MEDIA REVIEWS is a compilation of reviews and write-ups of test drives of various e-drive vehicles by the different authors and media. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of EV World. Click the article title to expand the story.
You Know Something's Up When the Voice of Bart Simpson Goes Electric
Besides The Simpson's actor, Nancy Carter, touting National Drive Electric Week, other celebrities and public officials across America are encouraging citizens to take a test drive of an electric car.
Huffington Post 17 Sep 2014
I knew the fourth annual National Drive Electric Week would be big, but I didn't realize it would be this big! We're having free events in 135+ cities September 15-21 to share the fuel cost-saving, clean-air, and fun-driving benefits of electric vehicles; there is probably an event near you. Sierra Club, Plug In America, and the Electric Auto Association -the three national organizers of Drive Electric Week -- are pleased to announce this week that we've hit the quarter million mark of electric vehicles (EVs) on the road in the US. EVs are turning the corner -and fast.
Even (the voice of) Bart Simpson is excited. Says 'The Simpsons' actor Nancy Cartwright:
"I bought a Nissan Leaf about two years ago. I shaved nearly an hour off my driving to The Simpsons set and back because I can drive in the carpool lane. Got lots of thumbs up on the freeway. That said, I am a HUGE fan of Tesla and can't wait to 'fly' with my 'falcon-doored' bird, the Tesla Model X...Aesthetic, functional and sets a great example for safeguarding our environment.
Ever wonder what it's like to drive an electric car? Have questions about where and how to charge them, whether they're reliable, and whether they are actually better for the environment than conventional cars? EV drivers will be on-hand to offer test drives, provide honest information, and -in many cases--feed and entertain you too. Check out the web site and register for an event near you.
In Scottsdale and Tucson, AZ, Las Vegas, and other cities there will be solar-powered public EV charging stations. In Los Angeles, actor Ed Begley, Jr. will talk about charging his EV with rooftop solar at his home. In Worcester, MA, event go-ers will be able to check out an all-electric transit bus that takes people to work cleanly and quietly. In Cupertino, CA, a group will attempt to set the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest parade of electric vehicles ever held. In Hartford, CT, the state's Commissioner of Energy & Environmental Protection Rob Klee and other leaders will offer test rides and present an award to the state's dealership that has sold the most plug-in cars.
Several mayors, including those in Cupertino and Huntington Beach, CA, Storrs, CT, Charlotte, NC, and Melbourne, FL, are expected to speak and or issue Drive Electric Week proclamations and will talk up the benefits of EVs for their residents. In the photo shown here the mayor of Oldsmar, FL Doug Bevis is giving a Drive Electric Week proclamation last week to the City's Sustainability Coordinator, Estevan Baza, with Helda Rodriguez of NovaCharge and Phil Compton (left) of the Sierra Club. I wish I were closer and could take my kids to the street festival planned for this Oldsmar event.
I'll be attending events in my home state of Massachusetts next week. Then on September 21, I'll be joining an 'EV Bloc' at the People's Climate March. If you're planning to attend the People's Climate March, expected to be the largest rally ever to call on world leaders gathered at the United Nations to take aggressive action on climate disruption, I hope you'll consider joining our 'EV Bloc;' you can register here.
"Clean energy prosperity is on the way and there's no turning back," said Sierra Club director Michael Brune. "National Drive Electric Week and the dramatic increase in the number of plug-in electric vehicles on the road are just the latest examples of how American consumers are demanding 21st-century solutions to energy and the climate crisis, and given the choice would leave dirty fossil fuels in the ground."
You can learn more about electric cars at the Sierra Club's online EV Guide.
What Nissan's LEAF Buyer Survey Says About Its Dealer Network
While the majority of LEAF buyers say they had a good experience buying or leasing their electric car, a surprising number of sales people turned potential buyers away.
Clean Technica 11 Aug 2014 So… I forgot about this Nissan LEAF Shopper Survey a few times now, but we got 155 responses from Nissan LEAF shoppers (and the last one came in just about 1 day ago), so I think it’s time to finally share the results.
The most basic part of the sales process is something I might not have even thought of (one of our readers came up with most of the survey questions): whether or not the salesperson was “interested in discussing the LEAF.” Interestingly, despite being the #1 best-selling electric car in the US and the world, despite being built electric from the ground up, and despite being strongly backed publicly by Renault-Nissan Chairman & CEO Carlos Ghosn, only ~50% of the respondents said their salesperson was very interested in talking about the LEAF. In total, ~78% were “very interested” or “somewhat interested,” which is probably better than for any other electric car from a large manufacturer other than perhaps the BMW staff. ~10% were neutral, ~8% were “not particularly interested,” and ~4% were “definitely not interested.”
While not the majority, over 14% of respondents said that their salesperson actually disparaged the LEAF! That’s disheartening. Here are respondent comments about how their salesperson did so:
- my commute was 100kms and they thought it was too on the limit of the Mk1
- Suggested lease, not buy. Said not a good investment.
- Said it was for city use only.
- Told me I didn’t want that car
- kept negatively comparing it to a Versa Note, which we were also looking at
- Range is not enough
- I know more about this car.
- Harped on about range and range anxiety.
- To much focus on the little milages with battery
- just to let me know of range limitation
- Said it was for city use only.
- said to me it was a city car and not made for the country and there wasn’t enough charging stations to support it and a waste of time to wait until it was charged up that the extra money spent on gas was worth my time he said a nissan leaf in comparison to a nissan Versa the cost is the same by the time you pay for gas and maintence.
- “That’s fine if you are willing to wait several months to get your car”
- He asked us in disbelief, “You want to test drive a Leaf?”
- limited range and charge time
- He tryed to sell me a Kia small car with 40mpg. also advised that the cost (and the lease) is not as attractive as kia alternative
- Sales manager quote “corporate isn’t stupid enough to get involved in producing cars that don’t use gas”
As noted several times above, salespeople tried to steer the potential customers to other cars. We specifically asked about that as well…
~11% of respondents said that their sales representative tried to get them into a different vehicle.
Of those 11% (17 respondents), the most common alternative pushed on the Nissan LEAF shoppers was the Nissan Versa, followed by the Nissan Altima and then Nissan Maxima and Nissan Sentra.
Overall, knowledgeability about the LEAF left a lot lacking. ~26% of respondents said their salesperson was “very knowledgable,” ~31% said he/she was “fairly knowledgable,” ~20% said he/she was “moderately knowledgable,” ~16% said he/she was “not very knowledgable,” and ~7% even said he/she was “not knowledgable at all.”
In the end, 57% of respondents said that they ended up buying the LEAF.
Of the 67 respondents who didn’t buy the LEAF, only 2 went on to buy another Nissan vehicle (one went for the Nissan Maxima and one went for the Nissan Juke). However, 14 (18%) went on to buy another plug-in car. 60% (9) of them bought the Chevy Volt, 13% (2) bought the Ford Focus Electric, 13% (2) bought the Tesla Model S, and 4% (1) bought the BMW i3.
As James Wimberley notes in the comments below, and I thought and should have mentioned myself: “The crucial datum for Ghosn is that the customers who didn’t buy the LEAF bought other EVs not other Nissans. In other words, EV buyers are for now exactly that: customers who have already decided they want an EV. So if Nissan don’t have separate Leaf dealerships, they must at least have dedicated sales staff.span>” (Note: that last sentence/point hadn’t really crossed my mind, but I don’t know what else could correct for ill-informed and downright bad salespeople trying to steer LEAF customers to gasmobiles.)
I got 61 extra comments on the bottom of the survey as well. Many focused on how horrible the sales experience was. Many noted that they went to another Nissan dealer where a salesperson was better. One person went to 5 dealerships and all had bad service (but he had actually already bought one and was simply checking out how the sales process at various dealers). Some noted that they were still planning to buy the LEAF but hadn’t yet (that would have been a good answer choice to include). And one noted: “Several dealership did try to steer to other cars but Doug McIntosh at Autonation Nissan in Lewisville was a terrific salesman. 11 friends have bought leafs from him in 4 months.” Kudos to Doug!
Echoing something we’ve heard before, one respondent wrote: “I also test drove a Tesla and a BMW i3. Tesla sales woman was outstanding, understandably. BMW salesman was better than Nissan, but thought it strange that I didn’t want the range extender model. I’m going to lease a Leaf from another Nissan dealer because the EV range and charging accessibility could be much better in 3 years. I live in Minnesota, which is like an EV barren desert. :(“
And here was one surprise: “Best sales experience in buying a car in my life, from start to finish. Totally surprised.” Wondering if his salesperson was Paul Scott… but if not, certainly must have been another EV enthusiast.
Was this a representative survey?
Of course not. This survey was only shared here on a cleantech website and on sites or social media networks where readers took the time to reshare it. I imagine a representative sample would result in more LEAF shoppers being steered away from the LEAF, and more of them thinking the salespeople were actually very knowledgable about the LEAF.
Again, these are the results for the top-selling electric car in the US and the world, one that its manufacturer is strongly behind. Imagine the results for all of the other plug-in cars on the market!
Any wonder why Tesla won’t go through dealerships?
The Three Best Electric Cars Today
A quick analysis of the top selling electric cars available in North America and Europe: the Nissan LEAF, the Tesla Model S, and the BMW i3
Santa Cruz Sentinel 25 Mar 2014
Electric cars might still be a rarity on many roads but, thanks to improvements in battery technology and charging infrastructure, price cuts and government grants and other schemes, the vehicles are starting to gain in popularity. A look at three of the best currently on the road.
In 2010, Nissan and Renault were bullish about the impact the car would have and set a target of selling 1.5 million Nissan and Renault-branded electric vehicles before the end of 2016. Although the companies have since been forced to rein back their enthusiasm — the target is now 1.5 million cars by 2020 — sales of the Nissan Leaf alone already account for nearly 10 percent of that target.
Since its launch in 2011, the Leaf has achieved sales of over 100,000, making it the world's most popular electric car. Part of this has been achieved through aggressive advertising, by discounting and through government-backed schemes, but, fundamentally by constantly improving the car as technologies develop.
As a result, the latest generation Leaf is capable of traveling 124 miles (200km) on a single charge. It is also more comfortable and roomy when traveling that distance, thanks to reworked suspension, the introduction of higher cabin specifications and the relocation of the charging point to the car's nose. This has freed up space in the rear for back-seat passengers and their luggage.
The other big change since the car's launch has been available charging points. Nissan and Renault have worked hard to extend the Leaf and other Nissan and Renault-branded electric vehicles' desirability by investing in supercharging infrastructure. There are now over 1000 fast charging points across Europe that can add an 80 percent charge to the car's batteries in roughly 30 minutes. The company aims to hit the 1800 charger mark in Europe by the end of this year.
0-60 mph: 10.1 seconds
Range: 124 miles
Tesla Model S P85 Performance+
The Leaf might be the world's most popular green car, but there is little doubt that the Model S is the world's most desirable electric car.
And, in P 85 Performance + guise it can compete with the best that BMW and Mercedes have to offer in terms of performance, comfort and looks, while still offering emission free motoring. The Model S comes with a premium price tag — in excess of $87,000 once the customization options are selected — but it also offers a premium range for an electric vehicle of 265 miles (426km).
Initially only available to US customers upon its launch in 2012, it quickly became the vehicle of choice in Silicon Valley where it is known as the Apple Mac because of the devotion it creates with owners. Since August 2013 it has also been on sale in left-hand drive form in Europe and a right-hand-drive version is in development for the UK and Japanese markets. At the beginning of 2014 it also officially went on sale in China.
Like Nissan, Tesla has been hard at work putting in the charging infrastructure necessary to make its cars more practical and has already managed to build a US-wide network of superchargers that can add a 50 percent charge to a battery in 20-30 minutes.
It also has similarly comprehensive plans for Europe and has set itself a deadline of the end of 2014 for electrifying German, Norwegian and Dutch roads and for providing access within a 320km (200-mile) radius to Tesla owners in France, England, Wales and Sweden.
0-60 mph: 4.2 seconds
Range: 265 miles
The German company, with a reputation for building drivers' cars has, unsurprisingly, taken a slightly different approach to a number of electric carmakers with its first truly environmentally friendly offering.
Its lightweight, battery-powered city car, the i3, uses carbon fiber to keep weight down and rear-wheel drive to make the car fun to drive. It's also pretty fast — 0-100km/h (62mph) in just a smidgen over 7 seconds.
However, the nimble handling and acceleration come at a cost — range. To keep the weight down, the battery is small and is only good for 130-160km (about 99 miles) before a recharge is needed.
However, the car's navigation system, smartphone and smartwatch apps are designed to factor available range and closest charging points into route selection and there's a 24-hour helpline for anyone who might end up stranded on mile 100.
Other steps BMW is taking to increase peace of mind is to offer the car with an optional generator — a 650cc gas engine that can be installed to charge the batteries, essentially turning the car into a series hybrid. However, it only has a 9-liter tank so is there as an emergency range extender, good for a further 100km or so and not for a real cross-country adventure.
That's why BMW also plans to offer owners access to other types of cars, such as big SUVs and larger sedans for longer-distance trips and weekends away so that they keep the i3 solely for week-day commuting.
It looks as if BMW could be on to something. It is struggling to meet demand. Over 11,000 have already been sold and in the US the company has had to impose a three-to-six-month waiting list for new customers.
0-60 mph: 7.2 seconds
Range: 99 miles
Electric Cars Are Coming to a Street Near You and Here's Why
Nissan LEAF driver Judy Dorsey shares her personal experiences owning and driving her electric car in northern Colorado.
Coloradoan/USA 10 Mar 2014
If you’ve been driving around Fort Collins recently, you might have noticed some exciting new additions to our area’s roadways. I am talking about electric vehicles, or EVs, whose arrival in Northern Colorado is far outpacing national averages, thanks to our community’s leadership in business innovation, technological adoption and sustainability.
You might have personally experienced this new technology as well. Drive Electric Northern Colorado, or DENC, a community-wide initiative designed to achieve widespread deployment of EVs in our region, has conducted 15 ride-and-drive events over the past year, with more than 650 people taking the opportunity to get behind the wheel of an electric car.
It’s no accident that Northern Colorado has become an epicenter of the nation’s emerging electric vehicle fleet. DENC — a partnership between Fort Collins, Loveland, CSU and the Electrification Coalition — was launched here specifically because of the community’s leadership in and enthusiasm for innovation, as well as local business commitment.
EVs have been on the market only for a few years. However, during this short time, they’ve achieved an impressive record of consumer satisfaction while racking up award after award from the likes of Consumer Reports, Car and Driver and Motortrend. Sales of electric vehicles in the United States are three times higher than the number of hybrids that were sold in the same period of development. Sales in Northern Colorado, like so many things we do, are ahead of the national curve.
The reason why EVs are gaining such traction is because they are true alternatives to gasoline-powered vehicles, offering numerous tangible benefits. When my family bought our Nissan Leaf last summer, I couldn’t help but exclaim to our teenage kids, “Behold, a car without an internal combustion engine!” The magnitude of that was reason for pause. From my own experience I can tell you that owning an EV has made me an even bigger advocate of these cars than I’d expected to be. In addition to providing numerous societal benefits, the quick acceleration from instant torque makes EVs really fun to drive. EVs are far greener than gasoline-powered vehicles and are the only vehicles whose environmental impact actually stands to decrease as the electric grid becomes less carbon intensive. This is especially true in our home, where we buy green power from the city to reduce our family’s carbon footprint. But the best part about owning an EV is that we never have to visit a gas station or find time in our busy schedules to get the oil changed.
Driving an EV also helps to support several broader national, state and local energy and environmental goals. Driving EVs helps to reduce America’s vulnerability to volatile oil prices, while supporting goals for lower greenhouse gas emissions and local investments in a healthy clean energy economy.
Experiencing the benefits of an electric vehicle on a day-to-day basis and seeing such enthusiasm for EVs around town, I can’t help but feel that Northern Colorado is on the cusp of something truly revolutionary. If you haven’t done so already, consider getting involved in all that DENC has to offer toward this growing movement. Come to a ride-and-drive, join their EV Enthusiast group, become a volunteer, learn more about the technology, and even consider purchasing or leasing an EV for you or your business. I think you’ll enjoy the ride.
Judy Dorsey is the executive director of the Colorado Clean Energy Cluster and president and principal engineer at Brendle Group.
Riding Lightning in Canada
Between 2011 and 2013 Canadian sales of plug-in electric cars and plug-in hybrids have increased almost 600 per cent.
Prince George Citizen/Canada 27 Feb 2014
Laurie Saindon's car has all features you'd expect to find in a newer-model vehicle except one: a gas tank.
About a year ago the Tempest Aviation Group co-owner and his business partner decided to buy a Nissan Leaf electric car, which they share for personal and business use. Since then they and their families have driven about 17,000 kilometres in the car (which was bought used with 5,000 km already on it) in all types of weather, and have been impressed with the experience, Saindon said.
"When people get in it they are amazed," Saindon said. "I'd like to see way more of these out there. It just makes you feel good to drive [it]."
It was their environmental sensibilities which inspired them to make the move, he said.
"Basically we try to promote a healthy environment. We thought we should put our money where our mouth is," Saindon said. "When we heard about the Nissan Leaf... we decided to buy it."
Saindon isn't the only one. According to government and industry statistics gathered by Green Car Reports (www.greencarreports.com), between 2011 and 2013 Canadian sales of plug-in electric cars and plug-in hybrids have increased almost 600 per cent.
Sales have risen from 521 in 2011 to 3,106 in 2013, but still only make up 0.18 per cent of Canadian vehicle sales. Over the same period the variety of electric and plug-in hybrid (electric cars with gasoline or diesel generators to extend their range) available on the Canadian market has increased.
Currently Chevrolet, Tesla, Nissan, Smart, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Ford, Cadillac and Fisker all sell electric or plug-in hybrid models in Canada.
Despite its limitations, Saindon said he doesn't regret going electric. Making the switch has made him more aware of his driving habits and their impact on energy consumption.
"It's like a living thing, it has fixed limitations," he said. "If you drive at excess speeds, it'll reduce your range. There is a direct relationship between how you drive and how it performs."
Limited range is the biggest limit facing battery-powered electric cars. The Nissan Leaf's advertised maximum range is 160 km on a full charge, but real-world conditions reduce that.
"You can get an honest 100 km on this thing, because Prince George is hilly," Saindon said. "For commuting it's awesome. I leave home and have 137 km left, and when I get to work I still have 137 km -because it's mostly downhill, and it recharges on the downhill. But it uses more going back up."
On the 240 volt charger installed at his work, it takes about three hours to recharge the battery from nearly dead, he said, and on the conventional 110 volt plug in at home it takes longer - about eight hours.
Cold weather cuts the vehicle's range, he said, but not as much as people would expect. One of the biggest advantages is the operating cost, Saindon said.
"My business partner and I calculated it. It costs us $9 a month to operate," he said. "In the long run, it pays for itself. There is no oil changes. We really haven't done any maintenance except change the tires."
Saindon said he'd strongly encourage anyone who can afford to have two vehicles to consider an electric car for daily commuting and errands - especially in B.C. where the majority of the electricity used to charge it comes from renewable sources.
"When I have to give it back [to his business partner] it sucks, because it's such a good car to drive," he said.
In July 2012 the City of Prince George, Northern Health, Regional District of Fraser-Fort George and UNBC partnered to purchase a Nissan Leaf to be shared between the agencies.
Each of the agencies has the vehicle for three months of the year.
Kyle Aben, the program coordinator for the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions at UNBC, said the university users have been impressed.
"They couldn't really tell its electric. Most people just jump in and drive it," Aben said. "[But] with only 160 km range it does cause some people some grief."
An electronic display in the car shows the power consumption and calculates the remaining range, based on current use, he said.
