Digital Drive Top 10: Nissan Leaf

Just Posted from Gearlog: $3-$4 Fill-up

The Nissan Leaf is the first practical – in its own way – electric car ever. It has a spacious back seat, unlike the Chevrolet Volt. It runs at highway speeds and has real crash protection, unlike the golf cart-turned-electric-car vehicles. It costs $25,000 (after a $7,500 taxpayer-funded rebate), far less than a Tesla. The Achilles Heel is its range, about 100 miles, which means it handles virtually every daily commute, but not over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house. But that’s okay for early adopters and multi-car households.

The EPA rates the Nissan Leaf at 106 mpg-equivalent city, 92 mpg highway driving, meaning the cost of electricity to charge the Leaf ($3-$4 a fill-up) is equal to a gasoline-engine car that gets around 100 mpg. The mpg magic works because generating electricity remotely, transmitting it to your house, charging the lithium-ion battery pack, then powering the electric traction motor, is far more efficient than burning gasoline in a combustion engine under the hood. With a $2,500 240-volt home charge (which has its own hefty rebate), a refill takes 2-4 hours. A commercial 440-volt charger can do it in half an hour.

The Leaf is a low-volume mass-production car that is an important waypoint in the evolution of alternative fuel vehicles. Except for that range limitation, it feels like most any other compact car in terms of daily driving, hauling groceries, or car pooling. This much car for such a low price (given what lithium ion batteries cost) is a staggering achievement. Understanding that it’s early in the life of vehicles that run primarily on electricity, wouldn’t it be great to have a plug-in hybrid drivetrain as on the Volt coupled to a practical passenger car configuration as on the Nissan Leaf?



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