Friday, September 3, 2010

Nissan Leaf

Originally posted on 6 Aug 2009:

I am very happy to see another electric vehicle on the near horizon: the Nissan Leaf was announced on August 2nd.  There’s a very comprehensive post on AutoBlogGreen, including a video.
They appear to have done a lot of careful design: they did as much aerodynamic design as they could without having obvious things like wheel skirts.  They did not want it to look like a Prius/Insight, and though it has the same basic shape of those cars, it obviously looks more “normal” than they do. Personally, I would prefer a lower window sill line — which would improve rearward visibility. And I hope that it can be had with steel wheels, so one can use smooth wheel covers.

I want it to work well; and as long as it avoids any “stupid” styling (which I think it does!) that hurt how it works, then I’m happy. Form should follow function, like with the Aptera. Styling should be limited to the “graphic” adjustments of the aerodynamic shape. Again, the best example of this is comparing the earlier Aptera MK-0 and Typ-1 to the current model. They changed the height, and they changed the “graphics” of things like the shape of the windows and the headlights, and while the overall shape is the same slippery form, the newer models look much better.
To quote the ABG article on this subject:
A Question of Style
Interestingly, unlike the current alt-fuel darlings from Toyota and Honda, Nissan has purposefully eschewed a fastback shape for a more formal five-door appearance. Shiro Nakamura, Nissan’s senior vice president and chief creative officer (read: styling director) admits he wanted the car to be unique, but not so bizarre as to be off-putting to most car buyers:
“From the beginning, we did not want to make the car very strange, because one of the perceptions of the EV [is that] people think that EVs are toys, or cheap… that you cannot drive high-speed, that EV means ‘not real car.’ But the car we have is a real car – you can drive it at 140 kilometers, you can sit four or five passengers comfortably.By that measure, the more upright yet unique Leaf is a success – it is a slippery shape with real passenger space, yet it doesn’t resort to visually polarizing aerodynamic tricks like faired-in wheel housings and to maximize aero. Instead, it has a smooth face (secreting two charging ports hiding beneath the Nissan logo), strangely prominent blue-tinted headlamps that manage airflow as much as they do nighttime vision, and a roofline whose rearmost pillar reminds us of another Nissan – the Murano. The Leaf has an almost Gallic rump that recalls that of the Versa, a design that in turn reminds us of offerings from Nissan’s European partner, Renault.
From what we have been told so far, the Leaf will have range of 100 miles, carrying four adults or five people, and it has two charging plugs: a 120v and a 240v (~16 hours and ~8 hours for a full charge, respectively) — and there is the ability to use a 3-phase fast charge (if you have access to an expensive special charger) that does an 80% charge in less than 30 minutes, or an ~30% charge in about 10 minutes.  The battery pack is ~200kg (440 pounds) and is made up of 48 laptop-sized modules (each of which has 4 magazine-sized cells).  These are thin, laminated lithium ion cells (that may be similar to the battery used in the newest MacBook Pro laptops) — and they are installed in the floor of the Leaf.  The total weight of the car is probably similar to say the Versa, but the Cg is probably much lower because of where the batteries are installed.
Here's a post on Green Car Congress with some specific information about the initial release of ~5,000 Leafs in 2010:

Up to 5,000 Nissan LEAF EVs in 5 Regions

So, the (non-exhaustive) list of EV’s that we already have seen, or will be seeing in the next few years grows a bit longer:
  • Nissan Leaf
  • Toyota/Scion FT-EV
  • Mitsubishi iMiEV (say: I-meev)
  • Aptera 2e
  • Coda Automotive
  • Ford Focus EV
  • Mini E
  • Th!nk City
  • BYD F3DM

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