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Nissan Leaf Ushers In the Electric Era (good reference)


Nissan is a small player in the auto biz, but it’s about to shake things up by jump-starting the modern EV era. The smallest of Japan’s Big Three automakers promises to have an affordable electric car in showrooms by year’s end.

Nissan’s been experimenting with lithium-ion batteries since 1996, and after dabbling with electric cars in the 1990s it is diving headlong into them. Company CEO Carlos Ghosn is a devout EV evangelist who firmly believes cars with cords are the future of personal transportation. He knows so radical a change won’t come overnight, but he’s confident that by 2020 at least one in 10 cars sold worldwide will be electric. It will have to be, he says, if we are to curb global emissions even as the number of cars worldwide doubles during the next two decades.

“How are you going to have 2 billion cars on earth and reduce emissions,” Ghosn said. “You can’t, unless you use electric vehicles.”

And so we have the Nissan Leaf, a four-door, five-passenger electric car that offers a range of 100 miles and recharges overnight. It joins General Motors in the race to bring an electric car to the mass market, and the Leaf is slated to appear alongside the Chevrolet Volt.

Nissan brought a Leaf by our office to give us a closer look.

The smaller socket on the right is for a conventional 110- or 220-volt line.

Plug the Leaf into a 110-volt line like your television uses and you’ll charge the battery in a glacial 14 to 16 hours. Don’t have that long? Plug it into a 220-volt line like your dryer uses and you’ll do the job in eight. At some point we’ll have 440-volt charging stations and you’ll be able to plug in your Leaf and hit 80 percent state of charge in just 25 minutes.

Just when that will happen is anyone’s guess.
Nissan says the Leaf has a range of 100 miles, a figure Ghosn says suits most needs because 95 percent of the world’s population drives less than 100 kilometers per day. Juice comes from an air-cooled 24 kilowatt/hour lithium-manganese battery that weighs about 600 pounds. Nissan made it flat like a pancake and put it under the floor to maximize interior space.

Unlike other automakers, Nissan is leaning toward selling the car but leasing the batteries.

“In our system, you don’t own the battery. You lease it,” Ghosn said. “The cost to lease the battery and provide the energy will be less than the cost of your gasoline.”

By retaining ownership of the batteries, Nissan can easily update them as the technology advances. It also provides some cover should a pack go bad because Nissan can just replace it. But most importantly, it helps keep costs down. The battery is the most expensive component in an electric car, and removing it from the equation makes the Leaf affordable. That gives it a fighting chance at success.

“For an electric car to make inroads, we have to make sure it starts at the same cost as a conventional car,” Ghosn said.

Ron Cogan, editor of Green Car Journal and GreenCar.com, agrees. Although he is a big supporter of the technology, he says the high cost of batteries is its Achilles’ heel. Nissan is the only automaker seriously considering battery leasing, and it could be a successful strategy.

“Nissan’s going out on a limb,” he said. “It’s betting it can make an affordable, profitable electric car by separating out the battery costs.”

Nissan’s shooting for a price between $26,000 and $34,000 before the $7,500 federal EV tax credit.

Besides giving you turn-by-turn directions, the navigation screen shows you how far you can go with the juice you’ve got. As the battery winds down, a circle showing your “reachable area” gets smaller.

“There’s no excuse for getting stranded,” said Paul Hawson, lead product planner for the Leaf.

The system lets you use a cellphone to set the charging time, alert you when the battery is fully charged, and set the climate control remotely to cool or heat the car. The navi system even provides the locations of public charging stations, if there are any in your town. Nissan is scrambling to roll out a public charging infrastructure.

“As they proliferate, the system will automatically update to show the locations of new charging stations,” Hawson said.

Those trees are part of an “Eco-meter” that shows you how much carbon you’re offsetting driving an electric car. Yes, most of the electricity in the United States is generated with fossil fuels. Doesn’t matter. EVs are still cleaner than internal combustion.

Nissan’s not offering any performance specs for the car, which features an 80-kilowatt (107-horsepower) motor. But it’s shooting for a zero to 60 time of less than 10 seconds. That would put it on par with the Nissan Versa compact sedan. The top speed is limited to 90 mph.

“The idea is to maximize range and usability, not maximize the quarter-mile time,” Hawson said.

That isn’t very quick, but the Leaf promises to plenty peppy around town. Electric motors provide boatloads of torque, which makes them quick off the line. Larry Dominique, vice president of advanced planning and strategy, says the Leaf will have a zero to 30 time comparable to the Infiniti M35. Figure on 2 seconds and change.

