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Can The 2011 Leaf Reinvent Nissan?


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Quick – what auto companies spring to mind when you think of the most environmentally-conscious vehicles? There’s Toyota, whose Prius snagged the eco-friendly crown a long time ago. There’s also Honda, whose fuel-efficient gasoline engine lineup, along with quality and reliability, have long helped it rank high as an environmentally-friendly brand.

What about Nissan?

There’s a lot of excitement at Nissan over the introduction to the U.S. of the zero-emission 2011 Leaf EV – a 100-percent electric, no gas, new car. Remember, Nissan is the company of the fabled 370Z Roadster, the hot new Juke small crossover, the macho horsepower GT-R and the funky but appealing Nissan Cube.

It’s also the company that offers the Frontier pickup trucks, the Versa and Altima. There’s even an Altima hybrid. Nissan has quite a diverse product lineup – and many very satisfied consumers.

But nothing compares to the buzz about the new Leaf EV.

In fact, company officials, according to a story in Automotive News, are pretty much banking on Leaf to help Nissan reinvent its brand image. That’s because market researchers told the company consumers don’t know what Nissan stands for. To remedy that, Nissan wants consumers to look at the company as innovative, going back to what Nissan says it has done best in the past – and promises to do more of in the future.

In essence, then, Leaf is a “game-changer” for Nissan.

 

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The green Leaf EV (pun intended), the company hopes, will help Nissan gain acceptance among environmentally motivated consumers, most likely boost the automaker’s overall corporate average fuel economy (CAFE), and pull a lot more consumers into Nissan dealerships who may have previously never considered the brand.

That’s all good for Nissan, if it works, and there’s no reason to think it won’t. After all, the company secured 20,000 reservations for the Leaf in September. If all the reservations turn into sales, that’s the entire 2011 allocation for Leaf in this country.

I’m reminded of the quote in Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” Okay, this isn’t a baseball field, but perhaps the fact that Nissan is building the Leaf EV means consumers will start flocking to the company’s dealerships – if for nothing else than a look-see at this new infusion of innovation into the brand.

All this makes for an interesting start to the 2011 model year for Nissan – and for consumers looking for alternatives in green transporation choices.

[Automotive News, Nissan]

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Comments (6)
  1. R2Dad - Thanks, Dad! My wife and kids will enjoy it and look good in this car. I may even drop them off at school sometimes (in lieu of my green van.) However, you and I can stick to our Tonka trucks - it's all about impressing some redneck chicks and only puking after drinking a six pack :-)
     
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  2. Elise - The LEAF does have an engine and a transmission and I suspect those components do not last significantly longer than their gasoline counterparts. You don't change oil but you have to change ($$$) battery packs eventually. This first gen is not about saving money (unless gas shoots up to $5-$6 a gallon.) A nice Corolla makes more economic sense right now though it will not stop me and thousands of others from getting the car - it's just that your reasoning is not exactly correct though I undrestand everyone looks at it differently. To me it's about gadgets, hedging against higher fuel prices, and not sending my cash to the saudis (intentionally lowercase.)
     
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  3. Obviously this car will be a hit. I asked my wife if she had seen the new Leaf and her first response was "Wow, great name for a car." So they've already succeeded in marketing to women. And regarding R2Dad's comments that it's not a cool car to drive, we all know that the only reason for a guy to buy a cool car is to attract women. Not really a factor for me. Aside from wanting to stay married I'm also commenting on this site which means I must be an Engineer. I'm therefore hopeless with women and no car is going to overcome my career disability. In all seriousness I hope the Leaf is a stepping stone to electric cars that are even cheaper for the reasons Elise points out.
     
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  4. @ JKD - The transmission is going to be similar to a normal car's trans but the engine should be much more reliable than a gas engine since it's a brush-less electric motor. I've been working on systems with these motors for some time and they are superior to the old brush-type motors you find in household appliances. The only wear points are 2 bearings. You make a good point about the battery packs and that it's not really cost competitive yet versus a cheap car.
     
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  5. Some facts for you ICE folks:
    1) It costs 7KWH of energy to produce one gallon of gas. Why do you think they run oil refineries full bore at night?
    2) The Leaf takes 2/3 less energy to travel that same mile as any petrol vehicle.
    3) EV's really don't have a transmission, just a step down gearbox (no shifting).
    4) EV's have a lot less moving parts and therefore will be much easier to maintain and probably will last longer than any petrol vehicle. The Toyota RAV4s have demonstrated the electric motors going strong still at 200k miles.
    5) Yes, batteries are their weak point. But how the batteries are constructed (prismatic wafers instead of laptop style cylindrical) they are more thermally stable and the fact that the Leaf driver ony has access to between 10-90% SOC of its batteries should make it last. If the battery last 8 years, by then prices will be less (batteries will be more efficient) the end cost will be dramatically less than the same 8 year cost for a regular vehicle.
    6) The Leaf can go 38 miles on a dollar. Prius is next at around 18 miles. Petrol vehicles are only like 11-12 miles.
    7) Gas can only go up in price. Just wait, when the economy recovers expect gas to go back up over $4/gallon.
    I'm looking forward to getting my Leaf.
     
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  6. Hello to all - and thanks for your great comments. My take is that there are vehicles for everyone in the marketplace. Besides Leaf, there are other electrics and hybrids from which to choose should consumers desire to 1) use less/no gas, 2) reduce greenhouse gas emissions, 3) start to get off our dependance on foreign oil, and 4) save money on gasoline and related expenses. And automakers are making gasoline- and diesel-powered engines more efficient with turbocharged four- and six-cylinder engines, super-clean diesel-powered engines, and so on. There are still the big, gas-thirsty but plenty of power for towing and stump-pulling V8s for those who want and need them. It's all about consumer choice. Cars have to get more fuel efficient. How automakers get there is up to their engineers and designers.
     
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