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Nissan LEAF Test Drive & Review

19 July 2010 44,474 views 3 Comments

Santa Monica, CA-


Green Energy News had the recent pleasure of test driving the brand spankin’ new, highly-anticipated zero emission vehicle (ZEV) developed by Nissan, dubbed LEAF – or Leading, Environmentally Friendly, Affordable, Family Car. The LEAF contains a 600 lb laminated lithium-ion battery that is mounted in the center of the vehicle which clearly boosted the handling performance and stability around corners and bends in the road. To boot, battery life will typically last around ten years – longer than conventional car batteries. Once the battery has outlived its purpose in the vehicle, it can be reused in a number of alternative energy applications from wind projects to energy backup/storage for up to 20 years! A depleted battery will take about 16-18 hours to fully charge in a standard 110V dedicated outlet, 8 hours at a 220V station, and 26 minutes to reach 80 percent capacity at a DC quick-charge station rated 62.5 kW (500V DC).

The car seems to emit no sound whatsoever, besides a slight buzz when accelerating or slowing down — a function to help pedestrians hear when the car is coming. The vehicle’s exterior design – even down to the antenna, headlights, side mirrors and belly – is completely aerodynamic to offer unsurpassed efficiency. Not only is the design functional, but its tastefully done as well. The interior accent/trim color is what Nissan calls “blue earth”, which is both stylish and appealing. Its body slightly resembles a cross between the Toyota Matrix and a smaller, more modern looking luxury SUV. Our personal favorite is the interior, as its seat fibers and front/back bumper are comprised of PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) — recycled bottles in layman’s terms. The drivers seat is concaved and has somewhat of a “cockpit” feel, with ample leg room all around. Another noteworthy feature is the aerodynamic LED headlights, which not only help to save energy, but also saves valuable time (and cash) in the longrun.

One of the most valuable assets to the LEAF is its regenerative breaking capability. As the car coasts or rolls to a stop, the electric motor acts as an electric generator. Meaning, energy which is generated by breaking is then stored in the battery for later use. But Nissan doesn’t just stop there. The LEAF offers phenomenal technological perks with a navigation system that will locate EV charging stations wherever you may be found at the time; a trip computer which offers instant, average energy consumption, driving time and driving range; an automatic temperature control (ATC) system; a remote connection monitor which allows the owner to track the battery state of charge/charging status; a 3.3 kW onboard charger; as well as a handsfree phone system. The enhanced SL model actually has a solar panel on the spoiler and a backup camera in the rear much like a lot of newer, high-end vehicles. In fact, this five-person EV is very similar to that of a luxury car in its feel, handling capabilities, technology and security features. According to their website, total ownership costs are projected to be equal to or lower than comparably equipped gas-powered cars. A downside of EVs in general is that they may use up to about 25 percent of the battery’s energy when powering the HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning) system, since the motor does not produce sufficient heat. This factor will reduce the overall battery efficiency for those who live in colder climates… however drivers will find that operating the AC is more efficient than using the heater. All things considered, the LEAF is affordable with federal and local government incentives, spacious, and efficient in almost every way. The only foreseen problem is due to its range capability, which is around 100 miles per charge based upon driving conditions and location. This could be a problem in areas with little or no charging stations. Although Nissan’s LEAF will be manufactured in Japan, the company expects to bring manufacturing to their Smyrna, GA plant in about two years.

The Review:

Design- While the Nissan LEAF doesn’t turn heads like the Nissan GT-R, it boasts smooth lines and a modern feel. We think it looks like a mix between a luxury crossover SUV (think Lexus RX-350) and a Toyota Matrix… with a little Nissan Versa added in to round it out. The interior was spacious and the backseat had more than enough room for a photographer and cameraman with gear. The Nissan LEAF is a true 5-passenger vehicle with ample room for a compact car. Being a hatchback, the trunk space was deep and spacious. Looking into the trunk… it appeared as if the back seats would fold down as well. The design of the LEAF can be summed up quite simply… practical! The fact that the LEAF utilizes recycled materials/PET for the interior and bumpers scores extra points with the people at Green Energy News. Taking the extra steps to promote sustainability, despite cost, is what will set apart the next generation of green vehicles and electric cars.

Performance- Whoa… this car has some power! The 107 HP (80kw) motor puts out 206 lb-ft of torque which is available at 0 MPH. The flat torque curve means that this car MOVES right off the line. At moderate speeds (approx 45 MPH) the LEAF had NO problems passing other vehicles with minimal effort. Toward the end of the video, you can see the LEAF accelerating into a right turn, reaching almost 50 MPH from a creeping start with ease. The LEAF is responsive and fun to drive. Is it a sports car… no. Is it more fun to drive than a traditional compact… BY FAR! The lithium ion battery pack is center mounted under the vehicle creating even balance and sturdy handling. We had the chance to cruise down PCH, up Sunset Blvd (lots of hills and curves), and back down to Santa Monica to get a feel for the car in different driving environments. When the production models start to roll in late 2010, take a test drive and feel the future of modern electric vehicles.

Price- With an MSRP of a little over $32,780, the LEAF seems to edge out it’s competition (Chevy VOLT- expected MSRP around $40k) on affordability. Here in California, the LEAF will qualify $5,000 in CA State rebates on top of $7,500 in federal tax credits, bringing the net cost down to around $20k. At that price point, the LEAF is a steal for those living in areas with the charging infrastructure to support their driving habits.

