Nissan Leaf Test Drive Review

Nissan Leaf Test Drive Review

Posted 07.25.2012 in Articles by Dan

The Nissan Leaf is one of the most established electric vehicle models in the US, but has yet to sell as well as Nissan would like; however, with the recent announcement of price reductions for the 2013 Leafs, Nissan is setting up to corner the EV market. For our test drive of the Leaf, we were able to take out one of the last produced 2011 SL models.

The Leaf has no engine at all, rather the front wheels are driven by a 80-kilowatt (107-horsepower) electric motor that's powered by a 22-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack built into the floorpan and under the rear seat. Nissan quotes "up to 100 miles" of range for the Leaf, and the EPA rates its range at a realistic 73 miles. However, with a careful low-speed and effective use of the regenerative breaking the range can be extended.

A great option for Leaf owners is to install a Level 2 240-Volt charging station in their garages, which will take 7 to 10 hours to recharge a fully depleted Leaf battery. The car can also be recharged on standard 120-Volt household current, but that can take up to 20 hours--not particularly practical for most daily drivers.

The Leaf also offers the ability to "quick-charge" the battery from 20 to 80 percent of capacity in 30 minutes or less, via a second charging port located under the nose flap that gives access to the recharging sockets. There are relatively few quick-charge stations in the U.S. today, but Nissan is moving aggressively--in partnership with state and regional government bodies and electrification coalitions--to roll them out along corridors between electric-car-friendly cities: Seattle and Portland, for instance.

The 2012 Leaf is a spacious, airy vehicle for passengers, and it includes a standard navigation system with built-in maps of charging station locations. Upgrades include a rear spoiler, a cargo cover, and a rear-view camera that displays on the navigation screen.

There are only a few competitors to the Leaf, including the 2013 Mitsubishi I, the 2013 Ford Focus Electric and Cmax Energi, and the upcoming 2014 Chevy Spark electric, GM's first pure electric vehicle. There's also plug-in hybrids such as the Toyota Prius Plug-In and the Chevrolet Volt. The Volt's battery pack provides 38 miles of range. After that, the Volt's gasoline generator goes online to give it essentially unlimited electric range by powering the two electric motors.

With the recent announcement from the Detroit Auto Show that the prices for the Nissan Leaf will be dropping by an astounding $6,500, there is no reason why a prospective electric vehicle purchaser shouldn't take advantage of the Leaf; it's the most complete, available pure electric and will be among the cheapest to purchase or lease.

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