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Make like a tree and Leaf: We drive Nissan's coming electric vehicle

Rafay Ansar

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From behind the wheel, the production version of the Nissan Leaf electric car is smooth, silent, feels nearly friction free and offers all the prodigious torque inherent in an electric car. That's what we found after a short drive around Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Friday.

The body you see in the photo is a Versa. But the platform on which it rode was a "modified B," modified to hold 24 kWh worth of laminate lithium ion batteries and still take a side-impact as per U.S. government crash test standards. The rest of the drivetrain of the car we piloted was all production Leaf.

The Leaf was remarkably quiet--no gear whine, no electric motor whine. No clunks from the suspension and no squeaks from the interior panels. The driving sensation was just one of smooth, silent torque powering the front wheels. Acceleration was electric-quick, with 100 percent of torque available from zero rpm. And the rest of the componentry--steering, regenerative braking, ride--felt even a little more refined than the production Versa. Range for the Leaf will be 100 miles when run on the EPA City cycle.

If all goes according to plan the Leaf will be the most affordable, most practical and most mass-production electric vehicle on the market when it rolls into showrooms in 2012. Both fleet and some private sales will start next year. Nissan has said that pricing will be between $25,000 and $33,000 for the Leaf. To get your name on the list, go to www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car.
the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle.
A picture of the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle.

MARK VAUGHN



The production version of the Nissan Leaf will look like this.

Our drive was the first stop of the 22-city Nissan Leaf Zero-Emission Tour. The tour will go to 22 cities across the country and will make a stop in Vancouver. At the Los Angeles stop CEO Carlos Ghosn spoke.

"This has to happen," said Ghosn, sounding almost like he was running for office instead of running a car company. "When you look at what's happening in the world, when you extrapolate that, it leads to absurd results."

The price of oil is not going to go below $60 or $70 a barrel, Ghosn said. An alternative to gasoline is inevitable.

"This is not about the electric car, this is about saving the planet," Ghosn said.

The next electric vehicles coming for the planet from Nissan: the e-LCV, based on NV200 commercial vehicle; an Infiniti compact, high-performance 4-seater; and an unnamed new concept. No dates were released on those.






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