Overall- The Nissan LEAF just might be the answer for an affordable, practical electric car. The average range of 100-miles on a full charge should be enough to get most Americans to and from work each day, re-charging in about 8-hours overnight via 220V power. With level 3 charging stations planned at many locations across the country, the ability to get an 80% charge in about 30 minutes seems like it will be a reality many places in 2011. That being said, the LEAF might not be a practical choice for everyone. Being realistic, not all cities in the U.S. have the infrastructure needed to support the daily driving of EV’s. While the LEAF might not be the right choice for everyone right now, the technology and design show a bright future for EV’s in the U.S. Congratulations to Nissan for taking a HUGE step in the right direction with the zero emission LEAF.

About the author: Nicholas Fitch acts as Director of Finance for WB FINANCIAL, a full service equipment leasing company. In addition, Nicholas serves as president of Way West Media and is recognized as an Internet marketing expert specializing in organic SEO and social media management. You can follow Nicholas on .

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  • Solarlife said:

    220V replacing 110V in the US with electric vehicle charging ?

    Would be a great progress if US using same power 220V like EU
    stays the frequency difference US 60Hz, EU 50 Hz,
    but not relevant for DC battery charging.

    So the US Leaf could charge in Europe let’s say Monte-Carlo
    at a 220V socket ?

  • JC from Fresno said:

    Warning: You are about to engage in an Rant/Diatribe on the Nissan Leaf (by someone speaking from actual “experience”)

    I am one of those “early-adopters” for the Nissan Leaf program.

    So far, this process is reminiscent of going to the “DMV” [Dept of Motor Vehicles]. Let me preface this by stating, that in California [CA], going to the DMV is like [literally] Pulling-Your-Teeth (with No Novocain!)

    I first had to pay the $99 bucks to reserve the car (no problem here).

    Then, secondly, Another $99 bucks when making the appointment for the charging station with Nissan installation point company [AV Environment] (sorry but, I was told, that the “EV Project,” that promises “Free” chargers is only offering these in the “Big Fish” Markets of San Diego and LA – so I’m screwed on this because of my being in “Timbucktu”)

    But the charging process itself really stretched-me-to-the-Limit!! (with the delayed appointments), the higher than expected full install cost (over $2,400 – that’s right, Much higher that the “average” – could this be because I’m in the “Central Valley” CA, so electricians are so much more “Rip Off” here?!? – then there was the “promise” by AV Environment that they would give me a “discount” for my troubles [a "empty" promise, since I've asked, a number of times, When I would receive this [in Vain]).

    Then lastly, my experiences with Nissan itself has been bordering on somewhere between “dealing with Santa Claus” and [again] the “DMV.” (since we Don’t really know “When” the car is actually going be delivered. They giving us a sometime “around” November/December).

    I say “Santa Claus” because it is literally reminiscent to the day, when we were little kids, when we Didn’t know What-In-The-Heck kind of gifts we’d receive (You know that “game” that our parents “Played” on us. The one involving “mental torture” of the Christmas season “UnKnown.”

    Yes, it is Just-Like-That with our New Santa Claus, Nissan (and it is just as “Ironic” considering they [again] said it won’t be coming until “Sometime” around December (can you/we say “Merry Christmas???” [Thank You Santa Claus Nissan!!!]).

    But to say, this last process [of waiting and uncertainty] has been, at the very least, “Yo Yo,” and the most, stressful Beyond reason!! (just the process of “buying” a car, most people know, is stressful, in and of itself – with this process, Double-ly so!!).

    So overall, the Entire process is Worst than pulling teeth!! (and one, that If-I-Had-Known it was like this I would have Never had gone through this “Chinese Water Torture.”)

    I am Not an Environmental Wack Job, who is doing this “For-The-Planet,” to “Reduce-My-Carbon-Footprint,” or any other “Al Gore-ian” nutso ideology — I (and most) consumers just want this [an E-car] for “practical” purposes — So I, personally, just wanted to get a sophisticated Go-Cart that would: 1) Take me to my job (which is close by) and, 2) Save on [or eliminate] my regular Gasoline bill.

    So, in my humble opinion, if everyone (Government/Environmental Wackos/Industry) Really wants to make this [so-called] “Green Revolution” to be feasible and/or “realistic” then they had Better make this process more “practical” and “seamless,” otherwise, they will have a Whole Lot of very Frustrated [and frankly, Angry] people out there, who will either: 1) Not “Buy-In” and/or Reject this stuff, or, 2) Fight back (with either outright anger/protest/etc.)

    I went with the Leaf, over the GM Volt, because, frankly, 1) the Volt is Way….to expensive (being Over 40 Grand), and 2) In the Volt, you STILL have to deal with an engine (hence, in CA, the dreaded annual “smog tests” for registration purposes). I wouldn’t have any “Range-Fear” because [again], I’m close to my job, and 2) I plan to get another [regular gas] car for my longer [rare] trips.

    But if GM can streamline their process, better that Nissans, then they WILL win in the upcoming “War of the E-Cars.”

    My 2 cents.

    So Everyone out there, Beware!!!

  • MikeVaz said:

    What about in comparison with Chevrolet’s Volt?

    I’m hoping to see more articles comparing the two.

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