Nissan has sent out an email attempting to answer a bunch of questions that have been asked about the LEAF. This is coupled with an expanded LEAF website and the promise of a newsletter. You can ask questions on the site and they’re giving answers. The answers appear to also be going out on Twitter.
They say the LEAF will be on the road in some states in 2010 (California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, North Carolina and Tenessee) and that mass production will commence in 2012. Note that some of the projects in last months announcements of $2.4 billion in grants for electric vehicles were related to deployment of 5,000 LEAF’s in that same set of states. (see Nissan supports electric vehicle & infrastructure deployment project)
They say they’re working on a charging station infrastructure and that by the time of “mass-production” it will be widely available. The on board navigation system will help the LEAF driver to find charging stations. (see Range anxiety and the new Nissan LEAF EV) Charging time is 16-18 hours at 110V, 4-8 hours at 220V (depending on amperage), and approximately 30 minutes to 80% at a quick-charge station.
The LEAF will have neither automatic nor manual transmission and in fact will not have any transmission at all. This is because electric motors have a wide torque band which means an electric vehicle can cover a wide range of speed without need of a transmission. Further switching an electric motor into reverse can be done electronically, again without need of a transmission. The GM EV1 famously did not have a transmission, for example, and went fast enough for Tom Hanks to say you can get arrested in that car (see Who Killed the Electric Car). The LEAF specs lists a top speed of 90 miles/hr. (see Technical specifications for the Nissan LEAF)
The LEAF is claimed by Nissan to get 367 miles/gallon (equivalent), and say “This is an est. mileage equivalent from a formula for EV efficiency in the Federal Code of Regulations.” Obviously electricity doesn’t come in gallons, a well understood fact in the industry and regulators. There are known conversion factors from kilowatt-hours per mile electricity to the equivalent miles per gallon efficiency.
In the same vein they note it’s impractical to send out a “AAA tow truck” to handle “out of fuel” situations. Instead the on board navigation system will warn the driver of a low charge, the car will be restricted to a low power mode, and the navigation system will direct the driver to the nearest charging station. They imply this will handle the majority of situations. Additionally if the 100 mile range is accurate at highway speeds, it will handle the majority of daily driving needs for the majority of people.
Some of the questions, however, are being answered with a non-answer. For example design specifications are not finalized and they cannot be specific about sound levels, interior dimensions, and the like.
The actual cost is not set yet and they are “targetting lower/mid-segment sedan pricing.” Nor is the replacement cost of a battery pack. A reason for this may be estimates of the residual value of the car and battery pack at the end of the lease. Nissan says they are “looking into post-automotive applications and recycling options for used batteries”. Obviously the battery pack could be used for energy storage applications in the coming smart grid. Ominously Larry Dominique, Nissan North America Inc. vice president-product planning says “We want to be able to control the residual value, we want to be able to control the end value, so at the end of a lease or loan we have the vehicles back and we can decide what to do with them.” Students of electric vehicle history may recall the prior round of electric vehicles were forcibly taken back by the car companies and crushed.
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