"We have found a 25 per cent to 30 per cent [range] reduction in the coldest parts of the year," he said.
Other than the reduced range, the car performs as well or better than a similar-sized vehicle in winter road conditions, he said, because the battery -the heaviest part of the vehicle -is low to the ground, making it very stable.
Similar to Saindon, Aben said the vehicle has required no maintenance other than tire changes in two years.
"In the first year I did the analysis. We spent $60 on electricity, when it would have been $400 in fuel [for a comparable-size car]," Aben said.
Between the four agencies the electric car has proven itself in a wide variety of roles, he said. At the university, students have been allowed to use the vehicle on weekends to promote student events, Aben said.
"They've showcased the car at the Shinerama... they've been able to showcase in situations it wouldn't otherwise," he said. "And the students have never brought it back dented or anything. It's been a very neat experience."
Aben said the university has also made the car available to staff members for two-day test drives to allow them to decide if they want to consider buying one for themselves.
Overall, the vehicle and four-agency partnership have, "been just fantastic," he said.
While Saindon and the four partner agencies are relative newcomers to driving electric, Regional District of Fraser-Fort George director Lara Beckett and her family have been driving a custom electric truck since July 2009.
Beckett, a longtime member of the provincial and federal Green parties, said it was a combination of Green sensibilities and curiosity which prompted her to attend a meeting of electric vehicle owners in Vancouver.
The meeting inspired her to purchase an electric conversion kit from B.C.-based Canadian Electric Vehicles Ltd. and convert a 1991 GMC Sonoma pickup truck from gasoline to electric.
"We asked the high school automotive class at College Heights secondary school help us with the conversion," she said. "We didn't have the mechanical knowledge and thought it would be an interesting experience for the students to be part of."
Purchasing the conversion kit was $12,000, plus another $6,000 for a bank of lead-acid batteries, she said.
With the lead-acid batteries the conversion was a partial success, she said. The vehicle had a range of about 80 km, enough to get the Becketts from their home outside Prince George to town to run errands and back.
"They worked well until the winter time. We just couldn't get up to speed on the highway when it was cold," she said. "They just couldn't do it in the winter."
In the third winter they had the truck parked, a light left on drained the batteries and they froze, she said.
"That was pretty devastating, and expensive," she said.
But in three years since they'd done the conversion the cost of lithium ion batteries had dropped significantly, she said. They still cost $13,000 to install, she said, but increased the range of the truck to 110 km and reduced the weight of the battery pack from about 1,700 pounds to 700 pounds. They also added a battery heater pad.
"That just improved the performance in the winter," she said.
They now use the truck for daily errands throughout the year.
"It just takes a little bit more planning, but you get into that habit," she said. "For just going into town and doing your shopping, picking up the kids it's fine"
Because of some of the technical challenges early on, they have only put 23,000 km on the truck since the conversion. Beckett said her husband has tracked their milage in a spreadsheet and calculated the cost of driving the vehicle is 4.5 cents per kilometre, compared to 12-15 cents per kilometre for a comparable gasoline-powered truck.
Beckett said she'd encourage anyone to consider an electric vehicle - but warned that doing a conversion requires more technical knowledge than buying a commercially-made electric vehicle off the lot.
"The first thing is the fear of getting stranded -range anxiety, they call it -after you've had it for a few weeks that goes away," she said. "It certainly changed the way I drive the vehicle. I think it has actually improved my driving skills, I pace myself more. For the majority of people, for 90 per cent of the time they use the vehicle, it's just fine. [And] every time you drive past a gas station you can just wave and smile."
Nissan LEAFs Making Fans In This Connecticut Community
Ridgefield, Connecticut uses their LEAF electric car on city business. The Library children's programmer makes her 54-mile commute in one. The local playhouse runs errands in theirs.
Ridgefield Press 03 Dec 2013
The town has one, and employees from parking enforcement officers to the first selectman drive it. Diane Antezzo, the Ridgefield Library’s children’s programmer, said she saves $200 a month on gas driving hers. Allison Stockel from the Playhouse takes hers on errands all around town.
“It’s literally like floating,” Ms. Stockel said.
They’re zero-emission electric vehicles, including the Nissan Leaf the town bought last month with a $28,000 package of environment-related grant money.
The town’s new Leaf is used mostly by employees making trips they’d normally take their private cars on, and then be reimbursed for mileage — saving the town that cost.
“It’s available for anyone who needs to travel, needs a vehicle,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. “If they need a vehicle and plan on getting reimbursed, they have this vehicle available to them as long as it isn’t reserved by someone else.”
The town’s electric car is used most regularly for the parking enforcement officer’s daily drive from the village to Branchville and back to check on the train station lot.
“They’re using it every day,” Mr. Marconi said.
The registrars of voters used it to drive around before Election Day and set up polling stations at three schools.
When the town social services director had a program to attend in Berlin, Conn. — a long round trip, given the electric car’s 75-mile recommended range — he took the gasoline-burning town car the first selectman usually drives, and Mr. Marconi used the electric vehicle for the day.
“The policy is, if people need to go somewhere and they’d get reimbursed for using their own car, they should use this,” Mr. Marconi said. “If it’s a longer trip, they should use the Chevy Malibu, and I’ll drive this around town for my meetings.”
Electric car drivers in town can make use of a high-capacity charging station installed at the Ridgefield Playhouse by a collaboration of Nissan Motors and Bruce Bennett Nissan, the dealership in Georgetown.
According to Mr. Bennett, Connecticut has 97 public charging stations and hopes to get to 200 soon. It recently approved grants for 56 charging stations in 42 locations.
In addition to the Playhouse, Mr. Bennett hopes to get Nissan to cooperate in putting another charging station in Ridgefield — possibly at the Stop & Shop lot — and they are already collaborating on plans for one in Danbury.
He wants more charging stations in the area, which he believes will lead to the sale of more electric vehicles.
“I’m trying to convince Nissan there’s a market,” he said. “There is a market here. I think the people of Connecticut are very aware of the environment. We’re very aware of green things.”
The Leaf has been offered in the United States for three years, and Mr. Bennett has seen sales slowly increasing at his Georgetown dealership.
“We went from selling one or two every couple of months, now we’re selling four or five a month,” he said.
Of course, Nissan isn’t the only firm marketing zero-emission vehicles, whether electric plug-ins like the Leaf or hybrids that can run on gas or electricity. Chevrolet, Ford, BMW, Toyota, and Honda have offerings, and there are also specialty electric car firms like Tesla and Zap.
Ms. Antezzo said her electric vehicle saves her a lot.
“I commute from Southbury every day and I spend $1.75 on electric usage a day,” she said. “It was close to $10 a day in gas.
“I think it’s 54 miles,” she said of the round-trip commute. “My husband equates that to 103 miles per gallon.
“I was unaware what a savings it would be until we monitored our use,” she said. “I save close to $200 a month on gas with my commute. If people saw actual figures they may consider it an option. Moms driving SUVs around town would probably save more.
“Then there are the zero emissions benefits,” she said. “The government gives a large rebate to lease or purchase an all-electric car.”
Ms. Stockel, the Playhouse director, has a big gasoline-powered SUV she still uses for some chores, but she uses her Leaf for local errands, like driving her kids around town.
“I drive it every day, I charge it two or three times a week,” she said. “I’m driving it all over.”
As for her SUV, “to drive it on a daily basis, it bothered me,” she said. “Every time I fill that tank — it’s a big vehicle. You fill it three times a month, it’s $300, that’s essentially the cost of the lease.”
Connecticut is part of a coalition of eight states that hopes to increase the use of zero-emission vehicles by adding them to government fleets, offering buyers incentives like tax breaks, and working with the industry to create and promote a network of charging stations.
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) recently announced grants to help build 56 more publicly available charging stations in 42 locations.
“Our goal is a network of charging stations that allows anyone driving an electric vehicle to travel anywhere in our state with total confidence that they will be able to recharge their car battery when necessary,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said Nov. 4.
The state wants more charging stations in locations like restaurants, businesses, colleges, medical centers, and municipal parking lots.
Western Connecticut State University in Danbury announced this week that it will build four charging stations under the state grant program — two at its west side campus and two at its downtown campus.
Under the state program, new charging stations are also planned in Westport, Norwalk, Bethel, and Greenwich.
“Building people’s confidence in the availability of charging stations will help spark sales and use of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles,” the governor said.
It takes longer, but electric cars can also be recharged from a regular home outlet.
“You can plug into a house outlet overnight — in 12 hours it’ll recharge,” Mr. Bennett said.
“You can run an extension out. That’s what I do at home,” Mr. Marconi said.
Faster recharging units for home use are sold online for $500 to $600, Mr. Bennett said.
The town’s Leaf arrived in October and cost $29,500.
Mr. Marconi said the car was paid for with a package of grants and involved no town tax money.
The grants included $9,847 from CL&P earned by the town’s participation in the Neighbor to Neighbor energy-saving program; $14,270 in state grants; $4,000 donated by the Ridgefield Action Committee for the Environment (RACE); and $1,375 from a dedicated Branchville parking lot fund — available since the car is used for enforcement at the train station.
Commissioner Daniel C. Esty of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection sees many benefits to zero-emission cars.
“The growing use of electric vehicles offers the promise of cutting costs for motorists but also improving our environment and public health,” Mr. Esty said.
“Cars and trucks burning gasoline and diesel are one of the largest sources of air pollution and greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. By reducing the number of them on the road, we will clean our air, combat climate change, and reduce the incidence of respiratory ailments among our residents.”
Nissan's LEAF Arrives on Guam
Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno gets a test drive of Nissan's LEAF electric car, the first EV to arrive on the island where petrol costs $5US a gallon and full charge of the battery just $7.
Pacific Daily News/Guam 14 Nov 2013
Hagåtña - At last, an all-electric car model has reached Guam -- three years after its launch in the U.S. mainland.
Statesiders may view the rollout of the Nissan Leaf as something so 2011, but not Guam drivers.
With the island's gas prices near $5 a gallon, the possibility of buying a gasoline-free car is tempting.
The local Nissan dealership unveiled what it says is the first all-electric vehicle for the local market, the Leaf, on Nov. 6. And there wasn't a shortage of guests who wanted to test drive the car.
When you combine the allure of doing away with gasoline expenses, and helping to save Guam from getting smothered by vehicle fumes, you'd at least be curious about it.
Lots of questions
Those who checked out the Leaf were loaded with questions.
Does it have power and speed similar to a conventional, gasoline-powered car of its size?
Does the cost of the Leaf, which is several thousand dollars pricier than an economy car, even after existing federal tax credits are factored in, make sense budget-wise?
Is the driving experience similar or better than cars of a similar kind?
The answers are yes, maybe and yes.
The Pacific Daily News test-drove a Leaf with upgrades: a solar panel on the spoiler to help power some of the car's tech features; a dashboard view of the entire outside of the car -- sides, rear, back and overhead; leather seats; and Bose sound system.
It has a surprisingly roomy interior for a car its size. There's ample room for stuff in the back.
The test drive
The test drive began with getting to know the electric car basics. You press a button to turn the ignition on or off, as long as the car's remote "key" is somewhere in your pocket or within enough range for the car to read it.
To shift from park, drive or reverse, you very lightly touch, clock-wise, a computer mouse-like control between the driver's and front passenger's seats.
The car accelerates quickly. Nissan Guam representatives say the car can go more than 80 mph, but that shouldn't be necessary if you don't want a traffic ticket.
Once you begin cruising, the car interior is noticeably quiet and the drive is smooth. I don't know how the car will hold up in the long-run, with Guam's notoriously huge potholes and uneven road surfaces.
Because there's no fossil fuel involved, you don't smell or see fumes.
Why the wait?
It took some time to convince Nissan's head office that Guam is ready for the electric vehicle, says Van Shelly, Nissan Guam's president and CEO, because Guam doesn't have public charging stations for electric cars, and tax incentives on Guam aren't as generous as some green places stateside.
But the wait might be well worth it, if you can get past the price tag.
What's now available on Guam is the third edition of the Nissan Leaf, which runs about 100 miles before it runs out of lithium-ion battery power. Earlier editions had shorter drive times because of an older-model battery, so unless you're a pizza delivery person, you're not going to run out of battery life in a day.
Charging the car
The car comes with a cord you can plug into a three-prong, 120-volt outlet at home overnight, but Nissan suggests you invest in a quicker-charging battery system that can fully charge the battery in a few hours and, the company says, will keep the battery's life longer. The cost of the charging system is $1,000. Plus, you'll need $300 to $400 for an electrician to set it up at your home.
The battery charging system does come with a $1,000 federal tax credit, on top of the federal tax credit of up to $7,500 for the car purchase, Nissan Guam says.
The base price for a 2013 Nissan Leaf on Guam is around $31,000. With federal tax credits, the price is about $25,000, say Nissan Guam sales representatives.
Guam electric vehicle buyers could save further, and drive home an EV for the cost of an economy sedan, if local legislation were to add $7,500 in local tax credits -- on top of the federal tax credits -- becomes law. Republican Sen. Chris Duenas introduced the legislation with co-sponsors Sens. Tony Ada, Tommy Morrison and Dennis Rodriguez Jr.
About $7 to charge it
Nissan Guam estimates the equivalent cost of electricity to fully charge Nissan Leaf's battery is about $7, which will give you two or so days of driving.
Nissan Guam sales people tempt you with this proposition: When will you ever see a day when you fill up your gas tank for anywhere close to that amount?
As a minivan driver who spends a chunk of money spent on gas, I am convinced I'll definitely get an electric car -- someday.
Whether it's going to be a Leaf depends on whether other carmakers roll out better versions. I'd check out any electric vehicle that becomes available in our market; the Leaf just happened to be the first to roll into a car dealership on Guam.
My Road to Buying a Nissan LEAF Electric Car
Dr. Ellen Franconi shares her experience of weighing the pros and cons of replacing her aging Subaru Forester with Nissan's LEAF all-electric car.
Rocky Mountain Institute 16 Jun 2013
I split up with my 2001 Subaru Forester. Perhaps I should say it split up with me. At the mature end of its life with 106,000 miles under its belt(s), its “weak” head gasket caused the heater core to crack. Without a major overhaul, I would soon end up with a lapful of hot glycol and no ride home.
I’d been supporting its gas habit for years, spending over $10,000 at the pump. These regular expenditures mounted up so slowly I hardly paid any attention. It was fast to warm up and good in snow. It wasn’t good looking but was always dependable. But it showed its age in the last few years. I spent thousands to keep it going. But with a $2,000 repair bill looming, I had to face facts. It was time to move on.
I started looking around. I talked to friends and family to see if they knew of any models that might work for me. Based on my needs and likes, the Honda Fit and Toyota Prius came recommended. I took a look at both of them. The Fit reminded me of an early love affair I had with a 1970s Volkswagen Bug. The Prius offered a more sophisticated ride. But I just couldn’t make a commitment.
On a whim, I stopped by the Nissan dealership. I liked what I saw. Within minutes, I was test driving my first electric car, the LEAF. I didn’t know what to expect. Would I need to “ride” in the bike lane? But it wasn’t anything like that. It was smooth, it was quiet, and it was fun!
What about costs? I’ve got a strong frugal side. New cars can rapidly depreciate. Yet trying to find a used, affordable one that I could trust to perform … it seemed like such a lot of work. My heart wasn’t in it. Yet a new electric car might have double-whammy depreciation. It could incur the quick two-year, 30-percent value reduction typical of new cars. Its value might also be impacted by ever-improving battery technology. Longer-range, faster-charging batteries could outdate current models, making depreciation even more rapid. The Nissan dealership manager suggested I consider leasing, explaining that they were currently running a very attractive offer for the 2012 LEAF. And if battery technology advanced, as I feared it might, the dealership—not I—would ultimately own the car.
I had never leased a car before but the financing terms seemed reasonable. I got all the data, went home, and ran the numbers. For the 2012 SL LEAF, the offer required $1360 up front to cover fees and taxes and $260 a month for 2 years. The deal accounted for the $7500 federal tax credit and an additional $2650 rebate from Nissan. It did not include a Colorado state tax credit for alternative fuel vehicles, which for me knocked off about another $1000. The numbers were compelling. And after 2-years, I could walk away free and clear, ready to take on the next new, leaner, cleaner model.
For reference, I compared the LEAF’s lease terms to that offered by my local Honda dealership for the gas-powered, fuel-efficient Fit. As attractive as the LEAF was looking, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Perhaps a car such as the Fit might give it a run for its money.
The Fit retailed for $16,915, less than half the LEAF’s sticker price north of $38,000. With the same amount down as the LEAF offer, the monthly fee for the Fit came to $364.
And what about fuel costs? The U.S. EPA reports the combined mileage rating for the LEAF is 34 kWh/100 miles or 99 MPGe. The 2013 Fit has a combined rating of 31 MPG. Based on electric costs of $0.08/kWh, gas costs of $3.50/gallon, and driving 7000 miles in a year (my average), I would pay about $190/year to plug in the LEAF or $790/year to fill up the Fit.
With the LEAF, I’d save about $100 a month on the lease terms and about $600 a year on fuel.
I checked the difference in emissions using an online calculator. The national average reduction in emissions is about 40 percent switching from an internal combustion engine car to an EV. However, in Boulder our electrical generation has a high percent of coal-fired plants, which reduces the savings to 25 percent. Yet RMI and my household both subscribe to a voluntary renewable energy program, “Windsource,” offered through our local utility, Xcel Energy. By paying a small additional premium, our electric supply is attributed to a Colorado-based PV or wind farm. All things considered, opting for the LEAF would put me on a sustainable path without too much out of pocket.
But going with something so new and different would really mean a change. Was it right for me? Would it fit my lifestyle?
I did some online research to discern the subtleties of owning an electric car. The LEAF has an engine power of 80 kWs, which is nearly equivalent to the Honda Fit’s 117 horsepower or 87 kWs. Did I say I used to drive a Beetle and liked it? No problem. But unlike my Bug, the LEAF has full-load torque at low speed, which makes it very responsive. The LEAF’s 2011/2012 EPA rated range is 73 miles. That’s like always driving with the gas-low light on—no doubt I’d need to plan ahead. Or would I? My round-trip route between home and work is 15 miles. One day a week, I act as “soccer mom” and cover 40 miles transporting my kids between school, activities, and home. My day-to-day schedule should work within the range restrictions.
And what about the shopping, social, and travel expeditions that can take me far and wide? My husband drives our mini-van. It is well equipped with winter tires, a big roof box, and mountable bike rack. It is the camp-and-go, see-and-ski vehicle that can handle our family road trips in every season. Would he be willing to share? To my surprise, he readily agreed. It took weeks for us to negotiate the color to paint the master bath but only a few words to sanction this arrangement. If only paint came in shades of technological innovation!
A main consideration was charging. The 2012 model requires about twice the charging time as the 2013 model. But the lease offer for the 2012 was about $80 less a month. To get the more affordable 2012, I would need to work within its constraints to accommodate a dead-to-full charge time of 24 hours on a regular 120-volt plug-in or 7 hours on a type-2, 220-volt station. Fortunately, we have a type-2 charge station at RMI’s Boulder office. While staying parked for hours in one place initially seemed like a hindrance, it could actually provide added value. It would ensure me a parking spot in a small, cramped lot.
I went back to the dealership to learn more. The numbers were enough to motivate me but the added amenities are what sold me. Car models have really changed since 2001. No doubt, the LEAF is setting a new standard, at least for me. My old console showcased a cassette player. The LEAF console is a mini-computer monitor that provides back-side camera views, talking GPS, AM/FM/XM radio, smartphone Bluetooth connection, and a full menu of car performance screens. There’s even Nissan’s “Carwings,” a smartphone app that allows me to check in on the car, pre-heat/-cool, and perform scheduled charging to take advantage of time-of-day rates. I was sold. I’d done the car research equivalent of hiring a private investigator to vet my would-be husband, and finally I was ready to commit.
