Nissan’s LEAF: Blowing Our Way in 2012


What you’re looking at is Nissan’s ambitious new plan to change the world. The LEAF was unveiled to the world over the weekend at Nissan’s global headquarters. No mere hybrid, this; you’re looking at Nissan’s first attempt at making a truly affordable all-electric car for the global masses.

In fact, that’s what the LEAF acronym is all about:

  • Leading
  • Environmentally-friendly
  • Affordable
  • Family car

Whether they’ll succeed or not is anyone’s guess, of course, but if Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has anything to say about it, they’ll produce 50,000 of these little LEAFs in their first year of production—a number they expect to quadruple for 2012, which is planned as its first year on the global market.

The intention when it comes to our market is for this car to cost around $20,000-$30,000, but it’s unclear whether or not that cost will include the battery. According to Carlos Ghosn’s speech at the unveiling, this cost will not include the battery—but there’s still quite a bit of time between now and then for things to change.

Another possible hiccup on the road to getting everyone in North America onboard with this brave new electric world is the fact that apparently, the LEAF requires a 220v outlet in order to charge. Or rather, in order to charge in an efficient manner. With a 220v outlet, full charge from a totally drained battery in about 8 hours, which is fairly reasonable…but Nissan engineers have said a full charge will take 16 hours when drawn on a 110v outlet.

The final big drawback that may affect its sales here in Canada is the fact that all the figures Nissan is quoting currently don’t take into account extreme temperature changes. Obviously our long, cold winters will make a difference to battery range, as will use of air conditioning—a fact Nissan acknowledges. Chances are good those are the sort of figures that will make a huge difference to their potential market share here. Nissan’s official press release states that its range will be 100 miles on a single charge in normal conditions.

Its size is comparable to that of the current generation of Honda Civic, and its charging portals are handily located under a flip-up flap beneath the front badging, which comes equipped with a high-speed three-phase charger that has been quoted as supplying 80% of full power in only half an hour. If you buy one of these, you’ll have 107 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque at your disposal, and you’ll get a top speed of slightly over 140 km/h.

There’s a whole world of “if” included in this unveiling, but if we didn’t have ambition, how would we move forward? I, for one, am hoping Nissan’s audacious move forward is a good one.

[Nissan Canada and Globe and Mail]