Nissan Reveals Leaf Electric Car

Is Nissan Turning a New Leaf?

By George Straton

08.03.2009

leaf_frontA few months ago, we reported on sketchy details provided by Nissan as to their vision of the future of the automobile in the article entitled, “Is the Traditional Concept of Car Ownership on the Ropes.”  Well now Nissan has decided to clear up some of the “sketchiness” with details of 5 door compact hatchback modeled along the Renault Clio/Megane lines.

The Nissan “Leaf” (Leading, Environmentally Friendly, Affordable, Family Car) seems to meet the performance specifications described in the March article. A laminated 48 cell, 400 lb. LiIon battery pack, mounted under the floor, can store 24kwh nominal of electrical charge and supply 90 kw peak of current to a synchronous AC electric motor. This translates to 107 bHp and 207 lb ft of torque. With curb weight expected to be in the 3400 lb range Nissan claims a top speed of 90 mph and 0-30 mph acceleration better than that of a 330 hp gasoline powered Infiniti G37. Range is 100 miles which Nissan estimates is good enough for 70% of American personal motoring needs.

leaf_rearAC charge characteristics call for a full charge in 8 hrs. hooked up to a 220 V single phase supply. Publicly available 3 phase chargers, whose location is related to the driver through on onboard real time info system, can send enough DC juice to charge the battery to 80% charge in 30 minutes. A 30% “quick charge” is just 10 minutes away.

As in the proposed Volvo plug-in hybrid the ReCharge C30, the charging connectors are located at the nose just beneath the Nissan badging.

leaf_chargeportsThe availability of these power company consortium-provided DC charging stations may initially be limited to metropolitan areas whose governments have signed agreements with Nissan to supply their fleet vehicles. Hence the initial release of the Leaf EV is slated to be limited to more than a dozen metro areas including Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Phoenix, and of course Nashville, home to Nissan North America headquarters, primarily to said government fleets. To accommodate the need for ramping up greater battery production (Nissan/NEC estimate 250,000 per year by 2015) and the installation of more DC charging stations more widespread sales are expected by end of 2012.

Using the Japanese market costs as a gauge, Nissan claims that monthly operating costs will drop from $63 to about $13 when comparing a gasoline-powered car to the Nissan Leaf.

Again because of the estimated high cost of battery pack replacement these units will need to be leased at an undisclosed cost in addition to the purchase price.

leaf_interiorThe Leaf is to be slotted in price well below under Chevrolet’s competing Volt with a target of $30,000.  The Volt carries the added complexity and benefit of a redundant internal combustion engine, but is not limited to a 100-mile range as a the Leaf will be.

If current Clean Air Credit rebates are available at launch in late 2010, the total price for the Nissan Leaf paid by consumers should drop to a more palatable $22,000.

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn sees electric vehicles as a mass-market proposition in the medium term, and has bet big money on this vision.  If he’s right, Nissan will be in an excellent position to dominate that market, after falling behind many of its competitors on gasoline-electric hybrid powrtrains.

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Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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7 Comments

  1. Renault and Nissan may have picked the right strategy. Skipping hybrids and going right to electric vehicles may look like genius in a few years.

    Of course, they could be wrong as well, but no one can say for certain right now. It will be interesting to see what choices in technology are made by the car companies in the next 24 months.

  2. I’ll look forward to seeing the Leaf in the Metro fleet here in Nashville. It’s not often we get a ‘first.’

  3. How much market is there for electric cars anywhere in the world? Some of Japan, maybe. I think they’re coming in too soon.

  4. it would be interesting to see how it’ll do in cities located in the “snow belt” like Chicago, Omaha, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, Detroit, Minneapolis/St-Paul, Halifax, Winnipeg and Quebec City with the hard winter we got here.

    And on a off-topic subject, I spotted this article from Mid-July mentionning then ExxonMobil study the possibility to use biofuel, mainly from aglae
    http://www.autobloggreen.com/2009/07/14/is-exxon-making-a-real-600-million-biofuel-shift

  5. This would make a great commuter car for those folks who can afford a 3rd viehicle just for commuting. If, and that’s a big If, it can actually get it’s advertized range with the air conditioner and headlights on. Actually, better turn on the windshield wipers as well. Yeah, I’ve driven home from work in 110 degree weather in a pouring rain.

    Center, nose mounted charging receptical is very smart. Soemone was actually thinking there.

    At least in the Phoenix area, some businesses still have chargeing stations installed from the EV-1 days. (why remove them, that would cost money?) Once installed, the cost is nominal, 15 amps at 115 volts is still only about 20 cents an hour even at peak rates. If I’m a store owner, 20 cents to get a customer into my store is cheap.

    Styling is OK. I hate the stupid “smiley face” air intake/grill, but everything else is pretty good.

  6. I’ve often wondered how much impact weight has on range in an EV. If some small EV has a 100-mile range with one person (driver), is the range the same with three adult passengers? Like in a carpool, for instance?

    Does it decrease the range by five percent, ten percent, twenty percent, or something else?

  7. Big Ed, that’s an interesting question.

    I would imagine that when electric vehicles are more common, we’ll see “maximum load” ratings. Maximum load on tjhe battery, that is. Passengers, outside ambient temperatures, AC on, hilly terrain, etc.

    All of those things must shorten range, some of those things must shorten range by half or a quarter.

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