2011 Nissan Leaf Photo

2011 Nissan Leaf - Review


nissan leaf ev 030

The Nissan Leaf EV has made headlines for some time now and for good reason.  This vehicle will become the first mass produced EV by a major automaker when its officially launched next year.  Just weeks ago the Leaf kicked off its North American tour with a launch on the West coast.  The vehicle will travel throughout the U.S. as a way to garner attention from potential buyers.

Dan Neil of the LA Times had an opportunity to drive the Leaf prototype at Dodger Stadium.  His review of the vehicle speaks well of the progress EVs have made and the level of refinement that Nissan has achieved with the Leaf.  As Neil states, "This level of refinement, which is such a struggle to achieve in conventional cars, is a birthright of electric cars. In the Leaf -- an all-electric, five-passenger car that will start hitting American streets in late 2010 -- you step on the accelerator and the car spools out velocity in one continuous, syrupy stream. It's nothing short of elegant."

Though his drive of the Leaf was but a short stint in a controlled environment, the words of praise from Neil are endless.  At one point Neil compares the Leaf to a BMW, the pinnacle of sporty, refined automobiles as Neil said, "In the case of a BMW twin-turbo 3.0-liter engine, for example, maximum torque comes at 1,400 rpm and doesn't start to go away until 5,000 rpm.  The BMW engine is, in other words, more like an electric motor. In fact, an EV's motor produces maximum torque at 0 rpm and maintains consistent torque across most of its operating speed range. That's what makes EVs such little hot rods -- loads of off-the-line quickness and mid-range punch."

Neil drove the Leaf prototype, which is the Leaf powertrain wrapped in the bodywork of a Nissan Versa.  Therefore, he had no opportunity to review the completed car and instead focused on driving dynamics.  Immediately apparent was the instant off the line acceleration.  The vehicle went from 0 -40 mph in an estimated 5 seconds and its instant torque made the vehicle feel similar to a sporty car.  As Neil said, "During my all-too-brief drive, the Leaf prototype, with three people on board, shot across the stadium parking lot like it had been pinged with a BB gun."

The Leaf's official debut is about one year away with a global launch about 2 years away.  Many still question whether or not consumers will be able to adapt to the range limitations of EVs and whether or not they will be able to overcome range anxiety.  If these issues can be put to rest, EVs are exceptional vehicles that drive like a modernized conventional car.  They accelerate with smooth, instant power and offer up gobs of torque instantly.  Their simple drivetrains make them easy to repair and relatively less complex to create than any hybrid model.

Small issues aside, EVs  are ready for primetime.  As Neil said after driving the Leaf, "The Leaf is definitely Car 2.0. Sweet, glycerin smooth, techy, frisky and even a little bit beautiful. It just feels like tomorrow. Perhaps the question is not "Will people buy them?" but "Can we build enough?"

Source:  LA Times

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