While only a Preview, hopefully you will have a good understanding of this cars qualities. And hopefully we will discover its true capabilities in the very near future
Mike Sirach and Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- Oct. 23, 2010
The 2011 Nissan LEAF – 100-miles range and soon available at a Nissan dealership near you.
The much anticipated 100% electric Nissan LEAF is almost here, and with it comes the excitement of owning the first full B
ehicle (BEV) available to the average consumer since a few RAV4EV and Ranger BEVs were sold to a lucky few almost a decade ago.
The name “LEAF” has a story all its own but was chosen to make a statement that just as leaves purify the air in nature, the LEAF purifies mobility by taking local emissions out of the drive.
The LEAF’s ancestral history goes back decades
The LEAF was not created from the minds of a group of exec’s and engineers sitting around a table attempting to come up with the “Next Big Thing”. The story of the Nissan LEAF really begins over 5-decades earlier when an early predecessor to the Nissan Motor Company that we know today designed, built and sold the 1947 Tama all-electric wagon.
The Tama used replaceable lead-acid batteries generating upwards of 3.3kW allowing a top speed of 22 mph and a spec’ed all-electric cruising range of 40 miles. Now, where have we heard that range before
And like Hypermiler’s everywhere, where there’s a spec, some will and do rise to a challenge. In this case, Nissan reported that someone achieved over 60 miles range from a single charge
The 2011 Nissan LEAF Timeline
August of 2009
- Nissan reveals the first hard details regarding the 100% all-electric LEAF BEV
In addition to the above base specs, the LEAF can be charged to 80% of its full capacity in just under 30 minutes with a Level-III DC charger. Charging at home through a 220V outlet is estimated to take approximately eight hours from dead to full.
Another first was the detail that Nissan incorporated LED headlights that consume just 50 percent of the electricity of conventional halogens. To see them in person ready to turn night into day is impressive for a BEV costing as little as the LEAF does.
Early January of 2010
- Nissan announced its selection of Aerovironment of EV1 fame to install 220V Level-II chargers in future LEAF customers homes.
Nissan also announced that the LEAF had indeed achieved its 100-miles AER on a full charge, as measured by the LA4 test cycle.
Late January of 2010
- Nissan announced it had closed a $1.4 Billion loan deal with the DOE to modify Nissan’s Smyrna, TN plant to produce the LEAF and the Li-Ion batteries that power it.
The loan should result in the creation of up to 1,300 jobs with the vehicle assembly plant able to build 150,000 Nissan LEAF BEVs per year and the battery plant capable of supplying up to 200,000 batteries per year.
Late March of 2010
- Nissan drops a bombshell when they announced pricing for the brand new, all-electric Nissan LEAF starting as low as $25,280 ($32,780 MSRP minus up to $7,500 federal tax credit) with a lease of just $349 per month. Both the outright purchase or lease of the LEAF included three years of roadside assistance.
This is a smokin hot deal folks!!!
In addition, there are $5,000 tax rebates in California; a $5,000 tax credit in Georgia; a $1,500 tax credit in Oregon as just a few more perks to add to the fire.
Nissan also announced that the average cost for the charging dock including installation will be $2,200. With tax credits for some customer’s, free installs will defray or remove the cost of that Level-II charger. It can be charged from a 110 V circuit from an extension cord but will take over twice as long.
Mid May of 2010
– Nissan opens up LEAF reservations to the public with over 9,500 select customers who had registered early thanks to their early participation with the Nissan LEAF program.
The open to the public reservation required you to create an account online, configure your vehicle of choice, answer a few questions, pay a 100% refundable $99 deposit and indicate a local Nissan dealer of choice. It was that simple according to CleanMPG members that signed up
Late July of 2010
– Nissan announced the LEAF’s rollout schedule with consumers in California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Tennessee receiving their cars in early December.
