By Kevin Miller
I’ve got to admit, my review of the Nissan Leaf has turned out quite a bit differently than I had expected it to. I’m a bit of a self-proclaimed “range anxiety” sufferer, and I somehow expected the electric propulsion of the Leaf and its batteries to leave me stranded, underpowered or underwhelmed. Fortunately, none of those happened. Actually, it was quite the opposite.
Instead of reviewing the Leaf as an “electric car” (you know, one of those almost-a-cars that provides diminished range, experience and expectations), I can review it just as a car with an uncommon powertrain. That said, here goes.
Odds and ends about cars and the car business
By Chris Haak
On the eve of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, there are a few news items that may not necessarily warrant a full article. However, they’re probably still worth mentioning.
FORD’S new Focus Electric, slated to hit the market in late 2011, made its worldwide debut not at the Detroit show, but at Las Vegas’ CES show. In the keynote address in which he revealed the car, Ford CEO Alan Mulally called his company as much of a technology company as a car company, and he may be right. Ford has been on the leading edge of infotainment with its SYNC and MyFord Touch system, and has done a great job of pushing high tech features such as self-parking down from luxury cars into more mainstream offerings.
By Chris Haak
The conventional wisdom is that green cars such as hybrids and EVs have to look like something a little different from the standard three-box sedan if they hope to enjoy sales success. Accordingly, it explains why the Prius outsells the Camry Hybrid.
Well, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV certainly fits the bill of looking different. Technically, I suppose that it’s a one-box car, though in reality, it is far more ovoid and organically shaped to call it a box. It’s smaller than nearly everything on the road today, and will certainly attract attention wherever it goes. Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to drive an i-MiEV (Japan spec, right hand drive) at a media event, and I found the car to be a curious blend of the normal and abnormal as I tallied a few miles in the little EV.
By Roger Boylan
GM’s short-lived electric car of the ‘90s, the EV1, was available in limited quantities as a lease-only proposition, so the 2011 Nissan Leaf is the first all-electric car the general public can buy. Its price is reasonable for such cutting-edge technology: around $25K, once Uncle Sam’s tax credit of $7500 is applied. Is it worth it? It certainly has great promise, and it’s a well-conceived little car. I spent a short while behind the wheel of Leaf a couple of days ago–a very short while, unfortunately, the actual drive time having been eaten into by a high-energy sales presentation from Nissan’s own Seinfeld-wannabe; I didn’t catch his name, and I ducked his pitch. I was there merely as an Autosavant, desirous of completing my trifecta of electric-car tests (read about the Toyota PHV Prius here and the Chevrolet Volt here).
The Leaf is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack of the type familiar to me from the Prius Plug-In and Volt. Lithium-ion batteries offer quicker acceleration and a longer range than your common or garden nickel-metal hydride battery, but unfortunately, they’re still at a fairly rudimentary stage of development, with limited range and—in the Leaf—a dead weight of about 500 lbs. We were shown cutouts and diagrams by the comedian. But I was reassured to note that, notwithstanding the futuristic technology, the Leaf is a fairly normal-looking car, a four-door hatchback with that cloyingly cute Pokémon face so typical of small Japanese cars.
By Chris Haak
This past week, the EPA released the long-awaited official mileage estimates for the two newest kids on the block, the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt. Because both cars are capable of running without burning gasoline (in fact, the Leaf cannot use gasoline at all), many were curious as to how the Monroney stickers would turn out for these two trendsetting automobiles. So now we have the answers, and they are probably more realistic and more relevant when comparing against other cars than some of the initial claims that had been thrown out by both GM and Nissan.