If there is one name in the electric car market which you will hear in the months and years to come, it is the Nissan Leaf electric car, which has already caused a significant stir around the world despite the fact it has only just been released in the UK market. The Nissan Leaf electric car is being put forward as the first mass-market, consumer acceptable car powered entirely by electric and as such it is no surprise to see Nissan behind this particular vehicle. So what can we expect from the Nissan Leaf electric car and how much will it cost?
History of the Nissan Leaf
The history of the Nissan Leaf can be traced back to 1997 when Nissan launched its first American electric vehicle which was the Nissan Altra. This particular vehicle was available in the U.S. between 1998 and 2002 although surprisingly, when you bear in mind that Nissan was behind the vehicle, only 200 were ever sold. However, unperturbed by the initial disappointment Nissan continued to invest significant amounts of money in the electric car industry, taking on the latest lithium ion battery technology, electric motor technology and groundbreaking bodywork technology. Slowly but surely, the company began to focus upon electric vehicles and the Nissan Leaf began to emerge.
Deliveries for the Nissan Leaf electric car began in December 2010, with United States the first market followed by Japan, Portugal, Ireland and the UK. The company is looking to roll out this particular model, which has already received worldwide approval, to other areas of the world in the months and years to come. There is no doubt that Nissan has invested a lot of time and money in the Nissan Leaf electric car and it is expected to be the one which will knock down the door to the mass market for electric cars.
Specifications of the Nissan Leaf electric car
It is okay to say that the Nissan Leaf electric car is one of the most recognisable and most talked about vehicles in the electric car market but what exactly does it offer and what can you expect. We will now run you through some of the specifics with regards to the Nissan Leaf, elements, which make it very different from other vehicles, integrating the latest technology and the latest designs.
At first glance you become aware of the V shaped design of the Nissan Leaf as well as the slightly differently positioned light emitting diode headlights which are specifically split to redirect airflow away from the door mirrors and for reducing any drag and noise. The headlights themselves are designed around the latest technology and consume less than half of the power required for traditional car headlights. You will also notice that the massive improvement in aerodynamics with regards to the Nissan Leaf with airflow redirected away from the car's body and significant investment in undercar panelling, which again is designed to reduce drag and therefore improve the dynamics and efficiency of the vehicle.
As will become more and more relevant in the years to come, the powertrain of any electric vehicle is perhaps the most vital area of technology. The powertrain of the Nissan Leaf allows the vehicle to hit a top speed of 93 mph and the motor itself is rated at 110 hp. Tests show that the vehicle can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just under 10 seconds although it is the make-up of the battery supply system which is perhaps more important going forward. The very fact that the battery supply module weighs in excess of 300 kg is a prime example of how the weight of the power supply system in electric cars will have a major impact upon their efficiency and their viability going forward. It is estimated, unofficially, that each battery supply pack costs Nissan in the region of $18,000 although it is expected that this figure will reduce through mass production.
The lifespan of the battery power system is estimated in the region of 5 to 10 years although this will depend upon usage and how often the batteries themselves are recharged. Nissan officially confirmed that the battery pack is built to retain between 70% and 80% of its capacity after a ten-year period although when you consider the variations in usage expected by consumers this is often difficult to predict. The very fact that the battery supply system is by far and away the largest element of the Nissan Leaf means that it has to be positioned in a situation which will assist with gravity and reduce the drag as much as possible. In this particular instance, Nissan has located the battery supply system below the rear seat compartment.
We now come onto one of the more vital elements of any electric car which is the range the vehicle can attain on full charge. While there are other elements to consider such as wind speed, temperature and type of road, in general you can expect to do around 47 miles per charge in heavy stop and go traffic, 62 miles in winter stop and go traffic, 70 miles per charge on the highways, 105 miles in city traffic and 138 miles per charge in perfect cruising conditions. If you take the average of these various driving conditions you would expect a Nissan Leaf to do between 70 and 75 miles before a recharge is required.
While some of these figures may be slightly disappointing, we will see a similar pattern with regards to driving conditions and weather conditions amongst petrol and diesel vehicles. However, there is no doubt that the launch of the Nissan Leaf is very much an early days experiment for the electric car market and the technology and the specifics of this particular vehicle will be modified, redefined and improved in the years to come. There is also the situation with regards to car charging points and the fact that while many are still required there has been significant improvement in the UK and around the world over the last couple of years.
