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2011 Nissan Leaf

The new battery-powered hatchback.

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Nissan Leaf: An Electric Car for the Rest of Us

  • Apr 1, 2010
Modern electric cars are neat alternatives for people who want to be environmentally responsible and don't mind keeping fairly close to home, but they do have one significant drawback: they're either gobsmackingly pricey two seat sportsters (Hello, Tesla Roadster!) or larger-than-normal golf carts made just beefy enough for 35 mph-and-under street duty. Not terribly appealing to the majority of American motorists, eh? Thankfully, Nissan has seen fit to create an EV that, aside from being powered by lithium ion batteries driving an electric motor and having a roughly 100 mile range, is a pretty normal front-drive, 5-door, 5-passenger subcompact called the Leaf.

As a purely electric vehicle, the Leaf does without any internal combustion engine, giving it a serious leg up on other green cars like the Honda Insight, the Toyota Prius, Ford Fusion Hybrid and the upcoming Chevy Volt. Granted, there is still a little pollution released somewhere else (the exact amount depends on what kind of power plant the electricity comes from), but if for some reason you want to end it all by locking yourself in the garage with the car running, the Leaf will definitely leave you disappointed (read: alive).

But the Leaf's cleanliness isn't its only calling card; it also has many cutting edge tech toys inside the cabin, like Sirius/XM satellite radio, keyless ignition and Bluetooth connectivity. And speaking of connectivity, you can actually use your iPhone or other smart phone to remotely tell the Leaf to pre-heat or pre-cool the interior, and you can program the Leaf to send you a message when it's done recharging.

So how much will this electrified runabout cost? About $32,000, but that's before a federal tax credit of up to $7,500. Many states will offer further incentives that could bring your net cost very close to $20,000. You'll also be able to lease the Leaf for $349 per month. An optional 220V home charging station, supplied by a company out of my home town called AeroVironment, will run you about $2,200 before tax breaks. (You can charge the Leaf from a 110V wall outlet, but - surprise! - it takes about twice as long.)

Will the Leaf fill everyone's automotive needs? Of course not. But sooner or later, cars that run on electrons and other alternative fuels instead of fermented dinosaurs will be the norm rather than the exception, and if you ask me, the Nissan Leaf seems like it will make that transition quite a bit more bearable.

For more on the  Nissan Leaf, check out the full-length article at sub5zero.com.

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February 15, 2012
This looks like an excellent purchase for a homeowner who drives locally and has a car with a garage. The Japanese are also building an auto with the motor distributed in the 4 wheel assembly instead of under the hood. The future is in electric and solar based cars that are rechargeable easily. Natural
gas cars will be in the mix too.
April 05, 2010
Thanks a lot for posting this! I'm not crazy about the design and I agree with @devora on the oddly chosen name, but I honestly would not mind driving one of these. Looks like it has a ton of advantages over 'fermented dinosaurs', I like how you put that :) Hm, I wonder how two or even three car seats will fit in there... 
April 04, 2010
Great review, Tom! I'm having mixed feelings about the name "Leaf", but this looks and sounds like a neat car. Thanks for sharing! :)
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Tom Anderson ()
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Member Since: Mar 14, 2010
Last Login: Apr 1, 2010 05:08 AM UTC
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The Nissan Leaf (sometimes formatted as "LEAF": Leading, Environmentally Friendly, Affordable, Family Car) is an electric car announced by Nissan in 2009.  It is expected to be marketed in North America, Europe, and Japan, beginning in late 2010 with an increase in production expected in 2012.  The announced price in Japan starts at ¥3.76 million (approximately USD40,500) and USD32,780 in the United States, including the price of the battery package and both countries have applicable tax incentives.
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