Keep this in mind when you consider what Nissan unveiled Sunday morning at the opening ceremony for its new headquarters in Yokohama, Japan. The Leaf--a cute, slightly odd hatchback--looks poised to become the first truly mass-market electric car.
There is definitely an opening: The Tesla's sexy, but it's a boutique product. The Mini E is purely a test-fleet vehicle. The Mitsubishi iMiev is pricey, a little too strange for the American market, and available only in Japan. The Chevy Volt is a promising mass-market player, but it's not a purely electric vehicle; after 40 miles an onboard gas engine kicks in. A few hundred electric cars do not an EV renaissance make.
Nissan hopes to capitalize, with plans to launch it in the U.S. and Japan next year and move to mass production in 2012. (They won't give exact numbers, but the impression we get is they're talking hundreds of thousands of vehicles). Pricing won't be announced until late next year, but the company has repeatedly promised—and CEO Carlos Ghosn reiterated in the press conference Sunday morning—that the car will be priced competitively against comparable gas-powered vehicles. Think hatchbacks under $30,000.
After getting a first-hand look at the Leaf, we can say with certainty that it is no golf cart, no three-wheel oddity, no "neighborhood" vehicle limited to 25 mph and banned from major roads. For a small car, it's roomy, with seating for four adults and a surprisingly deep cargo space under the hatch. It's highway worthy.
In a spin around the test track at Nissan's research facility in Oppama, Japan, the Leaf mule accelerated rapidly enough that within seconds of punching the accelerator my handler was asking me to slow down, onegai shimasu. I ran out of track before I could confirm this statistic, but Nissan says the Leaf's top speed is around 90 mph. The interior is attractive and subtly high-tech, with digital gauges and touch-screen navigation. It does look a little strange, and I haven't quite decided what to make of its combination of plain-Jane hatchback styling and odd design flourishes (the huge bubble headlamps, the oddly concave back end). But it's definitely a real car—this is not a prototype.
Range limitations, of course, are the curse of all electric vehicles, the Leaf included. At 100 miles per charge, it is no road-tripper. The Leaf does come with a cool GPS system that tracks your state of charge, communicates with a central data center, and displays your range at all times on the navigation screen as a highlighted radius around your current location. Still, in America, it's most likely to be an urbanite's or suburbanite's second car.
It gets that 100 miles of range thanks to lithium-ion batteries—specifically, lithium manganese spinel batteries, the same chemistry that GM is putting in the Chevy Volt. Nissan/NEC is manufacturing the batteries at the Zama plant in Tokyo under the aegis of Automotive Energy Supply Corporation. Presumably building the batteries (and the electric motor and the inverter) in house gives the company a solid price advantage, but the batteries are still expensive—in the range of $10,000, according to executives. In fact, it's likely that Nissan will opt for some variation of selling the car and leasing the batteries. Those details are still in the works.
With any electric-car project, the most important question is: Are they serious about this? Based on what we've seen we'd say yes, they're definitely serious. The company has been working for months now with various countries and municipalities to get the zoning changes necessary for building charging stations and goading electrical utilities into building them. They recognize that there's no way this will work unless the infrastructure is there to support the cars. With electric cars, you can't just sell the car—you've got to construct an entire operating environment that makes the vehicles practical.
Clearly Nissan is betting that the Leaf project will give them a leg up on any environmental regulations that could come down the pike. And sure, they're definitely looking for a green halo. It's an image builder for sure. But not simply an image builder. They're laying a hell of a lot more chips on the table than they'd need to put together a new green ad campaign.
Essentially, someone has to stick their neck out and go first. And Nissan appears to be doing just that.
If they really want electric cars to take off they should stop making them look like turdwagons. The environmentalists should really take offense to this. The car manufacturers are stereotyping you into a bunch of hatch-back loving nerds.
Nissan first? Ford's Transit Connect BEV will be available in the U.S. in 2010 Q2--months before production of the Leaf begins. And the Ford Focus BEV will be mass produced in Wayne Michigan in 2011.
