Today I had the opportunity to test drive a Nissan Leaf, the pure electric vehicle that Nissan plans to put on the market sometime in 2010. I feel special, because this was an invitation-only event. They're currently having a tour around the country (see their site listed at the bottom) but those stops are only showing, not driving. This one was a special event. (excuse me while I gloat a bit...)
Well, in truth it wasn't exactly a Leaf, it was a different car that was similar to the Leaf, but had the entire engine/drive train swapped out for the Leaf motor and drive train, so it's pretty much as close as you can get at this point.
They also had a fully-functional "real" Leaf available, but not to drive. We could look, touch, and make "ooooooo" noises, but that was it.
But the test car was very fun to drive. Like a larger version of the old Civic Hatchback. Perfectly silent, but plenty of get-up-and-go. They claim that power feels similar to a V6, and I would say it's close to that. The closed course was small, but it did seem nimble and responsive.
I had the opportunity to chat with some very knowledgeable Nissan representatives (seriously, I'm not saying that as an oxy-moron this time) and while I got a lot of questions answered, it ended up making me come up with more.
But here are some interesting facts:
Range: 100 realistic driving miles per charge
Top Speed: in the 90's
Performance: Like a V6
Seating: 5 (back seat was surprisingly spacious)
Charging: 110, 220, or special quick charger professionally installed in garage
Pricing: Unknown, but they're targeting the $25k-$28k range based on our conversations
Battery: Most likely will be leased, dropping the up-front costs of the vehicle and protecting owner against future upgrades
Distribution: "A few thousand" in 2010 for sure, ramping up to about 20,000 in 2011
Based on the research I have done and closely looking at EV developments that have been happening, I think that the Nissan Leaf is the best candidate to be the first affordable production electric car. Nissan has been the most realistic about their vehicle, timeline, and specs than any other company out there, and I actually think they're going to pull it off.
I still have serious concerns about how the incompetent dealerships are going to handle servicing/repairing this new technology, and I made a BIG point of mentioning that to 3 separate people at the event, but they seem to be responsive to it, saying that they already have a training program they're developing, and a dealership MUST send someone in for specific training to be their EV specialist in order to sell or service the Leaf.
As much as I've said that I will never buy another Nissan because of their customer service, I gotta say that I'm really tempted to jump on this when it's available (waiting list to start around April 2010) to replace my wife's car (or maybe it will be mine and she'll take ownership of the Murano).
Anyway, here's the web site. Feel free to ask me any questions if you have them. Can't say I'm THAT knowledgeable about it, but now I have contacts that I can potentially ask and should be receiving information as quickly as they allow it to be released.