It’s been three months now since we’ve been driving together. Electric cars won’t work for everyone, but for me and my situation, the LEAF works fine. Still, I’ve come to appreciate the term “guess-o-meter” for the predicted range display value. Mileage will vary—particularly over Colorado’s varied terrain and ambient temperatures.
I never thought about myself as being an early adopter of new technologies. Yet in reflecting about my consumer choices, I have latched on to new products that are well designed, including the iPhone and iPad. As a matter of fact, this car just seems like a natural evolution of the “i” trend. Like the iPhone, I didn’t know I “needed” it until I tried it.
Dr. Ellen Franconi, Ph.D. is a senior consultant with the Rocky Mountain Institute.
Robotic Nissan LEAF Drives Itself
Rather than using GPS, Oxford's robotic Nissan LEAF electric car uses 3D lasers to learn the surroundings and take over driving if the driver desires.
Oxford University 15 Feb 2013
Robotic technology from Oxford University that enables a car to 'drive itself' for stretches of a route has been shown driving a Nissan Leaf electric car.
The work is a milestone on the way to creating everyday vehicles that can offer 'auto drive' for some parts of a journey, taking the strain off drivers during a busy commute or school run.
The low-cost navigation system can recognise its surroundings using small cameras and lasers discreetly built into the body of the adapted electric road car and linked to a computer in the boot.
The new car gives a glimpse of what the driver's experience of an auto drive-enabled car of the future might be like: the technology is controlled from an iPad on the dashboard that flashes up a prompt offering the driver the option of the car taking over for a portion of a familiar route – touching the screen then switches to 'auto drive' where the robotic system takes over. At any time a tap on the brake pedal will return control to the human driver.
'We are working on a low-cost 'auto drive' navigation system, that doesn't depend on GPS, done with discreet sensors that are getting cheaper all the time. It's easy to imagine that this kind of technology could be in a car you could buy,' said Professor Paul Newman of Oxford University's Department of Engineering Science, an EPSRC Leadership Fellow who is leading the research alongside Oxford's Dr Ingmar Posner.
'Instead of imagining some cars driving themselves all of the time we should imagine a time when all cars can drive themselves some of the time,' said Professor Newman. 'The sort of very low cost, low footprint autonomy we are developing is what’s needed for everyday use.'
Some automated technology, for vehicles that 'park themselves' or react to changing road conditions, has already found its way into production road cars. Autonomous navigation systems, such as the one being developed at Oxford, are likely to be the next big step towards revolutionising the driving experience.
Whilst human drivers might use Global Positioning System (GPS) to find their way, such systems cannot provide anything like the coverage, precision, and reliability autonomous cars need to safely navigate, and, crucially, GPS fails to tell a robotic car anything about its surroundings.
'Our approach is made possible because of advances in 3D laser mapping that enable an affordable car-based robotic system to rapidly build up a detailed picture of its surroundings,' said Professor Newman. 'Because our cities don't change very quickly robotic vehicles will know and look out for familiar structures as they pass by so that they can ask a human driver 'I know this route, do you want me to drive?' and the driver can choose to let the technology take over.'
At the moment it is estimated that the prototype navigation system costs around £5,000. 'Long-term, our goal is to produce a system costing around £100,' says Professor Newman.
The technology is currently being tested at its base at Begbroke Science Park, near Oxford. The next stage of the research, led by Dr Ingmar Posner, will involve enabling the new robotic system to understand complex traffic flows and make decisions on its own about which routes to take. Whilst there are many hurdles to overcome the long-term goal is to take such a system onto public roads.
'Whilst our technology won't be in a car showroom near you any time soon, and there’s lots more work to do, it shows the potential for this kind of affordable robotic system that could make our car journeys safer, more efficient, and more pleasant for drivers,' said Professor Newman.
The Oxford research is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The cars for the research, and support for them, are being provided by Nissan.
Nissan UK Defends Confidence in Electric Cars
KPMG report contends costs and technology uncertainty reflected in shifting carmaker strategies are proving too high a risk for 'cash-strapped' buyers.
Sunderland Echo/UK 19 Jan 2013
NISSAN has hit back at claims electric vehicles have failed to spark the public imagination.
Financial services specialist KPMG says concerns around the cost of running and maintaining the vehicles are proving too high a risk for cash-strapped buyers.
The firm’s International Global Automotive Executive Survey, which surveyed 200 auto executives from 31 countries, found the cost of batteries and recharging was a major barrier to those considering electric vehicles.
Ninety-two per cent of respondents said fuel efficiency for cost reasons was the primary factor in deciding what car to buy.
Environmental concerns such as reducing CO2 emissions remain important to the consumer, but slipped from second place to fourth this year.
John Leech, KPMG’s UK head of automotive, said: “The changing views on pure hybrids, plug-ins, fuel cell and battery-powered vehicles reflect the uncertainty as to which will be the dominant technology.
“In the short term, the individual driver is likely to prefer a hybrid, whereas urban fleets may opt for electric cars.
“However, it seems pure electric vehicles will not prevail, at least in the next decade.”
Nissan will begin building the all-electric Leaf at its Sunderland plant this year and bosses today hit back at the survey.
A spokesman said: “Battery electric vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, are the only zero emission vehicles available today and that will remain true for many years to come.
“In order to keep our society cleaner and greener, Nissan is strongly committed to fostering zero-emissions mobility and is a leader in electric vehicles, with almost 50,000 sales of the all-electric Nissan Leaf globally.
“The global electric vehicle market is continuing to progress, with key conditions including public charging infrastructure, government incentives, consumer acceptance and the economic benefits undergoing continuous significant improvement.
“We remain confident about future growth of the electric vehicle market.”
Tennessean Sees Electric Cars 'The Way to Go'
Businessman John Noel is the first owner of a Honda Insight in Tennessee and now the first Toyota Prius Plug-In.
Tennessean/USA 20 Jul 2012
It is summer 2008, and gas prices are tiptoeing past the $4-a-gallon mark. The “staycation” is born, because families can’t even think about piling into the car and going somewhere fun.
Americans are traveling again, but they remember the stark reality of $4 per gallon. Now the demand for cars that get the most miles per gallon may outstrip the supply this summer, The Christian Science Monitor reports.
The story notes that the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga is adding a third shift to ramp up production of its fuel-efficient Passat by 30,000 cars.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car is testing electric vehicles with the “eco-curious,” and they are well-positioned to educate the traveling public about this technology. They have the perfect platform for introducing, testing and socializing this transportation innovation.
The reality of the electric motor is here and taking center stage. Having owned the first hybrid electric car in Tennessee, the Honda Insight, and now the first Toyota Prius “plug-in” hybrid, both averaging more than 60 miles per gallon, it pays in many ways to go electric.
Whether all-electric (Nissan Leaf) or plug-in hybrid, the electric motors are vastly more efficient because they apply more energy directly to power rather than to heat, as the age-old internal combustion engine does. Hybrid technology effectively captures the wasted momentum of your car and converts it to electricity and back to the efficient electric motor.
In my case, plugging in translates to about 95 mpg, and when blended with hybrid fuel use, is in the overall range of 60 mpg, depending on my driving habits. So, even if gas prices are not $4 per gallon now, going electric or hybrid electric could double your gas mileage, making the approximately $3 per gallon today effectively $1.50 per gallon by using half as much fuel.
Not everyone is jumping behind the wheel of an electric car, but Americans make gas mileage their top priority when they buy a vehicle. In a Consumer Reports survey, 37 percent put mileage first when shopping for a car, ahead of even quality, safety, value and style.
It’s no surprise that Americans want higher fuel standards. In August, new standards will be finalized, requiring vehicles to get an average 54.5 mpg by 2025. This standard could be achieved much sooner and should be thusly legislated. A bipartisan poll conducted last year for the Pew Clean Energy Program shows that 82 percent of those surveyed support a standard of 56 mpg by 2025.
Over Memorial Day weekend, drivers would have saved at least $67 million at the pump had the 54.5 mpg standard been in place, according to a Pew report.
It’s good to see pump prices inching down this summer. But experience tells us that it is not a reliable situation, due to unstable supply and international factors.
It’s not just about our personal budgets, either. It’s about the nation’s economy, and a cleaner and healthier environment, which is why most automakers as well as labor support the new higher fuel standards.
Better gas mileage isn’t just about taking vacations. It is about volatile climate change, national security and saving money. Our nation must break its dependency on oil that comes from countries that are adverse to America, and reduce the carbon dioxide released, improving the climate and air quality vital to our health and well-being.
John Noel is a businessman, preservationist and CEO of the John Noel Investment Real Estate Co. He served as president of the Nashville Board of Realtors and was founding member of the Tennessee Housing Development Agency.
Tijuana-to-Seattle By Nissan LEAF
Tony Williams drove his Nissan LEAF electric car from Baja California to British Columbia along the new West Coast Electric Highway.
Torque News 18 Jun 2012
A trip from BC (Baja California) to BC (British Columbia) shows an around-town electric car like the Nissan Leaf can handle a long road trip, given enough fast charging stations along the highways.
A San Diego man, Tony Williams, is taking the scenic route to a wedding near Seattle, driving his Nissan Leaf from BC to BC (Baja California to British Columbia) along the West Coast Electric Highway. Because the Nissan Leaf is around-town car, the trip might seem a crazy quest, with a high chance of getting stuck on a remote highway out of power. The rationalist might have just taken an airplane to Seattle, but Williams had a larger purpose in mind. The trip is about more than just attending a wedding, but to demonstrate the value and dysfunction of the electric vehicle charging infrastructure on the West Coast.
With its' EPA rated range of 73 miles, so just how can one take 1600 mile road trip with a Nissan Leaf? The answer is that it takes careful planning. It helps that Tony Williams is a pilot, and is accustomed to careful flight plans with contingencies built in. The easy part of the trip is in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia which are the segments of the West Coast Electric Highway which have been built. That segment of the WCEH has 18 fast charge stations starting at the California border and going north into British Columbia. The California segment of the WCEH has yet to be built, making that segment of the trip much harder.
Where he can find fast charging stations, Williams plans to use them, because 100 miles or so of driving range per hour of charging, versus the 12-15 miles of driving range per hour of charging at a level 2 charging station. In Washington and Oregon he expects to cover 300 miles or more a day, hopping from one fast charging station to another. In California, where fast charging stations are few and far between, he'll cover fewer number of miles per day because of the lower charging rate on level 2 charging stations. Even so he's managed a couple 200 mile (or so) days, with 182 miles from Solvang to a campground in Big Sur, and 259 miles from San Diego to Solvang the day before (which included use of a CHADEMO fast charger in LA).
There are plenty of level 2 charging stations in the metropolitan areas, but what about the long stretches of lonely highway in-between? That's where campgrounds come into play, such as the one in Big Sur where Williams spent the night a couple days ago. Because of RV drivers, campgrounds have lots of 240 volt 50 amp electrical outlets. That coupled with a modified 120 volt line charger, to support 240 volts 16 amps, lets a Leaf be charged at full speed even if there isn't an official level 2 charging station.
The "flight plan" for the trip (hey, he's a pilot) started on June 12 with a drive down to Tijuana, so he could claim having driven from border-to-border. The first full day he drove through the LA area, stopping at a CHADEMO fast charger, and ending up in Solvang. The next day involved a long stop in Morro Bay for a full charge, and a drive up Highway 1 ending at a campground in Big Sur. In the San Francisco Bay Area, Williams is meeting with a couple Electric Auto Association groups, ending the day at a hotel in Ukiah where there is a level 2 charging station. Next day is a long stretch of sparsely populated Redwood Forests in California, punctuated by stops at several campgrounds along the way. After that the trip reaches Oregon, where Williams can start using DC fast charging stations, along I5 in Oregon and Washington. Where it will have taken 5+ days to cross California, crossing Washington and Oregon will require 1 day apiece.
The West Coast Electric Highway was always to have extended down into California. Clearly Williams' trip would have been much easier if the California leg of the WCEH were in place. Williams sees this as scandalous, for example San Diego (where he lives) was to have, by now, 30 fast charging stations in place. Likewise the LA and SF Bay Areas was to have had dozens of fast charging stations.
Williams is taking this trip in part to put a spotlight on the lack of electric car charging infrastructure along the California WCEH. He is developing a business plan for a network of fast charging stations in San Diego and the SF Bay Area, and has developed a solution for the achilles heel of fast charging, demand charges. Fast chargers require a 480 volt 3 phase AC power line, and most electrical utility companies charge extra fees (demand charges) when these power lines have spikes in usage, such as the 50 kilowatts when the fast charger turns on. The demand charges can make it unecomonical to operate a fast charging station.
If all goes well, Williams will arrive in Seattle in the middle of the coming week. A ceremony is planned with Seattle area Electric Auto Association and LEAF owners groups. You can follow the journey at QuickChargePower.com.
Why I Bought a Nissan LEAF Electric Car
Christian Science Monitor staff writer Mark Clayton explains why he now drives the LEAF; in a word: 9/11.
Christian Science Monitor 02 May 2012
I've had a Nissan Leaf for two months now – and things have started to change.
I pass gas stations without thinking about them anymore. I've got new "attitude," scowling at Toyota Priuses for their lack of gas-saving zeal. On Saturdays, when we do most of our driving, my wife and I sometimes calculate whether we can do all our errands on the Leaf's 100-mile battery without finding a public charging station.
I never thought we would own an all-electric car. But the idea began to dawn over a kitchen table discussion last fall about a replacement for our 14-year-old Honda Accord.
Honestly, if we had not just refinanced the house, we might have ended up with a Honda Fit – not a Nissan Leaf. But we decided to use some of the housing-cost savings from the re-fi on new transportation. Fiscal discipline, we decided, would take a back seat this time to all-electric driving for one key reason: We won't have to fill up ever again (except when we use the minivan for long trips).
To be sure, the Leaf will save us $50 per fill-up, maybe $1,000 a year on fuel. But the Leaf lease payments will swallow those savings – unless gas prices go up maybe to $5 a gallon. No, the real reason Laura and I took possession of an "ocean blue" Leaf on an icy winter day in mid-February was 9/11.
After that terrible day, many people began asking: What can I do in my personal life to make sure this never happens again?
Not a lot, really, I thought at that time. But lately my view has changed. One thing is that it might help to refuse to give "people who hate us" a lot of money for their oil. Simplistic? Yes. Am I going to try it? Yes.
Another post-9/11 change: In reporting for the Monitor on energy and environment, I discovered Felix Kramer and a couple of his buddies working out of a California garage, trying to curb US oil use by turning a standard Prius hybrid into a cutting edge plug-in hybrid. It ran mostly on electricity and got the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon.
When Toyota didn't seem interested, Felix and his pals converted a lot more of them, hoping to shame Toyota and Detroit automakers into building production plug-in hybrids. Amazingly, they succeeded.
Last year, the Chevrolet Volt rolled into showrooms. It goes 40 miles on a charge before reverting to a gasoline engine for distance driving. Toyota finally began selling a plug-in hybrid Prius that goes 12 to 15 miles on a charge first, then a gas engine. Ford is deploying an all-electric Focus and a plug-in hybrid SUV. The list goes on – 11 automakers and a dozen new models this year – the year of the electric car.
Since most US oil goes to power automotive transportation – and two-thirds of all Americans drive less than 40 miles a day – a car like the Chevy Volt would let Americans duck the pump and substitute domestic fuel (electricity) for nearly all their driving needs. If enough people drove one, energy-security hawks like former CIA director James Woolsey and a bevy of former generals say it would greatly enhance US energy security.
Of course, you could get really radical and get an all-electric vehicle like the Nissan Leaf. That might save even more gasoline, albeit by living inside a 50-mile radius. This is the first in a series of blogs about what it means to live within that radius, about the often not-very-intuitive things that emerge as you step away from a gas-powered world, and what it's like to electrify your daily ride.
Welcome to my Nissan Leaf life.
Life Good for First Nissan LEAF Owner
Olivier Chalouhi of Mountain View, California has put 15,000 trouble-free miles on his Nissan LEAF electric car and now enjoys HOV lane access.
Fox News 19 Mar 2012
15 months after buying the very first affordable, mass produced, fully electric car sold in the United States, Olivier Chalouhi of Mountain View, California, still loves his Nissan Leaf.
We've been tracking this French-born entrepreneur since December of 2010, and since then he's logged 15,000 miles cruising around Silicon Valley without a single mechanical problem. Initially, he said he wanted the car to help the environment and reduce dependence on foreign oil. Now, thanks to new rules that allow electric cars to use California's carpool lanes, he says he'd buy a Leaf just for that perk.
"The carpool stickers are saving me a half hour to an hour of commute time every day," he says.
During our most recent visit, it was pouring rain, but the Leaf handled just fine. "It has good traction, it brakes really well."
And as he passes gas stations posting ever-rising prices, Chalouhi knows he's saving money, too.
He charges his car nightly in his garage, a process that takes about 8 hours. That extra juice has raised his electric bill about $60.00 a month, but he pays monthly what many drivers pay weekly for gas.
Read what Fox Car Report thinks about the Nissan Leaf
Even so, plug-in vehicles have hit some bumps, with poor sales causing GM to halt production of its Chevy Volt for 5 weeks. The Nissan Leaf also missed its sales targets last year, though it's just become the first all-electric vehicle to become available in all US markets. Both cars cost in the $30,000 dollar range after rebates and tax credits.
But most electric vehicles still inspire a sort of "range anxiety." The Leaf, for instance, gets fewer than 100 miles on a charge. To play it safe, Chalouhi usually only drives about 40 miles to and from his job. Uncertainties about distance, and the availability of plug in stations away from home, have many car buyers worried about being stranded.
Across the country, cities like San Francisco are installing more charging stations, and auto analysts say, as with any new technology, building mainstream interest takes time.
"I think we are going to an increased electrification of the vehicles no matter what. Then, how much, is still a question," says Francis Sprei of Stanford University Precourt Energy Efficiency Center. "If you find the perfect battery you will maybe get a full electric vehicle that can have a range of 300 miles. But you can also end up with solutions in between, that will mean we'll be driving maybe 80% or 90% of our time on electricity, but still have some internal combustion engines there as a safety."
There's no question the first owner of the first Leaf is sold on the car and the technology. Chalouhi says his next car will be all-electric, too, and he wrapped up our rainy day interview with a glowing review of his Leaf: "I feel privileged because the driving experience is so nice."
Nissan LEAF Owner Shares Pros and Cons
Bob Grassetti shares his experiences with the first Nissan LEAF in Nashua, New Hampshire.
Nashua Telegraph 19 Mar 2012
NASHUA – Some people think of their cars as a big toy, others as a tool for living, others as a status symbol.
Bob Grassetti has a different comparison.
“It’s just like a cell phone,” he said. “You have to keep on top of it, keep it charged.”
Such is life as owner of one of New Hampshire’s first production electric cars, a Nissan Leaf that Grassetti has been driving since Feb. 3. Grassetti, who took a three-year lease on the car from a combination of environmental concern and early-adopter technology lust, has become an advocate for the Leaf.
“It’s awesome to drive. I love driving it,” he said, during a recent spin around the Hudson industrial park where his company, cleaning products distributor Industrial Solutions, is headquartered. “If I want to go, it goes, it really goes. The top speed is 90 – well, that’s what they told me. I haven’t tried it.”
He calculates that his operating costs are the equivalent of buying gasoline at 50 cents a gallon – not bad during these $4-a-gallon days. There’s also no oil to change, no tailpipe and muffler to rust out, no maintenance aside from refilling the windshield washing solution.
Of course, these savings doesn’t take into account big upfront costs, including a home charger that costs almost $1,000 including installation. For the time being, that cost, as well as $7,500 of the Leaf’s roughly $30,000 price tag, are covered by tax credits as part of a federal push to get more electric vehicles on the road.
Costs and cost savings aside, Grassetti admits that the car has one big problem: a maximum range of 110 miles on a full charge.
“It’s a great car, as long as you know the limits.”
Grassetti’s Leaf was the first sold through Peters Nissan in Nashua, which has now sold five, said general sales manager Dave Gerardi.
As of last week a total of 45 have been ordered, although not necessarily delivered, in New Hampshire since orders were first taken Oct. 1.
“They’re all concerned with the environment, and I think they’re all concerned with gas prices,” said Gerardi of Leaf customers. “Of course, with the 100-mile range, none of these people are doing a lot of travel.”
Actually, not many people are doing a lot of travel in any electric vehicles in the U.S.
The Leaf and the Chevy Volt, which is really a plug-in electric/gas hybrid, are the two major-player representatives of the electric-car market at the moment, but they had combined American sales of just 26,000 last year – a number too tiny for big car firms to even notice. GM has even slowed production on the Volt, which isn’t for sale in New England yet.
Some small firms are also in the electric-car market, including independent microcar firms with names like Wheego and Coda, as well as the start-up called Tesla, which makes a six-figure electric roadster that can outgun a Porsche. (Electric motors’ greatest strength is acceleration.)
But these cars’ sales are even smaller, and the technology is not without issue. Battery problems in a few Teslas have led to talk about “bricking,” as in your $100,000 car is now as mobile as a brick.
President Barack Obama has set a goal of having a million electric cars on American roads by 2015, but many experts see this as unrealistic.
The problem is twofold: Batteries aren’t good enough yet to sustain a long range, and there are too few charging stations to “refuel” mid-trip.
For all his enthusiasm, Grassetti admits to these drawbacks.
“It’s probably a little ahead of its time,” he said of his baby-blue Leaf. “It’s fine for me, for what I do, but if this was your only car, it probably wouldn’t work.
“I’ve heard that in three years, there might be a battery with a 300-mile range, and that would make all the difference,” he said.
Three hundred miles might be optimistic, but Gerardi of Peters Nissan thinks consistent range of 150 miles isn’t farfetched as the technology matures.
“I absolutely think that they’re going to be a very large part of the market. As for charging stations, in another five years, you’re going to see them at hotels, restaurants, and if gas gets up to $5 a gallon, there’ll be more interest,” he predicted.
Grassetti does his charging in his garage at night, using a charger that hooks into the 220-volt circuit, converting the AC power to battery-friendly DC. It takes about seven hours to fill up, he says: “Just plug it in before you go to bed, when you get up it’s fully charged.”
If you forget to plug it in, you’re in trouble – just as with cell phones.
There is also a ‘“quick-charging” option with a 480-volt system that plugs into a special outlet in the car’s nose. But quick-charge stations are few and far between, and even this high-power option can take about 20 minutes to fill an empty battery, and 10 minutes to recharge it roughly three-quarters of the way.
But technological drawbacks are standard for “early adopters” of technology, and Grassetti for one is willing to put up with them because, if nothing else, it’s interesting to be part of something so new.
And not just interesting for him, he says; the Leaf’s distinctive look is drawing attention.
“I was parked in front of Crosby’s Bakery the other day, and a guy knocked on the window and asked me about it,” he said.
Only Good Things to Say About Our Electric Car
'Gort Cloud' author Richard Seireeni shares his experiences with his family's Nissan LEAF.
Huffington Post 05 Mar 2012
With all the negative articles that have found their way into the press recently, I thought I should tell our readers about our very positive experience with our zero emission Nissan Leaf.
In a phrase, no problem.
I'm sure the money behind the recent attacks on EVs has come from the petroleum industry. Their climate change denying spin doctors are very effective in getting negative stories published, but these stories are deceptive and wrong.
Before we bought our Nissan Leaf, we were driving an old Mercedes TDI converted to burn veggie oil. That worked fine, but it was smelly, and the car was -- well -- old. With solar panels installed on our roof, we were just biding our time until reliable EVs came back on the market. It ended up a toss up between the Leaf and the Chevy Volt, but we went for the Leaf because we don't need the back-up gas engine. Neither my wife nor I dive more than 70 miles in a day, so the Leaf's range is perfect. For longer trips, we have a Jetta Sportwagen that gets 42 miles to the gallon on diesel. We use that for camping and ski trips.
Now here's the amazing part. With the California State and Federal tax credits, we were able to shave nearly a third off the purchase price -- which was pretty low to begin with. Because we leased instead of bought, we didn't have to wait to apply the tax credit to our taxes. The home charging unit, which must be bought separately, was also paid for with a rebate from our utility company. That included the installation by a qualified electrician. We also received carpool lane stickers and FREE parking in the A-lot at LAX. Sweet!
The Leaf has plenty of power, plenty of room for our family of four, and plenty of trunk space. We live at the top of a very steep hill. This car has no problem accelerating up the hill, and it's easy as pie to plug in. If you can remember to plug in your cell phone, you can remember to plug in your EV. The car fully charges in a couple hours.
Now for that so-called range anxiety. It's totally BS. The Leaf constantly updates you on range. You can even tell it where you want to go, and it will tell you if you can get there. Ask your gas-guzzler to do that. If you should run low on juice, you have options: pull over and plug in the regular wall plug charger, or pull into a Nissan dealership for a quick charge, or Nissan will send a truck out to rescue you. The last situation simply doesn't happen very often -- maybe less often than running out of gas and having to call AAA.
The extra cost of electricity has been negligible. We were given a special meter for the Leaf, which measures the cost of power at a lower rate. We are paying -- maybe -- $40 per month for electricity for the car tops. If we were driving a gas-powered car, we'd be paying around $200 per month. There are also a fair number of free charging stations around Los Angeles, and an entire network of charging stations is being built along the highway corridors. Its just gets better.
Sure, the electricity is coming partly from dirty coal-fired plants, but here in California were are building lots of wind turbine and solar collection plants, so the ratio of clean energy is going up while the cost of imported gasoline is also going up.
Take it from my wife and me. EVs are great. Best of all, I get to give a middle finger salute every time I pass a Mobil station.
p.s. No! Nissan did not pay me to write this, and I received no special deal from them.
Family Drives Electric From Knoxville-to-Nashville
Despite Blink charger on the blink, Stephen Smith and his family make the 180 mile drive across Tennessee in their Nissan LEAF.
Tennessean 28 Dec 2011
The Blink fast-charge station for electric cars was on the blink.
Efforts to use the two available plugs yielded nothing for Stephen Smith when he and his family arrived in Lebanon in their Nissan Leaf while traveling Monday from Knoxville to Nashville.
But all was not lost as the Smiths closed in on their destination — a brother’s house only 22 miles farther in Antioch
With 10 miles of available power left on their car, they could take advantage of a slower charger — also at the Blink station at Cracker Barrel. It took about an hour, but the boost gave enough energy for 30 miles.
“The first thing I asked my brother for when we drove up was an extension cord,” Smith said with a laugh.
Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, sees his role as promoting the technology for the benefit of society and the environment and helping to find any weak links. SACE is part of the EV (Electric Vehicle) Project and has chargers publicly available at its Knoxville office.
The trip illustrated the need for more facilities to accommodate city-to-city trips, Smith said. Batteries with more capacity are a hope for the future, too. The point is to reduce the nation’s dependence on polluting petroleum products, much of which comes from overseas, he said.
Electric vehicles so far are driven in closer proximity to one’s home, for commuting to work in a community and other local activities.
“We knew it was a bit of a pioneering adventure because the infrastructure is still being built out,” Smith said of the journey. “It’s good knowing we didn’t use a drop of oil getting down here.”
The electricity for the almost 180-mile drive cost $4-$5. It’s free for the time being at the newly opened fast-charging stations found along Interstate 40 and other corridors.
Longest charge is 30 minutes
The family, bringing Christmas gifts and food, arrived about an hour later than they expected but in time for dinner with Smith’s parents and others.
Aside from the glitch in Lebanon, stops at three other charging stations along the way — Cracker Barrels in Cookeville, Crossville and Harriman — all went fine.
At those, the longest charge took about 30 minutes, filling up the battery to 90 percent of capacity. That’s generally enough for about 80 miles, but it depended on hills and whether the heater was used. In two of the stretches, factors such as that consumed about 20 miles worth of electricity.
Heating can reduce the potential by about 10 percent, and while going up hills eats into what’s available, going down adds to the energy. Most of the legs of the trip were 30-35 miles, but Cookeville to Lebanon was 55. They rolled in there with only 10 miles remaining on their battery.
The car carrying Smith, his wife, Libby Hill Smith, and son Warren, 5, drew much interest.
“I want one of these cars so bad,” said Lori Seay of Lebanon, who said they are a comfortable ride.
She took pictures as the family juiced up their Leaf via a thick cord at the medium-fast Blink charger.
Mike Forehand of Kokomo, Ind., stopped, too, to check out the scene.
“Who would guess Lebanon would have this,” said Forehand, who is a technical manager for a company that designs control systems for electric and hybrid vehicles.
'A good experience'
Smith wanted to see how the new fast-charge stations operated and whether a Knoxville-to-Nashville run would be possible. The family began the trek around midday Monday. Six hours later, with an hour for lunch and the delay in Lebanon, they made it to Antioch.
At the end, it was a close call. The gauge on their dashboard showed only six miles to spare when they arrived — with the low battery light on.
“There’s going to need to be some redundancy built into the system to really have the confidence to use it,” Smith said of charging stations. “We’re seeing that happen. As more people use the cars we’ll see more of that.”
Plugging into a 110-volt socket at a home, as Smith did on arrival, is the slowest way to get a charge. It can take 17 or so hours.
Smith said that today he would seek either a fast-charger or a Level 2 system, such as the one he resorted to next to the fast charger in Lebanon. These are on the order of a 240-volt socket for a washing machine or dryer and are the kind that electric car owners have at home.
At his own home, Smith’s charger is set to power up the car between midnight and 6 a.m., when utilities have excess electricity, rather than during the day, when the power can be in high demand.
“It was a good experience,” Smith said. “The car ran great. Everything worked out — other than the Lebanon fast-charger being offline.”
Going back to Knoxville will be another matter. The fast-charger en route in Lebanon is not expected to be fixed until after the extended holiday week has passed, according to a call Smith made to the Blink system operators.
A Rollicking Romp In My Nissan LEAF
Josh Galperin fantasizes about the hordes of lovely groupies begging to ride in his electric car.
Clean Energy Blog 06 Dec 2011
If you follow this blog regularly, you know that my posts tend towards technical and, well, boring. You’ll have to take that up with my editors. I assure you that my first drafts are always rollicking romps through environmental policy. I do recognize though that analyzing coal retirements and administrative rulemakings are informative at best. They don’t lend themselves to great entertainment. So I was understandably excited when I borrowed SACE’s new, fully electric, zero-emission, Nissan Leaf. The Leaf, I was sure, would be much better fodder for the entertaining blog post I’ve been itching to write.
When I first slid behind the wheel I had two distinct visions for the long Thanksgiving weekend. On one hand I pictured myself cruising through the streets of Knoxville thronged by hordes of women awed by the coolness of the new EV (see picture–In my vision I didn’t tell them that it was a company car). On the other hand I envisioned venturing out to pick up some cranberry sauce only to find myself stranded on a cold, dark road, snow piling up around me, fighting for my life as I searched for an EV charging station. For better or for worse, I didn’t have a brush with death or with throngs of EV groupies. In the end you are stuck with another boring post but one with an important lesson: It turns out that the Leaf–despite its novelty and historic significance–is still a car, one that looks and operates much like any other car.
The titular difference between an EV and a gas burning, pollution-emitting automobile is that one is powered by electricity, the other by gasoline. Gas stations line every street in every town and city across this country, even in the rural parts of our region. EV Charging stations are just now popping up on a large scale. This disparity may raise anxiety in some drivers who will worry about when and where they will charge their new EVs and I admit that this was my first concern. It was my only concern and I put it quickly to rest.
I met two colleagues from SOCM (Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment) for lunch on my first day with the car. We drove the short distance from their office to to a small, local, hole-in-the-wall restaurant I’d never heard of. Cracker Barrel? It turns out that Cracker Barrel has over 600 locations across the county, including 50 in Tennessee. Many of those Tennessee locations are installing EV charging stations.
Charging at a strange place called Cracker Barrel. Note to other drivers: Don't park in front of these charging stations. They're not for you!
I pulled in to Cracker Barrel and had 60 miles left on my charge (of a possible 100 mile range). I drove to the west side of the building and found two charging stations, neither was in use. Interestingly, the parking space in front of one station was already occupied by an antiquated Honda Civic hybrid. The car wasn’t using the charging station. It couldn’t because, as with most hybrids, it still needs to stop at the gas station to fuel. Luckily one of the two spaces was available. I parked, hooked right in and had lunch.
When I came back about an hour later, I’d increased my range by almost 20%.
Not bad for lunchtime. And then I discovered something else. The Leaf comes with a “trickle” charger. This is a 120v cord that plugs right in to any grounded electrical outlet. Its slow, but it was perfect for my situation. When I got home I plugged it in. When I awoke the next morning and realized that I needed more nutmeg for my pumpkin pie, the car was fully charged. That was Thursday, and while I did errands around town and visited friends, I didn’t need to recharge again until Sunday night. Sure, I couldn’t have driven to visit family 600 miles away for the holiday but I got around town with no trouble at all and I hardly even thought about needing to plug in. That’s four days of guilt free driving.
My visions of EV glory and disaster never came to life and that speaks highly of the Leaf because a car shouldn’t make a blog more fun, it should get you around town reliably. But the weekend wasn’t quite over.
I was plugging in before bed on Sunday night when my neighbor clamored over to my wife and I and stared cautiously at the car. When I first met my neighbor several years ago he asked me what I did for a living. I mumbled that I was a lawyer and he grumbled a noise that I’ve grown used to over the years. He asked what type of lawyer and I said “environmental.” That elicited a grumble of a slightly different and more appalled timbre.
Needless to say, I was apprehensive about our present meeting over the hood of the new Leaf with the distinctly environmental phrase “zero emissions” emblazoned across the doors.
Using the "trickle" charger at home. Plug in at dusk and at dawn the car is fully charged.
“What have you got here?” Said my neighbor.
“Its a Nissan Leaf” I responded. “An electric car.”
“Are you plugging it in? You can do that at home?”
“Yes. I plug it in over night and its charged in the morning.”
“How far does it go?” He asked.
“About 100 miles on a single charge.” I explained.
“Hmm. I don’t ever drive that far in a single day. My family lives in Anderson County, that’s as far as I usually need to go. Would y’all take me for a spin?”
And so I did. My neighbor, my wife and I took a ride around the block, talked about the neighborhood, and then pulled back in at home.
“So this car doesn’t use any gas? We don’t need to drill in Alaska?” He asked, not at all skeptically.
“No, we don’t.”
If next week the President announces that Alaska’s North Slope and the Gulf of Mexico are both permanently off-limits to oil exploration and drilling, I’ll take credit for that. If not, I’ll still sleep well knowing that the Leaf is a small step in that direction. The Leaf allows SACE to do its part by moving around town more cleanly and efficiently but as my neighbor showed, this car has another important function. It helps people understand that a clean energy future is tangible and realistic. This is the electric car! It didn’t strand me in the wilderness, it didn’t win me the affection of Betty Boop or Jessica Rabbit. It got me around town and it changed a mind. We must not underestimate either of those accomplishments.
Why This Venture Capitalist Bought a LEAF
David Cowan stopped owning a car over three years ago; now he's rejoined the fraternity of car owners by purchasing a LEAF electric car.
Washington Post 02 Aug 2011
This guest post is by venture capitalist David Cowan. David has recently purchased a Nissan Leaf after going car-less for two year.
After 3.5 years, I’ve finally re-joined the community of car owners.
Between February 2008 and last week, I was car-less. I borrowed and rented cars, took taxis and Zip cars, and occasionally biked. I also bummed a lot of rides (thank you very much – you know who you are). It had started when the warranty on my fancy German gas guzzler expired; I sold the thing, and never really found the time to shop around for a replacement – Who Has Time For This?
I felt a lot more excited about the prospect of driving an electric sedan, which should be greener, potentially faster, simpler to operate, and cheaper to fuel. Most importantly, I’d never have to kill ten minutes stopping for gas – Who Has Time For This? So I put my name down on the lists for a Tesla Model S, Fisker Karma, Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, deciding to wait for one to be built. Three years later, I got calls from Fisker, Nissan and Chevy, and it was time to decide.
After examining the options and driving the cars, it was a pretty easy decision to buy the Leaf for these eight reasons:
1. Compared to the others, the Leaf gets twice the range from a battery charge: 100 miles, or 85 miles with the AC cranking. (Plugging the car in and out adds about 15 seconds a day to your daily routine, or 5 minutes a month – about half the time we spend at gas pumps.)
2. With a pure electric motor (not a hybrid gasoline engine) the Leaf is nimbler, less fragile, and legal to drive in California’s carpool lanes so I can bypass the Highway 101 traffic jams – WHTFT?
3. Driving in electric mode (without the help of a hybrid gasoline engine) is wonderfully quiet and smooth (no transmission). Even at 80 miles per hour the acceleration is immediate and impressive.
4. The Leaf steers as smoothly as a Lexus, and the small wheels turn on a dime.
5. Only the Leaf has open, comfortable seats with ample head room in front and leg room in back (a must if you have kids)
6. Only the Leaf carries 5 passengers (a must if you have THREE kids!)
7. The Leaf has the largest trunk, and the back seats fold down for more cargo space.
8. The Leaf costs 3/4 as much as the Volt, and 1/3 as much as the Karma. You get at least $7500 in tax credits, offset by the $2,000 expense of a home 220 volt charging station.
These reasons explain why the Nissan Leaf now the outsells the pack. I can think of only three good reasons why you might wish to buy one of the other cars:
1. The Leaf’s pure electric motor is not a problem for two car families – on that rare day once a month when you drive more than 100 miles, you can always take the gas guzzler instead (Honda Odysseys are awesome). But without that fallback, one-car households will find the Volt more practical (albeit expensive and cramped).
2. If you love driving enormous, heavy sports cars that sit low to the ground and you’ve got $100k to burn (like these guys), then you might prefer the gorgeous design of the Karma. It has the look and feel of a luxury muscle car with a growling engine, bucket seats, and beautiful wood/leather interiors. (The Leaf is all plastic.) Having said that, the Karma performs like a sports car at lower speeds but on the highway I found it downright sluggish compared to the Leaf. The Karma handled highway acceleration nearly as well as the Leaf only when in Stealth Mode which means that the gasoline engine is off. (You may be as disappointed as I was to learn that people can still see you in Stealth Mode.)
3. Stephen Colbert will mock you for driving a Leaf.
All three cars come chock full of gizmos we all love (rear view camera, navigation, keyless entry, XM radio, Bluetooth, heated seats…) so there’s no reason to stick with gasoline. The Leaf even comes with a cool iPhone app for remote operation of the charger and climate control.
So I’ve been zipping around in my Leaf for a week now and absolutely loving it. Even after three years, it was worth the wait.
First Two Months With the Nissan LEAF
First Nissan LEAF owner talks about his experiences with electric car.
Fox News 28 Feb 2011
Rarely has picking up a new car been a media event. But when 31-year-old Olivier Chalouhi of Redwood City, Calif., took delivery of a black hatchback on Dec. 11, it marked a green milestone: He left the Nissan lot in Petaluma driving the first affordable, mass-produced, fully electric car sold in the U.S.