There’s only one forward speed, and you engage it with a shifter that looks and works a lot like a computer trackball. Nissan wouldn’t let us drive the Leaf because it’s one of just a few show cars making the rounds during Nissan’s “Zero Emissions Tour” of 22 cities. But we drove an early development prototype of the Leaf in April and came away impressed. It offered brisk acceleration and nimble handling.

As for what it will cost to operate, Hawson says the average cost of electricity is 11 cents per kilowatt hour. The Leaf has a 24-kw/hr pack that’s good for 100 miles.

“That’s less than $2.75 cents to go 100 miles,” he said.

The Leaf is about the same size as a Versa, and there’s room for five passengers and their stuff. Although Ghosn is serious about pushing electric cars into the mainstream, Nissan is equally serious about making them attractive, practical cars people will actually buy.

“It’s not a magic car,” Hawson said. “It’s a real car.”

And though it isn’t a rocket, Hawson — who was the lead product planner for the incredibly awesome Nissan GT-R before being assigned to the Leaf — says it will be fun to drive.

“I’m not saying it’s a sports car,” he said, “but the handling is very neutral.”

Aerodynamics is key to maximizing range because as much as 50 percent of the power a typical car uses at 55 mph is needed just to push the air out of the way.

Nissan wouldn’t disclose the drag coefficient of the Leaf, but Hawson said it is “competitive with similar cars.” Whenever an automaker says that, they’re usually referring to the Toyota Prius without actually saying Toyota Prius.

By the way, the 2010 Prius has a drag coefficient of 0.25.

The Leaf features aquiline headlamps, a sharply raked windshield and sweeping lines. Hawson said the idea was to create something aerodynamic and vaguely futuristic without making it look like a toy.

With less than a year to go until the car appears in showrooms, the design is locked in. No further revisions are planned beyond details like wheels. As for the rest of the car, Dominique says it’s almost ready for production.

“We’re probably 80 or 90 percent there,” he said.
This isn’t the end of Nissan’s electric cars, but the beginning. The Leaf is the start of what Ghosn promises will be a full line of EVs.

“We’re not coming out with one electric car,” he said. “We’re coming out with a product line.”

Ghosn is utterly convinced there is a market for such cars, and he believes electric cars will comprise at least 10 percent of the market by 2020.

“I think we’re going to have a lot of people lining up for this technology,” he said

Read More http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/01/nissan-leaf/all/1#ixzz0btfDIha2

Nissan is a small player in the auto biz, but it’s about to shake things up by jump-starting the modern EV era. The smallest of Japan’s Big Three automakers promises to have an affordable electric car in showrooms by year’s end.

Nissan’s been experimenting with lithium-ion batteries since 1996, and after dabbling with electric cars in the 1990s it is diving headlong into them. Company CEO Carlos Ghosn is a devout EV evangelist who firmly believes cars with cords are the future of personal transportation. He knows so radical a change won’t come overnight, but he’s confident that by 2020 at least one in 10 cars sold worldwide will be electric. It will have to be, he says, if we are to curb global emissions even as the number of cars worldwide doubles during the next two decades.

“How are you going to have 2 billion cars on earth and reduce emissions,” Ghosn said. “You can’t, unless you use electric vehicles.”

And so we have the Nissan Leaf, a four-door, five-passenger electric car that offers a range of 100 miles and recharges overnight. It joins General Motors in the race to bring an electric car to the mass market, and the Leaf is slated to appear alongside the Chevrolet Volt.

Nissan brought a Leaf by our office to give us a closer look.

The smaller socket on the right is for a conventional 110- or 220-volt line.

Plug the Leaf into a 110-volt line like your television uses and you’ll charge the battery in a glacial 14 to 16 hours. Don’t have that long? Plug it into a 220-volt line like your dryer uses and you’ll do the job in eight. At some point we’ll have 440-volt charging stations and you’ll be able to plug in your Leaf and hit 80 percent state of charge in just 25 minutes.

Just when that will happen is anyone’s guess.

Nissan says the Leaf has a range of 100 miles, a figure Ghosn says suits most needs because 95 percent of the world’s population drives less than 100 kilometers per day. Juice comes from an air-cooled 24 kilowatt/hour lithium-manganese battery that weighs about 600 pounds. Nissan made it flat like a pancake and put it under the floor to maximize interior space.

Unlike other automakers, Nissan is leaning toward selling the car but leasing the batteries.

“In our system, you don’t own the battery. You lease it,” Ghosn said. “The cost to lease the battery and provide the energy will be less than the cost of your gasoline.”

