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Say Hello to the Nissan LEAF

Say hello to the Nissan LEAF; an all-electric 5 passenger car from Nissan expected to arrive to limited markets in December 2010. LEAF stands for Leading, Environmentally Friendly, Affordable, Family Car. It’s based on the Nissan Versa platform.

Initial demand is strong for the import electric vehicle with over 6,000 people making reservations in the first days since it began accepting them on April 20th. 117,000 people registered on the site for places in line of the reservation system. Others interested in the Nissan LEAF include car-rental company Hertz, which has a partnership with Nissan.

The LEAF will be limited to California, Oregon, Seattle, Phoenix-Tucson and east-central Tennessee at first, increased availability in Spring 2011, and full market rollout through 2012. Nissan has the capacity to manufacture 50,000 LEAFs in the first year at a Japanese plant, but it is unknown at this time how many of that number will make it to the United States. Production is expected to start in October. Battery plants in Japan will produce 65,000 battery packs annually, and will eventually be joined by plants in Smyrna, TN, and others being built in the U.K. and Portugal.

Mechanical

The Nissan LEAF is a 100% electric five-person hatchback requiring no gas. It doesn’t even possess a tailpipe; leading Nissan to claim 0 emissions. It is partially made from recycled material, and is designed to be nearly fully recyclable at the end of its life. On top of that, wind turbines provide some of the power used at the LEAF manufacturing facility.

It is powered by an 80KW/280nm AC synchronous electric motor, which is powered by a laminated 24 kWh lithium ion battery. The battery is placed under the vehicle to allow smooth underfloor air-flow and doesn’t decrease cargo space. The pack weighs around 480 lb.

The car will go about 100 miles/160km (based on EPA LA4 drive cycle testing) before needing a recharge, and the built-in navigation system will point out charging stations as one approaches them. The car will not use power if in “idle” (except as other systems are being used). As always, the mileage is dependent on how many electrical devices are running (lights, radio, navigation), weather conditions, and the weight in the vehicle.

The weatherproof, 220V home charging dock for the LEAF will require 240V/20 amp (40 amp recommended) dedicated circuit connected to a breaker. The charger will then need to be hardwired directly to a circuit (to be completed by a certified electrician). The car can then be programmed to charge whenever you choose; such as off-peak overnight hours. Installation for the home charging dock is estimated to cost around $2,200 (which may be offset by 50% from the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit Federal tax credit).

A depleted battery will take about 16-18 hours to fully charge at a 110V station, 8 hours at a 220V station, and 26 minutes to reach 80% capacity at a quick-charge station rated at 50kW AC. The LEAF is also being delivered with a 110V Trickle charger that can be plugged into standard outlets in case of emergency.

The high-density laminar-cell lithium ion battery will have a life of about 5-10 years under normal use. It has manganese oxide in the cathode, and characteristics of a design with low internal resistance, with good thermal stability.  A full charge should only cost about $2.75 in electricity based on a U.S. average of $0.11/kWh.

It also features:

  • 3.3 kW onboard charger
  • Power-assisted vented front disc/rear disc brakes
  • “Coasting” regenerative brakes
  • 4-wheel ABS
  • EBD (Electronic Brake force Distribution) & BA (Brake Assist)
  • Electronic parking brake
  • Front-wheel drive
  • Drive-by-wire steering

Top speed for the Nissan LEAF will be about 90 mph, but it will have 100% torque available immediately. There currently no 0-60 time estimates, but Nissan states that acceleration is “quiet and effortless”.

The drivetrain consists of an inverter, electric motor and reduction gear set. The output shaft connects via CV joint to hub-and-carrier assembly. The LEAF recovers energy created by the electric motor acting as a generator during braking and coasting.

Since the LEAF is 100% electric, it will not require the same fluids as a traditional vehicle except for brake fluid and washer fluid.

Exterior

The exterior has an aerodynamic design to the underbody. Unlike the Prius, the LEAF has a fairly normal look to it. 16″ alloy wheels are standard with low-rolling-resistance 205/55/R16 tires. The headlights and taillights are powered by LEDs, which do not use a lot of energy. Chrome door handles and a rear spoiler add a little pizazz to its outside appearance and a solar panel on the rear spoiler will help to charge the 12V accessory battery. The LEAF will also be available with an optional rear-camera.

Though better looking than a Prius, the LEAF’s air resistance isn’t as good at 0.29 Cd compared to the Prius’s 0.25 Cd.

Color options and decals are still being finalized.

Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
Length: 175.0 in.
Width: 69.7 in.
Height: 61.0 in.
Weight: Not yet disclosed

Interior

The interior has many creature features and comforts. The Nissan Navigation system will get you where you’re going and the Telematic System will show you where the next charge station is if your battery is running a little low. The Nissan Connection by CARWINGS allows for a remote connection to the vehicle to check on the battery and charge status. Owners can monitor via online website or cellular phone. Message alerts can also be sent to cellphones. The LEAF uses a cellular-type network for its data connection, with no Wi-Fi capabilities at the moment.

It comes with cruise control on steering wheel-mounted controls, a trip computer which shows instant/average energy consumptions, as well as the expected driving time, driving range and outside temperature. The system can calculate for drivers if the car is in range of a pre-set destination. Owners can also pre-heat or pre-cool the car while charging to reduce drain on the battery during operation. The on-board transmitting unit is connected to a global data center 24/7.

Nissan’s Intelligent Key with Push Button Ignition starts it up, and a palm-shift drive selector gets you going. Automatic temperature control will keep you nice and toasty or cool and comfortable. An integrated Bluetooth Hands-free Phone system will help to keep your focus on the road. The LEAF will seat 5 passengers, and also possesses 60/50 split fold-down rear seats. Entertainment is provided by the 6-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with MP3/WMA CD playback, and XM Satellite radio. It also comes with an auxiliary audio jack and a USB connection port for iPod or other devices.

Other interior features include:

  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror
  • Power door locks with auto-locking
  • Power windows with driver’s window one touch auto up/down
  • Variable intermittent windshield wipers (front/back)
  • Dual sun visors
  • Illuminated glove compartment
  • Cup holders
  • Bottle holders
  • 12-volt DC power outlet
  • Tilt steering
  • Height-adjustable 3-point front seat belts
  • A/C, electric heater

Due to the small nature of the electric motor and invertor in the front compartment, and a lack of a gas tank in the back, interior and cargo space are maximized.

Safety & Security

Besides being nice to look at, fun to drive, and a joy to be in; the Nissan LEAF comes with advanced safety and security systems. To keep you safe in a crash, it comes with Nissan’s Advanced Air Bag System with dual-stage front air bags and seat-belt and occupant classification sensors, driver and front-passenger side impact air bags, roof-mounted curtain side-impact airbags for front and rear occupants. On the road, a VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) system and Traction Control will keep you there. It comes with a vehicle security system, and Nissan immobilizer system, as well as a tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS).

If the LEAF ever needs repairs, it will need to be taken to a qualified, trained Nissan EV technician. Nissan is currently working with road service providers to carry special charging packs that can recharge a LEAF enough to get it to a charging station.

Price & Availability

The MSRP of the Nissan LEAF is $32,780, but after a possible $7,500 from the New Qualified Plug-In Electric Drive Vehicles Federal tax credit the LEAF could cost as low as $25,280. As stated earlier, the LEAF will be available to limited markets at first, with a full market rollout through 2012.

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