AFTER several false dawns there's now a new era in the world of electric powered family cars thanks to both continually improving technology and more public acceptance of them as a realistic means of daily transport.
Leading the way is Nissan with the all-electric Leaf four-door car, now built here at the Nissan Sunderland plant, which since its launch has now won over a growing band of motorists with more than 13,000 sold.
It's easy to see why because the Leaf is a conventional looking car and inside has the normal layout with comfortable seats that will fit in the driver and front seat passenger plus accommodating three average size adults in the rear seats.
It too drives more or less like a normal car with automatic transmission but of course is so much quieter - just a distinct faintness of a whirr from the electric motor when the accelerator pedal is pushed down - and out on normal A and B roads will easily keep up with mainstream traffic.
But having said all that it's ideally at home driving shorter distances, in and around towns, cities and urban roads rather than long distance motorway motoring.
The caution is of course the distance it will travel before needing the battery to be charged up and although there are now, thankfully, an ever increasing number of charging points at service stations up and down the country, anyone driving any distance needs to make advanced plans for such stops.
Stop at a motorway station as I did, plug-in the electric 'pump' or recharging lead and it took about 35 minutes to give a 75 per cent boost or alternatively, as I experienced, plug it in to the normal household 13 amp socket (with the special booster lead that comes with the Leaf) and in four hours it boosted the range from 65 miles to 120 miles.
There's now a choice of two batteries with the car - a 24kWh one which will give the car a range of 124 miles or a 30kWh which gives the car a 155 mile range - but with either one as a driver you have to be patient.
The big plus side of all this is that the Leaf is so cheap to run - no road tax, no petrol or diesel pump prices to worry about - and my electrician friend worked out that it cost a fraction under Â£2.80 to completely recharge the car from as low a 20 miles left ‘in the tank' as it we would say.
Some owners leave their Leaf charging over night at home and it has a timer on the system, which is like having an alarm clock and will switch the recharging off when required.
To recharge anytime simply push the fuel sign button on the dashboard, like as if it were a normal fuel cap release, and at the front of the bonnet the small fuel hatch opens up and simply plug the lead in from the home supply to one socket or if at service station a separate socket for the lead from the ‘fuel' pump.
There is a panel on the top of the dashboard facing outwards to the bonnet with three individual small blue lights which constantly flash when the car is on charge - once the final, third light is still left flashing that means the battery is 66% to 100% charged up and when joins the other two on permanently it means charging is complete.
Within a short time of experiencing the recharging systems an owner driver will naturally be more confident and find it second nature to recharge the car although there is always the need to be more vigilant when out driving in not allowing the battery to get too low.
Some higher specification versions have what Nissan calls a B-mode unit on board which provides a greater amount of energy recovery and experiencing this it proved efficient in that driving in urban and town centre areas at a maximum of 45mph after a few miles it regenerated enough to suddenly reverse the batter limit back up from 85 miles to 115 miles.
Moving out on to the motorway then and increasing the speed to keep up sensibly with the flow of traffic at 60 to 70mph and the reverse soon happened, dropping down to 75 miles after about 12 miles of motoring.
Obviously when the weather is cold and wintry then the battery will use up its charge quicker - another point for drivers to remember.
Driving generally and the Leaf is quite conventional with nicely weighted steering, decent enough soft but a little firm suspension that seem to soak up all the minor potholes without much problem.
It's very quiet on the road with minimal wind noise, has good road grip and with reversing cameras on board is dead easy to park while overall is behaves and drives like any other small family car.
Interior-wise, again quite conventional with all the dials and controls sensibly laid out, easy to read and use, particularly as steering wheel mounted controls are standard across the range, while the really useful Nissan Connect Media System is also standard except on the entry-level Visia model.
The rears seats are comfortable and will accommodate three average sized adults, the rear seat backs split 60/40 to give more flexible boot space where the recharging cables are handily housed in a bag that clips on to the side wall of the boot.
Worries for drivers about the car's battery life should be eased by the fact that the 24kWh battery comes with a five years/60,000 miles warranty and the 30 kWh battery with an eight-year/100,000 mile warranty and the Leaf overall has a three-year/60,000 mile warranty.
Then there is the actual purchase price of a Leaf to consider, which on the surface is not cheap with the entry-level Visia with the 24kWh battery coming in at Â£26,180 but with the standard government grant on all new electric cars of Â£4,500 this knocks it down to Â£21,680. It's then pro rata for the rest of the Leaf range.