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Friday, June 24, 2011

The Nissan Leaf reviewed. It drives like a car...and that's a very good thing.

Gas cars have been around almost 120 years. Others have tried steam engines, jet power and even a few abortive tries at electrical locomotion, but it seems that the good old standard combustion engine keeps chuggin' along, merrily carrying us all from point A to point B in relative comfort, safety and efficiency.

That's beginning to change. Slowly, the major car manufacturers are starting to introduce hybrids across their entire product line. The Toyota Prius and the Chevrolet Volt are two examples of the hybrid approach where electrical batteries are used in conjunction with small engine to extend the reach of the vehicle and achieve unheard of MPG of 50, 60 or even 70 MPG.

Would you even look twice at this car on your commute?
(source: Nissan)

Now, Nissan has leapfrogged the industry with the introduction of the Nissan Leaf all electric vehicle. That's right- no gas engine at all! No gas tank and no stopping at the pump for $4/gal. gas again.

Instead, the Leaf charges its batteries overnight or while you work and is good for about 85 miles on a full charge (IMO, I'd cut that by a third to account for real world driving conditions). But if you think about it, how much do you and I really drive most days? I'd say most of us go less than 50 miles a day and the Leaf seems an ideal vehicle for those folks.
 The Leaf still has full air conditioning, heating, power everything and a comfortable interior that gives up nothing to the gas guzzler next door. Nissan's official Leaf site can be found here and you'll be able to see what makes it so special. Technology is nice, but unless the public sees it as a legitimate replacement for fossil fuels, it may all be for naught.

This super high-tech interior looks pretty normal, doesn't it?
(source: Nissan)
Want to know what it's like to live with the Nissan Leaf? Our friends at Ubergizmo acutally ordered one and they can tell you what real life is like with the Leaf- the good, the bad and the shocking. Click here to go there now. Turns out, the Leaf drives pretty much like, well....a car.

And that's high praise. Cars like the Leaf will only find acceptance with US consumers when they don't have to give up the usual luxuries in order to get the efficiency. Nissan seems to be on to something here, but the ultimate test will be in the marketplace.

Check back with my grandson in 120 years and he'll be able to tell you if the Leaf and it's progeny made a go of it or not.

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