The LEAF will then be introduced into Texas and Hawaii in January of 2011 and the states of North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina and Alabama in April 2011. The rest of the nation will see LEAF’s beginning in Fall 2011 through the end of the year.
In addition, Nissan announced that the Li-Ion pack will carry a warranty of 8 years or 100,000 miles.
Late September 2010
– Nissan announced the 20,000-Reservation milestone had been reached and reservations had to be close early due to the unexpected and overwhelming demand.
2011 Nissan LEAF in Detail
When we first heard about the LEAF, it was supposed to incorporate a highly rigid body with a high-performance motor, include a compact Li-Ion battery with high power and energy density that would deliver excellent performance while arriving with the latest safety features.
And to that end, the Nissan LEAF is a purpose built B
ehicle (BEV) with some suspension components shared with the Nissan Versa. The LEAF however has a 6” longer wheel base and dimensionally, falls between the Nissan Altima and Versa albeit a bit heavier, tipping the scales at 3,366 pounds (Base SV trim) with the large Li-Ion battery beneath the floorboards.
The electric motor provides up to 107 HP and 206 Lb-Ft of torque allowing a maximum 90 mph top speed with some exceeding this figure ever so slightly. The NEC sourced, 24 kWh Li-Ion battery allows the LEAF to reach over 100-miles AER as measured under the US LA4 City cycle testing regimen.
The batteries are constructed with a lithium manganese positive terminal coupled with a carbon negative electrode. 48 modules are ganged together to form a combined capacity of 24kWh.
An optional 50 KW DC charge port will allow the LEAF’s battery to charge from 0 to 80% in just 30 minutes. A 240 V home charger can charge the LEAF from 0-100% in less than 8 hours and the 3.3 KW 120 V onboard charger can recharge the battery from 0-100% in approximately 20 hours. Early estimates show that after 10 years, the battery should retain 70% to 80% of its original storage capacity with a lot more capacity if charged more frequently from a lower depth of discharge (DoD).
2011 Nissan LEAF 120V Plug into Onboard charger
2011 Nissan LEAF is Feature Packed and Environmentally Responsible
The LEAF includes a Nissan Navigation System with XM Satellite Radio and Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System is standard
on both trims (Base SV and high end SL). The system also provides high end connectivity, connecting the vehicle’s on-board transmitting unit to a global data center to support BEV driving 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The SL adds a photovoltaic panel embedded into the rear spoiler that supports charging of the 12-volt battery for car accessories, fog lights, auto on/off headlights, cargo cover and more. The output is miniscule however.
The LEAF's upholstered seating surfaces are almost suede-like and partially made from recycled plastic bottles with other interior plastics being made from other recycled materials. In Japan, the Leaf is 99% recyclable due to the huge recycling effort. In the USA, it is approximately 94% recyclable.
All LEAF’s contain LED Headlights that slant up with a blue internal reflective appearance and consume just 50 percent of the electricity that conventional halogen headlights consume.
The digital instrument panel includes a speedometer, battery temperature gauge, power meter, remaining energy gauge, capacity level gauge, distance to empty display, and Eco indicator. The standard monitor also displays “reachable area,” as well as showing a selection of nearby charging stations. A standard trip computer (instant and average energy consumption, driving time, outside temperature and autonomy range) are also incorporated.
2011 Nissan LEAF “Hypermiler’s Screen”
Nissan’s Intelligent Key with Push Button Start, Power windows with driver’s window one-touch auto up/down and an Automatic Temperature Control (ATC) highlights the interior.
Along with the standard Navigation System, an AM/FM/CD with MP3/WMA and CD-ROM playback capability, Auxiliary input jack, USB Connection Port for iPod and other compatible devices and 6 speakers round out the entertainment features.
A Rear View Monitor and HomeLink Universal Transceiver are standard on the high end SL trim.
A display a BEV driver can always use is the maximum range display.
- With a simple touch of a button, the navigation map shows the driving radius within range under the current state of charge. It is totally cool!
- The system can calculate if the vehicle is within range of a pre-set destination.
