Nissan closely guarded just about everything about its new battery electric car, until finally introducing it in Yokohama over the weekend. But now we know: It’s called Leaf, with a connotation of cleaning the air. “You wouldn’t believe how much work we had to do to clear copyrights on that name around the world,” joked Mark Perry, a Nissan director for product planning and the man responsible for introducing the car in North America.
The Leaf has a 100-mile cruising range and a top speed of 90 miles an hour with its 90-kilowatt battery pack and 80-kilowatt electric motor. A charge from a 220-volt outlet takes eight hours, but 14 hours from standard 110. (It’s also equipped for 26-minute, 480-volt fast charging.) The Leaf has a relatively small 24-kilowatt-hour battery pack (stored under the floor), and Mr. Perry said the downsizing was possible because of the pack’s lithium-ion and manganese battery chemistry. “We get twice the energy density out of half the size and weight,” he said. The battery pack is expensive, though, about $10,000 a car, according to Business Week.
Nissan has a 51 percent stake in a joint battery venture with NEC, and Mr. Perry said the company will have the capacity to produce 150,000 electric vehicles and 200,000 battery packs annually when its factory in Smyrna, Tenn., is ready in 2012. Nissan received a low-interest $1.6 billion Department of Energy manufacturing loan for the Tennessee plant.
The Leaf is sized somewhere between a Sentra and an Altima, and Mr. Perry describes it as “a real car with room for five, more midsized than it is compact.” The five-door hatchback design is plainly in the Nissan family, with a low-mounted grille and a charging port in the nose.
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