2013 Nissan Leaf Is the World Ready to Turn Over a New Leaf?>

Is the World Ready to Turn Over a New Leaf? as in the 2013 Nissan Leaf. Ah, those crazy politicians. No matter how much we protest, or how impossible the task, they will continue to shove things down our collective throat. Yes, I’m talking about alternative-fuel vehicles. Hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles are sharing space with “archaic” gasoline-powered cars and trucks, but is it their time? Do they make sense yet?

Yes and no. For those who stay in the city, have extremely short commute times to work, and never leave town, the answer is yes. For the 90 percent of us who travel far to work, take lots of trips and driving vacations, the answer is no.

Now the gray area is hybrids, since the run on both electricity and gas, but if you’re doing most of your long-distance driving using the gas engine, you’re not really seeing the benefits of the system.
For those who are in the Yes category, the all-electric 2013 Nissan Leaf is one of the few alternatives to fossil-fuel guzzling rides. The Nissan Leaf was introduced to America three years ago, and has sold over 25,000 units to date. By comparison, the Ford F-150, at the other end of the scale as the best-selling vehicle in America, pushes about three times that amount out the showroom door every month!
The Leaf, built in Tennessee, is a work in progress. Every year battery technology gets better, and every year Nissan learns more about the technology and how it’s used from their customers, and data generated by those miles on the road has helped improved how customers can get the most mileage out of their products.
If you’re looking for an electric vehicle that will blend in, this isn’t that ride. The Leaf’s body looks more like a misshapen egg than a sedan, and is relatively sparse on the inside. The more weight you can pull from a vehicle, the more efficient it will be; that’s just one of the compromises for fuel efficiency. It’s a hatch, which means you can haul cargo and use it as a people mover (it has a rear bench), but, again, load it up and your mileage will drop. Use the A/C and your mileage will diminish. Use the wipers and headlights, and you’re mileage will be lower. What we’re getting at is that every little thing can affect the performance of the vehicle.
Speaking of performance, the Leaf uses an 80 kW electric motor, which draws its power from a 24kW lithium–ion battery pack. Remember, the more you ask of the power, the less time you’ll spend in the vehicle due to decreased range. Plugging in to get your power back takes a matter of hours depending on how you want to charge: the DC quick charge will give you 80% in 30 minutes on 220-volt power, four hours for a full charge on 220, or 21 hours on household 110 current. That means you’ll need to install a 240v charging station at your abode if you don’t want to wait a day between drives. You can regenerate some battery power via the braking system, but not enough to refill the 24kW battery. Power output is listed at 107 hp and 187 lb-ft of torque (with electric motors, maximum torque starts at 0 mph). Fuel efficiency is listed at 115 mpge combined, and the actual range is about 75 miles on a full charge.
Although the ride quality of the Leaf is comfortable with a MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear, this isn’t the vehicle you reach for when going on a Sunday cruise through the canyons. Which is kind of the point. For real-world usage, this would be a great second vehicle, but is severely limiting as your sole mode of transportation. At a base price of $28,800 for the S model (new for 2013), $31,820 for the SV, and $34,840 for the SL, you’re dedication to this technology must be strong and unwavering.
We regard the 2013 Nissan Leaf as a great idea that will fulfill the needs of the few right now, but could be a true alternative if a battery technology breakthrough materializes. Until then, the Leaf is a good answer for those 10% for whom it makes sense.

Written by: BJ Killeen HerHighway Contributor, Owner Team Killeen, Road-Test Editor Drivers Talk Radio, Test Driven, photographed, video and edited by Christina Selter (some photos from Nissan USA)