- The navigation system points out the latest information on available charging stations within the current driving range. Push an icon on the screen; it logs onto a global server and updates the local charging station status’ including any that were recently added. Nothing new was shown but it was certainly “rad”
Another interesting feature was the Timer function which enables the A/C or battery charging to begin at a specified time. The A/C can be pre-set while the vehicle is plugged-in to cool the cabin to a desirable temperature before you begin driving without working off the vehicle’s battery. In addition, battery charging can be scheduled to start at a specified time at night to benefit from more favorable electricity rates.
And through a Smartphone, you could monitor the state-of-charge, turn the charging system ON or OFF and remotely turn on or turn of the A/C. Kids are going to freak when they discover they can do this to their car
To finish off the LEAF’s premium attributes, attractive 5-spoke, 16-inch alloy wheels mounted with P205/55R16 Bridgestone Ecopia tires round out the vehicle.
The Nissan LEAF will be available in five exterior colors:
- Glacier Pearl
- Blue Ocean
- Brilliant Silver
- Super Black
- Cayenne Red
2011 Nissan LEAF – Are your ready for it?
2011 Nissan LEAF Aerodynamics
: While not the cleanest (aerodynamically speaking) vehicle on the road due in part to its tall yet useable Hatchback form factor, the LEAF is equipped with a number of unique features to reduce drag.
During its design, the LEAF was found to be so quiet at higher speeds that wind rushing by the radio antennae, over the windshield wipers and even around the headlight lenses created noise that would not normally be heard in a regular car due to a running engine at speed. Now these minor additions could be heard by the driver and occupants.
Nissan expended quite a bit of engineering effort to quiet these annoyances, including the large headlight lenses which incorporate noise dampening qualities as they direct a large amount of the wind up over the top the car and down the side to miss the rear view mirrors. The antenna was redesigned with an airfoil base and vortex shedding tip to direct the air flow in a quiet fashion around the shaft.
The exterior utilizes a flat underbody (including a large front flat floor cover, motor area undercover, front undercover and rear diffuser with fins) to help manage airflow under the vehicle.
2011 Nissan LEAF Safety Features
Aerodynamically enhanced radio antennae and under body panels
: Nissan equipped the LEAF with an abundance of safety systems including six air bags, 4-wheel Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), Traction Control System (TCS), Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), Nissan Vehicle Immobilizer System and a Vehicle Security System (VSS).
Nissan has incorporated an “Approaching Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians” system, which is designed to alert pedestrians that a vehicle is approaching. When driving at low speeds (below 16 mph), the system emits a sound from a speaker at the front of the vehicle. When the vehicle’s speed reaches 19 mph, pedestrians are able to hear the car moving and the “approaching sound” automatically turns off. If the vehicle speed drops below 16 mph, the sound comes on again. A switch by the steering wheel can turn the speaker on or off.
A Reverse Beeper is standard warning those outside the car of that the LEAF is about to back up.
2011 Nissan LEAF BEV Short Distance Driving Impressions
Originally Posted by Wayne Gerdes
The LEAF’s Energy Consumption screen - 6.9 kWh/Mile or 144 Wh/mile during a short 9.9 mile round trip jaunt around a prescribed city/suburban route in Hoffman Estates, IL during the Midwest Automobile Media Association
(MAMA) 2010 Fall Rally.
With over 70 cars at the MAMA Fall Rally to drive, the LEAF was by far the most in demand. I actually had to sign onto a list in order to drive it! In addition, since this was shared drive event and Nissan could only charge the LEAF via a 120V outlet in the parking lot during lunch, none of the over 70 journalists on hand had a real opportunity to get to know the LEAF with the level of detail we are accustomed to during a standard week long test drive. That said, it was by far the most exciting vehicle at the Rally and from the responses garnered from those that had driven it prior to me, there is a lot of love being generated thanks to Nissan’s new LEAF. An assessment I wholeheartedly agree with and it could not have come at a better time.