Industry experts say if the Nissan Leaf, and its competitor the Chevy Volt, catch on, it could be the game-changer that President Obama is pushing for -- and that electric car enthusiasts have been waiting for:
"This was a very, very exciting moment for electric car fans, and sort of a signal, sort of a dawn of a new era, so to speak," says Ed Kim, with the Auto Pacific, an industry marketing firm.
For the next three months, Fox News followed Chalouhi, a French-born entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, to see if the Leaf met his expectations. He liked it right away.
"The maintenance is much lower. There's no oil change," he said. "No tailpipe, no gas. It's electric and clean."
He primarily uses the car to drive to work, about 20 miles round trip. In January, having driven over a thousand miles, he still loved his new car, saying the biggest adjustment is the daily 8-hour charge. Chalouhi does it overnight, while he sleeps. The Leaf plugs in to a special charging system he had installed in his garage. He says the process has not been a big deal, and doesn't miss filling up at the gas station.
But by February, he still wasn't sure how far it could go before running out of juice. The Leaf can travel between 80 and 90 miles between charges.
That limited distance has left many car buyers with a fear of being stranded, a sort of "range anxiety." To help boost consumer confidence, the federal government is paying for 2,500 plug-in stations in cities across the country.
The added infrastructure will help. Still, many consumers remain skeptical about whether an electric car will make their lives easier and save them money: Full sticker price for a leaf is between $32,000 and $35,000, though rebates and tax credits are available for early buyers.
Some worry their electric bills will climb, too, though Chalouhi says that has not been the case.
As the technology improves, costs and charging times will come down. Until then, Nissan hopes reviews from satisfied customers like Chalouhi will persuade other car buyers to turn over a new Leaf.
Driving the Nissan LEAF in Winter
San Antonio-based automotive columnist G. Chambers Williams III discovers temperature does effect range.
My San Antonio 14 Feb 2011
The all-electric Nissan Leaf is now officially on sale, advertised as the first mass-market battery-operated car on the market.
It uses no gasoline — and has no tailpipe emissions, because it has no tailpipe.
And even though it's battery powered, like a golf cart, it's a real car, fun to drive, with comfortable seating for up to five people and styling that's mainstream, not quirky like some of the hybrids and earlier electric cars.
For many, this even will be a practical car, one that can meet their everyday transportation needs — especially if they live, work and shop within a small area that doesn't require a lot of driving.
It's well-equipped, too, with standard features such as a navigation system, Bluetooth phone connection and automatic climate control — amenities once found only on luxury cars.
Some might argue, though, that its price qualifies it as a premium vehicle. It lists for $32,780 (plus $850 freight), before a $7,500 federal tax rebate and varying state tax incentives that can lower the price in some areas to the low $20,000s.
Nissan is making plans to build 150,000 of the Leaf annually at its assembly plant in Tennessee, beginning in late 2012, a number that certainly would qualify the car as a mass-market vehicle if all of those could be sold.
For now, the cars are built in Oppama, Japan, and the plant's capacity — 48,000 Leafs a year — is so limited that the cars so far are only trickling into the United States. Since it went on sale in December, only about 100 have been delivered to the more than 8,000 U.S. customers with firm orders.
But the key question remains: Will the Leaf ever be accepted by enough consumers to earn status as a mass-market vehicle?
Only time will tell, but after a week of attempting to use the Leaf as my daily driver, as a suburban commuter car, I have my doubts.
Range anxiety? It's no myth. This is the term used to describe the uneasy feeling one might get while driving a car that won't budge after its battery runs down, which in the case of the Leaf is supposed to be up to 100 miles after a full charge.
To help you gauge how much time you have left before the battery goes dead, there is a digital miles-to-empty readout on the Leaf's dashboard.
Only once during my test, though, did that meter ever read as much as “100 miles.” That was the morning after I received the vehicle from Nissan, and after I had kept it plugged in all night to a 110-volt power outlet in my garage. If you actually buy or lease a Leaf, you're expected to fork over about $2,000 for a 220-volt charger, which supposedly can recharge a completely depleted battery in about eight hours.
But in the absence of the higher-voltage charger, the Leaf's battery must be topped off using the 110-volt charger, with a cord about 18 feet long, which comes with every Leaf. There is also an indicator on the dash about how long it will take to recharge your Leaf at 110 or 220 volts, depending on the current state of the battery.
Also coming later on is a network of commercial 440-volt fast chargers, to be installed at places such as Cracker Barrel, Walmart, Costco and convenience stores, to top the battery off in about 30 minutes. None of those chargers are available yet, however.
When my tester was almost out of juice, the dash meter showed it would take 20 hours to reach full charge at 110 volts, or eight hours at 220 volts.
Leaving my driveway the first morning, with 100 miles until empty showing on the dash, I thought I was well prepared for my 26.4-mile commute to work and felt that I also would be able to get back home in the evening without having to do any charging while at work.
Here's the real scoop: By the time I got to the interstate highway that leads to my downtown office — the entrance ramp is about 2.5 miles from my house — the miles-to-empty readout had dropped from 100 to 81, indicating that I already had used 19 miles of the battery's power.
By the time I got to work, the meter read “51 miles” left, indicating I had used almost twice the actual miles I'd driven. Luckily, I'd had the foresight to bring the charging cord with me; I'd almost left it at home, believing at that time that I would have plenty of juice to get to work and back, and maybe even take the Leaf out somewhere nice for lunch.
At work, I found a 110-volt outlet attached to the building, in a company parking lot, and plugged in the Leaf. And when I came out nine hours later to drive home, the dash meter showed 77 miles left to go.
I went straight home, and when I got there, the meter was all the way down to 27 miles — 50 miles lopped off for the 26.4-mile commute.
OK, I thought the next morning, let's try this again. But wait — after charging all night in my garage, again at only 110 volts, the meter showed just 67 miles until empty. With more than a little trepidation, I set off for work again.
Surely, I reasoned, I'll have enough power to get home again if I keep the Leaf hooked up to power at work all day.
When I got to work, though, the meter had dipped all the way down to 16 miles, and bells, lights and a warning voice all told me I was low on battery power as I drove into the parking lot.
Like a dummy, though, I decided to take the car with me to lunch, driving it about 10 miles and interrupting the daylong charge.
So there I was, at 6 p.m., ready to drive home with an electric car that was showing 35 miles to empty, with a 26.4-mile trip ahead of me.
Add to that these conditions: It was dark; snow was falling; and the outside temperature was in the mid-20s.
When I turned on the Leaf's heater/defroster, just as I drove onto the interstate near work, the dash meter immediately dropped from 34 miles to just 29 — with 26 miles of driving ahead of me. Using electric heat, which is necessary because there is no gasoline engine in the Leaf to provide heat from the radiator, severely compromised the range of the car.
I turned the heater off. There was nothing I could do about the headlights or windshield wipers, but I figured I could live without heat for the next half-hour or so.
But with 20-plus miles still to go, the meter was already down to 26 miles to empty, and I began thinking about how to conserve energy so I could make it home. If I couldn't make it, the only alternative would have been a tow truck because AAA can't come out and recharge electric cars, at least for now.
Once the traffic cleared and the freeway began flowing freely, I moved to the far right lane and set the Leaf's cruise control on 55 mph instead of my usual 70.
With just two exits to go, about nine miles from home, the meter had dropped to 14 miles to empty, and the car once again was telling me that I needed to recharge. I dropped the speed to 50 and watched in the rearview mirror as more frustrated motorists came up close behind before pulling around.
With just six miles until home, the meter had dropped to eight miles to empty, and I began getting really nervous. Is this what they call “range anxiety”?
The car was getting even more worried about how much juice its battery had left.
Then, finally, I was coming off my exit, heading down the road toward my home, now just two miles away. The miles-to-empty display had flat lined by this time — no miles showing — and the navigation system asked me if I wanted to find “the nearest recharging station.”
I answered “yes” on the touch screen, and it showed me my own address as the closest charging point, “1.9 miles” away.
Now down to 30 mph, my feet, legs and hands starting to freeze. I began coaxing the Leaf along.
“Come on, you can do it, come on.”
I limped into the driveway, plugged the Leaf up in my garage and went into my house to warm up.
Conclusion: The Leaf isn't for everyone, as Nissan Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn already had told me during an interview a few months earlier. And it's certainly not the car for me, with a 53-mile daily roundtrip commute and the need to drive sometimes during the day while at work.
Nissan's Electric LEAF Addresses Buyer Apprehensions
David Undercoffler reviews Nissan's all-electric car.
Lansing State Journal 31 Jan 2011
No one loves lofty rhetoric and prosaic hyperbole more than car manufacturers.
With a dollar for every time a mundane car was described as "exciting," "revolutionary" or "race- inspired," you could buy everyone on your block a Lamborghini.
But after a week with a Leaf SL, it's clear this is what revolutionary looks like.
The Leaf is the first mass-market all-electric car on the market and starts at $32,780 before tax credits. Kudos to Japan's Nissan Motor Co. for devoting the time (it started developing electric vehicles in 1992) and the expense (billions of dollars) necessary to bring the Leaf to production.
In so doing, Nissan addressed the myriad shortcomings electric cars traditionally have had compared with their internal-combustion brethren. Key among these are concerns about the cars' practicality and cost and consumers' range anxiety, a nascent term that describes the fear of running out of power before reaching the destination.
My time with the Leaf demonstrated that for all its innovation, it's just a car. A livable, enjoyable car that just happens to avoid using gasoline because you plug it in at home.
Except for the faint dentist-drill whine of the electric motor in place of an engine's reverberations, there's really nothing very different about the Leaf once you're on the road.
The 80-kilowatt motor puts out 107 horsepower and a lively 207 pound-feet of torque, so acceleration is robust and smooth.
The motor is paired to a single-speed transmission. Drivers can switch the transmission from normal mode to eco-mode.
This boosts the Leaf's range about 10 percent by increasing the regenerative braking and making it harder to accelerate with full power. Because there is so much torque available in normal mode, I was happy to leave the transmission in its eco setting and reap the increased mileage instead.
Nissan says the 24-kilowatt-hour, lithium-ion battery in the Leaf is good for about 100 miles on a single charge, while the Environmental Protection Agency says it is actually 73 miles.
The Leaf charges from empty to full in about 18 hours using a standard 110-volt outlet as I did, or in eight hours using the 220-volt charger Leaf buyers can have installed at their homes. This unit costs $2,200 and is eligible for a 50 percent federal tax credit.
Furthermore, through a grant from the Department of Energy, Leaf buyers can get home chargers free, with most of the installation covered, as well.
Although 18 hours to fully charge your car might be a prohibitive burden to using an automobile, I found that at the end of each day, the Leaf's battery was rarely at or near zero charge.
Climate Control Issue
Perhaps the biggest disappointment I had with the car was that using the climate control reduced the Leaf's range 15 percent to 20 percent.
Nissan tried to mitigate this effect by installing a timer on the Leaf that enables drivers to cool or warm the car while it's still plugged in.
It handled like most other front-wheel-drive cars in its compact class, though the batteries bring the car's weight to a portly 3,366 pounds. Nissan took this into account and mounted them beneath the rear seats to give the car a low center of gravity.
Space is great for full-size adults and the rear seats fold down for extra cargo space.
The exterior styling is unique from any angle. This is a good thing at the back of the car, yet the bulging headlights in the front look as if the car is choking on its power cord.
Overall, the styling is enough to denote the car as different, yet avoids throwing it in your face.
Cruising California in a Nissan Leaf
Andrea Sachs puts 400+ miles on electric car in drive around Los Angeles region.
Washington Post 31 Jan 2011
I probably looked suspicious as I cased the dark, empty building on the outskirts of Santa Barbara, the day barely awake. Locating my target near the front door, I opened the trunk of my car and removed an extension cord with a gas-pump-style handle on one end and a three-pronged plug on the other. I stretched the 25-foot line from the hood to the socket I'd discovered and made the connection. A blue light on the dashboard flickered on as the power trickled into the car's veins. Meanwhile, I disappeared into the shadows until it was time. Time to move on - to the next destination, the next outlet, the next charging fix.
Road-tripping by electric car is an adventure into the unknown, calling for ingenuity, resourcefulness and pluck, the opposite of the gas-fueled car vacation, with its pumps at every exit. In my battery-powered car, I moved like a migratory animal from charging station to charging station, in constant search of sustenance.
Electric vehicles, or EVs, and the infrastructure needed to mobilize them, are still in their infancy. Baby is just learning to walk, or, in this case, drive. But I was eager to experience the emissions-free conveyance that could revolutionize the classic road adventure. So a couple of weeks ago, I settled into a Nissan Leaf (so roomy, so quiet, so smooth) and drove around Southern California - more than 420 miles in total, from Los Angeles to Laguna Beach, to Santa Monica and to Santa Barbara. I set out with two goals, both a bit dreamy: never to run out of battery life, and to bump into the Prius-driving Leonardo DiCaprio, so that I could impress him with the future.
Unlike hybrids, EVs run solely on batteries and require frequent charges - the Nissan Leaf needs one after about 100 miles. Once the battery is drained, the car is a lifeless lump of metal and good intentions.
To recharge, drivers have a choice of options, from pokey slow to pit-crew fast: Level I (120 volts, compatible with household outlets, 18 to 20 hours' charge time), Level II (240 volts, currently available at a smattering of public venues, about eight hours) and the much-anticipated DC Fast Charge (480 volts, coming soon, less than 30 minutes).
"When you start driving the car, you just start looking for a charging station," said Tim Gallagher, Nissan's West Coast communications manager. "It's like your cellphone: You just start looking around, and when you find a place, you just plug it in."
To prevent a dystopian scene of EVs abandoned in the heartbreak lanes, the Department of Energy has handed out $129 million in grants for erecting Level II and Fast Charge stations around the country. By year's end, the agency expects to have 20,000 stations in more than 20 cities, often in settings with pleasant diversions - malls, museums, grocery stores, hotels, restaurants, Cracker Barrel - to lessen the pain of waiting.
This, my neo-green friends, is the future landscape. But at present, the network of stations resembles a Lite-Brite board with a shortage of pegs.
Before setting out on my journey, I spent weeks scouring the Web for public charging stations. I found dozens in places I'd visit even without a hungry EV: Long Beach Aquarium, the Beverly Hills Hilton, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Yet I soon learned that these chargers had been built around a decade ago, for the first generation of electric cars. Trying to use them with newer models, you'd have as much luck as plugging into a doughnut hole.
I finally had a breakthrough with California-based Coulomb Technology, which built its first station two years ago in San Jose and posts a live map of its working facilities nationwide. Nissan dealerships are also outfitted with Level II stations, and in a pinch I could use a regular outlet at my hotel, ideally charging while I slept, ate breakfast, went for a long walk on the beach, read a book and counted to one million.
I was on the freeway headed south to Laguna Beach, my chariot floating on a cumulus cloud amid the dark thunder of traffic. I had just covered a sparkling section of coastline, from Manhattan Beach to Palos Verde, and was feeling languid in my sunlit sanctuary. Suddenly, I snapped to attention; I needed to make a very important call.
"Hi, Tim. My battery's low. Do you think I can make it to the charging station in Newport Beach?"
My Nissan adviser asks me a question.
"The range disappeared. It's just a flashing bar."
"I just passed Huntington Beach."
A somewhat grave reaction.
"Oh, really? I won't make it? Get off at Bear Road. To South Coast Plaza. Charging station near Crate and Barrel. Got it. Thanks."
Oh, sugar . . . snap.
I was now seized by "range anxiety," an obsessive fear that the battery life will drain and you'll never make it home in time for "American Idol," much less bed. Trust me, it's not a hallucinatory head game.
I had, however, packed a bag of tricks gleaned from veteran EV drivers. To conserve energy, the wise ones told me, skip the air conditioning and the heat, drive on the slow side, turn off the lights and the radio (my very last resort), and don't brake on hills. By screaming down an incline, you can "hypermile," generating more energy than you're using. It's a neat trick (I recommend it on the roller-coastery Kanon Dume Road) that reminded me of biking down my parents' steep driveway with my feet high off the pedals.
Finally, embrace traffic.
"On the freeway or in traffic jams, stay four to six car lengths back and coast," advised Marc Geller, co-founder of Plug In America, an EV advocacy group. "You get amazing efficiency and can add 10, 20, 30 percent to the distance."
Despite my concerns, I made it easily to the Costa Mesa mall. I plugged the car into the Level II charger (free, though I had to call the charging company to activate the machine), then rode the escalator to the top floor. I bought an icy drink and took it outside to the open-air bridge. While my Frankenstein car volted back to life, I watched the sun draw the curtain on the day, leaving behind a swirl of cotton-candy pinks.
You know how puppies and babies bring out the best in people, transforming cold strangers into cooing Samaritans? The electric car casts that same kind of warm-hearted spell. As I drove around in my Leaf, outsiders just wanted to look at it, touch it, learn more about it and help me feed it.
Before I arrived at La Casa del Camino in Laguna Beach, a staffer named Jamie had scouted out outlets around the property: one on the side of the inn, near 30-minute street parking; another across the street in the parking lot of a large building; and a third behind the hotel, in a secluded driveway surrounded by tropical plants and staff members on a smoke break.
I chose the last spot and followed Jamie there. He helped me snake the cord under a porch banister and into a plug I would never have noticed. When I checked on the car later, someone had sweetly placed an orange cone behind it, like a piece of chocolate at evening turndown.
Free to explore Laguna Beach, I filled my hours peering into the windows of art galleries and tracking down as many of the city's 65-plus pieces of public art as I could on foot. In the morning, I settled beside the hotel fireplace and ate a bowl of oatmeal thickened with fresh mission figs and fresh strawberries. To squeeze out a few more miles, I loafed on a park bench atop a hill blanketed in flowers and overlooking the ocean.
On the drive back to Los Angeles, I made only one pit stop, on Balboa Island, a man-made island born out of a sandspit before World War I. It's so tiny, a marathoner would have to circle it more than 13 times to complete a race.
The island's bench-lined main street is a paragon of blissful denial - of calories (frozen bananas and tiramisu on a stick), of inclement weather (shops sell beachwear for Southern California's eternal summer) and of rising gas prices (many residents tool around in electric carts). My tour of town also involved hooded glances for outlets. I scoured back alleys (those carts have to charge somewhere, right?) and the fire station. I was elated to finally find the Shanghai Pine Gardens Restaurant, which deserved four stars not for its Kung Pao chicken but for the plug nestled beneath a large picture window.
On a residential street near the main drag, I told a man standing on the porch of a house seemingly decorated by whimsical elves about my quest. "I wish I hadn't just tossed the key to my aunt's house through the window," he said apologetically. "I could've let you in to use the garage."
He suggested that I wait - his Aunt Joan was getting her hair fluffed and would be back shortly. I assured him that I had enough power, but just in case, he had me jot down the name of a church thrift store with three nearby locations. The shops, he said, had outdoor outlets. And being a church, well, that was part of their mission, to help those in need.
If I had the power to canonize saints, I would bestow that title on Penny Fleming, the guest services manager of the Ramada Limited in Santa Barbara. I knew it was a chancy move to drive to this town, which has lofty green aspirations but no Level II chargers and no confirmed Level I sockets. Crossing the Pacific seemed easier than covering the nearly 100 miles back to Los Angeles.
To prepare for my evening arrival, I called the hotel from the Nissan dealership in Simi Valley to inquire about my now favorite amenity. Penny, after a bit of research, informed me of an outlet at the front of the hotel, though parking was not allowed on the facing street. I then asked her about switching my room to the ground level so that I could stretch the car's 120-volt extension cord through the patio doors and into the room. She said she would try to rearrange the room assignments. Score: Room 117 was now mine, complete with parking spot and a VIP cone.