Ok maybe I'm not correct but didn't GM have an all electric car back in the 90's? Anyway I agree. Tesla has it right. If you build it (cool looking cars) they will come. Regardless of the power plant. Can I be an advocate for electric cars and alternative energy without being labeled a greeniac? I'm just saying.
Little known fact about Nissan:
Their Murano midsize SUV/Crossover has quietly been their top selling car. It's a timeless design that needed no updating. With a winning combination of their efficient CVT and big V6 based on the bullet-proof maxima engine, resulting in V8-like performance and V4-like fuel economy for a 4000lb SUV. That odd but wining design has trickled down to most models now. It's different but once you sit in the car, you suddenly realize it's a very functional and smart design.
Those hippies caring about the enviroment.
Skillet: hatchbacks are smart design. Just some people can't past their ego long enough to realize how practical & sporty they are.
As for me? $30k for an electric car is insane...
A true revolution would be a sporty 500 lb machine that goes 35 mph, about 30 miles per charge and sells for $2,000... THAT would change how America builds & commutes.
But... NOPE... we can't seem to get past the 5,000 lb box age.
Well, I think it makes sense to appeal to the largest number of people in order to sell the number of cars they plan on producing. That should include the egotistical population as you defined it who want to feel and look good in their cars. Going green shouldn't have to look so unattractive.
Same thing with healthy food. Why does it all have to taste like sh!t?
@ Skillet - well, see there's the problem...
Most lemmings aren't smart enough to know what's good for them or even what their own needs are...
Even in my own family... the one's that gripe loudest about being broke all the time are the ones that use Suburbans and uber-trucks for daily commuters.
Yet when gas hit $4.50 a gallon and the rest of us with our more reasonable vehicles were walking and taking bicycles... they stuck out it to the point of near bankruptcy...
Which I suspect is 80% of what drove the economic collapse... The other 20% was the greed of catering to those idiots.
Sometimes people aren't smart enough to be making their own choices.... (which is why Mom still tells you EAT YOUR VEGETABLES).
Unfortunately, that's the demeanor of most people...well us American's anyway. I can't speak for the rest of the world. All I'm saying is slap some sleek curves on it with a hot-rod red paint job and coerce people into buying them by marketing them as "trendy". Take the Apple approach for example. If Nissan makes it appealing enough they might even be able to get away with Macbook type of markups. I'd rather be the one catering to the idiots than to be the idiot. :)
@ Skillet - see, we're on the same page there....
None of us want the American car makers' econobox crap...
American makers can't do sleek, sexy & fun for under $35k... and good gas mileage isn't even an option at any price on the sporty stuff....
BUT -- The last part of your statement is the problem. The popularity of the Miata set an irreversible trend... which was basing price on perceived value vs. production cost on sportier models.
That made what was designed to be an affordable car... and priced it out of 3/4 the market it was intended for..
Skillet right on! LOL!! How loud does one need to laugh at a design before they get it?!?
tell me WHY do these cars look so Ugly All of them, except Tesla and maybe the Jule car which an ex Jaguar designer was involved with.
These companies has been in business for many decades and they cannot get a design right!
I just cannot understand why these BIG companies hire designers that design cars ESPECIALLY electrics which is promoting the future of transport that design ugly cars!
Make it look like a Porsche, Lotus i don't give a grannies vegetable garden's carrot if it drives 2 mph just make it look good for goodness sake!!!
Or maybe it's designed ugly on purpose for some other reason the public is not suppose to know.
The Sad Truth:
The average person, American specifically, has very little to no concern about the environment or doing his/her part to control their carbon footprint or take any steps at all to protect our planet or prevent future problems in any way. Whether this is due to ignorance, or sheer disregard is irrelevant. This is proven again and again through our media output, our habits, our culture and upbringing, our history, etc. . .the list goes on.
The reality is that these manufacuturing companies are either purposefully marketing to the wrong demographic or just have complete idiots, for lack of a better word, running their marketing and design campaigns.
Basically what it boils down to is that most people don't care one bit about the effect their having, or the benefits to driving specific vehicles . . .to most its all about the bells and whistles. I'm in full agreeance with the majority of the message board that aesthetically, they need to get with the program or get left in the dark just as they have for the last 25 years.
