So, Can You Drive the 2011 Nissan Leaf Cross-Country?

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If you're studying the notion of going on the grid for your automotive "fuel," you're probably curious just how you'll integrate an electric car like the 2011 Nissan Leaf into your life. You think you'll be able to handle the estimated 100-mile range just fine--but what about longer trips?

While General Motors is making much about its 2011 Chevrolet Volt's range extender--which it believes means never having to say "I'm sorry I can't make it"--Nissan's taking exactly the opposite tack, explaining to customers they'll need to match the Leaf to their daily driving needs. And when it comes to big trips like a cross-country drive, you'll be better off keeping a second car around, says Mark Perry, director of product planning for Nissan.

"You're not going to drive the Leaf cross-country," he told AllCarsElectric during the recent Plug-In 2010 conference in San Jose, Calif.

By Perry's reckoning, few Leaf buyers will be inconvenienced by the EV's everyday driving range.

"Every morning you wake up with 100 [miles of range]," he says.

"We are fortunate as a society to have multiple cars in a household, or at least to have access," he says. With the substantial incentives available on the Leaf of up to $12,500 off its $32,780 base price, "you could buy a used car" with the savings, he suggests.

And while the Leaf will travel about 100 miles on its daily charge versus about 300 miles minimum for the average passenger car, Perry says plug-ins for recharges are coming fast, and quick. By the end of 2011, he says Nissan will have identified 10,000 charging points capable of 240-volt connections, which will recharge the Leaf to full battery capacity in about eight hours.

Those charging points will be concentrated in the areas where the Leaf will be sold first--along the I-5 corridor, in Arizona, and eastern Tennessee. And primarily through funding and grants from the Department of Energy, those charging points will be supplemented by 250 points where quick-charge, 440-volt connections will amp up the Leaf to 80 percent of full charge in about 30 minutes.

"Guess what the average stay at a fast-food joint is?" he asks. "About 20 minutes."

It's a huge educational task for Nissan, he agrees, but drivers compelled by the Leaf's all-electric proposition are ready.

"People are going to do their homework," Perry says--and for those who haven't but remain interested, he suggests they "track [their] driving habits for a week.

"I think most people are going to be surprised," he says.

 
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