DAN NEIL, The Los Angeles Times, August 2, 2009
In person, Carlos Ghosn, CEO and all-around-savior of Renault-Nissan, does not strike anyone as an Earth-hugging counterculture type – the man’s shoe collection is probably worth more than a Brentwood mansion. You cannot find a bigger arch-capitalist anywhere. So it must be said, Ghosn’s embrace of electric-vehicle technology means something: If EV’s weren’t on the threshold of being practical and profitable, if there weren’t a powerful business case, you have to assume Ghosn wouldn’t go near them.
Instead, Ghosn has thrown his company into a full-on EV mobilization. This first results of that effort debuted August 2, 2009, when Nissan unveiled the LEAF, a five-seat compact, all-electric hatchback with lithium-ion batteries (24 kWh energy storage and max output of 90kW), giving the car a top speed of 90 mph and nominal range of 100 miles – a magic number, Nissan figures, in Americans’ driving psychology. The car’s electric motor generates 80 kW (107 horsepower). Depending on how you define your terms, the LEAF will be the first mass-market EV sold in the U.S. since the 1920s.
The car will be produced in Japan and at Nissan’s facility in Smyrna, Tennessee.
The LEAF will also feature IT connectivity, so that, for instance, drivers can use mobile phones to reset charging or even turn on the air-conditioning. The IT function will also help Nissan monitor the health and wellbeing of it its early fleet of EV’s. Recharging will take less than a half-hour (to 80% charge) using a high-capacity charger, Nissan says, and about eight hours using a home charger running at 200 Volts. Nissan is working with a half-dozen municipalities and other agencies around the country to develop the quick-charge infrastructure.
With the Volt, Mitsubishi’s IMiev and Nissan’s LEAF coming onto the U.S. market in the next 18 months, the infrastructure issue will begin to dominate the EV debate. Simply put, the cars will become less of a technical hurdle than places to plug them in.
As for the LEAF, the biggest unknown yet is cost. Nissan officials have quietly hinted at a price less than $30,000 retail (that’s before any tax credits), the goal being to make the EV a no-cost option. That would be the LEAF’s greatest trick.