Now came the hilarity, without the laugh track.
First, the car's cord came up a few finger-lengths shy of my room's TV outlet. Penny whipped out another extension cord, long enough to reach the far side of the room, but when we plugged it in, there was no energy surge. She disappeared, returning with another line that worked but had only two indentations; we needed three.
I was about to start looking through the Yellow Pages for a horse that could pull the car back to Los Angeles, but Penny was not giving up. She found a third cord, plugged it in and . . . the lights on the surge box started to glow. Then they went dark. She pushed the plug in harder; the lights beamed. Not fully trusting this arrangement, she switched the double extension cord to an outlet on the nightstand lamp. We closed the patio door and secured it with the chain lock, leaving a small gap for the snake. When it was lights out, the green dot of the charger stayed bright, a North Star twinkling on the Ramada's carpet.
Strangely, I started to look forward to the EV stations. Because of their unexpected locations, they led me to places I might otherwise have ignored.
Without the prospect of charging, for instance, I would have blown past Simi Valley en route to Santa Barbara. Yet I sought out the Nissan dealership there partly because of its proximity to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.
On the trip back south to Los Angeles, I swung into the Oxnard dealership, where I sweet-talked myself a ride to the Channel Islands Harbor Farmers Market and picked through crates of citrus and strawberries grown a few towns over. To give myself - I mean, the car - additional time, I walked a long stretch of Mandalay Beach, climbing the lifeguard tower to watch for gray whales.
At the Santa Monica Pier, near the slow-spinning Ferris wheel, I parked in an exclusive EV spot, hooked up and walked down to the original Muscle Beach. Here, I met Paul Scott, a Santa Monica resident and a founding member of Plug In America, who'd driven in on his electric motorcycle. A rangy acrobat, he showed me how to swing like a capuchin on the traveling rings, a long row of metal hoops that require fierce upper-body strength and a faint attachment to your teeth.
In Los Angeles, the convention center, which dominates a large pie slice of downtown, is home to a designated EV area. It also adjoins the hyperactivities of the Staples Center, the Grammy Museum (a jam that you hope never ends) and the new L.A. Live, a pulsating entertainment district that can't seem to find the off switch. By the time I finally retrieved the car, the mileage range was up to 96, more than enough to make it to my next destination.
I steered the car onto Wilshire Boulevard, blending in with the evening traffic. For the entire ride, I kept my eyes on the road, not once glancing down at the battery gauge or scanning the sides of buildings.
Nissan LEAF: Automobile of the Future
Auto Channel review of LEAF electric car, includes video.
Auto Channel 24 Jan 2011
This is a nice looking vehicle with smooth aerodynamic design surfaces that start from the low, compact hood, moves through the sides and on toward the large rear spoiler. The Leaf’s exterior styling statement begins with a sharp, upright V-shaped design featuring up-slanting LED headlights which split and redirect airflow away from the door mirrors, reducing wind noise and drag. In the rear, the slim-type aerodynamic LED taillight design combine with the aerodynamic muffler-less rear bumper with rear diffuser to manage the aerodynamics of the rear end without compromising rear interior roominess.
To add aerodynamics and reduce noise the Leaf has a flat underbody cover to manage airflow under the vehicle. An vortex-shedding roof-mounted antenna is utilized to help reduce wind noise. Other noise reduction features include a quiet-operation windshield wiper motor, a sound insulation windshield design and a dual-isolated motor-mounting system.
Interior Design, Space and Materials
For a relatively small car the Nissan Leaf is surprisingly roomy and actually quite good looking in a high-tech, utilitarian manner. The front bucket seats are comfortable as are 60/40 split folding rear seat with not too much leg room. The seat fabric is made with partially recycled materials. Recycled materials are also used for the back door trim, roof trim and headliner, carpeting and a number of other interior pieces such as the door panels and center console storage cover. Only one interior color is offered at the present time, Light Gray.
Hi-tech gages and devices aid in driving
As befitting the first modern electric vehicle, the drivers information – instrument panel is a knock-out of sophistication but easy to read and use. The digital “eyebrow” display at the top of the instrument panel provides high visibility for the Eco indicator and speedometer, while the lower liquid crystal meter display houses the power meter, battery temperature gauge, multi-function display, remaining energy gauge, capacity level gauge and distance to empty display.
The center console area includes the palm shifter (inspired by a PC mouse) for the “by wire” drive selector. The 3-spoke steering wheel has controls for the cruise control, audio system and standard Bluetooth® Hands-free Phone System. XM® Satellite Radio (XM® subscription required, sold separately) is also standard, with HomeLink® Universal Transceiver standard on Nissan LEAF SL models.
The flat panel console cluster includes a lare color monitor for the standard navigation system, available RearView Monitor and control of the audio and climate systems. The display also provides access to Nissan’s Carwings telematics system, which is connected to a global data center, (subscription required, no charge for 36 months). Using this system Nissan LEAF drivers are able to use mobile phones to turn on air conditioning and set charging functions remotely, even when the vehicle is powered down. The system also displays “reachable area,” as well as showing a selection of nearby charging stations. An on-board remote-controlled timer can also be programmed to recharge the batteries.
Are there safety features and devices?
Standard Nissan LEAF safety systems include:
• Nissan Advanced Air Bag System (AABS) with dual-stage supplemental front air bags with seat belt and occupant classification sensors
• front seat-mounted side impact supplemental air bags
• roof-mounted curtain side impact supplemental air bags for front and rear-seat outboard occupant head protection
• 3-point ALR/ELR seat belts (driver’s seat ELR only) with pretensioners and load limiters
• child seat upper tether anchor, LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system and child safety rear door locks
• Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and Traction Control System (TCS) are also standard on all LEAF models.
What makes it go?
In techno speak the Nissan LEAF is powered by 48 laminated compact lithium-ion battery modules and a high-response 80 kilowatt alternating circuit synchronous motor that generates 107 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque. Turn the key, push a button and the Leaf is fully powered, albeit quietly from the get-go.
How far will it go?
When fully charged (more about that later) the Nissan Leaf has a range of 100 miles, which the company notes satisfies the average of 50 miles the distance most people who commute by car currently drive. The actual distance will vary depending upon: • Climate as extreme temperatures – high or low – will use more energy to heat or cool the vehicle. • Speed like gasoline powered cars, the faster one drives the more energy in this case is used. • Driving styles – smooth or aggressive – will extend or decrease the driving range
Battery charging and costs
The Leaf can be charged with 110, 220 or 440 volt currents, but the company notes the home-charger will be essential. As a result part of the buying experience is the visit of a Nissan approved contractor who will estimate the cost of adding a charging station to the owners garage.
This is not usually an inexpensive process, but a $2,000 government tax credit will help defray some, if not all the installation costs. Charging the Leaf in non-peak hours at the average price of $0.115per Kwh will cost $2.75 to fully charge the battery or $.0275 per mile, much less than filling up with gasoline. The At 110 the time is a woefully time consuming 21 hours, but the 220 can charge in 8 hours or less and the big 440 power source in an hour.
Additionally Nissan dealers in the five regions where the first Leaf’s are being sold have charging stations already installed. Other outlets are being developed at supermarkets, shopping centers, office buildings and other private and public venues. That noted, the infrastructure will take some time to reach its goals. Frankly, there aren’t that many in public operation but Nissan has detailed visionary plans for building 10,000 charging stations over the coming years a distribution of the Leaf expands.
The driving experience
Plainly, providing a highly responsive, fun-to-drive experience that is in keeping with what consumers have come to expect from traditional, gasoline-powered vehicles. It’s really fun to drive, responsive, agile and nimble for in-city driving as well as on the road. The Leaf is exceptionally quiet, so quiet there has been some movement for it having an audible warning when parked at a stop light or sign. The power is instant. From 0 to 60 in less than :10-seconds and even higher when pushed – and I pushed – when entering an expressway up to the maximum speed of 90 mph.
What does it cost and where can it be bought?
Nissan is first rolling out the Leaf in five regions – Portland, OR, San Diego, CA, Phoenix, AZ, Hawaii and Eastern TN, with more regions to follow in the weeks and months ahead as supply catches up with demand for the futuristic car. Deliveries are currently rather slow. There are 3 models of the Leaf, the variance is in charging time, with a starting price of $32,780 minus the $7,500 tax incentive now available.
Is the Leaf for you?
Naturally that's a question I’m unable to answer. Given the cutting edge, green technology of the Leaf many will see it as a good ecological investment especially with a $7,500 Federal tax rebate. I predict it will be the second or third car in most households except for those who live in major cities where it will be a great car to maneuver around and park in small places. There are those however who regard the entire collection alternate fuel vehicles be they electric, hybrids and their many variations as not necessary to protect the environment. Where you fall determines you interest and need.
No matter what you drive, our national flower, the concrete cloverleaf, is here to stay.
Washington State Couple 'Turn Over New Leaf' with Nissan Electric Car
The VanDerHydes of Seattle decided to buy the car even before driving it.
Renton Reporter 21 Jan 2011
Patrick and Debbie VanDerHyde of Seattle did something they usually don’t do.
“We joke that we agreed to buy the car before we’d ever been inside of it or driven it or anything,” said Debbie VanDerHyde.
That’s the kind of appeal the new 2011 Nissan Leaf has sparked.
The couple picked up their 100 percent electric car Wednesday afternoon at Renton’s Younker Nissan. They are some of the first people to do so.
They saw the car back in 2009 at Winterfest at Seattle Center and drove it for the first time in mid-November.
So, what’s so great about the Leaf?
Lots of things, said Patrick VanDerHyde.
“No more gasoline, that’s one thing, “ he said.
He likes being able to wake up every morning to a fully charged car, not contributing to pollution and not contributing to more dependence on foreign oil.
Michael Hayes, general sales manager at Younker, estimates there probably has been 10 to 20 Leaf deliveries so far from California to Washington, but there are about 20,000 people on the waiting list to receive the car. The dealership has delivered two in the last two days and expects to deliver 20 to 30 in the next three to four months.
The car can be plugged in over night for eight hours and it will have a full charge the next day, with a range of up to 100 miles. After that time, it needs to be recharged.
“We don’t travel long distances, so the Leaf is a good fit for our lifestyle that way,” said Debbie VanDerHyde.
She explained that they have sustainable values, shopping locally and living locally with their activities and children’s school all within a short radius of where they live.
They couple is satisfied with what they got, saying the car is fun to drive, quiet and intuitive.
They got a quick charge port on the front of the car and a charger installed in their home for free as part of a government program that offers the incentives in exchange for collecting data from the car.
The VanDerHydes didn’t have their two children with them, but said they are very excited about the car too.
“And another reason for this is we’re trying to make a change for our kids for the future and provide a better place for them,” said Patrick VanDerHyde. “And this is a good first step to do that.”
The Leaf costs $33,000 with a $7,500 government rebate, said Hayes.
“As fast as they build them, they’ll be sold,” he said.
Nissan Drive Electric Tour Rolls into Florida
Jackonsville residents encouraged to sign up for test drive of LEAF electric car.
Florida Times-Union 18 Jan 2011
Check out Nissan's new Leaf electric car as its Drive Electric Tour comes to Jacksonville from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at The Avenues mall, 10300 Southside Blvd.
Nissan launched the Drive Electric Tour for its Nissan LEAF in October, allowing consumers to sample its fully electric 4-door, 5-passenger compact Leaf, which has an estimated range of 100 miles on a charge and can hit speeds of up to 90 mph. It has an 80 kW AC synchronous motor powered by a 24 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, with an onboard charger and 120 volt trickle charging cable. To sign up for a test drive of the car, log onto driveNissanLEAF.com.
Prospective Buyers In Texas Get Chance to Try Out Nissan LEAF Electric Car
Nissan's 22-city tour stops in Texas, where the company has some 500-plus orders.
Star Telegram 17 Jan 2011
Marcus Hay had been researching electric vehicles, including the Nissan Leaf, for months before he finally got to see and drive one Friday.
The Denton resident said he was impressed.
"It doesn't feel like an economy car. It's well-done," said Hay, who already paid $99 for a reservation allowing him to order a Leaf in February.
The electric car revolution is beginning to reach Texas. The first Chevy Volts have trickled into the state in the past month, and now a few Leafs should reach Texas buyers before the end of January.
With only about 50,000 Leafs expected to be produced this year for distribution worldwide, Nissan has long lines of prospective buyers. About 24,000 reservations, which guarantee a Leaf order at a specific time, have been sold in the U.S.
"We've got to have at least 500-plus Texas orders," said Robin Maas, Nissan's electric-vehicle operations manager in Texas.
Nissan is holding a Leaf "ride and drive" event all weekend at its regional offices in Irving so reservation holders and other interested parties can drive the car. It's the third stop on a 22-city tour to show off the cars, the first of which were delivered to West Coast buyers this month.
Displays of the vehicle's battery drive system and features are set up in heated tents, and Nissan representatives are on hand to answer questions.
The questions from Friday's visitors indicated that they have done massive amounts of research on electric vehicles, batteries and other technology in the Leaf.
"We get an extremely educated" person at the front of the line to see and buy the Leaf, Maas said. They are comfortable with the technology and limitations of electric vehicles.
"People that come here don't have range anxiety," Maas said, referring to concerns about running out of battery power. "They've already made that decision. They're here to see that it's a real car and how if feels and how it performs."
The Leaf is 100 percent electric. Its lithium-ion batteries are expected to give it about a 100-mile range, depending on speed and the use of accessories like air conditioning. That's different from the Chevy Volt, which is expected to have about a 40-mile battery range, but also a 4-cylinder gasoline engine that powers a generator.
The Leaf has a base price of $32,780. The final purchase price can be lowered by a federal tax credit of up to $7,500.
Hay, an aircraft mechanic who understands the technology involved, said he's pretty close to making up his mind about ordering a Leaf. And it's not because he's an ardent environmentalist or even looking to save money on gasoline.
"To me it comes down to oil," he said. "We're importing two-thirds from the Middle East, and we need to get out of there as soon as we can."
Nissan LEAF Customers Said to be Growing Impatient
25,000 of the electric cars set for 2011 production will be shared with U.S.,Europe and Japan markets.
Mercury News 09 Jan 2011
Nissan's carefully orchestrated rollout of its all-electric Leaf has been much slower than many consumers expected, angering a growing number of passionate early adopters and threatening the automaker's ambitions of making the Leaf the dominant mass-market electric car.
The Bay Area is considered the Leaf's top market. But the cars are just now beginning to trickle in to local dealerships -- Boardwalk Nissan in Redwood City got four Leafs on Thursday. Some who ordered a Leaf months ago have seen their delivery dates pushed back; others have been told to expect a four- to seven-month wait.
"I've got people chomping at the bit," said one California Nissan dealer who did not want to be identified. "They want their car, and when people started getting e-mails from Nissan saying it would be four to seven months, my phone blew up."
San Jose resident Bob Herrick paid $99 in April to reserve a Leaf and placed an order for the car through Stevens Creek Nissan in Santa Clara in October. He says he was told that 200 people in California, including 14 at the Stevens Creek dealership, would get their cars in mid-December. Nissan itself issued a Dec. 10 press release that said a shipment of cars was "destined for consumer driveways in time for the holidays." But that timeline slipped.
"I wonder if they've run into a production problem or decided to do more reliability testing," said Herrick, who still doesn't have a delivery date. "What's holding things up?"
Nissan says 19 cars were delivered in December to customers in the Leaf's five launch markets -- Arizona, California, Tennessee, Oregon and Washington -- and that more are on the way. A shipment of about 90 cars that arrived at the Port of Los Angeles before Christmas has made its way to dealerships.
Nissan says 20,000 people have reserved Leafs, and that reservation holders will receive e-mails when they can take the next step and place a firm order. But the automaker refuses to say how many cars it plans to deliver in 2011. That's created consternation among many customers, who want assurances that their cars are in the pipeline.
"The Leaf is a hot car, and you want the demand to be higher than the supply," said Mike Omotoso, an automotive analyst with J.D. Power and Associates. "The gradual rollout is part of their marketing strategy. But on the flip side, there's a danger of upsetting some consumers."
J.D. Power forecasts that Nissan will ship 25,000 Leafs in 2011, but notes those cars will be shared by three big markets -- Europe, Japan and the United States.
Trisha Jung, chief marketing manager for the Leaf, denied in an interview that deliveries have fallen behind schedule.
"There's no delay," she said. "Four to seven months after you submit your order, you should get your car. This is a new process for everyone, and we're thrilled with the excitement for the car. Our goal is to continue the dialogue with customers, and set expectations carefully."
Nissan executives stress that buying a Leaf is different from making a traditional car purchase. Instead of going to a dealership, taking a test drive and buying a car on the spot, consumers order the car and choose color and trim level months ahead of time -- before it is even built. All Leafs are currently manufactured in Oppama, Japan, which means they must be shipped across the ocean. Vehicles aren't sent in batches to sit in showrooms; they're shipped to individual customers, who designate a dealer.
Many of those customers are tech-savvy and they are tracking Nissan's words -- and actions -- with diligence. On the My Nissan Leaf discussion forum and the Leaf's Facebook page, they share information, vent frustrations and swap stories of delivery dates mysteriously changed from "January" to "pending." One person created a detailed spreadsheet of all known orders, complete with vehicle identification numbers. Another posted a photograph of a transporter truck loaded with Leafs spotted in Southern California.
Among those eager for their cars, Californians have less to complain about than many. Customers in Maryland, Florida and other states not in the initial launch markets have to wait even longer.
Al Lococo of Winter Haven, Fla., reserved a Leaf in April. But in a recent e-mail, Nissan informed him that "order timing has been postponed to the late summer of 2011 for secondary launch markets, like Florida."
"I'm very disappointed, and at this point all bets are off," said Lococo. "It sounds like I can order in August, and then wait another four to seven months after that. If I don't have a car by March 2012, my allegiance to Nissan is going to be thin, especially if there are other alternatives."
Some auto industry analysts say Nissan is keenly aware that the Leaf's rollout, perceived by some as agonizingly slow, must be flawless. The last thing Nissan wants is any performance glitch or recall.
"This is a controlled rollout," said Aaron Bragman of IHS Global Insight. "These are very new kinds of vehicles, and they are not typical cars. If something went wrong, it would sour people on EVs for years. They are smart to do it slowly."
But John Gartner of Pike Research says the rollout has hit some snags. "They seem to be a little bit behind schedule in terms of getting cars out to customers," he said.
Still, demand for the car remains high. Nissan is not taking new reservations until it finishes processing the 20,000 it already has. And that's just fine with some early adopters.
"I'm willing to wait," said Jerry Pohorsky, president of the Silicon Valley chapter of the Electric Auto Association. "They are relying on a small production line in Japan to supply both the Japanese market and the U.S. market."
Others are losing patience.
Washington resident Bill Kirk complained on the Leaf's Facebook page that he ordered a car in September but still hasn't been told when he will get it. "How about a little less hype and a lot more action?" he wrote.
Paul Scott, a co-founder of the advocacy group Plug In America, also works at the Santa Monica Nissan. He says his dealership has sold about 100 Leafs, an impressive figure given that they don't have a model in the showroom.
"You've heard the term 'range anxiety,' " said Scott, referring to the concern that electric cars can travel only a limited number of miles between battery chargings. "Now there's delivery anxiety. It's common when you roll out a brand-new car to go slow initially, but it's frustrating for those of us who have been waiting for a long time to have to wait more."
Diary of a Nissan LEAF Commuter
Sue Callaway shares her experiences with Nissan's electric car.
