Is this the future of motoring? The Nissan Leaf is a brand new all-electric vehicle that the Japanese carmaker says will go on sale to the general public in 2010.
The Nissan Leaf is a totally bespoke electric vehicle – or EV – development, with a purpose-built platform designed around a lithium-ion battery power supply and electric motor drive. This is in contrast to current rival mainstream EV projects, such as the Mini E, which are converted version of existing production cars.
The purpose-built nature of the Leaf is intended to give the end-user the most practical possible EV experience, with the distinct looks an indicator of both the vehicle’s and – crucially – the vehicle owner’s forward-thinking nature.
100-mile real world range
But back to practicalities. The Nissan Leaf’s lithium-ion batteries are expected to be good enough for a ‘real world’ range of around 100 miles.
Does that sound like enough to you? Nissan claims its ‘extensive consumer research demonstrates that this range satisfies the daily driving requirements of more than 70% of the world’s consumers who drive cars.’
Making sure buyers don’t get caught short, as it were, the Leaf features an integrated computer, which Nissan has dubbed ‘Connected Mobility Advanced intelligent transportation system’. This includes information about the level of charge, but also satellite navigation that displays ‘reachable areas’.
Further along the line this will incorporate information about local charging stations, which will be supported by government initiatives intended to promote EV usage.
The zero emissions era
The batteries power an electric motor producing 80kW of power – equivalent to a reasonable 107bhp. More importantly it also provides 206lb ft of torque (pulling power), and since an electric motor generates this instantly, the Leaf should prove very responsive.
However, the most significant aspect of an all-electric drivetrain like this is that it produces zero emissions while on the move. Leading Nissan to suggest the Leaf will usher in’ a new era of mobility – the zero-emission era.’
That’s not strictly true at this stage, since the Leaf still needs to draw electricity from the main power grid whenever it is being recharged – and our power grid infrastructures are far from being zero emissions themselves. But if Nissan really can deliver an electric vehicle that is genuinely safe and genuinely useable everyday it will be a considerable achievement.
Recharge in just 30 minutes
In order to achieve proper usability, the Leaf will need to be easy to charge. Nissan reckons 80% battery capacity is possible in just 30 minutes using a quick charger. A normal 200v home outlet will, however, take eight hours to bring the battery up to full capacity. Nissan suggests this can easily be done overnight.
Charging times – and items such as the air conditioning – can be activated and controlled via mobile phone. Very James Bond. Brake energy regeneration helps extend the Leaf’s range once it is actually moving.
This is in addition to less obvious energy saving features, such as the LED headlamps – only ever seen on the Audi R8 V10 supercar so far, and apparently 50% more efficient than regular bulbs. The aerodynamic nature of the headlamp design also helps to reduce wind noise by directing airflow away from the door mirrors.
‘Blue Citizenship’ – cheaper than you think?
The headlamps’ blue tint, as well as the ‘Aqua Globe’ exterior colour and blue interior highlights are again deliberately intended to underline the Leaf’s futuristic status. Its buyers will form what Nissan has termed a ‘Blue Citizenship’ of eco-concerned car users…
But what price a green – or Blue – conscience? Not as much as you might think.
Nissan says the Leaf will go on sale in Japan, the USA and Europe in late 2010, and is currently projected to cost ‘in the range of a well-equipped C-segment vehicle’.
The C-segment is typified by the , but it may be more realistic to think in pricing terms similar to that of a highly-specced Mercedes B-Class.
Nissan is not yet saying whether this cost concept includes any government subsidization that is expected to be in place for electric vehicles by the time the Leaf goes on sale.
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