Saturday, July 17, 2010

Nissan Leaf

Nissan brought out a preproduction prototype of its coming Leaf electric vehicle and we got to drive it a few miles.

How was it? It was like a real car, only a lot heavier and much quieter.

It was also, surprisingly--how shall we say--substantial. We were expecting some kind of science project with loose, flappy interior panels and rattling, buzzing and whirring noises from all over. But there was none of that. The car had a fully finished interior with all of the sound insulation, padding and trim of a real car. Leaf buyers won't have to make any compromises in comfort. Five tall adults can fit easily with plenty of knee room and headroom, and there's even some space behind the rear seat for luggage.

If it weren't for its near-utter quiet, you might think it was just a regular car. Passersby seemed to think so. No one in Santa Monica, Calif., where we drove the Leaf, really freaked out about it. Perhaps because there's usually so much more to freak out about in Santa Monica. From the outside, it looks like a regular five-door hatchback, if in a somewhat bumpily bland body.

The Leaf has an 80-kilowatt (107-hp) electric motor that gets power from a 24-kilowatt-hour battery pack. That's a fairly good-size battery pack, weighing in at 600 pounds. It's less than a Tesla and more than a Mitsubishi i-MiEV. The fact that the battery pack is mounted amidships in a compartment so strong that it's a stressed member of the chassis--adding 40 percent more torsional rigidity, Nissan says--is reassuring. But as is the case with battery-powered cars, the 3,600-pound curb weight is more than you will find in a similarly sized gasoline-powered car. This won't be news to seasoned EV zealots, but we're guessing many of the new Leaf buyers will be surprised. The somewhat similarly sized, gasoline-powered Versa weighs 1,000 pounds less, for instance.

1 comment:

Mike said...

I think Nissan Leaf is going to be the best Electronic car in the world. It has become talk of the town now-a-days. Cant wait to buy now

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