2011 Nissan LEAF prototypeEnlarge Photo
Nissan is barely a player in hybrid-electric vehicles, licensing an older version of the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive system to produce a few thousand Altima Hybrids every year that are sold in only a handful of U.S. states. Instead, the company has staked its green future on pure electric vehicles.
The five-door Leaf, which will go on sale in small numbers by the end of next year, demonstrates the advantage of dispensing with a gasoline engine altogether (unlike extended-range EVs like the 2010 Volt). While it occupies no more volume than a compact hatchback, Nissan claims it offers the interior space of a midsize car.
Nissan says the Leaf will offer 100 miles of electric range, which covers far more than 90 percent of average U.S. daily driving needs. And it says the car will be price-competitive with compact cars when running costs are taken into account, since electric power is far cheaper per mile than gasoline.
But given the high cost of early lithium-ion cell technology, Nissan has chosen to lease the Leaf battery packs separately. It is looking for 20,000 potential buyers to volunteer before the car actually goes on sale.
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