The new Nissan Leaf electric vehicle was unveiled in Los Angeles this weekend. I took a trip out to Glendale to take a look.
My first impression was it is a lot nicer looking in person than in the photos I have seen online. I didn't like the back and lines of it when I first saw it but in person, it has a good look. The tail is much nicer that I expected. The only exception is the front headlights which bump up in an odd way.
Up front you can also see the plug port which is under the front logo. They were not able to open the car up at all to see so we couldn't see what the charge port looked like. There were some photos that looked mocked up near the charging station.
The interior is quite nice looking and though we couldn't sit inside, it has a very clean futuristic look. The seats are made from a recycled plastic that is crafted to feel like leather according to the rep I spoke with. The rep was in the original EV1 program and was quite eager to discuss the Mini-E as well as the new Nissan. He did not have info on whether the Leaf would use the new charger standard port. I suspect that will depend on the timing anyway. They did have a mockup of a high voltage (440 v) charging station that could charge the car in 30 minutes. I was not clear if this could be installed in homes at that high output. But certainly could be at public charging stations.
He revealed that the official line on the price is that it will be in the $25k -$33K range and that would also depend on if the battery was for sale or leased. Sounded like $25K purchase + a $100-$150/month lease was a likely possibility. That was all before rebates and the rep was not certain on what the like government rebates would be like since it is not clear if the current rebate programs will continue. He also said that the target was to have these vehicles available to the public around this time next year so likely the 2011 model year is my guess.
The car they had was the actual "production mockup" and due to the high cost to build was not being driven by any of them. They had driven in the test mules that were not to the final production body.
It was very eco friendly in addition to the recycled plastic seats, the rear lights were high output LEDs. They had also thought about end of vehicle life with plans for how it could all be recycled including the batteries. They had worked with industry to have the batteries changed over to industrial use after 5 years of vehicle use when they had started to drop in efficiency. They were also manufactured to be fully recycled after they were fully used up.
The batteries themselves were built by Nissan specifically for this application and are much thinner in module design than I have seen before. They are layered between the wheels in the base frame leaving what looked like a lot of room in the vehicle. So I do not doubt the stated 5 passenger. It looked more roomy than the Prius.
They had a bit of stats on signs around the vehicle.
So they are stating range right at the level of the Mini-E. I asked about the regen brake settings and the rep was not sure if it would be fixed like the Mini-E or variable like the Tesla/EV1 since he had only used the mule. But he thought there would be some sort of option for setting the level of regen. They were clearly very interested in the feedback from Mini-E drivers on points like this.
Overall, I came away very impressed and will eagerly follow the next steps. I also really look forward to see who makes the next move in this ongoing race for the future of electric vehicles.