CNN Money 04 Jan 2011
FORTUNE -- When an argon-blue Nissan Leaf, the first production all-electric, zero-emission family car to hit the U.S., whispered into my garage last month, I knew instantaneously that it was a game changer. New relationships come with hopes, fears, and surprises, and ours -- the Leaf's and my union -- went quickly from blind date to a marriage of convenience.
The Leaf is nothing short of a bellwether of the automotive revolution that is headed to a driveway near you. Tighter fuel-efficiency standards, emerging markets' requirements, fluctuating gas prices, and a race in powertrain innovations are all in play. Audi, GM (GM), VW, and others are jockeying for dominance. Audi wants to rule the luxury electric-vehicle (EV) market; its first entrant, a plug-in hybrid, will come to market in 2014. GM's solution, the Volt, has just gone on sale and offers a small onboard gas-powered generator to feed the electric motor and extend its range. VW will roll out its EV in 2013.
So Nissan wins the prize for being first to market with a production pure electric. The company's visionary CEO, Carlos Ghosn, saw the opportunity to dominate the EV category and pushed hard to get the appealingly bug-eyed five-door hatchback built. "With the arrival of the Leaf, it is in our hands, and that of the public, to steer our industry toward its future of sustainable mobility," Ghosn blogged recently. "We believe this innovative car will silence the skeptics and bring a valuable solution to life."
Nissan granted Fortune the first "long term" (eight-day) loan of a Leaf. The Leaf can go about 100 miles between charges, and Nissan maintains that 95% of U.S. commuters drive less than that each day. It was my mission to determine whether that was sufficient to withstand my local reality, L.A.'s worst traffic-choked arteries.
First, a pleasant electrician named Marty arrived to install the Leaf's 240-volt charging dock in my garage. ("It's as simple as putting in power for a hot tub," he explained.) The moon-faced, wall-mounted unit can replenish the Leaf's lithium ion batteries in eight hours.
Then my Leaf arrived with a flourish -- bright, shiny, and eager to please, as were its two Nissan spokesmen. We conducted a detailed walk-around, which uncovered an important fact: There was nothing complicated, obtuse, or unfriendly about the car. The controls on the center console were intuitive. I found the range-map and power-usage screens easy to navigate. A button next to the hood release popped open the little door on the Leaf's nose, revealing the port where the charger's J-plug (shaped like a gas nozzle but smaller) clicks into place. The optional solar panel on the rear wing collects power only for a secondary electrical system that controls the power windows, door locks, and radio. A black sack in the rear hatch area contained the backup charging cord -- a simple three-prong affair with which you can top off the Leaf in a mere 20 hours or less.
In California, as in other parts of the country, electricity rates are on a tiered system; the more you use beyond your baseline amount of power each month, the more you pay (from 12¢ per kilowatt-hour up to 30¢ in my neighborhood). Smart-grid technology, already in use in several areas, will allow the utility companies to see when you use your power, so that peak and off-peak times and rates can be established. When that happens, the savings for electric car owners will increase significantly. The Leaf is prepared for that eventuality: You can program it to automatically charge at a specific time (11 p.m. to 7 a.m., for instance) -- a setting you can make from the car or the Internet. Heating and cooling levels are also remotely programmable. I wanted a warm Leaf every morning at 8, so I set it for 72° -- from my iPhone.
Nissan uses an average cost of 11¢ per kilowatt hour to calculate that a Leaf owner will spend roughly $400 for 15,000 miles of driving in a year. The gasoline equivalent for a Honda (HMC) Civic Si that gets 24 mpg is $1,875 (see table). The Leaf has a higher sticker price, but it also is eligible for tax breaks, rebates, and other incentives. My guess is that it'll take the Leaf 3½ years to make up the difference in fuel savings. Nissan says the first thing you'll have to pay for is a new set of tires -- so traditional maintenance bills can also be subtracted.
I climbed into the appealing tan interior, made almost entirely of recycled materials, and flicked the little round knob between the seats -- the drive selector. With an audible backup bleat, the Leaf and I were off. My normal beat is high-performance, rare-air cars that mock mediocrity. I quickly rooted out the similarities. Groundbreaking? Check. Unusual? Check. Head turner? Check. Parents at my kids' elementary school took photos at morning drop-off. A shirtless Rollerblader in Venice Beach screeched to a halt so that he could get a better look. Exciting? Check -- in the nontraditional sense that I was obsessed with range fear for the first few days of ownership. Powerful? Not exactly. The Leaf springs from 0 to 60 in less than 10 seconds, and the battery drain needed to attain that clip is steep. I had to reset my speed-addicted soul (and right foot) to Zen mode.
After three days of stalled movement on the I-10, the I-405, the 101, La Cienega Boulevard, and other major surface roads, I finally realized I had taken my assignment seriously -- in the wrong direction. Stop and start traffic is what the Leaf eats for breakfast. That is where "hypermiling," the practice of range-preserving driving, kicks in. The slower you go, the less you brake, and the more you coast, the more range you not only preserve but regenerate. There's even an "Eco" mode option that further counteracts battery drain by increasing engine breaking and retarding acceleration.
After the first few days of nervously and obsessively monitoring the number of miles I had left, I started to relax. Even a long day of driving from Santa Monica to Hollywood to Glendale to LAX and home again -- a 60-odd-mile jaunt that took several hours -- didn't deplete the Leaf; I parked with 13 miles left. I began to feel smug about how easy it was to click the charging cable into place each evening back in my garage.
Then came the day when my growing contentment with Nissan's deeply green machine came to a Leaf-blowing halt. I had discovered an iPhone app that mapped all EV charging stations by zip code. Oh, joy! The Ralphs supermarket around the corner had two. I hustled to Ralphs, eager to expand my recharging repertoire, and pulled into one of the two EV-only parking spaces. I jumped out and grabbed the cord. Whoa. What was this aging, black plastic pancake doing where my sleek new J-plug charger should be? It took a moment for the Beta vs. VHS horror of it all to sink in. I drove to every one of the 12 listed public chargers in Santa Monica and discovered that none was Leaf-compatible.
According to Brian Carolin, president of Nissan North America, the Department of Energy is working to fund, upgrade, and install 13,000 public charging stations across the U.S. within the next 18 months. So the problem will eventually diminish, but for now, early adopters will be tethered to their garages -- literally.
I asked my Deep Throat in the EV powertrain world his opinion of the Leaf. "What problem is it trying to solve?" was his rhetorical Mensa response. Short term, he is correct -- pure electrics for now suffer from range limitations, making hybrids a less compromised alternative. But battery technology is improving quickly, and more and more capacity is being engineered into smaller and smaller packages. So within the foreseeable future, the range issue will significantly diminish -- and a new architecture for cars will take the stage. The Leaf's 192 lithium ion batteries, which are guaranteed for eight years, sit under the front and rear seats. As batteries shrink, designers will be able to have more freedom once again with car shapes.
Will the Leaf ever be considered the ultimate EV? No. But it will forever live in my automotive hall of fame for forcing me to contemplate and appreciate a new reality, just a few charging stations ahead of its time.
Life with New Nissan LEAF Electric Car
Diana Samuels talks with first LEAF owner, Oliver Chalouhi in Redwood City, CA.
Mercury News 20 Dec 2010
After 336 electricity-powered miles on the odometer and a week behind the wheel, Olivier Chalouhi is still basking in the glow of owning the first Nissan Leaf.
Amid a blitz of media fanfare, Chalouhi last weekend became the first person to receive the all-electric Leaf, which he is using to commute and haul around his two toddlers.
The 31-year-old Redwood City resident is an unlikely candidate for Nissan Leaf owner No. 1. He isn't an electric car enthusiast or environmental advocate, he admitted. But Chalouhi concluded the Leaf would make a good replacement for a Honda Accord he had been leasing: He wanted a small car for his short drive to and from work.
"At that point when I realized I could be commuting without polluting, then it became a no-brainer," said Chalouhi, who works as chief technology officer for Fanhattan, a digital media startup company in San Mateo.
Chalouhi plunked down $99 in April to reserve his Leaf and was the first person to submit an order, just after midnight on Aug. 31. Being first in line meant he got his Leaf -- black with a tan interior -- at a Petaluma dealership on Dec. 11.
Only five people in the U.S. so far have taken delivery of their Leafs, but there are about 20,000 on the reservation list, said Nissan spokesman Tim Gallagher. The automobile manufacturer is holding launch events in various cities, including San Diego, Phoenix and Portland. Another set of keys was handed to a Leaf owner in Seattle on Friday.
"By the end of summer, our goal is to have everyone in their car," Gallagher said.
After picking up his car on Dec. 11 and taking it to a press conference at San Francisco City Hall, Chalouhi said he brought the Leaf home and plugged it in -- the battery was running low. He said the car's mileage varies wildly. Chalouhi said he can get 100 miles per charge in slow city driving, but only 50 or 60 miles at 75 mph on the freeway.
"I'm not going to do road trips in this car," he said.
Chalouhi plugs his car into a Nissan charging station an electrician installed at his home. It costs him about $1.20 for a full charge.
He expects to save $1,000 to $1,500 per year by not using gas. After tax, registration and other fees, the car cost him about $37,000, but he is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit and a $5,000 rebate from the state, bringing the cost to $24,500.
Chalouhi's verdict after a week behind the wheel? The car is "fun to drive," has a surprising amount of pick-up and is quiet. He is also a fan of the equipped Bluetooth and GPS systems. But he was thrown by the rear view mirror, which is smaller than what he is accustomed to.
Even if the Leaf wasn't so eco-friendly, Chalouhi said, he would still be happy with his purchase, because of the price, features and quiet drive.
"Forget the environment, if you don't need to drive tons of miles a day, electric cars are by FAR superior," Chalouhi wrote in a post on the mynissanleaf.com forum, where he was bombarded with questions and congratulations about the car. "There's no coming back for my day to day car for me. EVER."
E-mail Diana Samuels at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DID YOU KNOW?
Answers to frequently asked questions, from Nissan's website:
Q: How fast can this car go?
A: We're targeting a top speed of about 90 mph.
Q: Is it true that the Nissan LEAF has no fluids like coolant, transmission, steering, brake ... ?
A: Most fluids associated with engines are eliminated, (motor oil, transmission fluid, etc). It will have brake fluid, coolant, and washer fluid, though.
Q: Will the Nissan LEAF come with a sun roof?
A: Initially, no. A sunroof would add weight, affect headroom and create unwanted drag, which can affect range.
Q: What is the expected price of the home-installed charge station components? Are they separate from the cost of the car?
A: We expect the average home charging dock installation in a typical new home to be approximately $2,000 plus tax and license fees. Federal tax credits may offset 50 percent of the cost (up to $2,000) through Dec. 2010 unless government extends it further.
Q: How long will it be before you can charge a car anywhere? Like at a gas station?
A: Nissan is working to encourage third party and government organizations to grow the charging infrastructure. As electric vehicle acceptance grows we expect additional growth. We do believe most people will charge their Nissan LEAF at home much like they do their cell phones.
More information is available at www.nissanusa.com.
Arizona Test Drive for Nissan LEAF
Ryan Randazzo finds the electric car handles just like any other sedan.
Arizona Daily Sun 17 Dec 2010
Deliveries of the first 20,000 Nissan Leaf all-electric cars might be a monumental event for the auto industry, but it hardly felt like it stuck in downtown Tempe traffic during a recent test drive.
Driving one feels unremarkable. The car might plug in, but on the road it feels like any other sedan.
Nissan allowed anyone with a valid driver's license to take it for a spin during the recent Tempe Festival of the Arts.
The first thing I noticed upon sitting in the car was the silence, and I needed to ask my Nissan co-pilot - a requirement of the drive - if I had turned it on.
Pulling out of the crowded parking lot, the car didn't require any adjustment from driving a gasoline car. One notable feature was the stubby shifter knob, which you push backward to put the car in drive and forward to shift to reverse.
The shifter has a funky "park" button on top that feels a bit like turning off a video game.
The route Nissan required testers to drive was mostly residential streets, so I didn't get the car up past about 30 mph.
The short drive through festival traffic wasn't a full indicator of how the car handles, especially with its advertised top speed as 90 mph.
I was curious with so many people around if the car would attract attention. The colors Nissan has chosen are not out of the mainstream, and the car looks something like a Toyota Matrix or other hatchback, with the exception of bulging headlamps to reduce wind resistance.
Some reviewers have given the look a thumbs down. One Wall Street Journal reviewer said the car was so ugly "dogs won't chase this thing."
I did not catch anyone staring at the vehicles though, even as several Leafs were lined up at stoplights next to pedestrians.
The car had plenty of pickup when I was able to punch the accelerator, but the Leaf can also be driven in "eco mode" meant to save battery power.
With the car in eco mode, I made a right turn into traffic ahead of oncoming cars on Rio Salado Parkway, and it was noticeably more sluggish, giving me a moment of panic as I considered being the first person in the country to total a brand-new electric car.
It's hard to imagine anyone but the most conservative drivers using the car in eco mode unless they are running low on battery power. Then again, everyone in line waiting to test the car was pretty much a self-described environmentalist, so maybe the Leaf crowd will appreciate it.
Nissan had about a dozen of the cars being used at once. One of the testers ahead of me drove off the route, and I got to watch him turn around in traffic on a crowded street. He looked like he had no problem making the three-point turn, although I didn't get to put it through such a maneuverability test.
My daily commute is less than 20 miles, so the Leaf's 73-mile range, as listed by the Environmental Protection Agency, would get me to work for three days without a recharge in mild weather. I'd have to rely on something else for longer road trips.
I doubt I'd have trouble remembering to plug it in at night to recharge, and the car can send you alerts to remind you when it needs charging. Paying for cheap electricity rather than gasoline would be nice, although I'd probably miss stopping at convenience stores for Thirst Busters on hot summer days. If I depleted the battery, I would want another car to run to the store or make other errands rather than wait to recharge.
Back at the Nissan parking lot at the end of my drive, there were a handful of festival-goers who inadvertently tried to park in the Leaf staging area. As they haggled with the parking attendant, I thought it was a good opportunity to test out the Leaf's horn.
Considering the eco-conscious crowd Nissan seems to be aiming for, I was relieved that the car didn't emit a whale song or the sounds of the Amazon forest when I laid on the horn. It sounded just like a normal honk.
My Nissan co-pilot covered her face in embarrassment, and the flustered driver blocking traffic finally pulled aside letting us pass, giving me a stern gaze, with no idea he'd likely been the first person in the state to make way for a new kind of automobile hitting the streets.
The Revolutionary Nissan LEAF Drives Like a Real Car
LA Times' David Undercoffler finds the LEAF electric car 'a livable, enjoyable car that just happens to avoid using gasoline.'
LA Times 11 Dec 2010
No one loves lofty rhetoric and prosaic hyperbole more than car manufacturers. With a dollar for every time a mundane car was described as "exciting," "revolutionary" or "race-inspired," you could pull an Oprah and buy everyone on your block a Lamborghini.
But after a week of driving — and more importantly — living with a Leaf SL, it's clear that this is what revolutionary looks like. Whether it is successful with consumers, however, remains to be seen.
The Leaf is revolutionary because when it hits the road this winter, it will be the first mass-market all-electric car on the market and will start at $32,780 before tax credits. Kudos to Nissan Motor Co. for having the joules to devote the time (it started developing electric vehicles in 1992) and the expense (billions of dollars) necessary to bring the Leaf to production.
And in so doing, Nissan addressed the myriad shortcomings that electric cars traditionally have had in comparison with their internal-combustion brethren. Key among these are concerns about the cars' practicality and cost and consumers' range anxiety, a nascent term that describes the fear of running out of power before reaching the destination.
My time with the Leaf demonstrated that for all its innovation, it's just a car. It's not a science experiment, or a spaceship or a pipe-dream prototype. It's a livable, enjoyable car that just happens to avoid using gasoline altogether because you plug it in at home to charge. A statewide network of charging stations is also in the works.
Except for the faint dentist-drill whine of the electric motor in place of an engine's reverberations, there's really nothing very different about the Leaf once you're on the road. The 80-kilowatt motor puts out 107 horsepower and a lively 207 pound-feet of torque, so acceleration is robust and smooth.
The motor is paired to a single-speed transmission. Drivers can switch the transmission from normal mode to eco-mode. This boosts the Leaf's range about 10% by increasing the regenerative braking and making it harder to accelerate with full power. Since there is so much torque available in normal mode, I was happy to leave the transmission in its eco setting and reap the increased mileage instead.
Nissan says the 24-kilowatt-hour, lithium-ion battery in the Leaf is good for about 100 miles on a single charge, while the Environmental Protection Agency says that number is actually 73 miles.
The Leaf charges from empty to full in about 18 hours using a standard 110-volt outlet as I did, or in eight hours using the 220-volt charger Leaf buyers can have installed in their home. This unit costs $2,200 and is eligible for a 50% federal tax credit.
Furthermore, through a grant from the Department of Energy, buyers of the Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt can get a home charger free of charge, with most or all of the installation covered as well.
Although 18 hours to fully charge your car may be a prohibitive burden to using an automobile, I found that at the end of each day, the Leaf's battery was rarely at or near zero charge. I learned to think of it as a cellphone; you bring it home at night with perhaps half the battery charge remaining, charge it overnight and use it in the morning.
Based on Southern California Edison's electricity rates, a full charge on the Leaf cost me a little more than $5.
I averaged about 85 miles on a single charge while driving it like a normal car. My commute is flat and includes 20 miles a day of freeway driving, which I did often at speeds of around 75 mph. I used the radio, the climate control when needed and kept the headlights on during the day.
Commuters in California should note that the Leaf will be eligible for the state's much-coveted HOV stickers providing carpool-lane access when the new batch is made available for 2012. (The Chevy Volt will not be eligible, Nissan is quick to point out.)
The Leaf's standard navigation system doubles as a dashboard-mounted Prozac for range anxiety. Easily accessible is real-time information on energy consumption, the effect of turning on or off the climate control, a map of how far you can drive in both normal and eco modes, and directions to the nearest charging stations.
Be warned, however, that most of the charging stations listed right now are useless because they have yet to be retrofitted for the Leaf and Volt.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment I had with the car was that using the climate control reduced the Leaf's range 15% to 20%.
Nissan tried to mitigate this effect by installing a timer on the Leaf that enables drivers to cool or warm the car while it's still plugged in.
It handled like most other front-wheel-drive cars in its compact class, though the batteries bring the car's weight to a portly 3,366 pounds. Nissan took this into account and mounted them beneath the rear seats to give the car a low center of gravity.
Space is great for full-size adults, and the rear seats fold down for extra cargo space.
The exterior styling is unique from any angle. This is a good thing at the back of the car, yet the bulging headlights in the front look as if the car is choking on its power cord. Overall, the styling is enough to denote the car as different, yet avoids throwing it in your face.
There's more to the $32,780 base price than meets the eye. All Leafs are eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, bringing the price on the base SV to $25,280. California offers an additional $5,000 rebate.
So for about $20,000 excluding destination charge, Californians can get a compact, five-seat, four-door car that comes standard with such amenities as a navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity, LED lights, anti-lock brakes, traction control and alloy wheels.
My test car had the only option package offered for the Leaf, a $940 SL package that includes a backup camera, fog lights and a solar panel spoiler good for charging your cellphone.
Also included on all Leafs is an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty on the battery and a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
My week in the Leaf required no cumbrous change in my driving habits or daily activities. I'll be the first to admit the Leaf is not for everyone, namely single-car households or people who drive more than 100 miles a day.
But with most Americans driving 40 miles or fewer a day, the Leaf makes a strong case to forgo internal combustion and step into a revolution.
Nissan LEAF: Electric Trendsetter
Ann Job sings the praises of Nissans all-electric car, but just don't ask to plug it in at your friend's house.