Getting in and making the adjustments. The first thing I noticed was a lack of a telescopic wheel or maybe it was there and I could not find it in my haste to get moving. Being one of the last to depart, I was allowed to take the long 9.9 mile course given the DTE was at 57 miles and there was no way 1 additional driver could consume the remaining charge. While it may have been a design or marketing decision not to include a telescopic wheel, I missed it if it were in fact missing?
Seats, mirrors, steering wheel tilt adjusted, cycle through the various displays and controls with a Nissan representative at my side explaining the various features and functions all the while another journalist was in the back seat recording over our shoulder a video for a LEAF telematics report he was working on.
I noticed the LEAF’s energy consumption while booted up was just .25 KW. The inverter, multiple ECU’s, dash and MFD displays are powered up and we are only consuming 250W? That is a very well designed system to put it bluntly!
I reset the aFCD (actually average energy consumption screen or ECD) with 57 miles DTE showing and we’re off.
I shifted into ECO to feel the accelerator damping and while there, it felt very much like ECO in the Prius, Insight-II and CR-Z. I shifted it back to Drive and while livelier, it was just as easy to control the output as from ECO if you were paying attention.
And no noise. I mean none. There was no motor or inverter whine as I am used to hearing in hybrids under EV and other BEVs when accelerating from a stop. What did Nissan do to keep it so eerily silent while accelerating and at lower speeds? Impressive!
First down sloping corner over a bump of a curb onto a boulevard and I expected to feel a bit of harshness with a squeak or bottoming impact with three adults in the car. Actually, it felt as nice as any high end compact I have driven recently and yet the sound of an engine or motion was still eerily absent.
Acceleration to a stop sign about 1/2 of a mile away and it had more pickup than I had suspected while still maintaining a 3.5 to 4 mile/KW per the ECD. Wow, accelerating to over 30 mph with the ECD showing less than 300 Wh/mile? I have never been in an automobile that could do that. EVER
The interior feels light and airy. And thankfully Nissan incorporated the ECD to include both an averaging and an instantaneous. As I have alluded to in the past, they could have inserted flying cows and growing roots in a screen and I will use it but a reasonably high resolution bar graph for the instantaneous and a digital readout for the averaging was a welcome addition to this BEV.
Nissan, have you been reading CleanMPG diatribes regarding the need for FCD’s in all cars and trucks
As we approach the first stop sign, the regenerative braking action in ECO is a bit heavy so I maintain throttle, shift to Drive and ease the pedal again. That feels like a normal deceleration with fuel cut so Nissan programmed that well. I shift to N and it releases altogether in about a second. Shifting is a bit slower than a mechanical stick but the software is doing an ok job of interpreting my demands vs. its own. It would be nice to be a bit faster between the modes but I can live with it.
Road noise becomes apparent after about 25 mph but it is no different than other compacts. A lux compact like the HS is quieter at this point but the LEAF is still very quiet.
The averaging ECD is in the high 5’s and low 6’s as we traverse through more red lights on the non-priorities and stop signs in quick succession. I can see a slight problem begin to arise as we begin to clear the more congested impediment area. While most will be traveling in the 3 to 4.5 miles/kWh range, we’ll be traveling in the 7 to maxxed out at 8 mile/kWh range and when you are at the end of the displays range, you begin to fly blind while driving beyond the display of the instruments. I begin to wonder if a ScanGauge can be X-Gauged to read miles/kWh or Wh/mile?
Now an uphill 120 degree turn from a stop sign onto a 55 mph PSL country road. The LEAF accelerates easily even with over 600 pounds of people (1,000 pounds of people and cargo approach the stated GVW limit). As I gently apply the accelerator, I am wondering what > 50 mph will do to the aECD which is now in the mid 6 range. Passing through 50 mph and still accelerating to a peak of 52 mph while climbing an ever so slight ascent, the instantaneous ECD bar graph is showing approximately 5 miles/kWh. As soon as I let off, adjust into a glide and watch the aECD begin to climb from its now current low 6 range.
