Feb 23, 2011

My Nissan Leaf test drive

Well I finally got a chance to drive the Nissan Electric Vehicle (EV) the Leaf

                                                                                   

Nissan had an impressive demo experience at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

The tour is continuing around the country so if you have interest in this free experience check here
To drive a Leaf go here

The pavilion is composed of a few tents with information on the car and then one is given the chance to drive a few miles in a Leaf for free of course.

THE CAR:
The car is equal to the body of a Nissan Versa so it would be considered a smallish sedan.
The front seat is roomy and would allow a nice long trip but the back seat was a bit small on the leg room for me and I am not real tall.

Of course there is all the latest and greatest sound system experience.

Vision was good out of the front and back

Here's a pic of the Control Panel:


                                                                     
THE BATTERIES:
The battery plant is a very important piece of this auto. There are I believe 48 battery units that lay on the main underbody of the car(we took video of the car with batteries only and we will pass that on in a future post). These are Lithium Ion batteries and have an 8year or 100k mile life according to Nissan.
Nissan wants you to return to the dealer every 12 months for diagnostics on the batteries and drivetrain.

The staff on hand was a bit unclear of what symptoms battery problems would offer
There is free road service for 3 years.

It is a bit humorous that there is also standard lead acid battery that powers the dash and navigation. It looks a bit out of place under the hood with all the other high tech engine

A battery plant is under construction in Tennessee that will allow US production of batteries and hopefully assembly of the car itself in a few years.

The SL model has a small solar panel on the hatchback door to charge the lead acid battery only

The COST to POWER:

The cost to power is VERY important since it will be automatically challenged by the oil industry.

Good news, if your local utility charges around 12cents/kwh for your home power and it takes 8 hrs with a standard home based charge @ 120v your cost to fully charge the car so you can go up to 100 miles is 80cents--Yes that's right 80 cents.

Fast chargers with 220v and 480v are that much faster and cut the charge time down to a few hours.

What's the cost to travel 100 miles in an oil powered car? If our math is correct @ $3/gal and 30miles/gallon it looks like ~ $10 to us

Many local Orlando restaurants have already installed free charging stations so you will be able to go for a beer and burger and charge your car FOR FREE at the same time. This will no doubt be the trend throughout the country as the car catches on.

In total honesty the air conditioning does reduce the range by 15%. The suggestion by Nissan is to precool the car AC while tied into the charge station to protect the battery charge.

There is a remote control capability called "Car Wings" that allows you to start certain functions such as the AC from a remote location.

WHILE DRIVING:
The acceleration was superior. I'm not a speeder but it seemed better than most gas powered cars I have driven. Not sure what the exact specs on acceleration are. Some of the other driving participants were throwing out stats like 0-60 in 15 secs but not sure if that is correct?

There is a setting called the Ecomode that automatically trims some performance abilities of the car to save battery power. So when switching to the Ecomode while driving you feel the acceleration capabilities diminish. But this would be a helpful mode while in bumper to bumper interstate traffic in big cities where no real acceleration is needed.

The dash has a string of small bubbles that indicate power consumption. The higher the consumption the more bubbles are filled

If you do things that promote high miles per charge there is an Ecometer that rewards you for a new term "hypermiling"

There is adequate display showing the range you have for a trip and the nearest charging stations.

Since EV's are so quiet(I noticed this when I drove the Ford Fusion Hybrid which uses electric at slow speeds) there is a sound that rings to alert pedestrians to it's presence. This alarm can be disabled.

Here's a pic of the Dashboard showing the power consumption bubbles:

                                                                   
                                                
COST to PURCHASE:
The base cost is $32780 to start but there is  limited availability til the next wave in 2012. If you have interest go to your Nissan dealer and pay a $99 deposit to get put on the list.
The estimate is for a global sell volume of 50,000 cars in the first year with 20,000 to be sold in the US.


The LEAF ROAD SHOW EXPERIENCE:
The display was fun and informative. One tent has general info including a video on the filming of the "Hug a Polar Bear" commercial that was the first promotion for the car. Another tent has an actual body frame demonstrating how  the battery plant lies on the frame. Another tent describes how the navigation and range calculator work. Range is important when driving an EV since the availability of charging stations is not numerous so one must be a bit more in tune with the engine consumption and performance than with a non EV

STRANGE BUT TRUE:
I feel this is the first time I have ever been around automotive sellers when someone did not try to sell me a car. Since all 20k vehicles produced for America in 2011 are spoken for there was no reason to push immediate sales. Of course they have our email so future overtures are sure to come.

HOW THIS HELPS AMERICA and  THE WORLD:
Well if you're in Japan and import all your oil this car is a necessity and part of survival.
Gas prices in Japan are already surely some of the highest in the world and Japan's search for oil supply was one reason for the start of WW2

If you are in Europe, you too have very high costs of transportation. In some countries such as Switzerland the cost of hydro electric is so affordable that EV's can be a bargain to operate.

If you are in America where previous governments were run by former oil executives(Mr Cheney worked for Haliburton as we remember and the list of Texas politicians at the national level tied to oil concerns is substantial)and where a change is needed for the GOOD of AMERICA perhaps at the expense of the oil industry then this car is an alternative that can show America another way exists.

We will continue to put more in this space as the Leaf is rolled out and we hope becomes JUST ANOTHER CAR in a few years time with a fleet of EV's to join it.

LINKS:

Here's the link to the official Leaf site 

Here's the Leaf Polar Bear commercial 

Here's a link to JD Power with many pics of the Leaf

Conservastore is very excited about the Leaf and the coming explosion of EV's to come 

Conservastore is your source for Earth Friendly garden supplies for 2011

2 comments:

  1. Conservastore says we may have miscalculated the cost per charge but there is some confusion. Some experts claim 2cents per mile and others 4cents per mile for the Leaf. Most gas powered hi mpg cars are around 10cents per mile

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  2. Indeed. The Nissan Lead brings hope that similar cars would populate the roads in the near future. It would be nice if cars powered by alternative fuel become the norm.

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