Nissan’s electric vehicle (EV) for the masses is expected to hit Japan and North America next year. LEAF, as this car is called, has been anticipated since 2006 and Nissan has been working with cities, states and the U.S. government to make sure that its debut goes smoothly.
In 2006 Blorge Publisher John Pospisil, reported that Nissan was going to release an environmentally friendly car in 2010. At the time, the car was expected to be a gas/electric hybrid, but with Nissan’s alliance with Renault, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the plans changed to an electric only vehicle.
With GM’s doubts about the Volt, and the extremely high price of Tesla’s cars, the LEAF should be able to slide into the United States as the affordable electric car alternative. Nissan, with the aid of a $1.6 billion loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, is working to modify its plant in Smyrna, Tennessee so that lithium-ion battery packs and the EVs that need them, will be manufactured here in the United States. The cars manufactured for the U.S. and Japanese markets in 2010 will be made in Japan. Later, models are expected to be manufactured here in the United States once the Tennessee plant is modified.
Also as part of that loan, Nissan is working with cities around the U.S. like San Diego, Phoenix, Seattle, and Raleigh, NC to put the charging infrastructure in place that will make the LEAF more attractive to drivers. The car will charge to 80 percent within 30 minutes on a quick charger. A full charge requires eight hours on a 200V outlet.
Nissan’s early prototype EV was very boxy, resembling a Toyota Element. The new design is more streamlined and stylish. The range is expected to be 100 miles, so long trips will still be difficult until a country wide charging infrastructure can be set up.
What exactly “affordable” means to Nissan is unclear. No potential price for the car or battery lease has been mentioned. According to Engineering News, Nissan is planning on selling the cars but only leasing the batteries. Since the batteries are the most expensive part of any electric or hybrid vehicle, this must be how Nissan is planning on keeping the cars “affordable”. Leasing the battery plus the costs to charge it are still expected to be less per month than the average monthly gasoline bill.
For now it will be interesting to see if the mass market LEAF can actually survive until all of the infrastructure is put in place and functional. Stay tuned.