09 May 2011

Nissan LEAF 100% Electric Test-Drive

2011 Nissan LEAF
Photo: Mary Vincent
By Mary Vincent - Follow on Twitter @MaryVincent
I had the great opportunity of driving the Nissan LEAF Pre-Production Vehicle, along with testing out its associated iPhone app last weekend through San Francisco and Silicon Valley. 

As many of you know, the 2011 Nissan LEAF SL-E is a 100% electric, no gas, zero emission vehicle that's 99 MPG equivalent (combined city and highway) 106 city and 92 highway. The annual electric cost is $561. The manufacturers suggested retail base price is $33,720. The vehicle I tested was $35,430 which included an eco-design package (hologram 3D door entry plates, exterior zero emission graphic) and protection package (bumper protectors).

As a person with a software product management background, I'll go through some of the Specifications first, then describe the driving experience:

Charge Port
Photo: Mary Vincent
Mechanical and Performance:
-80kW AC Synchronous Motor
-Vehicle Speed-Sensitive Power Steering
-Front and Rear Stabilizer Bars
-4-Wheel Power Assisted Vented Disc Brakes
-16” Alloy Wheels
-3.3 kW Onboard Charger
-Portable Trickle Charge Cable (120V EVSE)
-Quick Charge Port
-24 kWh Lithium-Ion battery
-”Coasting” Regenerative Brake

iPhone App
Photo: Mary Vincent
The vehicle has telematic capabilities that enable you to perform remote functions from a compatible enabled smart phone or personal computer such as:
-Battery status – The status of the battery can be checked even if you're not in the vehicle
-Unplugged status and charging status – A notification email can be sent if the charge connector is not connected when the charging timer is set or if battery charging is stopped halfway
-Remote charge and remote climate control – Set a time to start battery charging or to turn on climate controls

Approaching Vehicle Sound:
There's an approaching vehicle sound for pedestrians (VSP) system, which helps alert pedestrians to the presence of the vehicle when it's being driven at low speed. The sound stops when the vehicle speed reaches approximately 19 MPH (30 km/h) while accelerating.

Solar Spoiler
Photo: Nissan
Solar Module:
There's a Solar Cell Module which helps provide a supplementary charge to the 12-volt battery that supplies power to the audio system, windshield wipers, lights, and other low-voltage systems.

Battery Gauge,
Power Meter,
Temperature Gauge
Photo: Mary Vincent
LI-ION Battery Gauge:
There's a LI-ION Battery Gauge on the dash which displays the approximate available Li-ion battery power remaining to drive the vehicle.

Three Charge Methods:
There are 3 charge methods available: normal charge, trickle charge and quick charge (if so equipped).
-Normal Charge: Perform a normal charge using the charger installed in your home. It takes approximately 7 hours to charge the Li-ion battery from empty to full. To charge the vehicle turn the power switch off, pull the charge port lid opener handle located below the instrument panel to the left of the steering wheel, press the charge port tab and open the cap. Connect the charge connector to the charge port, and when connected correctly, a beep will sound once.

Shift Control System
Photo: Mary Vincent
-Trickle Charge: Perform a trickle charge by connecting the Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) supplied with your vehicle to a dedicated 110-120 volt, 20A power outlet. It takes approximately 21 hours to charge the Li-ion battery from empty to full.

-Quick Charge (if so equipped) – Perform a quick charge by connecting the charge connector of a quick charger at a charge station to the vehicle. It takes approximately 30 minutes to charge the Li-ion battery when the low battery charge warning light turns on.

Photo: Mary Vincent
GPS Feature:
One nice feature about the GPS is that when you add an address that is beyond the current charge range, a message will appear saying you don't have enough charge to reach your destination. The system will prompt you to locate a nearby charging station. The interactive touch-screen also has a separate feature where you can find the nearest charging station at any time.

Golden Gate Bridge
Photo: Mary Vincent
Driving Experience:
Driving the Glacier Pearl colored Nissan LEAF was superb. Btw - I wonder if the 'Glacier' name was specifically chosen because of climate change and the melting glaciers. If so, that was a very appropriate name.
The handling around curves, quick acceleration on San Francisco Bay Area highway on-ramps, and acceleration on San Francisco's almost vertical hills was impressive. Also being 5'9”, I was able to drive very comfortably. With the right charge planning, I was able to drive from Silicon Valley to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. If I didn't make several San Francisco detours, I would have easily been able to head back to Silicon Valley without charging again. I did have to charge again in San Francisco before heading back however because of the multiple San Francisco destinations.

Backup Camera
Photo: Mary Vincent
Another interesting experience is that I was driving by Costco's Gas Station, and had to stop my automatic thinking that I must get gas. It was great not having to make an additional stop, and pay 60 plus dollars to fill up! That was the REAL BONUS. If you're looking for a commute car where you'll be driving 99 miles or less everyday (which most people do) you should consider this car.

Excellent work Nissan in providing a high-quality 99 MPG equivalent electric car that is addicting to drive. The Price is more affordable than the electric tesla cars. I was a bit sad when I had to give the car back, even more when I had to pay the high prices at the gas station this weekend. I've included more pictures below for your reference.

2011 Nissan Leaf
Photo Mary Vincent