By retaining ownership of the batteries, Nissan can easily update them as the technology advances. It also provides some cover should a pack go bad because Nissan can just replace it. But most importantly, it helps keep costs down. The battery is the most expensive component in an electric car, and removing it from the equation makes the Leaf affordable. That gives it a fighting chance at success.

“For an electric car to make inroads, we have to make sure it starts at the same cost as a conventional car,” Ghosn said.

Ron Cogan, editor of Green Car Journal and GreenCar.com, agrees. Although he is a big supporter of the technology, he says the high cost of batteries is its Achilles’ heel. Nissan is the only automaker seriously considering battery leasing, and it could be a successful strategy.

“Nissan’s going out on a limb,” he said. “It’s betting it can make an affordable, profitable electric car by separating out the battery costs.”

Nissan’s shooting for a price between $26,000 and $34,000 before the $7,500 federal EV tax credit.

Besides giving you turn-by-turn directions, the navigation screen shows you how far you can go with the juice you’ve got. As the battery winds down, a circle showing your “reachable area” gets smaller.

“There’s no excuse for getting stranded,” said Paul Hawson, lead product planner for the Leaf.

The system lets you use a cellphone to set the charging time, alert you when the battery is fully charged, and set the climate control remotely to cool or heat the car. The navi system even provides the locations of public charging stations, if there are any in your town. Nissan is scrambling to roll out a public charging infrastructure.

“As they proliferate, the system will automatically update to show the locations of new charging stations,” Hawson said.

Those trees are part of an “Eco-meter” that shows you how much carbon you’re offsetting driving an electric car. Yes, most of the electricity in the United States is generated with fossil fuels. Doesn’t matter. EVs are still cleaner than internal combustion.

Nissan’s not offering any performance specs for the car, which features an 80-kilowatt (107-horsepower) motor. But it’s shooting for a zero to 60 time of less than 10 seconds. That would put it on par with the Nissan Versa compact sedan. The top speed is limited to 90 mph.

“The idea is to maximize range and usability, not maximize the quarter-mile time,” Hawson said.

That isn’t very quick, but the Leaf promises to plenty peppy around town. Electric motors provide boatloads of torque, which makes them quick off the line. Larry Dominique, vice president of advanced planning and strategy, says the Leaf will have a zero to 30 time comparable to the Infiniti M35. Figure on 2 seconds and change.

There’s only one forward speed, and you engage it with a shifter that looks and works a lot like a computer trackball. Nissan wouldn’t let us drive the Leaf because it’s one of just a few show cars making the rounds during Nissan’s “Zero Emissions Tour” of 22 cities. But we drove an early development prototype of the Leaf in April and came away impressed. It offered brisk acceleration and nimble handling.

As for what it will cost to operate, Hawson says the average cost of electricity is 11 cents per kilowatt hour. The Leaf has a 24-kw/hr pack that’s good for 100 miles.

“That’s less than $2.75 cents to go 100 miles,” he said.

The Leaf is about the same size as a Versa, and there’s room for five passengers and their stuff. Although Ghosn is serious about pushing electric cars into the mainstream, Nissan is equally serious about making them attractive, practical cars people will actually buy.

“It’s not a magic car,” Hawson said. “It’s a real car.”

And though it isn’t a rocket, Hawson — who was the lead product planner for the incredibly awesome Nissan GT-R before being assigned to the Leaf — says it will be fun to drive.

“I’m not saying it’s a sports car,” he said, “but the handling is very neutral.”

Aerodynamics is key to maximizing range because as much as 50 percent of the power a typical car uses at 55 mph is needed just to push the air out of the way.

Nissan wouldn’t disclose the drag coefficient of the Leaf, but Hawson said it is “competitive with similar cars.” Whenever an automaker says that, they’re usually referring to the Toyota Prius without actually saying Toyota Prius.

By the way, the 2010 Prius has a drag coefficient of 0.25.

The Leaf features aquiline headlamps, a sharply raked windshield and sweeping lines. Hawson said the idea was to create something aerodynamic and vaguely futuristic without making it look like a toy.

With less than a year to go until the car appears in showrooms, the design is locked in. No further revisions are planned beyond details like wheels. As for the rest of the car, Dominique says it’s almost ready for production.

“We’re probably 80 or 90 percent there,” he said.

This isn’t the end of Nissan’s electric cars, but the beginning. The Leaf is the start of what Ghosn promises will be a full line of EVs.

“We’re not coming out with one electric car,” he said. “We’re coming out with a product line.”

Ghosn is utterly convinced there is a market for such cars, and he believes electric cars will comprise at least 10 percent of the market by 2020.

“I think we’re going to have a lot of people lining up for this technology,” he said

wired.com

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