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Preview Drive: 2011 Nissan LEAF EV Prototype Page 2

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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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Nissan LEAF

Nissan LEAF

Enlarge Photo

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

Easy to drive…in a parking lot

As with some of our colleagues who got a chance to drive the mule a couple of weeks ago in Los Angeles (at Dodger Stadium—notice a trend?), our actual time behind the wheel was extremely limited—just a couple of minutes—with the total course length just over a quarter of a mile. But we got the chance to hustle the front-drive LEAF prototype through a tight coned-off S-curve at 20 to 25 miles per hour and found that the steering was responsive but not at all like that of a sports car. Slowing down for a tighter corner, we noticed that Nissan hasn't dialed up the regenerative braking as aggressively as it could have; the LEAF—again, at least in prototype form—carries its momentum, at least at low speeds, like an automatic-transmission vehicle. Throttle and brake response felt spot-on in the test mule, and the brake pedal had a good feel but wasn’t grabby. The Mini E, for instance, has a more aggressive regen calibration that takes a little getting used to. You could step from a gasoline vehicle right into this and still be smooth, so that’s probably the goal.

Of course, a low-speed course like the one we drove shows off the better points of an all-electric powertrain like the LEAF’s. Although we observed plenty of torque from 5 to 30 mph in momentary wide-open acceleration, EVs typically aren’t quite as perky at Interstate speeds and we can’t yet say how it might fare as a freeway commuter. We only hit 35 mph briefly, but top speed for the LEAF will be 90 mph, with 0-60 times in the ten-second range, likely.

The vast underfloor-mounted battery pack, developed by a joint venture with partner NEC, has a relatively small 24 kWh capacity (made up of 48 separate modules about the size of a hefty hardcover book)—and thus weighs around 400 pounds—but Nissan says that should be enough to drive 100 miles on a full charge. Just under a small cover at the snout of the car are two charging interfaces—one for home charging, the other for a quick-charging system. Although their was some conflicting information at the event as to how close the battery pack was to final form, Nissan was clearly not getting anything close to that range in this low-speed course. Now would be the time to tell you that we drove the LEAF in record low temperatures for Seattle—a crisp and sunny 30 degrees. To anyone who’s familiar with car batteries weakened by cold, the same thing happens to some degree even on modern lithium-ion packs.

Although our drive was too short to make any grand statements or pronounce the LEAF a winner, Nissan is poised to be the first with a mass-market EV, and that alone is creating quite a buzz among green-car fans.

Nissan wouldn't let us actually sit in the cosmetically final LEAF; we did lean inside and take note of the instrument panel, which contained a Honda-like two-tier gauge display, plus a clean center-console design with a nav/infotainment screen, plus buttons for preheating and precooling, useful features that will allow users to bring the LEAF to temperature while it’s still plugged into a charging station, thus using less battery power. Although the coarse, velvety upholstery in the LEAF is a little plain-looking, it's made of recycled plastic bottles and home appliances.


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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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