From 52 mph down to about 17 mph and immediately into very sharp right hand turn onto a very narrow 2-lane road with a gravel edge. A little regenerative braking and ask everyone to hold on. It went around the corner and it did not squeal, it did not complain; it had only a minor body roll and it proved to be a decent handler after all. The weight of the Li-Ion pack underneath the floor really worked well as I was through this same corner at the same speed two hours previous in a Mazda2 and it protested mightily! It felt as planted as the Sonata Hybrid I had driven through that same corner earlier that day in fact. This is yet another plus in the LEAF’s favor considering this is a somewhat small car with a rather simple and unsophisticated suspension design.
Now back through a number of stop signs and lights, and we are headed back towards the launch. A pegged iECD allows the aECD to climb fast. 6.5, 6.6, 6.7, 6.8 and then 6.9 as I turn into the Hotel parking lot. I place the shifter to P and the DTE reads 51 miles. For a non-hypermiling friendly drive route thanks to the lights, signs, non-priority routing, and a short burst of lower speed highway, 6.9 miles/kWh or 144 Wh/mile is the best I have ever achieved in anything including the Honda Insight-I when pulling over 200 mpg on a round trip course!
How did Nissan make this nice a car at a price that the average Joe can afford while carrying three people and achieving this level of energy efficiency? There are going to be some long hours being put in by Electric Drivetrain Managers from other manufacturers when they find out how efficient the LEAF really is. The marketing folks at those same manufacturers are going to be pulling their hair out trying to figure out how to offer a similar sized BEV with the LEAF’s capability for the same or less price
Nissan, you approached the LEAF project from what appears to be a clean sheet of paper, and your efforts have proven worthy of not only our praise but hopefully soon, those of the world.
As we approach the end of the fossil fuel era, the LEAF is leading the way to a brighter future, and I cannot thank Nissan enough for creating one spectacular car for the rest of us.
Nissan, great job indeed!
Originally Posted by Mike Sirach
The first thing noticed upon entering the driver’s seat was its comfort. Given the seats were made partially from recycled plastic bottles; I was not sure what to expect. Sitting in them; however, revealed that the material had a soft almost suede-like feel to it that is similar to microfiber. The seats were comfortable with a manual forward/aft lever easily operated under the seat front, a manual seat height adjuster along the side and the back tilted to fit your stature. All of these attributes contribute to good support for the lower back. The seat bolsters wrapped around your thighs and there was plenty of leg room. With a 6 footer in the driver’s seat, there were a few inches left in front of his knees and headroom was ample.
2011 Nissan LEAF - Front and Rear Seat Driving Positions.
Front adjusted for 6'-0" and left in place while immedialtey afterwards sitting in the rear.
Rear Seating: The peculiar height of the floor pan nearly levels it with the door sill due to the batteries being stored underneath. This could make long trips in the backseat uncomfortable for some because your hips will be elevated instead of resting on the lower seat. In addition, the upper door jamb was several inches taller than I am used to giving a false “lack of room” feeling.
The finish of the interior is very nice and beyond the level of most compacts. The neutral color interior was a blend of molded plastic and cloth (from recycled plastic), with the door inserts made from a softly padded material. The doors shut with a resounding high quality thud without any rattle.
The tilt wheel and seat position made the drive very comfortable. The Leaf accelerated well and moved nimbly through turns. I coasted hard into turns and accelerated hard into some without a feeling of under steer or roll that many fuel efficient hybrid automobiles exhibit. It held solidly to the road and pulled out of the curves with vigor. Yes, I did drive the LEAF aggressively during portions of the ride and drive.
The ride seemed solid and compliant without harshness on the smoothly paved surfaces traveled. When a bump was driven over, you could “feel it,” but it certainly did not feel like a cheap sub-compact, even with the torsion beam rear suspension by any means.
