2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

When the 2011 Nissan Leaf goes on sale later this year, each copy of the first mass-market electric car on earth will come with a navigation system. Nifty spiff--and an integral part of the Leaf experience.

High Gear Media took a quick drive in a 2011 Leaf prototype today in San Jose, while Nissan prepares for some big announcements tomorrow on Leaf sales and deliveries to customers. Leaf product manager Paul Hawson took a few minutes to explain the Leaf's essentials, including its lithium-ion battery pack and its five-seat body.

We've been curious about the Leaf's navigation system, because it's the critical link between drivers and the EV charging infrastructure. The Leaf not only plugs into a variety of charging points--it also plugs into an information infrastructure that helps drivers find charging stations, and helps them keep track of how many miles of electric power remain in the Leaf's battery back.

Drivers can program the system to trigger the Leaf's recharging to begin when power prices are less expensive, or set a timer to pre-cool or pre-heat the Leaf, using energy from the outlet, not from the car's batteries. Via the navigation system, the Leaf also displays lists of EV charging stations, updating them on a regular basis or at the driver's request.

For hardcore EV geeks, the Leaf's navigation system also shows off energy use and how it's affected by engaging subsystems like the climate control. You can watch your mileage range go down with air conditioning activated, for example, or watch it rise when it's turned off.

We'll be back later with a first drive of the 2011 Leaf, and an interview with Nissan's Mark Perry on the roll-out plans for the new EV. Nissan's hinting at a major announcement on the Leaf for Tuesday, possibly expanding the list of states where the electric car will go on sale.

More on that tomorrow--for now, here's quick video with Nissan's Hawson, as he walks us through the Leaf's proprietary navigation, information and education system: