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Nissan Set To Sell The `Simple, Uncomplicated’ 2011 Leaf

March 6, 2010/Steve Tackett

MOTOR MATTERS DOWN THE ROAD BY HERB SHULDINER

Recently the Prius, the nation’s best-selling hybrid electric vehicle, has been caught up in the maelstrom of shocking publicity that has battered Toyota’s reputation for quality vehicles. Has this poisoned the well for a new generation of hybrids and Electric Vehicles that will enter the marketplace late this year?
Carlos Tavares, chairman of Nissan North America Inc. does not believe the Prius problems have created a barrier for the entry of new EVs.
“The time is right for electric vehicles,” Tavares says. He says the 2011 Nissan Leaf will now be leased with the battery included for a single monthly payment.
Nissan’s Leaf is a true all-electric car — not a hybrid — and doesn’t have an internal combustion engine to extend the vehicle’s range. Cruising range for the Leaf is claimed to be 100 miles before the battery pack needs to be recharged.
Tavares has high hopes for the Leaf in North America, noting EVs are less complicated than conventional cars.
“We feel good about electric cars, because they are simpler (mechanically) than conventional cars,” he says. Consumers will recognize that aspect, Tavares suggests, and welcome an opportunity to drive an EV.
The combined operating cost of the Leaf will be similar to what it costs to lease and drive a Honda Civic, Tavares suggests. “We’re confident we’re going to make this car affordable.”
However, he is unwilling to forecast how many Leafs will be purchased in the first 12 months after the car becomes available.t. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Tavares also hedges on the Leaf’s cold-weather range.
“Driving range will be impacted by how high you turn the heater on,” he says. “We don’t have any precise numbers.” He notes the Leaf can be heated or cooled while connected to the electric grid.
A story published in January by “The Blade,” a Toledo, Ohio daily newspaper, says automakers are finding that EVs lose about 30 percent of their range in extreme hot and cold climates, citing sources at BMW AG’s Mini and Tesla Motors Inc.
Overall costs for operating a Leaf EV will be considerably lower than for a conventional car at $3 per gallon gasoline. Annual fuel costs at that price would come to $1,500 per year, says Scott E. Becker, Nissan senior vice president, administration and finance.
At peak electricity rates, it would cost $450 annually to “fuel” the Leaf’s battery pack, he says. “It could be as low as $150 per year at off-peak utility rates.”
Nissan has a three-step process for those interested in buying or leasing the Leaf: Hand-raisers can register for more information on Nissan’s Web site (www.nissanusa.com). To date, more than 50,000 people have done so and will be given first priority to reserve the EV.
Nissan will begin taking reservations in April shortly after the Leaf’s price is announced. Those willing to pay a $100 refundable deposit will be among the first to order the car. Firm order taking for the Leaf will begin in August. — Herb Shuldiner, Motor Matters

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010