2011 LEAF New Car Test Drive
The Nissan Leaf is the first mass-production all-electric vehicle to go on sale in the U.S. As such, it has no direct competitors at the moment, although the Mitsubishi iMiev, Ford Focus electric, Mini E, and Prius plug-in hybrid are all on their way to market in the near future.
Leaf is a four-door compact car that seats five.
The promise of the Leaf is an operating range of 100 miles, a top speed of 90 mph, and a 0-60 acceleration time of about 7 seconds flat. With ordinary house current, the Leaf will charge up overnight. With a 240-volt home, business or rental charging unit, it will charge in four hours.
The name Leaf comes from the original concept vehicle and is an acronym for Low Emission Automobile of the Future, which suggests its mission. The Leaf is a zero-emissions vehicle, with no engine, no tailpipe and no harmful emissions at all. Nissan says the Leaf uses recycled water bottles for its seat coverings, and a range of other wood and plastic recycled and recyclable materials in its interior and exterior design, making it the greenest production car ever built, about 94 percent recyclable.
With this car, it is necessary to talk about money as an intrinsic part of the car's charm. While the base price nationally is $32,780, there is a federal tax credit for electric cars of $7,500, which brings the price down to $25,280. In California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, and other states there is a $5,000 state incentive, in the form of a check, for buyers of electric cars, which drives the cost down to $20,280 in those states. If you elect to purchase a personal charging dock for your home, office or condo, there is an additional federal tax credit of $2000, which would bring the cost down to $18,280 plus tax and license fees. However, all Leafs will be subject to a $700 charge for inspection at the port. (All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include $820 destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
The Nissan Leaf's lease deal is attractive. It requires a $1,995 down payment, and a monthly fee of $359 for 36 months with a mileage limit of 36,000 miles.
In some states, an electric car also means unrestricted access to the HOV lanes on the highways no matter how many people are in the car. Nissan says, using a national average for electricity rates, a full overnight battery charge will only cost a dollar. That means for most American commuters a five-dollar-a-week cost of going to and from work.
The 2011 Nissan Leaf comes in two versions, SV and SL.
Leaf SV ($32,780) comes with fabric upholstery, automatic temperature control, six-way manual driver's seat, four-way manual front passenger's seat, navigation system, trip computer, electric parking brake, AM/FM/CD with MP3/WMA CD-ROM playback capability and six speakers, auxiliary input jack and USB port for iPod, Nissan Intelligent Key with Push Button Start, power windows with driver's window one-touch auto up/down, power door locks with auto locking feature, remote charge door release, two cupholders, two bottle holders, variable intermittent windshield wipers, 12-volt power outlet, remote keyless entry system with remote windows down and hatch release.
Leaf SL ($33,720) upgrades with leather trim, rearview camera, HomeLink transmitter, automatic headlamps and fog lamps, and a cargo cover as well as a photovoltaic battery charger mounted in the rear spoiler to gather sunlight and change it into electricity while the car sits outside. An optional quick-charge port in the nose will get the battery up to 80 percent charge in 30 minutes at a public charging station.