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2011 Nissan Leaf Zero Emission Electric Vehicle

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By Bruce and Brad Hubbard
Auto Advisor Group

Nissan unveiled the all electric Zero emission LEAF August 2, 2009, a lot different than the first electric vehicle they introduced in 1947.

This ZERO emission all electric LEAF vehicle is well equipped. The 5 door hatchback has enough room for five passengers. Thanks to the flat lithium batteries and many of the items needed in a gasoline powered vehicle let the designers deliver a lot of interior space.

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The Zero emission 100% electric LEAF can travel up to 100 miles at temperature of 68 to 78 degrees on flat land. Speed is the number one killer of the battery charge. Another is added weight. Normal city driving and some freeway driving will deliver up to 100 miles per charge using the standard charging or Level 2 charging station.

Nissan’s LEAF is sold out and first ones will be delivered in December to just five States in North America. The Zero Emission vehicle runs well . According to Nissan the LEAF cost as low as .026 cents (average $0.11 kWh) per mile compared to gasoline (at $3 a gallon) at $0.12 per mile.

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In December the Nissan LEAF will first become available to reservation holders in the five early rollout markets of California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Tennessee. The car will next become available in Texas and Hawaii by January 2011. In the Spring Nissan will add the markets of North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Washington D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. Nissan expects that the LEAF will be available for purchase throughout North American dealers in late fall of 2011. One reason I expect is the new battery facility in Tennessee will be able to produce the batteries needed for LEAF’S production. Carlos stated that if production meets expectation they will sell the expected balance of 20,000 batteries to other Electric car manufacturers. Worldwide Japanese electronics maker NEC stated that Nissan and Renault expect to be producing 500,000 batteries for electric vehicles a year. Nissan has had eighteen years of experience with lithium-ion batteries.

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The flat batteries allow for excellent handling of the LEAF since they are low to the ground. The compact lithium-ion batteries deliver 90kW, and the electric motor produces 80kW (107 horsepower). As stated above normal driving will allow for the 100 mile range on flat ground. The slower you go the longer you can drive. The all electric Zero emission “electric motor” delivers unlike gasoline powered vehicles 100% of torque throughout the zero to 90 mph range .

The Nissan LEAF has a 24kW battery pack that can be charged from your home or condo if you purchase the Level 2 Home Charging equipment from Aero Vironment as a package when you buy your LEAF. The price has been quoted at $2200.00. Your home or condo or office must be capable of supporting the power equipment. Capable of supplying a charge at 220-240V when charging on the Level 2 station. It is estimated that eight hours it will take to bring the full charge.

The LEAF's battery can also be charged at locations that install industrial level DC Fast Chargers—which can add about 80 miles of range to an electric car in under 30 minutes (80% of a LEAF's battery capacity). These DC Fast Chargers are now being installed at a locations in all of the initial LEAF launch markets. With the expensive to install DC Fast chargers you will only be able to charge 80% of the battery. If you wish to take advantage of the DC Fast Charge stations you will have to add the accessory at a price of $700. So if you order the complete package that means nearly $3000.00 for the ability to charge.

If you wish to only use the standard three prong charging system you will have to understand it takes almost 18 hours to charge. So that would be for those persons who were using the LEAF for just neighborhood driving.

Every time you coast or apply the brakes in the Nissan LEAF, the electric motor acts as an electric generator. The generator converts energy to recharge the LEAF.

With proper care and maintenance, your battery will last for many years. However, over time the lithium ion batteries will undergo some reduction in capacity. This will affect range. Consider though that 70% of people drive less than 40 miles per day. So even as your battery ages and range is affected, most people will not be impacted.

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The Nissan LEAF is not short of features. Many of the same features found on a gasoline-powered vehicle including traction control, stability control system plus electronic brake distribution. The brakes are a plus for when breaking the system regenerates power to the batteries.

“The Nissan Leaf is a perfect flag for innovation as a whole, and then it opens the road for the full communication about the brand,” Carlos Tavares, executive vice president of the Americas for Nissan and a member of Nissan’s board of directors stated.

