Leafin’ through the Leaf: 2011 Nissan Leaf Ride and Drive

30 Oct 2010 | 1,627 views | No Comment
Think of  Nissan's new 2011 Leaf, the country's first all-electric mass produced vehicle, as a conventional car with a wonderful twist. 2011 nissan leaf front   No gas needed.  And along with that enviable wrinkle, it  has a lot of other cool ones too. No noise--and we mean no noise. Decent acceleration. Lots of room.  No exhaust pipes. Zero emissions.  Quality materials. And a car that's awful easy to drive and get used to despite its rather ground-breaking characteristics. It haas a range of about 100 miles.Nissan says on average, 90 perent of the population drives less than 100 mjiles adayt, with 72 percent driving less than 50 miles on weekdays and five to ten miles a day for 26.5 percent of the population.       Automobile Journal was one of a handful of publications that was treated to a brief--maybe too brief--ride and drive in the Leaf, down in  Smyrna, Tenn., where it will be built for the first time in 2012. But you can buy or lease a Leaf ini a handful of states for now, and in a couple of years, you'll be able to get it anywhere. So what's the Leaf like? Quite conventional, actually. That message came through loud and clear in the styling. Atravtivem, but nothing carzy-looking. That's a deliberate step by Nissan. They want people to see this as a regular, easy to drive car, not a space ship on wheels that would scare the wits out of people.     You get behind the wheel, push a starter button, and turn a futuristic dial on the console to shiuft into gear. You push in a button on this dial to shift into park)  And off you go. The accelrator pedal feels a bit different at first, because it doesn't take much "push" to really get ths car going.  It's really quite smooth and fast at highway speeds, and it actually handles nicely.  Some people thought the steering was a bit too over-assisted, but we didn't. 2011 nissan leaf rear Hey, this is not a sports car--word to the other journalists flying down the highway in their Leafs at speeds exceeding 70 miles per hour. It's a family car, folks. And we suspect a pretty good one at that.  There are timer fuctions on the dash that you'll want to master, like for charging and climate control, but they are, like everyty8ing else, really easy tyo understan a use. The Leaf  is quite well equipped, of course. It comes with an 80 kW sybchronous electric motor,  a 24 kW lithium ion battery, and a3.3 kW onboard charger. Other features include power front disc and rear disc brakes, coasting regenerative brakes, antilock brakes, electronic brake force distribution and parking brake,  and opther itms. Inside, you'll find Nissan's navigation system,  push button start, digital meter cluster, a trip computer that shows instant/average energy consumption, driging time, driving range, and outside tempreatrure, the round palm-shift drive slector we mentioned earlier, automatic temperature control, and "Carwings"--that allows for remote monitoring of charging status. The cost comparisons for 15,000 miles of driving between a gasoline car getting 25 miles per gallon, and an EV like the Leaf are startling indeed. The cost for 15,000 miles for a car at $3.00 a gallon is $1,800, and only $396 a year for Leaf . And Nissan  says the advantage lasts even if gasoline prices drop below $1.10 a gallon.  Cost for the car itself?  A little over $33, 580, but $25,280 after a $7,500 federal tax credit. Other examples of incentives for getting a lease ianclude a clean vehicle rebate of up to $5,000 in California, a tax credit of up to $6,000 in Colorado; a taxc credit of up to $5,000 in Georgia,  and in Hawaii, a rebate of up to $4,500.     One very important point.  You may look at the list of places like California where the Leaf will be introduced first and assume that there's nothing in this for those of us in older Northern communities. But that's not true. Just because you live in an older, congested city like Automobile Journal's beloved hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa., it doesn't mean you won't find it possible to own a Leaf. Yes, it's true that most older homes don't have garages and driveways to park your car and charge it. Really, all you have to have  is a post on which to install a home chargting station, and perhaps a reasonable chance to get a parking space in front of your house, and a long enough cord to reach it. Even failing that, you'll have plenty of public places to get a charge when you need it. You may have to modify your driving route a bit, but we think that's a small price to pay for the huge benefits of being able to avoid spending a small fortune on gasoline.  By the way, there are plans to have 12,000 public charging stations across the country by 2012, butr we think that's probably way conservative.      Why? There are expected to be growing numbers of all electric vehicles on the road in the next two or three years, and there are plenty of big store chains,  gasoline stations and even restaurants that are planning to offer the public charging stations at their facilities.    The economic impact of where we are heading with all this are huge, almost limitless. Consider: At a "Quick Charge" station, it's expected it will take about 30 minutes to charge up a Leaf or similar car up to 80 percent of capacity. Can you imagine what kinds of  stores, sevice centers and other things could be developed at each of these many stations by the hoards of  entrepreneurs who will take advantage of thousands of people who have a little time on their hands while cars are charging?  The possibilities are limitless. Restaurants. Thirty minute excercise outlets. Little shops and stores. Meditation centers. Whatever. Places where you can work or rent a computer maybe. All it takes is creativity, thinking outside the box, and just watch what happens.  Nissan's a smart, savvy, forward-thinking  company. We all know that. We're sure they've already thought about all this and probably have people hard at work helping to coming up with ideas for these stations, and how to develop or maybe lease out the sites. If by some unlikely chance that they don't, trust us, they will.

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