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Green, peace and quiet: the Nissan Leaf

Three years after its introduction as one of the country’s first all-electric vehicles, the Nissan Leaf is maturing into a practical and stylish commuter car for the environmentally conscious. According to Tom Wood Nissan leasing manager BJ Knapke, Indianapolis drivers have taken notice: sales are up – perhaps in part because of the more affordable base model. Often purchased as a third car for in-town commuting, the Leaf still comes with a federal tax credit of $7,500.
The Nissan Leaf. Photo by Lori Lovely.

The Nissan Leaf.
Photo by Lori Lovely.

Available in S, SV and SL trim levels, the five-passenger, front-wheel-drive Leaf is powered by an 80 kWh electric motor (107 horsepower and 187 pound-feet of torque) fed by a 24 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The EPA estimates its range with a full charge at 75 miles, which is an increase over previous years due to the regenerative braking and a stylish aerodynamic profile.

A new 6.6-kWh onboard charger cuts charging time in half, but despite an “app” that displays nearby recharging stations on the 7-inch touch-screen monitor, Knapke says some drivers still experience “range anxiety.” Range can be extended by choosing the new “B-mode” that increases regenerative braking under deceleration by nearly 10 percent, although that reduces the amount of torque, which is already noticeably less than in comparable petrol-powered vehicles.

Electric motors produce 100 percent of their torque at zero RPM for instant acceleration without lag. However, performance testing by Edmunds indicated that the Leaf accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 10.2 seconds – slightly slower than comparable EVs.

What the well-engineered Leaf excels at providing is near-silent operation, precise handling – thanks in part to placement of the low-mounted battery pack (which also allows for a roomier back seat), crisp braking and ample interior space that comfortably accommodates passengers as tall as the 6’5” Knapke with room to spare. The 60/40 split rear seats provide additional cargo space.
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