The Nissan Leaf: The First Electric Car for the People?

Nissan Leaf

Up until now, all-electric vehicles have been placed squarely in the domain of the rich; few can afford the $109,000 Tesla Roadster, and even the company's upcoming "economy" car, the Model S, will cost over $57,000. With the exception of neighborhood electric vehicles—often just golf carts resembling small electric cars—EVs have been out of the range of the masses. That may all change with the Nissan Leaf, scheduled for release in late 2010. Nissan says the car will be priced affordably, in the range of a C-class sedan, which means we can expect it to cost anywhere from $25,000 - $35,000.

When released, the car is expected to go 100 miles on a charge with a top speed of at least 76 mph—more than enough juice for most everyday driving. The car can be charged up to 80% of full capacity in less than 30 minutes with a quick charger, and can be charged in regular 200V outlets in about eight hours.

By the time it hits the streets, the Leaf will already have competition in the form of Coda Automotive's EV, expected to be released fall 2010. The mostly Chinese-manufactured car also goes 100 miles on a charge and has a similar top speed of 80 mph, but it probably won't be nearly as mainstream as the Leaf. Coda's EV will initially only be released in California, and even when it expands to the rest of the country it will be marketed primarily over the Internet. That makes it more of a niche car than the showroom-ready Leaf, which has the added benefit of a familiar brand name.

Chances are that Nissan will reveal a more sophisticated EV—perhaps one with a higher top speed and range—in the near future. But by releasing the Leaf, Nissan is at least beginning to bring the EV dream down to Earth for many consumers.

[Nissan Leaf]

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