Seattle Times 01 Dec 2010
Nissan's Leaf plug-in electric hatchback is an endearing car for people who don't mind metering their mileage, planning ahead and sometimes tapping the electricity at a friend's home while sharing dinner.
The first all-electric car offered in the United States by a mainstream auto manufacturer since the early days of the automobile, the new-for-2011 Leaf has seats for five, a roomy, straightforward interior and a surprisingly solid, stable feel.
Best of all for consumers who worry about the nation's oil consumption and the environment, the Leaf is rated at 99 miles per gallon of gasoline equivalent by the federal government for combined city and highway driving.
This equivalent is based on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency formula that seeks to translate a full charge of the Leaf's 24-kilowatt lithium ion battery pack over seven hours at 240 volts into a comparison with a conventional, gasoline-powered car.
Simply stated, the Leaf's mileage rating - which amounts to 106 mpg in city driving and 92 mpg on the highway - is, by far, the top mileage rating for any major brand consumer vehicle. By comparison, the highest ranked mainstream, mid-size car to this point was the was the gasoline-electric hybrid Toyota Prius with a federal government rating of 51 mpg in city driving and 48 mpg on the highway.
The 2011 Prius can operate for short distances on electric power, but the on-board electric motor mostly supplements the car's four-cylinder gasoline engine.
The gasoline savings that the Leaf provides come at a luxury-car-like purchase price. Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for the 2011 Leaf is $33,600.
It's true that some states offer incentives and rebates for this new electric car. And a taxpayer can claim a $7,500 federal tax credit for purchasing a Leaf, so the full price may be offset by lowering a buyer's Internal Revenue Service tax bill.
Another all-electric car, the Tesla roadster, also has the $7,500 federal tax credit but is a high-priced, two-seat sporty model that has a starting retail price of more than $100,000. And Chevrolet's upcoming 2011 Volt car, with on-board electric power plus gasoline engine, has a starting retail price of $41,000. Toyota's Prius has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of just over $22,000.
The test Leaf handled in a stable, solid way - more like a regular car than I expected. There was no lightweight, golf-cart feel. At more than 3,300 pounds, the Leaf tester had substantial heft and typical safety features like air bags.
Also impressive is how the weight is distributed in the Leaf. In some gas-electric hybrids, the weight of the engine under the hood competes with the weight of the battery pack that's typically under or aft of the rear seats. This can unsettle the suspension and create a sensation that the vehicle is carrying around three big guys in the back seat.
There was none of this in the Leaf. Without the engine heft in front, the Leaf's weight felt better balanced. The car was nimble and fit easily into parking spaces.
The 80-kilowatt AC electric motor generates 107 horsepower - more than the Prius has.
Torque is an impressive 207 foot-pounds, and since it's all electric, it comes on fast, smoothly and steadily. I beat everyone away from stoplights - and in stealthy silence.
The steering is electric, but it didn't have too much of an artificial feeling.
It was the brake pedal that took a bit of getting used to; it managed the regenerative brakes and stopped the car in the process.
The Leaf gear shifter also isn't a lever as much as it is a squat blob in the center console.
Seats have a decidedly thick foam feel, and the steeply raked windshield and uncluttered dashboard layout help give an airy, spaceship feel to the front seats.
Fit and finish on the test car was excellent.
Nissan says the maximum feasible range for the fully charged leaf is about 130 miles; I never matched that with normal driving. Normally, Nissan says, it takes seven hours to fully charge the car with a 240-volt system.
I didn't have the 240-volt charge system for the test drive. I also didn't have the optional quick charge port, which allows for the battery to charge to 80 percent of capacity in a half hour.
So, I plugged the Leaf into a regular, 120-volt electric outlet in my garage, using a large, brick-like portable power converter, a thick, bright orange cord and a gas-dispenser-like connection that plugged into the front of the car, above the bumper. With about 40 miles left, I'd plug it in overnight. By morning, the Leaf would be 90 percent charged.
All too aware of the limited range and the fact that there was only one other compatible charging station in my area, I watched the mileage like a hawk. I planned combined trips so I wouldn't need to sit at home and wait for the car to recharge.
One busy day, I asked a friend if I could plug in at her home while we ate dinner, because I worried about running low on power. But then I realized I didn't have the cord with me, and she admitted later she wouldn't be thrilled to power up my car on a regular basis, adding to her electric bill.
Electric Dream Machine
Chris Russon gets his first opportunity to test drive Nissan's new all-electric car.
Motors Merseyside/UK 28 Oct 2010 Over the centuries Lisbon has been the launchpad for many a voyage of discovery.
Fitting, then, that Nissan should choose the Portuguese capital to introduce the Leaf – the world’s first mass production electric car.
Flicking the switch on the electric revolution is going to transform everyday motoring – but it is not going to happen overnight.
Even the experts at Nissan predict that by 2020 some 90 per cent of new cars will still be powered by internal combustion engines.
What the charge towards alternative fuels will deliver instantly is £460million worth of investment in Nissan’s factories in the north east of England - hugely important to the livelihoods of thousands of British workers.
It will also bring immense savings in travel costs to those who fit the electric bill.
If you regularly travel more than 100 miles a day, live on the top floor of a tower block or don’t have access to the growing network of roadside charging points then, for the time being, an electric car is not for you.
On the other hand, if you live near one of the cities which are blazing the electric trail – which includes Newcastle, Birmingham, London and Glasgow – and you have £24,000 to spend on an everyday car, you will be shocked to find out what the Leaf can do.
Forget milk float or golf buggy, the Leaf is a serious five door hatchback about the same size as a Ford Focus.
Unlike other electric vehicles which are appearing on the scene such as the Peugeot i0n and the G-Wiz, the Leaf does not have quirky looks or an interior out of a budget buy.
Yes, the Leaf is sleek and futuristic but it is cutting edge technology through and through. Being electric it produces no emissions although its production causes a carbon footprint equivalent to 80g/km.
Nissan and its French partner Renault are investing more than £3billion in a global electric vision which will see the Leaf and its lithium ion batteries produced in the UK at Sunderland from 2013.
It will also be built in Japan and the US while in France Renault is planning its own range of EVs.
To begin with the Leaf will be made in Japan and on sale in Britain early next year costing £23,950 including a £5,000 subsidy from the government for electric vehicles.
Running costs are a fraction of those for a conventional car, estimated at around £300 a year compared to £1,100 for an average 1.5-litre diesel or £1,500 for a two-litre petrol car covering average mileage.
There is no tax to pay and servicing is around 15 per cent less, confined mainly to oil and brake fluids as an electric car has fewer moving parts.
Recharging costs about £2 and gives a range in the region of 100 miles or seven hours of use.
However, that all depends on driving conditions, speed and use of onboard equipment such as air conditioning.
A good blast down a motorway on a hot day can flatten the batteries in about an hour with the range falling to 50 miles.
The Leaf uses 48 lithium ion batteries each about the size of a laptop computer packed together under the floor. They power an electric motor under the bonnet, which at a glance can be mistaken for a conventional engine.
The car’s recharging points are under a lockable flap above the front bumper and there are two of them – one for a quick charge which gives 80 per cent battery capacity in 30 minutes and the other for a full recharge which can take up to eight hours.
A recharging cable is stowed in a bag in the boot but the connectors on the two charging points have different sockets because of the difference in power output for the quick charge. The cable for that operation is fitted to the roadside charger, similar to the hose on a petrol pump.
The Leaf can be fully recharged at home but a special socket will have to be fitted to take the plug.
With the roadside chargers payment is made by swiping a smart card which initially is likely to cost £100 a year for all the juice you need.
Hooking up is straightforward but the charging cable is about 15feet long and, left lying in the road in front of the car, looks a bit messy. Once the charge is underway the connectors are locked on to the vehicle and cannot be removed until you stop the charge with the smart card.
On the road the way the Leaf drives is a revelation. Slinging the batteries under the car creates a low centre of gravity and it handles like a sports car.
Because there is no engine noise the suspension has been tuned to filter out road rumble and even the headlamps and radio antenna on the roof have been designed to eliminate wind noise.
The wiper motor has had its whine suppressed and because of the safety frame around the batteries the body is 40 per cent stiffer.
Acceleration is instant and quick – equivalent to a 110bhp diesel engine with all the power on tap from 1rpm – and 0 to 60mph is in the region of 5.5seconds. That’s almost akin to a Ferrari.
Top speed is a sensible 85mph and the throttle input is very controllable making the car delightful to drive.
Under acceleration there is a slight turbine like whine – which is quite a fun feature – and there’s good braking from the engine which reduces the amount of work required from the hydraulic system.
Get the feel of the car and most slowing down in traffic can be done just on the engine. ABS and anti-skid devices are fitted just as they would with any other new car.
The gears are purely forward and reverse which makes for smooth acceleration. An eco mode is available which softens the throttle response to increase range.
It has a marked effect and on our test drive flicking the mouse-shaped gear selector to engage eco mode instantly changed the range prediction from 90 miles to 102 miles.
The instrumentation is styled as differently as any other feature of the car. It is smart, functional and entertaining with digital readouts for your speed and range and coloured graphics showing the battery capacity and power flow.
Sat nav is standard and is a smart system which shows the car’s available range as well as pinpointing the nearest charging points. Other full colour displays showing the car’s long term performance are also shown on the touchscreen.
That amount of data is necessary as the car’s performance will change constantly. On a 50 mile run out of Lisbon – which is another one of Europe’s pioneering EV cities - to the coast then back along a motorway the available range started at 104 miles but reduced to 32 miles at the end of the one hour 15 minute journey.
Such is the high tech approach of the Leaf it also accommodates smart phone and home computer technology.
Recharging can be controlled remotely via the Internet to make the most of low-cost off-peak electricity. You can also programme the sat nav or run the air conditioning through your home computers allowing you to warm up the interior while the car is still sitting on your drive connected to the mains.
On the practical front the Leaf is roomy and comfortable inside, has a 330 litre boot and folding rear seats which extends capacity to more than 600 litres.
Even if it were not electric this would be a top notch, high specification family car, albeit at the higher end of the price range.
Unlike other electric car producers who are mainly targeting fleet operators with the first phase of vehicles, Nissan will be opening up sales to private buyers on a personal contract basis over three years.
With a five year warranty on the batteries and other electrical components and only a standard three year/60,000 mile warranty on the rest of the car, an outright purchase would not make a lot of sense at the moment.
Although the Leaf is a remarkable vehicle it is early days and there are too many ifs and buts still to be answered.
The electric charge may be under way but how quickly it will progress and costs become more affordable is another question.
Driving the LEAF in New York City
NBC reporter Brian Thompson goes for spin in LEAF with Nissan's Mark Perry. Video at original source.
NBC New York 05 Oct 2010
On the eve of the first mass-produced electric cars to ever go on sale, Nissan gave reporters test drives of their brand new Leaf all-electric sedan.
Car-like ride? Check.
And we'll leave it up to the auto experts to parse the more technical stuff. But let's just say right off the bat: It feels like you're driving a car.
But for the biggest news out of this tour, let's talk price.
I specifically asked Mark Perry, Nissan's Director of Product Planning and Advanced Technology Strategy if, once sales reach a critical mass of tens of thousands or more here in the U.S., the price will come down (it is advertised at $32,780 base price, but with a federal tax credit of $7500 that comes out to $25,280 for car buyers).
Perry told NBCNewYork "What we have to do is be prepared for that $7500 going away, so as a consumer it'll look the same."
In other words, with critical mass after the tax credit disappears, Nissan can bring its cost down from $32,780 but the charge to buyers will still be $25,000 and change.
So the good news is that consumers in a couple of years or so will be able to get Nissan's electric Leaf at just over $25,000 with no strings attached(as in the hassle of getting a federal tax credit). The bad news, Perry doesn't expect it to go any lower than that.
But by then there will be plenty of competition as just about every major manufacturer has plans to jump on the EV bandwagon over the next two of three years.
GM actually led the way with its Volt (unlike the Leaf, it has a gas generator on board to make more electricity when the original charge is drained).
The Volt is expected to beat the Leaf to market by just a few weeks.
The Leaf won't be available in the New York area until the Fall of 2011, according to Perry(the Volt will go on sale right away in New York and New Jersey).
But by the time it comes, he said there will be at least 255 public charging stations in New York to deal with the issue of "Range Anxiety." That's the fear of being stranded with no power left in your battery.
But Perry counters that "95 percent of the population of the U.S. drives less than 100 miles a day," and of course the range of the Leaf is advertised at 100 miles(less though in extreme cold or heat).
So how long to recharge? Twenty hours with household 110v, eight hours with a 220v charger (like for your washing machine), and half an hour for an 80 percent charge with a 440v fast charger.
"The average fast food restaurant stay is 24 minutes," said Perry, smiling.
NBC New York Video
Healy: Nissan LEAF Is Delight to Drive
USA Today columnist shares his impressions of electric car test drive.
USA Today 20 Sep 2010
By James R. Healey
Electric cars have been around as long as gasoline versions, but their limited range always outweighed the fact that they are simple to use and easy to drive.
Electrics were big in the early part of the last century, largely because gasoline vehicles had to be hand-cranked to start — a difficult process that left some unwary folks with broken bones when the crank kicked back.
Then, Cadillac's self-starter made gas engines a breeze to ignite: Push the button, and there you go. And there went electrics, into obscurity.
Rescue attempts over the years included battery models in the 1980s from General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler as they tried to create vehicles to meet California's requirement for zero emissions.
Utility plants that make the juice for your electric do emit, but your car does not. (The cars are now said to have "zero local emissions," or "zero tailpipe emissions," because critics said emissions from utility generators were being ignored.)
GM's EV1 is most famous. Conspiracy theorists say GM killed the electric car — or set back its development, at the very least — when it refused to let customers who leased the two-seat, egg-shaped EV1s buy them when leases expired. GM destroyed the cars, saying they didn't meet evolving safety standards. They also were catching fire during recharging, and no fix could be found.
Now we're battery-batty again. New battery technology promises a driving range of 100 miles or more, which begins to calm the "range anxiety" that automakers have identified as a disincentive.
Electrics play to public sentiment against petroleum — BP's epic underwater gusher from a broken well in the Gulf of Mexico being the poster image for Big, Bad Oil. And the economy seems to suggest an electric solution. Battery cars typically run a given distance on a lot less cash than gasoline vehicles do.
In fact, Nissan says, its battery-power 2011 Leaf, due in December, should cost you about $400 to run as far as you'd go on $1,800 worth of $3-per-gallon gas.
Nice, but the proof of any vehicle is how it drives. And there, Leaf's a winner.
A preproduction, but close to final-specification, Leaf was available a few hours this week, and they were satisfying hours — mostly.
On the plus side, Leaf was:
•Roomy. It's got nice space, front and back, for its overall tidy footprint. It's about the size of a Toyota Prius. And the seats were comfortable — which remains rare enough in modern cars that it's worth noting.
Most interior plastics are recycled water bottles and the like, which are costlier, but Nissan sees it as a marketing advantage for this car.
•Quick in traffic. Electric motors are like that. They give you all they have the moment they start to turn. No need to "rev up" as you must to get the most torque from a gasoline or diesel powerplant.
•Quiet. Another admirable trait of electrics. But to satisfy concerns about blind pedestrians, the car whines audibly up to 18 mph. You can shut that off (and you'll want to if you drive with windows down), but it resets to "on" each time you restart. The car also beeps when in reverse.
•Engagingly sophisticated. Though small, Leaf's not basic. Features includes LED headlights, navigation system and, on the uplevel SL, a solar panel on the hatch to trickle-charge the conventional 12-volt battery, used to run accessories such as the radio.
The large main battery pack that runs the motor is under the seats and floor. When not plugged in, it gets a charge when you slow or use the brakes. That's the same "regen" braking that's on gas-electric hybrids.
Our favorite gee-whiz feature was "driving range." Nervous about how far you can go? Push a button and a circle appears on the navi map screen. You can drive straight to anywhere in the circle on the remaining juice. As you continue to drive, the circle shrinks.
You can trigger another switch and the navi will route you to the nearest public charging station. Not many now, but more in the next year or two. The system updates its list of sites every three months.
•The spawn of a proper attitude. Nissan product planning director Mark Perry says the engineers behind Leaf had the supremely sensible notion that the driver should behave normally; it's the car that saves energy. Drive like you always have and still go far. Refreshing. Try that attitude at, say, Ford Motor's house o' hybrids and you'll get a lecture on how much the driver is supposed to do (the car just helps), as well as a whack over the head with one of those leafy things that appear to grow or die on Ford dashboards, depending on your driving style.
Wrinkles in the otherwise smooth fabric of Leaf:
•Ugggggly. We did manage to badger Nissan into providing a photo of a red one, and jazzed up thus it almost averts a gag reflex. Otherwise, stinko.
One nuance, neither good nor bad: The idea of tailfins has been carried forward. Nose fins atop the headlights direct airflow, cutting wind noise around the mirrors and reducing range-ruining air resistance.
•Steering. Too slow. Turn the wheel a lot for a little reaction. You'll run wide in corners unless you crank the steering wheel an unseemly amount.
And that is, Perry says, a Thing That Absolutely Nobody Else Has Mentioned. Running into TTANEHMs seems to be a Test Drive signature feature.
•Tippy feel. Not a sporting device, Leaf leans a bit much in brisk corners, and the tires begin to vaguely howl as if they don't like it one bit. Nothing about a battery car is inconsistent with better handling.
Nissan says Leaf is rated to go 100 miles in what's called the LA4 test, a protocol that, if passed, allows a manufacturer to say that its battery buggy has a 100-mile range. But that's not as good as it can get — or as bad. Cold weather, heavy traffic: You won't come close. Spring weather, light traffic, moderate speed: You'll blow right past 100 miles.
More troubling could be how long it takes to fill 'er up if the batteries are about dead: 20 tedious hours from a 110/120-volt circuit (the common household plug) or eight hours from a 220/240-volt charging circuit that most owners are expected to install and use.
Neat car. Drives nicely. But American lives are filled with unexpected trips and emergencies, the kinds of unplanned events that could make 100 miles too little and eight hours too long.
Leaf — and, we imagine, almost any other pure battery electric vehicle — should be considered a second or third car for most folks.
ABOUT 2011 THE NISSAN LEAF
•What? Compact, four-door, front-drive, plug-in hatchback powered by an electric motor fed from lithium-ion battery pack.
•When? On sale is several states in December; nationwide a year from now.
•Why?Nissan's decided to make a big bet on electric cars.
•How much? Starts at $32,780 including shipping. Charger and installation average $2,200. Some taxpayers can get federal tax credit up to $7,500 on a car; up to $1,100 on a charger.
•How many? 50,000 worldwide the first year, rising to 550,000 in 2014.
•How powerful? Electric motor rated 107 horsepower, 206 pounds-feet of torque. Electrics make full torque from the moment they begin to turn; needn't rev up as gasoline engines do to hit peak turning power.
•How big? Similar to a Toyota Prius. Leaf is 175 inches long, 69.7 in. wide, 61 in. tall on a 106.3-in. wheelbase.
•How far and fast? Rated to go 100 miles on a charge using the common LA4 test cycle. Nissan says 138 miles or so in optimal traffic and weather conditions, but as few as 62 miles in slow traffic on a very cold day. Top speed is about 90 mph.
Time to fully charge depleted battery pack:
•220/240-volt AC circuit most owners will use: 8 hours.
•Normal residential 110/120-volt AC circuit: 20 hrs.
•440/480-volt industrial direct-current circuit with fast-charger: 30 minutes for 80% charge.
Nissan says government aid programs will ensure there are at least 12,000 public charging stations in 19 states by end of 2011.
•Overall: Generally sweet to drive, but still a second or third car for most Americans because of unexpected demands, unplanned trips that could exceed range.
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