Recharging your Nissan Leaf
While the issue of recharging your Nissan Leaf will become less of a problem in the years ahead there is no doubt that if you're looking to travel on particularly long journeys you may well have to plan your route around recharging points. With regards to recharging the Nissan Leaf, the vehicle has two separate charging structures allowing level I and level II recharging with a further level III "quick recharge" although which option will be applicable will depend upon the type of recharging stations available.
The slower of the charging options will see a full recharge in around 20 hours, with around eight hours for a level II recharge and a level III recharge will only take 30 min. As we see more and more investment in the electric car recharging industry we should see charging times begin to tighten in favour of drivers. However, at this point in time you will need to be aware of the availability and the location of recharging points if you're looking at long journeys.
As you would expect from an electric controlled vehicle, the new Nissan Leaf is packed full of new technology which is designed to both monitor the performance of the vehicle and also improve efficiency. A telematics system known as "Carwings" allows the data to be collected via mobile phone technology which is available to the driver of the vehicle. It is also possible to use your mobile phone to switch on various elements of the Nissan Leaf technology portfolio such as air conditioning, heating and reset charging functions. This really is a major step forward in the technology of mass-market vehicles in the UK and when you also take into account the latest designs, which reduce drag and noise interference, you may begin to wonder why it has taken so long for the car industry to move towards electric power.
While the Nissan Leaf has the power and the funding of the Nissan giant behind it, it is also worth remembering that governments around the world have also assisted with the cost of developing this vehicle. Indeed the U.S. Department of Energy made an initial grant of $99.8 million to Nissan, which was further increased by $15 million to assist with the development of this particular range of electric vehicles. The car itself is priced at around £10,000 more than your average petrol/diesel counterpart in the UK but when you also take into account various government grants and subsidies available to consumers this cost is dramatically cut.
The future for the Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf is by far and away the best-known electric vehicle in the mass-market and one which has effectively not only opened the door for Nissan into the future but has also brought electric powered cars to the attention of consumers. There is every chance that we could look back on this period in the electric car market as a pivotal moment when the industry went from being sidelined to the mass-market. It is estimated that even taking into account prime-time electric charging costs the Nissan Leaf works out at around 2p a mile which is significantly less than its diesel/petrol counterparts. When you also consider that the technology under the bonnet of the Nissan Leaf, and the forthcoming electric vehicles of the future, which is very much in its infancy, we can only expect further improvement and further efficiencies.
As we touched on above, the U.S. government and other governments around the world are very keen to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road, therefore reducing harmful emissions into the environment. Even though the U.S. authorities have been very much at the forefront of direct investment into the electric car market, such as the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Roadster to name but two, other governments have also played their part.
Those who purchase a Nissan Leaf in the UK may well be entitled to a grant of up to £5000 which can be used to reduce the cost of a new vehicle. There is also the issue of manufacturing in the UK which is online for the future although vehicles bought in the UK at the moment need to be imported until the Nissan plant in Sunderland is upgraded to take on production of the Nissan Leaf.
Is this the start of the mass-market electric car market?
Many believe that the launch of the Nissan Leaf will be one of the pivotal moments in the development of the electric car industry. This is a company which has long since enjoyed a reputation for popular cars in the mass-market, something which the company is very keen to continue in the short, medium and long-term with regards to electric vehicles. Whether Nissan will be able to dominate this particular market, as it has done in the petrol/diesel mass-market, remains to be seen as others will no doubt benefit from the increased consumer awareness of this type of vehicle.
There is no doubt that the launch of the Nissan Leaf has been eagerly awaited by car buffs around the world, not to mention governments and environmental groups. So far the Nissan Leaf has not disappointed, and while the car itself boasts some of the latest design technology and electric systems, there is still further scope for improvement. Nissan has a history of relative success in the mass-market with regards to petrol/diesel cars and many believe that the launch of the Nissan Leaf, with an adjusted price of around £23,000 in the UK, could be the start of a new growth sector for Nissan and the UK car market.
In the short term there is no doubt that governments have a role to play with regards to investment, loans and tax incentives to those manufacturing and acquiring electric cars. However, recent events would indicated that the likes of the U.S. government and the UK government are more than happy to see a significant increase in the number of electric vehicles on worldwide roads as a means of reducing harmful emissions into the atmosphere.