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Nissan Plans Leaf with Complete Charging Infrastructure

This report begins with the sound of an electric bus traveling through downtown Seattle. It's a reminder that electric transportation isn't new -- a timely reminder, because Denis Du Bois is on his way to test drive a prototype of the Nissan all-electric car, the Leaf. (podcast)

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Program Notes

At the test location, Nissan technician Dean Romaine orients me to the prototype car's dashboard and controls.
Nissan Leaf Zero Emissions Tour photo on EnergyPriorities.com

The all-electric Nissan Leaf car prototype visited Seattle's Qwest Field this week.

Nissan Leaf prototype electric car photo on EnergyPriorities.com

Kate Quigley, of the Nissan Leaf Road Crew, gives an on-camera interview at a media drive day.

Nissan Leaf photo on EnergyPriorities.com

The Leaf has no internal combustion engine, which makes it a zero-emissions car. (The electricity that charges it, however, is not necessarily emissions-free.) Nissan expects the Leaf to be the first affordable, all-electric car.

This prototype is the Leaf powertrain, batteries and regenerative braking system under the body of a Nissan Tida.

Initially it's a lot like driving a Toyota Prius hybrid... until the straightaway, where Dean persuades me to floor it.

The acceleration is quick -- and almost completely silent. The Leaf has 107 horsepower and tops out at 90 miles an hour -- although I don't come close to that.

You can't buy this, or any production all-electric car, in the US today. Nissan will begin taking reservations for the Leaf in the spring of 2010.

It has all the creature comforts -- air conditioning, cruise control, stereo, and a navigation system that shows the locations of the nearest public charging stations.

In some cities, Leaf drivers won't have to wait for the charging infrastructure to catch up. Mark Perry, Nissan North America's Director of Product Planning, says Seattle is part of a DOE project to place 2,500 charging stations to the Puget Sound region this summer. Perry says there will be a public charging station within five miles of any spot in the Puget sound area.

But Nissan expects most owners to charge at home, overnight. The charger is built into the car, with a timer so you can control when it charges itself.

The ideal car battery would have a long range, and minimal residual waste at the end of its useful life. Nissan is taking advantage of battery technology developed for consumer electronics.

The Leaf's battery is a LiMn chemistry. Nissan expects it to have a ten year life. As Nissan improves its battery technology, car owners will be able to upgrade. At end of life, Perry says Nissan has planned to recycle the battery.

The Leaf itself contains quite a bit of recycled materials. The one thing it doesn't have is a tailpipe. It is completely emissions-free -- no carbon. And, in places like Seattle, where the energy utility gets its power from renewable energy, is carbon neutral, even the charging source is carbon neutral.

Comments

It's great that Seattle has low CO2 emissions electricity. Most people don't realize that electricity production is so much more efficient than a gasoline fueled car that when you compare CO2 emissions from a pluggable electric car (Chevy Volt) charged with pure coal-fired electricity to gasoline, the pure coal is the CO2 equivalent of a 38 mpg car. As the electricity mix is more realistic, that number only improves (US average is equivalent to a 60 mpg gasoline car). As battery technology improves, it will further improve. Has Nissan suggested a "miles per kWh" average for the Leaf?

Sounds interesting, but I am curious about what kind of a heater it will employ. Battery powered ? If so, how will its use impact driving range ?

Maybe it will be a good competitior to Toyota Prius!

DOE has closed a $1.4 billion loan agreement with Nissan North America, Inc. that means the automaker will be creating up to 1,300 jobs in Tennessee to make the all-electric Leaf and lithium-ion battery packs to power them.