Nissan EV-02 taking the cones in New York's Bear Mountain State Park, May 11, 2009. Video screen capture.

Driving the EV-02

EV World video of New York test drives of Nissan's electric car prototype.

By EV World Television

1.400 miles is a long way to fly to have one minute behind the wheel of Nissan's EV-02 test car. But since it is one of the most highly anticipated electric car programs today, it was worth the effort.

The two very short videos on this page illustrate the fact that Nissan was keeping journalist drive times short and sweet. Each journalist got two laps round a parking lot behind the assembly building on Bear Mountain State Park, some 40 miles north of New York City, up the Hudson River.

There was just enough room to accelerate the car to 40-or-so miles per hour, revealing that it performs comparable to a gasoline car with a four cylinder, sub-2 liter IC-engine, though incomparably smoother, quieter and obviously without a whiff of emissions. Gone are the typical slumps as the car upshifts. Absent are the noisy whine and clatter of the engine. In fact, the only sound you hear is the rush of the wind and the chatter of the tires on the pavement.

The car effectively has just two gears: forward and reverse; and theoretically, you could go as fast in reverse as you can forward, though Nissan electronically prevents that. They also visibly wince at the suggestion that it will only be a matter of time before electric car hackers figure out how to "tune" the car to improve its performance.

While like other journalists, I got my allotted two turns around the parking lot, I also took the opportunity to ride with other journalists. Nissan also generously gave me a third and final run around the lot after I forgot to turn on the video camera on the previous drive, so I may have gotten more time in the car than most.

Nissan has done a great job on refining the car, but then they've had the chance to practice something like 17 years, which is when they began to develop their lithium-powered Hypermini and Altima electric cars, the first to use the then-new and very experimental lithium-cobalt chemistry.

Not having driven a conventional Cube, it is hard to determine how different the electric-powered "mule" is from the gas-powered version. It's also nearly impossible to gauge how the car will perform in real-world driving conditions. It certainly isn't a snappy as I would like to have seen, though it is more than adequate in terms of handling, speed and acceleration. Future owners who have not had the chance to drive enhanced-performance EVs like the EV1, BMW MINI e and especially the Tesla Roadster, will be more than delighted with how it performs. But EV-ficionadoes will come away wanting more. Long-time EV journalist Remy Chevalier was on hand and expressed this view as well. There is room for improvement.

As suggested in other EV World reports on the car, we believe the regenerative braking could be a bit more aggressive and drivers should have a performance button that allows them to bump up the acceleration a notch or two. My best guess right now is the car will do zero-to-60 in about 11-12 seconds. I'd love to see that drop down to the 8-second range, similar to the GM EV1. I'll leave it to the hackers/modifiers to chop this to the sub-5 second range, bearing in mind that such performance has led to a few dinged Tesla Roadsters (zero-to-60 in under 4 seconds) within hours of delivery to their new, but inexperienced owners.

It needs to be stressed that the car you see in the videos IS NOT what Nissan's new electric car -- due out in late 2010 -- will look like. The car in the video is strictly a engineering test mule for the drive system, which the company was not discussing at this meeting. Attempts to coax out information about the battery pack's capacity, for example, were tactfully dismissed. Neither did they reveal the cars top speed other than to say you could get a highway speeding ticket in all 50 States, which suggests it will do at least 80-90 mph, a probably higher.

The range of the car on a single charge is 100 miles and the battery is certified for Level III charging at 480 volts to 80% state-of-charge in just 26 minutes. How many cycles is the battery good for? Nissan isn't saying. What's the built-in charge-discharge buffer of the battery? Again, silence. Battery warranty? Still being figured out, as is how the car will be sold and/or leased.

Pricing? "There will be no advanced technology premium," is how Nissan puts it. Read into that what you will.

It appears that the next milestone for the program will be the revealing of the new car body, itself, possibly sometime this summer. You can expect that Nissan will, like GM did with the Volt, milk the publicity value of the car for everything it's worth. It has been aggressively aligning itself with half-a-score of communities across America who are promising to help install public charging infrastructure and to actively promote the adaptation of electric cars to their citizens. Among the communities who have already signed on include Portland, Oregon, Sonoma Country, California, the State of Kentucky and Washington, D.C.

The full production rollout of the car will be sometime in 2012 and according to Nissan's Mark Perry, it will be in substantial numbers, presumably in the tens of thousands. As he noted in his press briefing, "This is not a demonstration program."

Despite the tantalizingly short time behind the wheel, it seems clear that this time it's for real.

Times Article Viewed: 8470
Published: 15-May-2009


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