The range is constantly monitored in front of you, on the "fuel gauge" as well as on the “Hypermiler” screen. On slight down hills, it was very easy to pick up 3-5 miles on the DTE. I kicked it into neutral a couple of times on these hills to check the glide, and it felt like it was still in gear. Consideration is given for the fact that the brand new Bridgestone Ecopias were probably in the mid 30 psi range, and glides were reasonable.
Regarding the “Approaching Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians” system, from the interior of the vehicle, the sound cannot be heard. From the front of the vehicle, a faint whine is noted that sounds like the inverter noise of a Prius when running in EV.
While in reverse, the external back up beeper can be heard, but is far less annoying than the internal beeper incorporated into the current generation Prius.
A 0 – 60 mph hour test using the stop watch in an iPhone revealed an approximate time of 9.9 seconds on a flat road, with no noticeable wind.
The “Hypermiler’s screen” (Eco driving screen) would tell you how much DTE you would gain if you shut off the AC and fan. It seemed that the warning was generally 3 to 5 miles.
2011 Nissan LEAF Drivers Display with 98 miles DTE.
Starting with 98 miles DTE, we ended up with 31 after driving over 50 miles in total. Given the other driver I was with drove half of those miles as an aggressive driver, including several foot to the floor accelerations and constant A/C use with temperatures only in the mid-70’s would help account for the fact that we lost mileage.
After driving the Leaf, I am certain it could fill my transportation needs for my round trip commute of 98.6 miles. I was impressed with the “normal car” feel of the drive. It is a car that someone could drive and not realize by feel that it is an EV. If you are a “Geek Freak” this is the car for you too.
2011 Nissan LEAF Early Conclusions
Given the low energy consumption when booted up and parked at just .25 kW and the stunning 144 Wh/mile when driving a city/suburban loop with speeds at some point exceeding 50 mph, what else is there to say? It rides reasonably smooth, it handles better than the Subcompact Mazda2 and Fiesta, its interior noise is much more subdued when compared against a 2010 Honda Civic Hybrid, 2010 Honda Insight-II and 2010 Toyota Prius plus it had some really fun to play with telematics that we cannot wait to try out over a far lengthier period. I can only imagine what the LEAF will offer in terms of all-electric range when let loose but let us just say it should exceed most drivers and HEV, PHEV and BEV enthusiasts expectations given the above.
There were a few minor hits to the LEAF being the perfect BEV. One comes about because the LEAF is based on the Versa platform. The 2011 Nissan Versa in a sedan form factor is the only automobile of the 34 2011’s currently rated that achieved just 2 stars on the NHTSA’s new crash test rating system. The poor side collision crash test was the Versa’s downfall. While the Versa and LEAF are not the same, we anxiously await the NHTSA and IIHS crash test results once the LEAF becomes available to the public. The second and third being the lack of a telescopic wheel and the rear passengers not having a low floor height to rest their feet on. Or is it in?
While the Mitsubishi iMiEV used to be my (Wayne’s) favorite BEV, the LEAF simply buries it. For the price, Engineers and Marketing Managers from every major manufacturer have surely been doing some serious pencil sharpening over the last 6-months trying to figure out first how Nissan did it and second, how are they going to do it themselves? The LEAF’s price for what you are provided by comparison to every other HEV, PHEV or BEV either available today or that will be available soon makes everything else obsolete… If this is Nissan’s first offering to the masses, imagine what their second and third generation will be like when the rest of the world jumps on board the fully electric bandwagon
CleanMPG's Mike Sirach with the 2011 Nissan LEAF
Where do I fuel it? And never a drop will she drink
Wayne drove the Nissan LEAF at the Midwest Automobile Media Association
Fall Rally held in Hoffman Estates, IL on Wednesday, Oct. 6. Mike drove the LEAF at the Nissan LEAF Short Lead Press Launch on Wednesday, Oct. 20 in Nashville, TN.