Who Buys a 2011 Nissan Leaf? Toyota Prius Owners, Of Course

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2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

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So who are these strange people who might want something as unusual, as perplexing, as downright radical as an electric car? More specifically, an all-electric 2011 Nissan Leaf compact hatchback?

Turns out they're the same people who wanted the last most radical type of family car: a hybrid-electric vehicle.

Yep, they're the exact same people who have now bought more than 1 million Toyota Prius hybrids.

2010 Toyota Prius

2010 Toyota Prius

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Division vice president Al Castignetti described the results of Nissan's consumer research last week at a ceremony marking the start of work on a lithium-ion cell plant and Leaf assembly line in Smyrna, Tennessee, partly funded by U.S. Department of Energy low-interest loans.

More than half of the 130,000 people who expressed some interest in the Leaf--known as "hand-raisers"--were Toyota Prius hybrid owners, Castignetti said.  They are, he said, "a segment of eco-friendly consumers who are interested in going to the next level."

The 2011 Leaf is a dedicated design, which shares no body panels with any gasoline model. That undoubtedly works in its favor, since consumer research has shown that people who drive green cars--at least the Toyota Prius--want to make a statement about themselves.

Many of those Prius owners could afford pricier or more prestigious vehicles, it turns out. But they chose their Prius over a luxury car precisely to show the world that green issues are important to them.

The 2011 Nissan Leaf, by the way, is already sold out for the entire first year of production. That rousing response, said Castignetti, has made Nissan dealers more enthusiastic about their prospects for selling electric cars despite the cost of chargers they must install.

The first Leaf models will be built in Japan and delivered to dealers before the end of the year. GM's 2011 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle will reach dealers in November as well.


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Comments (3)
  1. This is good news for the environment... lots of second-hand (pre-loved) Prius on the market for not-so-early green adopters - win/win.

  2. @ Mot G
    Not win/win.
    Where does electricity come from? Oh yes. Hydro dams, nuclear & coal fired power plants, plus the growing number of intrusive wind farms.
    And then there's the batteries. Made with what chemicals and processes? Recycled how?
    How about the life cycle of the vehicle? Are they as durable as internal combustion powered vehicles (diesels in particular)?
    Let's not kid our-selves, EVs are not environmentally friendly.

  3. @Tincap: The widely accepted EPRI-NRDC study shows that the overall carbon impact of a mile driven on grid power is lower than any 25-mpg car no matter how the power is generated.
    For the 50-mpg Toyota Prius, it's only for the very dirtiest grids (e.g. North Dakota) where burning gasoline has a slightly lower carbon profile than driving the same mile on grid power.
    For the average North American grid, the car has to get upwards of 70 mpg before the gasoline is as low-carbon as driving on grid power. So while there is no free lunch--most electricity emits carbon--electric cars ARE, on the whole, cleaner.
    As for "intrusive wind farms," I'm curious: Do you live on Cape Cod, perchance?

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