Preview Drive: 2011 Nissan LEAF EV Prototype Page 3

December 11, 2009
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

2011 Nissan LEAF prototype

2011 Nissan LEAF prototype

Enlarge Photo

Nissan betting its future

If you want to be one of the first people to drive a LEAF, you'd best get in line now; Nissan will begin taking reservations in spring 2010 for the LEAF and says that about 22,000 have already expressed interest. They hope to confirm at least 20,000 reservations with purchase commitments by the time the first of 5,000 trial LEAFs are delivered late next year.

Expect LEAF pricing to land in the $28k to $35k range (though the battery pack will be leased), according to Nissan, with an upgraded 6.6 kW charger optional initially. A $7,500 federal tax credit will apply; in addition, federal tax credits apply to home charger installation, along with home infrastructure modifications required for the charger. And as icing on the cake, some states (Washington is one) are waiving sales tax on electric vehicles.

The strongest responses for LEAF so far, according to Nissan, have been in San Diego, Tucson, Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles. The initial 5,000-vehicle trial will be offered in select cities—these markets included—under a special electric-vehicle infrastructure agreement between Nissan, local governments. An official for eTec, the company that Nissan is working with for charger installation, estimates that the typical home charger installation will cost $1,200 to $1,500. The charger hardware itself costs less than $1,000 for home chargers, but the arrangement with eTec will also include the installation of 250 three-phase fast chargers, strategically located in the LEAF trial regions but open for use by all EVs.

Nissan is betting a lot of its future on the mass production of the LEAF, which will only be the first of several electric cars. The LEAF will be a global electric car; Nissan has made a commitment to produce the vehicle and lithium-ion batteries at a plant in Tennessee, and also plans in the not-so-distant future to ramp up production at a plant in Europe, along with more battery production in Portugal and the U.K.

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