Very sad truth is you're right. I've spent the last 15 years trying to show my family the impacts of consumerism.
Now that even the most hardened skeptic in our family agrees that our weather is NOTHING like it was 20-40 years ago... they still all drive 8 cylinder 4x4 vehicles as daily commuters and drive 100 miles to shop "for school clothes" at the same stores we have locally.
They've watched as beautiful badlands near the bluff turned into landfills... then neighborhoods filled with mcmansions... to rich ghettoes, littered with every toy one can spoil an adult or child with.
Won't have too much sympathy if the swine flu wipes out about 80% of our population this winter... will just consider it God working to protect the planet.
When you are on the Titanic, you might as well travel first class...
AGW ? no thanks..
Shame on you for putting all of us in the same category.
I'm American, and I care about the environment, as many Americans do. There is no country in the world where everyone is either pro- or anti- environment. The terms you use, such as carbon footprint, began here in the US.
If you can't afford to convert your gas-guzzler to an EV or put a solar panel on your roof as many people are doing today, do what you can, rather than bellyache and fingerpoint. If you HAVE to complain, do it to the car makers and politicians, or business owners. You could, for instance, rather than grouse about vehicle aesthetics-- something that has no place in aerodynamics, efficiency or environmentalism-- contact politicians, developers and business chains to consider the use of the SAE J-1772 EV charging stand in at least 20% of all parking spaces, which is what is being done today in many areas all over the world.
The J-1772 standard ensures that any EV can be charged anywhere regardless of battery chemistry, vehicle voltage or size, age of battery or other factors. The proliferation of such charging stations will go a long way to encouraging the use of EVs.
If you know anyone in the media in your area, get them to do specials on the many reasons we should want to end the use of gasoline and switch to EVs-- one of the most popular reasons is that we in the US spend something like 300 billion dollars a year on foreign oil, and that same money could be used much better paying off our national debt, and refurbishing our health, educational and transportation systems that are in terrible shape. Foreign oil is not used to generate electricity-- and ideally, nearly all our vehicles can be charged with non-centralized solar panels mounted on the roofs of homes, businesses and schools... clean, efficient energy.
Car design? Sorry, it's not even on my radar screen, I just want something that works well and gets us away from fuel-based transportation.
Where are the swapout charging stations (i.e. BetterPlace) ? Get it started at least somewhere like San Francisco to LA. If you build it they will come!
Add solar panels for at least AC to the roofs. Add power assist takeoff and magnetic linear shocks and double the drive time and miles. Ultracaps to assist-use small engines and large electric motors-charge half the battery system while using the other half!
Come on car makers get with it-stop the piecemeal stuff and give us whole vehicles that make sense. Diesel hybrid vans. Like the old Eurovan with poptop and kitchen shower-why are you not making these yet?
Where are the swapout charging stations (i.e. BetterPlace) ? Get it started at least somewhere like San Francisco to LA. If you build it they will come!
Add solar panels for at least AC to the roofs. Add power assist takeoff and magnetic linear shocks and double the drive time and miles. Ultracaps to assist-use small engines and large electric motors-charge half the battery system while using the other half! http://www.hedefnakliyat.com
1. Put high efficiency solar cells on the horizontal flat surfaces of electric vehicles and maximize that surface area in the design. Most cars in the USA are parked in sun drenched lots for 8-10 hours, 5 days a week. This could nearly double the off grid range for the average commuter. If a vehicle has a range 50 miles, you could live 50 miles from work, park the car in the sun and still be able to make it home without plugging in to recharge.
2. Most electricity in the USA is made by burning fossil fuels at this time. However, it will be much more efficeint to rehabilitate a few power plants to reduce greenhouse gases than to try and make millions of petroleum burning vehicles pollution free. Ancient automotive technology needs to take it's place in history. Electric vehicles will soon be faster, cheaper, more powerful, higher quality and vastly more reliable than any gas burner ever made. Computer technology moves forward more in one month than automotive technology has in 100 years. It's for a revolution. Time to let big oil, big auto and small thinking whither and die.
