The Nissan Leaf is the first of its kind: a truly mass-market battery-electric car. Starting in December, Nissan will begin selling and leasing the car in North America, Europe and Japan. Globally, it will build 50,000 Leafs for the 2011 model year.
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A 600-pound, 24-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, which lines the floor underneath the cabin, powers the Leaf for approximately 100 miles, a number that will grow or shrink depending on conditions and your driving style.
The Leaf draws a full charge in approximately eight hours from a 220-volt "Level II" charging dock; Nissan is leaning heavily on the Leaf's first buyers to have a such a charger professionally installed in their garages, primarily because the company is aware of how profoundly annoying it will be to charge that big battery from a 110-volt outlet (it will take some 20 hours).
The Drive: A spin in the Leaf will rid anyone of the notion that electric cars are basically golf carts. Thanks to that greatest quirk of electric drive—instantaneous torque—the Leaf will quite literally push you back in your seat under hard acceleration. Things settle down from there; this is a compact commuter car, not a Tesla Roadster, and it feels faster than it is. Still, I found the Leaf perfectly solid and competent on the freeway. The 80-kilowatt AC synchronous easily pushed it to the brink of 90 mph, and the ride remained quiet, sturdy and smooth. I've heard of other drivers, presumably operating on more police-free stretches of road, reaching 94 mph, which is funny considering that the car's top speed is officially limited to 90 mph. On some twisty country roads, the Leaf felt sharp, nimble, and fun. And around town, it drives like a smooth and whisper-quiet version of your standard nicely equipped compact car.
The Interior: The Leaf is surprisingly roomy for a little hatchback. Legroom in the driver and passenger seats was perfectly adequate. (I don't know how I'd feel if I were taller than 6' 6"), and Nissan says it has successfully mounted three car seats at the same time in the backseat. The cargo bay is remarkably deep.
The User Interface: The instruments and control panel are all suitably tech-tastic. A sharp-looking digital instrument cluster performs the usual functions (speedometer, odometer), tells you your remaining driving range, and gives you feedback on your energy usage, although the easiest way to figure out how efficiently you're driving is to watch how quickly your remaining range drops. (By the way, push this car hard on the freeway, and that number will plummet.) In one mode, the bright, easily readable navigation screen displays the radius in which you can operate the car without running out of charge. Charging and interior climate can be controlled remotely via the Leaf's smartphone app. And of course you'll find the usual suite of mid-grade automotive gadgetry: Bluetooth, voice command, cruise control, an optional backup camera.
The Price: Lithium-ion batteries are expensive, and Nissan hasn't released the price of the Leaf's battery pack, but a reasonably informed guess pegs it somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000. Yet after the $7,500 federal tax credit, the Leaf starts at $25,280—cheap enough that no one understands how Nissan will make money on it. Lease rates are reasonable too: $2,000 down, $350 a month. And in states such as California and Colorado, which offer additional incentives (a $5,000 rebate and a $6,000 tax credit, respectively), the Leaf starts to become very attractive, particularly when you consider that you'll never buy gas for the car, change the oil, replace the spark plugs, and so on.
The Price: For people who don't live in states with additional tax credits, $25,280 is a lot to spend for a compact car that can't go farther than 100-something miles without stopping for a several-hour recharge—that is, for a second or third car.
For Many People, The Exterior Design: The car's looks have grown on me—and it is certainly distinctive—but to others, the Leaf can look like a cartoon insect. Many of those design tweaks were made either to improve aerodynamics or reduce wind noise; for example, the bug eyes are there to deflect wind around the side-view mirrors, reducing noise at high speeds. But still.
The Leaf is a quick, nimble, fun-to-drive car that is, at least theoretically, more than adequate for the daily driving needs of 90 percent of Americans. Are you a dentist in Denver who bought a Land Rover for weekend ski trips, but now you're tired of needlessly torching barrels of oil during your daily commute? The Leaf is a perfect workweek car for you. But when the weekend comes and it's time to drive 300 miles in a stretch, the Leaf will not do, which is why you'll be keeping the Land Rover in the garage.
None of the its limitations come from the engineering or design of the car itself (though you could argue that by opting to do a battery-electric vehicle instead of a plug-in hybrid, Nissan knowingly yoked it with its range limitations). In the coming years, as batteries get cheaper and more energy-dense, and as charging infrastructure spreads (right now, 13,000 Level II charging stations are planned for installation nationwide by 2012), cars like the Leaf will make more sense for a lot more people. And that's not even considering what could happen to oil prices. At the moment, however, the Leaf must contend with the limitations that come with being the first and only mass-market battery-electric vehicle to arrive on the American market. We see it as the highly promising start of something very interesting.
I hope the end result is something eco. Not sure at this point.
In fact the electric car is really a free ride for the owner. Gas and other collected taxes will now have to be paid by the gas and diesel users. A good amount of taxes each year are paid by fuel use.
I wish it was, but the Leaf and the Volt are not adequate for anywhere close to 90% of Americans. For short commutes (most of my driving) an electric car makes a lot of sense and I'd like to get one, but I also regularly make excursions of over 100 miles round-trip for which an all-electric car is impractical. I need my gasoline-powered car for that. Spending $25,000 for an all-electric commuter IN ADDITION to the car I already own doesn't make any sense. It's all about personal economics.
Here's an idea: how about a hybrid that runs all-electric for relatively short commutes, say under 40 miles each way, so I can drive it without using any petrol and recharge it daily? Then for long trips, the engine provides the extra range. THAT would meet the needs of 90% of Americans.
I'm signed up for the Leaf. It makes sense for us in Colorado with the $7500 federal rebate and the $6000 Colorado rebate. That's $13,500 off the price of cash in the pocket. Then too it makes sense green-wise. Colorado is more green than most any other state with more Prius' registered here per driver than almost all other states. Of course we have another car for long distances (ha, a Prius).
I know this is off subject, but it looks like the guy in front of the car has no head. AHHH!
The Leaf wouldn't work for you but the Volt would. The Volt will go approximately 40 miles on a charge but then the on board gasoline engine kicks in to charge the batteries. You should be able to drive 300+ miles on a tank which should be more than sufficient for 99% of all of your trips. But if your trip is longer than 300 miles just stop and fill up at a gas station.
That's why the Leaf is called a pure electric and the volt is a plug in hybrid.
A special "Thanks" to falas66,zzji27,QQpop and cosfsdffdsm for being either to inconsiderate to follow the rules, or just to stupid to know the difference.
Also, a special "Thanks" to laurenra7 for being there; it's nice to know the experts have someone as knowledgeable as you to rely on, as I'm sure they are to stupid to weigh the results of all the research they have done. Instead of spending thousands on research, we should have just asked you!
The important question for all of us living down south in the summer is:
How much does the use of the air conditioner drain the battery?
Also, for anyone living up north in the winter, it must have an electric heater that will also drain the battery, since there is no internal combustion engine to get heat from.
Your describing the Volt and it's way to pricey lauren7. The Nissan DOES work for 80+% of Americans--especially all those 52 million retired Americans like me.
The Leaf is great but hoping the new Toyota Rav4 full electric with the same 100 to 120 mile range is reasonably priced. However, since it's being built by Tesla I don't have much hopes for that--it will probably be priced over $50,000 and unaffordable for mainstream Americans. Especially retired Americans living in mountain states.
"This is the future peoples. Electric vehicles are the future. The only problem with them is the battery though. But i am telling you in 10 years the batteries will be able to get at least 500 miles per charge and be able to charge to full capacity in as little as 5 minutes or sooner."
The only problem with them is the battery...Wow, really?
That's like saying the only reason we don't have starships is a lack of warp drive but that's the future peoples.
PhD's in chemistry have written very technical articles about how there does not seem to be any magic bullet new battery tech on the horizon.
See how much they estimate that battery pack costs? 15-20K!! Yeah, that'll pencil out. What do you do with your nice Leaf when that battery wears out and you have to replace it?
Don't make comments like that without some links to back it up, it makes you look foolish.
I have nothing against using electric power to run a car. But, battery technology needs a huge leap in development before it becomes practical. I'm sorry, but needing eight hours to fully charge the batteries, not to mention needing a home, with a garage, in order to install a "220 volt, Level II charging dock" by a professional is far from practical -- let alone cost effective. All that money and effort and all you get is a 100 mile range? I am not sold. Give me at least a 400 mile range and an 8 minute recharge, then I might be interested.
I see that the car boasts a "Zero Emission" decal along its side. The car may be "Zero Emission", but your local power plant may not be. And, it won't be a zero emission power plant unless it is nuclear, wind, solar, or hydro. More likely, it is powered by (foreign) oil or coal. Not exactly green, is it? A natural gas power plant is much cleaner. But, it wouldn't be a zero emission plant.
Nope. I don't see Lithium Ion battery powered car technology solving any problems that we seem to care about these days. Strictly speaking from an American point of view, we could have gone with T. Boone Pickens' idea for a national energy policy that would have created the necessary infrastructure for the long-term conversion from petroleum to natural gas. But, politics killed that idea -- from both parties. It's too bad because it would have had the following advantages:
- America has ginormous amounts of natural gas deposits. No more dependency on foreign oil.
- Natural gas engine technology has been around for years. It is a proven technology.
- Natural gas could either power the vehicle directly, or power an electric generator -- no need for batteries or charging times that take up one third of a full day! Refueling would be nearly as quick as it is today at a traditional gas station.
- Natural gas engines already run cars and buses. With a little effort, natural gas can run trucks, trains, boats, and motorcycles. That is, if they don't already.
- Though natural gas is by no means zero emissions, it is far cleaner than gas or diesel. Your dirty coal power plant wouldn't contribute more green house gases due to all those battery powered cars that would need to be charged.
Oh well. I think long-term conversion to natural gas was a far better idea. For some reason, someone or some group is pushing battery powered cars. It doesn't make sense to me. But, it looks like this is what we are going to get stuck with.
I'm not sure why you think the Volt is too expensive but the Leaf is not. The lease price for the Volt is $350/month. The lease price for the Leaf is $349/month.
And the Leaf might work fine as a SECOND car, but not as a first (or only) car. And even then, until the charging infrastructure is built up, I'd hate to have to say "Well, I was going to go to ______, but the battery charge is too low".
Since it has no gasoline motor backup, what's wrong about keeping a small Diesel generator or large solar panel in the trunk for emergencies?
I wonder how long it would take a 4000 watt Diesel generator or a 250w solar pabel to charge it up enough to make it a couple dozen more miles?
The Diesel fuel would be pretty safe if the exhaust is ported out the back