The 2011 Nissan Leaf is the first battery electric car from a major carmaker built in high volumes for almost a century. Its distinctive five-door design makes it as recognizable and iconic on the road as the Toyota Prius hybrid, yet distinctively a Nissan. As the sole all-electric car sold in volume this year, it’s hands-down the greenest car on the U.S. market.
The Leaf does everything that a regular compact hatchback does, while using no gasoline at all. Everything, that is, except travel hundreds of miles at a time; the practical range of the Leaf is 70 to 100 miles.
The distance you get will vary with temperature, road speed, and how much you use the air conditioning or the heater. Range drops significantly if you travel at freeway speeds, blast the air conditioning, or (especially) use the resistance heater. To preserve battery life, top speed is capped at 90 mph.
The Leaf’s 24-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack is built into the floorpan. It powers a 80-kilowatt...
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