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Preview Drive: 2011 Nissan LEAF EV Prototype

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2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

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2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

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2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

Enlarge Photo

2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

Enlarge Photo

2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

Enlarge Photo

High Gear Media has at last driven the 2011 Nissan LEAF electric car.

Okay, admittedly it's a stretch to say that we actually drove the LEAF, but we did take a quick spin in a vehicle that demonstrates, according to Nissan, how the LEAF will perform and feel behind the wheel.

In an unusual—and brave—move, Nissan is taking an engineering mule on a national tour, targeting hardcore EV enthusiasts, policymakers, and EV infrastructure people along the way. While creating a buzz for the production form of the LEAF, set to arrive next fall, is the primary goal, Nissan is clearly taking notes on how to tune and package the vehicle in its final form.

Alongside it sits the nearly cosmetically final (but not quite mechanically ready) version of the real thing. The LEAF itself is very attractive in person; the photos that have been sent around just don’t do the proportions justice. The LEAF’s snout has the sci-fi, space-ship character to suit the car’s techy appeal, with drawn back headlights and an aerodynamically optimized yet sharp look, while the swoop of the rear flanks is unexpectedly sporty, almost voluptuous, in person, with a pronounced hot-hatch look from some angles in back. If Infiniti were to sell a vehicle derived from the Versa, this is how it would look.

And so it was that the mule we drove was actually a Versa five-door hatchback in appearance—inside and out—with few differences. If you overlook the "Zero Emission EV-12" logos and "test car" labeling on the vehicle, along with the unusual black-and-white two-tone paint and black-and-white spoked wheels, it was really just a Versa.

Of course that all changes as soon as you turn on the ignition, check the charge indicator, put the little Prius-style shift lever into 'D', and lift the brake. This mule does have a bit of brake creep, and Nissan is likely to keep the creep in the production form of the LEAF. As we eased into the throttle, we instantly noticed that there was very little of the high-pitched whine we've come to expect, to some degree, from inside the cabin of nearly every electric vehicle we've tested before—including the Mini E. Nissan has clearly worked to mute that in this Versa mule, let alone the LEAF.

The weight of this test version is "in the ballpark" of the weight of the final-spec LEAF—roughly the 3,300-3,500-pound range. And we were, literally, in a ballpark—the event parking lot of Seattle's Qwest field.


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Comments (21)
  1. Wow, that has to be one of the ugliest cars ever built. Congratulations Nissan, you've actually one-upped the hideous Cube. With sleek high mileage cars like the Volt coming and the already existing Insight and Prius, why would anyone want this piece of garbage?
     
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  2. Is this the budget Chevy Volt?
     
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  3. Very exciting. I bet it'll take a while for drivers to understand how cheap these are to "refuel" from the wall, but I like the styling and can't wait to see one in the flesh. Makes a Prius look really old, stodgy, and predictable.
     
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  4. Sounds like might be a good second or third car. Comes as a surprise that Nissan is beating the others? Why again did GM give up on full EVs?
     
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  5. @Allan: Two words: Range. Anxiety. The original EV1 two-seaters only had 40 to 70 miles of range on their lead-acid batteries. Not enough.
     
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  6. Dunno, kinda looks like it was taken from the "bug's life" movie...
     
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  7. Sure..nice car ....for the 'well off'...as usual. The regular slobs won't ever drive anything like that in a million years. How's this car helping the economy??
     
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  8. A decent attempt but again another short-sighted approach in regard to our electric grid being overtaxed if the car and its type gain any market share. Do we all get brown outs when they all get plugged in every evening?
     
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  9. This is a stupid question but here goes: Is this car completely electric or does it still need gas? I love cars but don't know very much about them-although I would like to.
     
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  10. For that matter, what's out there in terms of completely electric or "gasoline free" cars? Is it even currently possible to make a 100% electric car that will hold a charge as long as a full tank of gas would go?
     
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  11. Hatch backs are fine for people who like them but I would like to see this Leaf in a sedan. Own a Versa base sedan and love it. The Leaf (if priced affordably) will be on everybody's wish list.
     
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  12. Would like to see the Leaf in a sedan. Own a Nissan Versa Base and love it. If priced affordably, the leaf should be on everyone's wish list.
     
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  13. The car looks clean and different. The name is very "green". Cost up front, cost to charge and vehicle range will keep most from buying. As for the Volt, why would anyone buy anything made by GM?
     
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  14. That is one ugly car!
     
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  15. WOW! This is the ugliest car thats being build. Why couldnt Nissan just make the Sentra electric car?
     
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  16. excellent car for the world!!
     
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  17. The point of this car is not to boost the economy, not to make a statement or look good, but to fundamentally change the world of automobiles. By giving people an option to drive a car that emits nothing into our atmosphere, nissan is providing many people an opportunity to stop wasting money on gasoline and to stop burning gasoline, bravo!
     
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  18. Right. How much will it cost to recharge this "car" after electricity costs "necessarily skyrocket" (Obama's exact words) after the passage of the Cap and Tax bill? Besides, no motorized vehicle is zero emission. At some point in the energy chain, there ARE emissions. Wind and solar are not going to be enough to keep up with the added demand on the power grid.
     
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  19. Lets see how long it will take for the oil companies to put this car in the scrap yard. Anyone reading this posting should check out the documentary called "Who killed the electric car" it was on Planet Green.
     
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  20. they will figure out the design, if this car can really make money @20k then this is a serious breakthrough!!
     
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  21. Now Dennis there are obviously going to be thousands of pounds of carbon emitted into the atmosphere because of every automobile, but look at everything else produced... our world runs on oil! Why do you think the oil companies are so rich? Nissan is simply offering people a cleaner way to get from A to B. Nissan is trying to take a big step forward here, a step that most everyone wants, lets just embrace it.
     
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