I like to research the internet. You tube and other sites that have energy related formative Info. I have come to the conclsion that there is plenty of technology to resolove all our energy comsumptions needs. So don't worry. It will come but controling freeks want us to pay for something that is free for all of us to have. Check out an Google HHo games. This is only a small part of what we have to make a better world.
All electric cars by 2012 I doubt it very much Chevolet just completed the VOLT It uses 20 to 15 percent gasoline and 80 to 85 percent all electric. It is coming out this Fall 2009 for 2010 vehicle. It gets 230 mpg It's because the United States Government standards has not developed electric standard for vehicles yet. It get it kilobytes per mile It is awlfully expensive $40,000
Most coal related energy consumption, is from cooling, lighting and some heating of buildings. I would wager if we drastically increased world building efficiency standards, increased solar and passive solar for homes and buildings and revised older structures we would eliminate consumption by a sizeable amount. It will cost a massive amount of money in todays recession. Burning coal to power electric cars is not a very good solution to burning gasoline. We will definitely need to resolve this issue before everyone goes out and buys an electric car. This too will be costly - and off-hours charging is not the answer. The brash blanket statements about Americans not being energy conscious are just as foolish, ignorant and unfounded as any others posted. You present yourself as a simpleton with these statements and lose your credibility. The resolution to the pollution problems will take time and vast amounts of money. There is no quick fix answer.
Nissan is ahead of everyone. This is an affordable vehicle with 100 mile range. It uses long lasting non toxic lithium batteries.
When you change a car 80 cents of electric equals a gallon of fuel 30-40 miles.
Even if it's the 50% coal the US uses for power generation it beats 65% imported oil from the middle east that makes tons of pollution.
Solar panels should be on a home or fix mount not on a moving vehicle at a poor angle.
There are other light efficient EVs's like the aptera up to the Tesla S family sedan.
Plug in hybrids are also a great step.
We even have lithium electric assist bicycles. I have an Rmartin that was only $800 and rides like any bicycle yet has electric if and when you need it. I've easily gone over 50 miles.
We have to use the great technology the USA and world has invented. It's so easy to add solar to your home I did it in 2001. I now have a 05 plugin prius that goes over 30 miles all elctric at up to 52 mph. We never buy gas anymore except long long trips one a year.
Love you Nissan; to set the scene with mass production of the electric car is substantially higher risk than just being one in the pack. We know that the first release of any product is often setting itself for a fall in market share as the other products compete. However, we also know that if you move quickly the competition will take longer to catch you. You deserve to achieve the success you crave as this little gem is well designed and attractive to a wide market. Well done and good luck.
us americans? speak for yourself. I like the design. If I have to see another chrysler-esque/mercedes/lexus design ima gag. I want to drive something that stands out a little. The leaf is attempting to make a statement... you can't really do that looking run of the mill can you? keep your hot red apples. I like what I see but sadly the price point is a bit steep although much more affordable than most of the EVs out right now. And to everyone calling this thing a hatchback, I just want to point out it does have 4-doors. If it was just a regular 2-door hatchback I could see why many might be upset but it looks like it would seat comfortably.
For you self-appointed enviro-guardians: have you EVER stopped to think about how much of a carbon footprint ANY new vehicle has? From materials extraction, transportation, processing, handling, milling, machining, molding, etc., in addition to the existing vehicle that it will replace (a vehicle that may very well end up in an above-ground landfill, AKA salvage yard), we're talking about much more "damage" to the environment than the hybrid will offset for decades. I'm all for saving on fuel and for keeping the earth unpolluted, but the picture is much larger than swapping a Suburban or other HOV for a roller skate.
Also, my used 1990 Suburban (12 mpg, and not pretty, but pretty functional), at loaded family capacity (seven in mine) gets 84 passenger miles per gallon (pmpg). I still have room for two other riders (108 pmpg). That's economy, folks, and I'm keeping it out of the landfill.
Oh, and when you need help moving your furniture, I'll be available.
Does anyone know what the GVWR, 0 to 60 acceleration and the actual motor voltage (not battery pack voltage) is for the LEAF? The Nissan website does not have these published and there is no way you can design a vehicle (especially the range) without knowing the weight which includes the battery pack? And I know that since at least 500 people have test driven this car, someone was curious as to how fast it would accelerate and punched the pedal to the metal.
