ice from a Nissan LEAF in the winter, specifically its new larger-capacity 2016 Nissan LEAF with 30 kilowatt-hour battery pack. Filmed one winter’s morning in the Scandes Mountains in Norefjell, Norway, it contains no voice-over at all, relying instead on the scene unfolding in front of the viewer as a Nissan LEAF owner activates his car’s remote preconditioning function remotely via his smartphone from the comfort of a warm house.
According to Nissan’s official press release, the ice and snow on the car was an impressive 65 millimeters (2.5 inches) thick when the camera started rolling, capturing the car as it slowly and surely breaks free from its icy cocoon using just the power of its on-board heat pump and Nissan’s brand-new NissanConnect EV telematics system.
Accompanied by a relaxed electronica soundtrack, we watch as the sped-up timelapse video shows the ice falling from the all-electric hatchback, first in small droplets but then in increasingly large chunks. By the time the owner is ready to leave, the car is completely clear of snow and ice, and he can jump into the warm car and head on his way.
Not a single piece of snow shoveled, or a single piece of ice scraped.
It’s a clever, well-filmed ad which we think far outdoes many of Nissan’s other LEAF and e-NV200 ads to date. For those who live in a cold climate — or perhaps those who are finding themselves shoveling snow after the most recent heavy winter storm of 2015/16, it may be just enough to encourage them to visit their local dealer.
Of course, not every electric car on sale has preconditioning as standard. Nor does every make and model of electric vehicle on sale today offer a remote telematics system that enables you to remotely start and stop climate control. But when such systems work, they can not only keep you warm in winter but cool in summer, rewarding your purchase choice with a perfectly-warm (or cool) cabin while those around you are reaching for extra gloves or the cold water.
Praise aside however, there are a few points we’d like to make about Nissan’s latest ad.
Firstly, it’s a little too perfect. In the years we’ve been writing about and driving plug-in vehicles, we’ve yet to experience a completely clear electric car on the iciest of mornings. While the windows do indeed defrost themselves with preconditioning engaged and there’s never a need to manually scrape ice, our experience is that tailgate and door metal work tends to stay frozen long after the inside of the car is warm, as does the hood and roof. Eventually, they do defrost, but we’ve found that snow and ice on top of the car sometimes needs a little extra encouragement to move even when the windows are clear.
Secondly, remote telematics systems are great when they work. Nissan’s ad comes just weeks after we told you that it had been forced to stop sales of the 2016 Nissan LEAF in Europe due to a fault with the all-new NissanConnect EV telematics system. In our (and others) experience, Nissan’s telematics system isn’t always the most reliable.
Nissan isn’t alone in that problem either. Over the years, we’ve seen malfunctioning telematics systems from GM, Nissan, Renault, Volkswagen and yes, even Tesla. So while remotely setting your car’s climate control on a cold day can let you save time (and keep warm) when it works, we’ve found the most reliable way to ensure everything is clear for your morning commute is to set preconditioning as a timer from within your vehicle.
Still, as we’ve said, if you’re a plug-in driver and you have to park outside in the winter, you’re probably familiar with the schadenfreude that comes from watching your neighbors scrape ice when all you have to do is pull away in a warm car.
Just try not to stick their noses in it too much.
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