Leaf

A Nissan that sends you to sleep? Sign me up

NORMALLY it’s not a good thing if a vehicle is so routinely monotonous that it sends you to sleep – but Nissan’s latest LEAF is actively encouraging it.

Parents – this one’s for you, particularly if you’ve ever resorted to strapping a young child into a Government-approved safety seat, gently clicked the driver’s door shut behind you (no slamming, unless you want to make things worse), and gone on what the chaps at the Japanese carmaker call ‘dream driving’. Nope, it’s not the sort of dream drive I’d have in mind – that involves a Ferrari F8 Tributo, a deserted Alpine switchback and a mountain-top restaurant at the other end – but those drives you do for no other reason than to lull a baby or toddler to sleep. You see, we all though it was the motion of being in a car that proved so relaxing but, according to Nissan’s scientists, it’s the rhythmic patter of the internal combustion engine that does the trick.

All of which proves a bit tricky if you’re an up ‘n’ coming parent doing the upbringing in a world that’s fast developing an electric car addiction. Skoda, which has just launched a new all-electric car named after Enya (no, really), reckons a quarter of the cars it sells will be all-electric in just four years’ time – quite a jump when you consider that at the moment these zero-emissions offerings account for a rather more pitiful three per cent of the UK new car market. Vauxhall is launching its new Corsa in electric guise first, to get us all used to the idea, and Kia’s about to launch its new Sorrento in Greenpeace-friendly form. Even Maserati’s getting in on the act; where the old Granturismo had a Ferrari-derived V8, apparently the new one will be a sort of tarmac-ripping Italian answer to Tesla. All very promising – but not exactly helpful if you’re trying to nudge your little one into nodding off.

So what Nissan’s done is teamed up with some sleep coaches – now that’s a job that’ll leave you yawning – and come up with a clever system that’ll essentially play some automotive lullabies instead. Sounds, it reckons, that’ll mimic the repetitive tones of a quiet petrol engine, but without upsetting the climate change lobby. So, everybody wins.

Obviously, this is a very clever idea and one that’ll win it loads of new mates on Mumsnet – but I reckon it can go even further. If Nissan makes equally rapid progress with nailing autonomous driving than I’d definitely be up for the idea of a grown-up version that plays BBC Radio 4’s Shipping Forecast on a loop; the car would be doing all the hard work while I’m drifting off, listening to how there are warnings of gales in Forties and Cromarty and how the general synopsis is good, occasionally poor. I’d much prefer that to having to tackle the M58 at 3am.

Better still, I can see Skoda being able to nick the idea for an equally effective idea that ties in brilliantly with its latest model – an all-electric SUV that plays Enya’s Only Time on repeat, ad nauseum, every time you set off on a night drive.

Forget lullabies – I reckon Nissan’s about to put Caledonian Sleeper out of business. Chaps, come up with a hot chocolate maker in the centre console and a compartment to store my pyjamas, and I reckon you’ve cracked it!

The Government ban on petrol and diesel in 2040 will be fine for new cars. It’s the old ones I’m worried about

Cars like the BMW i3 have made zero emissions motoring more fashionable

APOLOGIES to Mark Twain’s estate for having to shamelessly pilfer one of his better-known quotes. Reports of the car’s death – which you’ve probably read over the past week or so – have been greatly exaggerated.

Chances are you’ll already be aware of the Government’s intention to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars as of 2040, which a million internet bores instantly took to mean the death knell for motoring fun as we know it. The party that Karl Benz and his pals threw back in 1886 is finally over, because we all overdid it and got drunk on AC Cobras and Range Rover Sports.

But calling it quits isn’t really doing us as a species, particularly those of who love cars, much credit. Ever since we figured out that we had opposable thumbs and could light fires we’ve been pretty good at working out answers to things, and even by the Government’s own prescription we have roughly 23 years to solve this one.

I’m not going to get into how we make the clean energy that propels a zero emissions car but the end result’s a lot better than it used to be. Seven years ago I drove an electric MINI that had a battery so huge it took up the back seats, a range of barely 100 miles and engine braking so severe you could pull up at roundabouts without touching the middle pedal. It only took another two years for the motor industry to invent an electric car that was fun to drive – take a bow, Renault Twizy – and fast forward to 2017 and the charging points at motorway service stations are crammed with Nissan Leafs and Teslas. If we’ve made it this far in seven years, you probably won’t need a diesel Golf as a new car in two decades’ time.

The bit I worry about is what happens with all the old ones. The more intelligent people at Westminster have already said that banning them isn’t the answer, partly because outlawing the MGB is a bit like banning Buckingham Palace and more importantly because the nation’s classic car hobby is worth £5.5 billion to the British economy (and it’s still growing). Horses have been old hat to commuters since the Austin Seven showed up, but they’re still allowed to use our roads.

But the thing with horses is that you only need straw, carrots and a decent vet to keep them going. If everyone else is driving electric cars in 2040 will there still be petrol stations to fill up the MGF or the Peugeot 205 GTI? Or places that can do a new battery for an Audi TT?

The car, I honestly reckon, will live on. It just might be a bit trickier than it used to be.