Nissan Leaf Comes to Seattle
By Greg Valazza, posted December 12, 2009
One of two Nissan Leaf prototypes is making a tour of the United States this season to drum up excitement about Nissan's new 100% electric car. A small canopy was setup near the Winterfest ice rink where people could walk around most of the car and look, but not touch. As one of two Leafs in existence at the moment, Nissan wants to make sure this thing stays shiny and brand new. The car on display was a left hand drive model which recently made its way to the States. Until now, most of the press photos and outings of the Leaf have been of its right hand drive twin.
Nissan Leaf tent in background, Seattle Center
The car is based on the Versa platform and kind of looks like a cross between a Versa and a spaceship. It seems to follow the trend of the Toyota Prius and its Honda copy, the Insight, in looking a little unique to stand apart from their gas based relatives. Clearly, those buying the Prius and other hybrids don't mind letting the world know about their selfless, love of the environment. Luckily, however, the Leaf doesn't go as far as the Toyota or Honda. The Leaf looks very well proportioned in person which is hard to tell from the press photos that have been released. It has some high tech touches like the dramatic linear taillights, but overall the Leaf looks like a solid 5 door car, not the stereotypical strange, light weight, unsafe, hobby car that EV usually conjurs up in people's minds.
Unlike a hybrid, the Leaf is 100% electric which is a quantum step in the automotive world for a major automotive manufacturer. In my progressive neighborhood near Seattle's core, block after block is filled with Priuses and hybrid Toyota Highlanders and Civics, but I've never understood their appeal as gasoline powered cars from 20 years ago got as good or better gas mileage: the 1988-1991 Honda CRX HF (49 MPG city/52 MPG) highway and the Honda Civic VX hatchback that came later (44 MPG city/51 MPG).
What's exciting about the Leaf is that there is no gas engine whatsoever to power the car or the batteries. It is 100% electric: you plug it in at night and it charges while you sleep. The range is a quite reasonable 100 miles per charge which is well suited for most people's commutes.
Nissan Leaf front view with charging port open
3/4 view with charging port open
Close up of 240 and 120 volt charging ports
The staff answering questions about the car opened the doors for people to look inside, but without being able to actually sit inside its hard to say how the interior feels and what the visibility is like. It looks fairly traditional with an obvious command console for GPS and other charging information. This looked like final production material, not the fake concept cars I've seen put out by GM year after year at the Seattle auto show.
Interior seems roomy and car-like with central command console
Command console for navigation and location of nearby charging stations
Absense of gas tank allows for deep cargo area
While there are only 2 Leafs at the moment, Nissan is still hoping to make the Leaf available to a select number of markets in December of 2010. Since the car is based on the Versa platform, this doesn't seem like a stretch, but getting the batteries, home charging stations, and public charging infrastructure up and running is no small task. The first 900 Seattle area drivers will apparently qualify for free charging stations installed at their homes in exchange for having their driving activities and charging habits recorded and studied. Researchers hope to use that information to help build a public charging network that will one day allow for longer road trips and not just in town driving.
To be announced this spring. Project to be around $28,000 to $35,000 before a federal tax credit of $7,500.
More to Come
The sign up list purchasing the car is supposed to get started this Spring. It is unknown what type of deposit will be required. The Leaf would compliment the other cars in the family and would make a nice companion to the Datsun Roadster so you might see some more about the Leaf on this site.