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My Nissan LEAF Test Drive: Acceleration at Speed of Electrons

Bill Roth | Tuesday November 8th, 2011 | 6 Comments

Imagine being next to a Mercedes at an urban red traffic light while test driving the all electric Nissan LEAF. You are sitting there wondering, “Is this going to be embarrassing? Will the car behind me honk at me for being too slow in moving forward when the light turns green?”

Now imagine your satisfying grin as you look at the surprise on the faces of that Mercedes driver and the driver behind you as your all electric LEAF silently thrusts forward leaving them behind. Acceleration at the speed of electrons!

The LEAF will probably not cause a car enthusiast to turn in their Porsche or even Mustang GT. But those of us who want to help our country achieve energy independence while still having a fun driving experience will be attracted to the LEAF.

I drove the LEAF about 80 miles during my weekend test drive. ZERO gasoline was used and there were no tailpipe emissions. Since the car is all-electric, I was very careful to make sure I did not run the batteries down. I recharged the batteries for about 5 hours when I was home on Saturday. I estimate that cost about 50 cents.

Beyond the cost savings, the LEAF’s interior is cool. The seats are more comfortable than most urban sedans. Starting the car triggers space-age sounds and digital readouts. Push back on a round silver knob to shift into drive. The multiple digital screens are easy to see and read. I found myself having to carefully monitor my speed– it was easy to go faster than I thought since the car is so quiet. Other digital information, including the miles of driving still available from the batteries, was easy to see at all times.

The LEAF is an urban hauler with an estimated 100 mile driving range. The huge rear hatch opens to a large storage area capable of holding a week’s groceries for a very large and hungry family. It easily seats four, five in a pinch. The car’s regenerative brakes produce a surprising amount of energy funneled back into the batteries. If you have a stop-and-go commute, the brakes will supply a surprising amount of juice to the batteries.

I never got close to running out of electricity the entire weekend of driving, but range anxiety was a concern. Obviously, the solution is to have a ready supply of rapid recharging stations like we now have for gasoline. The 15 minute recharge is on the technological horizon. Nissan states that using a 15 minute recharge a day will not harm the car’s batteries. From my driving experience I can imagine not needing it more than a few times a year for those rare situations where you might run the car further than you expected. And AAA, a company that secured my faith by quickly taking care of my kids when they locked their keys in their car, is now offering emergency re-charges.

The LEAF is a sales leader for electric cars in the U.S. The word from Nissan is that they are building a huge battery and car manufacturing facility in Tennessee capable of producing 150,000 LEAFs and 200,000 battery packs annually. This plant represents tangible evidence that there is a sustainable path for our country that will restore our jobs, the economy and the environment.

This short video records my fun driving the Nissan all electric LEAF with a sequence where my dog Cooper steals the show!

Bill Roth is the founder of Earth 2017. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, profiles case studies of best practices of businesses making money going green. During 2011 he is implementing an 11-city coaching program called Green Builds Business created by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation with funding from Walmart.


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  • http://jpwhitenissanleaf.com JPWhite

    Glad you enjoyed your drive over the weekend. Range anxiety recedes the longer you drive.

    Small Correction, the plant in Tennessee will manufacture 150,000 LEAF’s annually and 200,000 Battery packs annually.

  • Philip Musgrave

    RE: ” It easily seats four, five in a pitch.” … I believe you meant to write “It easily seats four, five in a pinch.”

  • Jen Boynton

    Thanks for your corrections, Philip and JPWHITE. The post has been edited.

  • http://www.earth2017.com Bill Roth

    Thanks Philip and JPWHITE. And thank you Jen for the quick corrections (readers, she and Nick are the editors who make this economist’s writing readable!)

  • http://dkworldwide.com/techlife Dave Kaufman – Techlife

    Thanks for the great article on the Nissan Leaf, I want to review one. Linked to it in my syndicated column Techlife about “Drive” though a slightly different kind. http://bit.ly/uyNmVw

  • Krmessser

    I’v had my Leaf for a month now and after 1.000 miles I love my leaf, I lost my range anxiety and enjoyed every ride. acceleration is much better than in my Lexus and the silent ride is a pleasure. 
    I think every one that has two cars should get at least one electric car.