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    « Israeli Artists Take A Stand & Defy Their Own Government | Main | Brad Pitt's 'Make It Right': Bringing Life Back To Lower 9th Ward Of New Orleans »

    Nissan's Billion Dollar Baby: 2011 LEAF, An All Electric Car

    World's first ever mass-produced all electric vehicle (EV), the new 2011 Nissan LEAF is getting ready for it's global launch. Nissan is taking orders for it now in US for a $99 "reservation fee", which Nissan is quick to point out is not a 'down payment', just a 'placeholder fee' to save your spot in line. The Nissan Leaf is being built in Oppama, Japan for the first two years but starting in 2012, it will be also be built in Nissan's TN plant in US and in 2013 in Sunderland, UK. 

    Nissan LEAF, Image Source: Wiki

    The official sale in US starts in December 2010. The LEAF is also expected to go on sale in Japan by this December. The car will be available in Portugal, Ireland, UK and Netherlands (in that order) starting in 2011. The company has announced that it's going to start taking orders in UK as well pretty soon.

    The company plans to start selling the LEAF in Australia in 2012, and will have a limited launch (limited only to government customers) in China in 2011. China will most likely prove to be it's biggest market, once it's fully launched there. 

    The price currently being reported for US is around $32,000, but there's tax credit from the US federal government (up to $7,500 tax credit for eligible EV buyers) that will help offset some of the cost. The home charging station with (recommended) 'professional installation' is likely to cost an additional $2,200 but Nissan says that there may be a Federal tax credit for installing the home charger as well.

    The starting price in Japan is reported to be ¥3.76 million. Government incentives are expected to shave at least a few thousand ¥ off this price tag. The price for UK is expected to be close to £29,000 and it will cost close to €35,000 in the other three European countries. There are government incentives in the European countries as well which will help bring the price down at least some. 

    Nissan says that it takes about 30 minutes to charge the vehicle to 80% at a 480 volt quick-charge station. Starting from a depleted battery, it takes about 8 hours at 220/240V, and about 20 hours at 110/120V. The home charging dock for the LEAF will require a 220/240V 40 amp dedicated circuit connected to a breaker. The company says that owners can program the vehicle to charge at any time, even overnight at off-peak times, if they like. You can control the car's charging from any computer or web-enabled phone. 

    The company estimates that based on a US average of $0.11/kWh, a full charge of the car battery will cost about $2.75 to the owner, which is about the average cost of a gallon of gas in US right now. A charged battery gets you up to 100 miles before it runs out of juice. Nissan says that 95% of Americans don't drive more than 100 miles/day. Weather and driving conditions, driving habits, speed, battery age all affect the mileage for better or for worse. Running the car heater or A/C reduces the mileage as well. The expected battery life is anywhere from 5 to 10 years, depending on the use and the driving conditions. The cost of replacing the car battery is unknown at this time. The battery is warranted by Nissan for 8 years or 100,000 miles or 160,000 km. 

    One cool thing about EVs is that there is no such thing as a manual or automatic transmission, but Nissan says that LEAF's drive will feel more like an automatic transmission. Towing is not recommended. The LEAF, a Zero Emission vehicle, is only available with front wheel drive. 

    Japan's #3 automaker (after Toyota and Honda) has gambled billions on this EV. Nissan and its French partner, Renault SA, have pledged more than $5 billion for LEAF's global debut. The company is spending over a billion for re-tooling the plant in Smyrna, TN to build EVs. The same plant will also produce lithium-ion batteries. The TN plant has received $1.6 billion loan from the US Energy Department. Nissan is also developing lithium-ion battery plants in UK and Portugal. 

    Joann Muller had written an article in Forbes back in August 2009 about Nissan's costly & adventurous foray into the world of EVs. Here's an exceprt: "But Ghosn (Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault SA & Nissan) , who surprised many with his quick turnaround of the Japanese carmaker a decade ago, has been careful to protect spending for his boldest initiative yet: to lead the world into a new era of mass-market electric vehicles. With the help of government loans in the U.S. and elsewhere, Nissan Motor plans to invest several billion dollars over the next three years to construct factories for advanced batteries and retool assembly plants that could produce 300,000 to 400,000 electric vehicles a year on three continents. 

    When you think of electric cars you might think of General Motors or perhaps Tesla Motors. But no manufacturer so far matches Nissan's ambition to create a mass market for all-electric vehicles. "We are the only one investing for mass marketing of zero-emission vehicles," said Ghosn. This is a big departure for a guy who derided the hybrid craze as a costly fad and whose company was thus eclipsed by Toyota and Honda."

    Ghosn forecasts that EVs will capture 10% of total auto market by year 2020. Needless to say that he is hoping to capture most or as much of it as possible and must be keeping his fingers crossed that this billions of dollars of gamble pays off in a big way in the long run. 

    The WSJ's Dan Neil recently test drove the 2011 Nissan LEAF. Here's a video of his test drive and what he has to say about it (video is 4 min 18 sec long):

    ~ Gauri

    Reader Comments (1)

    I've got to see for more updates in the future. Anyway, thanks for the info.
    December 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteroscar

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