AUTO REVIEW: Sneak peek at 2011 Nissan Leaf
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The 2011 Nissan Leaf is quietly coming to market by the end of this year -- "quiet" in terms of how little noise Nissan has made about the vehicle and because this is an electric car, and the only sound as it approaches comes fro...
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The 2011 Nissan Leaf is quietly coming to market by the end of this year -- "quiet" in terms of how little noise Nissan has made about the vehicle and because this is an electric car, and the only sound as it approaches comes from the tires.
Nissan is taking the Leaf on a 24-city tour -- Orlando was the 21st stop -- to inform local governments that the electric era is almost here, and that it might be time to think about installing electric charging stations at some central parking lots. The Leaf will arrive by the end of the year, and should be in every Nissan showroom by March or April 2011.
Not counting the $101,500 two-seat Tesla sports car, the Leaf will be the first modern electric car available at mainstream prices.
How much? Between $30,000 and $35,000, which seems like a lot for a car not much larger than the Nissan Versa hatchback, which starts at $13,870. But, Nissan says, factor in tax incentives of at least $7,500, and that you'll never need to use a drop of gas, and it should help make ownership costs average 3 cents per mile, instead of 11 cents for a conventional car.
Unlike existing hybrids such as the Toyota Prius, the Leaf is all-electric. The range should be about 100 miles per charge. With regular charging from a 110-volt outlet, a complete charge should take about 16 hours, and cost less than $3. With a 220-volt charger, recharging takes less than eight hours. And there is a 440-volt charger available to businesses and perhaps government agencies that will recharge the Leaf in about a half-hour.
Nissan displayed a Leaf, which executives said was "about 99 percent accurate," in terms of what the production model will look like. It's bigger and better-looking than the Versa, and will be able to carry five people. Luggage room in the rear is more generous than you'd think.
The company also had a cobbled-together car (mostly a lengthened Versa) with the Leaf's electric powertrain installed for brief test drives. Nissan says the Leaf's initial acceleration is like that of a V-6, and that's true -- there's power to chirp the tires at takeoff.
It drives like a regular car, except for no noise, and no shifting transmission. Top speed is supposed to be more than 90 mph. Driving at higher speeds, with heavier loads, will reduce the range, as will the use of the heater or air conditioner. But you will be able to pre-heat or pre-cool the Leaf while it is still plugged into the power grid, using your cell phone to call your car and tell it to warm up or cool down.
Nissan isn't taking formal orders for the Leaf, but you can register as a "hand raiser," with the option to turn that interest into an order once the price is set.
To learn more, log onto NissanUSA.com, and click on the "Leaf" icon.
2011 NISSAN LEAF
Price: $32,500 (estimated)
EPA rating: 357 mpg, based on EPA's formula for all-electric cars
Details: Front-motor, front-wheel-drive, four-door hatchback with battery packs under the rear seats that power an electric motor. Power ratings have not been announced.