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Nissan LEAF has an advanced IT system. Connecting to a global data center, the system can provide support, information, and entertainment for drivers 24 hours a day. The dash-mounted monitor displays the Nissan Leaf’s remaining power—or "reachable area"—in addition to showing any nearby charging stations. Another state-of-the-art feature is the ability to use mobile phones to turn on air-conditioning and set charging functions—even when Nissan LEAF is powered down. With the phone you can even turn on AC or heat before you enter the garage or charging station. This can be set on your I phone. This way you can save the battery for driving and not warming the car up. In addition an on-board remote-controlled timer can also be pre-programmed to recharge batteries.

The Nissan LEAF will be available in two models. The standard SV model and the upscale SL. The higher end model is called the LEAF SL and has fog lights, rear view monitor, solar panel and rear spoiler, plus automatic on and off headlights.

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The LEAF looks like many other small eco vehicles. Its exterior design was purposely developed to give it the best coefficient of drag. It’s front-end stands out because of the low swooping hood and the unique headlamps. The design is unique in that it moves wind away from the rearview mirrors allowing for low drag and quietness. The headlights work by reflecting light-emitting diodes off of shiny, blue-hued reflectors. Even with the headlight high beams on and the air conditioner running full blast, all the electronics in the LEAF will only consume 10 percent more power than if you were driving with them off.

The interior is simple and functional. The dashboard glows with blue light. Fit and finish is excellent even on the pre-production test models. I like the way the dash and center console look. The HVAC is automatic. The audio system includes an excellent AM/FM/CD/MP3 system with MP3/WMA playback capability. The XM satellite radio and USB connection for IPod is also part of the system. Redundant controls for the sound system are located on the steering wheel. Also mounted on the tilt steering wheel are controls for the cruise control.

The first models are not offering a luxurious leather interior but all surfaces are aesthetically perfect. The driver and front passenger seats are cloth. The front seats are manually adjustable. The rear seats offer excellent headroom thanks to the sweeping roof. In fact 6 foot 3 inch passengers will love the room in the rear seating area.

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If cargo is important the rear seats fold 60/40 delivering plenty of cargo space. Since no exhaust pipes are need that allowed Nissan to give the vehicle a lot of trunk space and interior room. The cargo space is great and allows you to move more than many similar size gasoline vehicles. But, as stated above I would hold back from overloading the zero emission battery powered LEAF for weight cuts down on the distance you can drive.

Nissan is not just looking at Zero emission electric vehicles to sell worldwide. They already have diesel vehicles in other parts of the world and Carlos announced they plan on bringing diesel vehicles to the North American market. The German’s have had great success with the newest diesels for years. Nissan will continue to produce high performance and efficient direct injection gasoline vehicles.

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Nissan launched an ad campaign in August as “Innovation for all.” the issue we had to solve … was to clarify what we stand for,” Tavares said. 

After evaluating its cars and trucks, Nissan realized all of its products were, in one way or another, innovative, Tavares said. Nissan’s most innovative car of all, the Leaf, starts at $32,280 before a $7,500 tax credit.

Nissan expects that electric vehicles will account for 10% of global sales and 6.5% of U.S. sales by 2020. 

The 2011 Chevrolet Volt, which will reach consumers this month, also will depend on tax credits, at least for initial consumer acceptance. It has a starting price of about $41,000 before the $7,500 tax credit.

 The Volt goes about 40 miles on battery power before it switches over to a gas generator that can power the car for up to an additional 260 miles. California has denied them a tax credit for they feel it is not a true electric vehicle.

Right now Mitsubishi, Smart Car, Mini E have vehicles they are testing to bring to market that will be all electric. MINI E I drove was smaller than the regular mini for the batteries took up the entire back seat. Mini’s field trials and the 450 vehicles is helping them develop a vehicle that will be sold or leased. Nissan is the first to actually offer a compact vehicle that has been sold and will be serviced by it’s dealerships.

Down the road Nissan may even have rental stations in certain markets that will allow persons to rent for the day. Nissan’s future in the Zero emissions electric vehicles has only begun.

Nissan New Mobility Concept vehicle is a small transporter that can travel 62 miles with top speed of 47 mph. The vehicle is being seen presently around amusement parks in Yokohama City’s green mobility project. The vehicle was designed in conjunction with Renault..