Ready for shock? Nissan Leaf is the real deal
Edward Lapham is executive editor of Automotive News.
The first thing you notice when you slide behind the wheel of the Nissan Leaf is that it's a real car, not just a science project.
That may sound obvious, but some pioneering alternative-energy vehicles, such as the first Honda Insight gasoline-electric hybrid for example, haven't had the same real feel.
A week ago, in my role as one of the 50 journalist jurors for the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards, I spent four days driving and evaluating a Leaf.
At first, I was apprehensive.
My daily round-trip commute is about 50 miles. The fully-charged Leaf can go about 80 miles under the right circumstances. But if you don't drive it in economy mode -- which seems sluggish -- and use the heater -- which is necessary this time of year -- the range expectancy takes a nosedive.
Plugging the Leaf into a standard 110-watt outlet adds about five miles worth of charge every hour. So plugging it in overnight and again all day at work made me a carefree commuter.
Over the weekend, I ran my usual errands and would have forgotten that I was driving an EV except for the occasional strange looks from other drivers.
The Leaf was hard to miss. If the distinctive silhouette didn't catch someone's eye, the huge decal on the side declaring that it's a zero-emission vehicle probably did.
I did an impromptu walk-around for a man who parked next to me at Costco. He had a lot of questions. Turns out, he works for A123, which makes batteries for electric cars and hybrids.
OK, I admit it. Once -- on the expressway -- I blew the doors off a guy who gave me a disapproving look while trying to pass me on the right.
You should have seen his face then. You see, when you're not in economy mode, the Leaf winds up in a hurry.
Hey, it was just an experiment.
You can reach Edward Lapham at email@example.com.