Not sure what kind of aesthetics qualify a car as "good-looking" but I definitely agree that electric car makers need to appeal to customers who buy with only their eyes. I think the reason these cars look the way they do is because they're trying to utilize the concept of air-efficiency. That being said, I think they're exploiting the wrong profit margin here XD
WARNING: You are about to engage in a Rant/Diatribe on the Nissan Leaf (by someone speaking from actual "experience")
I am one of those "early-adopters" for the Nissan Leaf program.
So far, this process is reminiscent of going to the "DMV" [Dept of Motor Vehicles]. Let me preface this by stating, that in California [CA], going to the DMV is like [literally] Pulling-Your-Teeth (with No Novocain!)
I first had to pay the $99 bucks to reserve the car (no problem here).
Then, secondly, Another $99 bucks when making the appointment for the charging station with Nissan installation point company [AV Environment] (sorry but, I was told, that the "EV Project," that promises "Free" chargers is only offering these in the "Big Fish" Markets of San Diego and LA - so I'm screwed on this because of my being in "Timbucktu")
But the charging process itself really stretched-me-to-the-Limit!! (with the delayed appointments), the higher than expected full install cost (over $2,400 - that's right, Much higher that the "average" - could this be because I'm in the "Central Valley" CA, so electricians are so much more "Rip Off" here?!? - then there was the "promise" by AV Environment that they would give me a "discount" for my troubles [a "empty" promise, since I've asked, a number of times, When I would receive this [in Vain]).
Then lastly, my experiences with Nissan itself has been bordering on somewhere between "dealing with Santa Claus" and [again] the "DMV." (since we Don't really know "When" the car is actually going be delivered. They giving us a sometime "around" November/December).
I say "Santa Claus" because it is literally reminiscent to the day, when we were little kids, when we Didn't know What-In-The-Heck kind of gifts we'd receive (You know that "game" that our parents "Played" on us. The one involving "mental torture" of the Christmas season "UnKnown."
Yes, it is Just-Like-That with our New Santa Claus, Nissan (and it is just as "Ironic" considering they [again] said it won't be coming until "Sometime" around December (can you/we say "Merry Christmas???" [Thank You Santa Claus Nissan!!!]).
But to say, this last process [of waiting and uncertainty] has been, at the very least, "Yo Yo," and the most, stressful Beyond reason!! (just the process of "buying" a car, most people know, is stressful, in and of itself - with this process, Double-ly so!!).
So overall, the Entire process is Worst than pulling teeth!! (and one, that If-I-Had-Known it was like this I would have Never had gone through this "Chinese Water Torture.")
I am Not an Environmental Wack Job, who is doing this "For-The-Planet," to "Reduce-My-Carbon-Footprint," or any other "Al Gore-ian" nutso ideology -- I (and most) consumers just want this [an E-car] for "practical" purposes -- So I, personally, just wanted to get a sophisticated Go-Cart that would: 1) Take me to my job (which is close by) and, 2) Save on [or eliminate] my regular Gasoline bill.
So, in my humble opinion, if everyone (Government/Environmental Wackos/Industry) Really wants to make this [so-called] "Green Revolution" to be feasible and/or "realistic" then they had Better make this process more "practical" and "seamless," otherwise, they will have a Whole Lot of very Frustrated [and frankly, Angry] people out there, who will either: 1) Not "Buy-In" and/or Reject this stuff, or, 2) Fight back (with either outright anger/protest/etc.)
I went with the Leaf, over the GM Volt, because, frankly, 1) the Volt is Way....to expensive (being Over 40 Grand), and 2) In the Volt, you Still have to deal with an engine (hence, in CA, the dreaded annual "smog tests" for registration purposes). I wouldn't have any "Range-Fear" because [again], I'm close to my job, and 2) I plan to get another [regular gas] car for my longer [rare] trips.
But if GM can streamline their process, better that Nissans, then they WILL win in the upcoming "War of the E-Cars."
My 2 cents.
So Everyone out there, Beware!!!