Leaf Test Drive

February, 2 2010


Nissan hosted this event for the purpose of introducing the Leaf EV up close and personal, including a test drive, to Central Florida residents. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the 8 AM session for members of the press.

My wife, Diane, and I arrived about 7:30 AM and drove up to the seventh floor of the Jefferson Street Parking Garage. The Nissan van used to transport the vehicles was parked in the street at the garage entrance. The attendant sent us directly up to the seventh foor.

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The Versa Test Car
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The Leaf Arrives in Orlando!
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Dual Charging Ports on the Leaf
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Mark Points out the Fast Charging Port.
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Al, Bill and Fran listening to Mark Perry
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Fran's Test Drive
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Official Leaf Specs, click to enlarge
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Diane's test drive
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William Farree left Florida Dealeers facing camera asking questions.
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Al's Test Drive
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Versa Test Car Charge Ports
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Versa Test Car Behind the Wheel
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Fran and Al with her Plug-In Prius
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Larry Wexler with his Solar Cycle acove and below
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The Nissan Versa test car was already in place. The Leaf had not yet arrived so we were able to see it drive up the ramp to the seventh floor and be put in place. While we were waiting for the Leaf we signed the required waiver form so we would be permitted to drive the Versa EV test car, know in the trade as a mule.

A mule is an animal bred from a male donkey and a female horse. It is not a horse and not a donkey. The Versa EV Test car is bred from a gasoline car platform with the Leaf all electric drive train. It doesn't look exactly like a Leaf, but it drives like one.

Unfortunately the weather was cold and raining. This put a slight damper on things. Ambient light was low and picture taking was not the best. I had an afternoon commitment in Tampa so was unable to participate in the full days events.

There were several Nissan representatives present. All were courteous and hospitable. They offered us coffee, Danish and bagels, and answered all of our questions.

Fran Sullivan-Fahs and Larry Wexler, local Florida electric vehicle enthusiasts also attended the event. Fran arrived with her family in their Prius plug-in hybrid vehicle. Larry came with his Solar vehicle. William Farree from Rubelab up near Mount Dora was present also. There were a couple of reps from Florida Nissan dealers and a representative from Orlando's fleet management.

Mark Perry and Darryll Harrison Jr. were Nissan spokes persons whom I had a chance to ask questions, among others. I will give my impressions that I was able to take away from the event. I am not quoting anyone or speaking for Nissan. These are just my impressions. I don't want to appear to quoting anyone.

The first question everyone has is, "How much will it cost." The short answer is, a price has not been announced yet. The long answer is it will be competitive with a fully equipped car in its class, a small five passenger sedan.

Some of us have speculated that we might see an offering with the batteries leased separately from the car. I came away with the impression that this is not likely. US legal restrictions make this a difficult option. The car will most likely be either sold or leased, batteries included. U.S. buyers are likely to shy away from a combination car purchase and battery lease option. This is called the "EV1 effect" Buyers will want to own the car and the battery.

As far as the test drive goes, it presented no surprises. Everything worked as expected. the seventh floor parking garage venue offered a limited driving experience, but still worthwhile. We also were driving the Versa mule and not the real thing. A small point, since the drive train is supposed to be the same.

Since I am an experience EV driver, I had a preconception about what the drive would be like. It is smooth and quiet. It is a little bit slicker than my home conversion with electric parking brake and joystick shift lever, both on the center console. You put your foot on the brake to start. Pull the joystick to the left and to the rear for drive and release the parking lever, a one finger operation. They have an Electric Push button park on top of Joy Stick shift lever.

Regen was not noticeable. It seems to be tuned to behave like compression on an ICE car.

The Leaf prototype is an attractive automobile with all electronic digital display. Hard to appreciate since we were not permitted to sit in car. It all looks good from what we could see.

I asked if we could see under the hood of the Leaf Prototype, and was told no. I got the impression the drive train in the Versa mule was not in the Leaf Prototype, which has an 8 mph governor. I asked if we could see under the hood of the Versa mule was told it was not permitted.

So overall, we are all waiting for the details, price, a drive on the road and a look under the hood.

I came away with the impression that although Central Florida would not be included in the initial release, at the end of this year, Nissan has been working with Progress Energy and others to make the Leaf available in Central Florida between March and May of 2011. They want to have some sort of charging infrastructure in place before marketing the vehicle in an area. They plan to have a few fast charging station in the Orlando area.

So all I can say is Nissan has my attention. They get high marks for offering an all electric vehicle.


Created by Al Lococo