As we profiled on Friday, Nissan Motor Company chose August 2, 2009 to debut its groundbreaking, game changing zero emission electric vehicle at its new corporate headquarters in Yokohama, Japan, and we were here to check it out. Nissan calls it the Leaf (Leading, Environmentally Friendly, Affordable, Family Car), and says it will launch in the U.S. in late 2010 in limited quantities. The Japanese automaker is boasting that the Leaf will be the first affordable (target price is reportedly $25,000-30,000), real-world, mass-market (by 2012) electric vehicle and that it will have a range of some 100 miles. But before we jump into what it all means and what’s going with those funky headlights, here is a brief synopsis on the program.As we have covered in many recent updates, this is Nissan’s most significant endeavor in environmentally friendly motoring. This new electric vehicle (EV) program goes well beyond the company’s recent attempts at improving fuel economy via such measures as the widespread rollout of CVT transmissions and the licensing Toyota’s hybrid technology. In fact, the Leaf does away with our traditional notions of fuel and jumps right into the long promised future of mass marketed electric vehicles.How does it work? The Leaf runs on a large battery pack composed of 192 flat lithium ion (LiOn) battery cells that lay under the floor and between the wheels. This pack delivers enough power to support the 80kW electric motor for up to 100 miles of driving on a full charge. Recharging will be possible on 110V and 220V house current (8 hours/4 hours respectively for a full charge) and via special higher voltage quick charges. Fine, but what’s with the name?According to Nissan, the “LEAF” name (Nissan PR would of course like us to USE ALL CAPS FOR THE NAME) is what you’d expect a name associated with a tree to be — making a green statement. Here’s some good spin about the Leaf name from the press release: “Just as leaves purify the air in nature, so Nissan LEAF purifies mobility by taking emissions out of the driving experience.” Of course, there’s that little matter of where the Leaf will draw its electricity from — we’re guessing from a power plant that produces lots of emissions. But that’s another discussion…You might have noticed nowhere on the vehicle are the words electric vehicle or letters EV. Instead, what’s prominently displayed on the Leaf is a big ‘ol zero emissions badge. Shiro Nakamura, Nissan’s Chief Creative Office and design head explains why:”EV is a means to get zero emissions, so we intentionally avoided EV branding. Zero emissions is about the overall concept, not the hardware.”But let’s talk about the hardware — particularly the styling — since we already are familiar with how it works and drives.At first glance, the Leaf looks new, yet familiar — and distinctly Japanese. It should, as its exterior and interior styling are the result of Nissan’s Japanese design studios. Nakamura cites as influences the Japanese market March Micra and our very own Nissan Murano (the Leaf’s designer also penned the Murano).From our American eyes, we see a bit of Honda Fit in the shape of the front end, but concur that from most other angles, Nissan’s design DNA is readily apparent. The shape of the greenhouse, from the fast angle of the windshield to the kink of the C-pillar does bring to mind the Murano. The belt line and some surfacing appear lifted from the March Micra, while the profile, proportions and overall size recall Versa, except when you get to the notchback bustle in the back, which is reminiscent of Nissan’s corporate cousin, the Renault Megane.Nakamura agrees with this assessment but states that any similarity with the Megane is purely coincidental.”It has no connection with Renault. We are always careful to not look like Renault. Sometimes it is ok, because we are partners…if you point to one detail, ok, maybe. But as long as the total car looks like a Nissan, that is ok.” As you get closer, a number of interesting details emerge, most notably the strange bulge to the headlights at their inside edge. These and other features exist for aerodynamic reasons — a chief concern of Nakamura’s styling team.”Aerodynamics is very, very important for two reasons — air drag and wind noise control. When driving 120 kph (roughly 75 mph), you can only hear the tires and wind, there is no engine noise. If you have lots of wind noise, it sounds even greater because .”So his team developed the bulging headlamps, conceivably to break up and channel the flow of air before it meets the seam of windshield and creates noise. They also paid particular attention to the shape and orientation of the side mirrors, to reduce wind nose from the side.So were they successful in reducing drag and noise? Nakamura thinks so. “I can not say Cd (coefficient of drag) but it is very good — without making it the typical one motion aeroform,” he says during an interview prior to the Leaf’s reveal, alluding to the prosaic shape of both the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight that has become synonymous with low drag. “This is our own expression. But at the same time it doesn’t compromise.”Indeed, Nissan did not skimp on the features for the Leaf; there is a lot of high technology built in, from the optional roof mounted solar panel (said to help power accessory fans) and rear back up camera. Look down and you’ll notice the complete absence of a tailpipe. Between those awkward headlights is another signature EV feature. Where the hood meets the front bumper, is a panel surrounding the circular Nissan logo which flips up to reveal the charging ports. Though we don’t know what direction Nissan plans to take with future EVs, you can expect to find this bit of hardware in the Leaf’s siblings (until wireless non contact charging comes to fruition).Inside, it really becomes obvious that this is not your average hatchback. The center stack is dominated by a large, bright multi information touchscreen, necessary to interact with Nissan’s EV-IT system (which provides EV range and recharging information as well as navigation, climate, and audio control). A futuristic looking semi-spherical transmission controller rests on the center console, and twists to offer (R)everse, (N)eutral, and (D)rive slots, as well as a button for (P)ark. Honda styling cues resurface in the split instrument panel — a lower housing features another large, bright display, while a secondary hood above shows speed and other information. As far as comfort and roo
miness goes, Nakamura says his team benchmarked the entire C-segment for both interior and exterior dimensions, so the Leaf should be competitive. We did not get a chance to sit in the vehicle, but noted what looked like ample headroom, decent legroom both front and rear, and a huge trunk not often associated with vehicles that run on batteries.Of course, at this point, some of you might be wondering what the fuss is about. And it’s true. For all of the buildup and anticipation, the Leaf is unlikely to turn many heads when it hits the streets in select markets in late 2010. Even when dressed up in brilliant blue green paint, there is no disguising the rather pedestrian proportions of this compact, traditionally shaped C-segment hatchback. There is some method to this plainness as, Nakamura explains.”We don’t want to go too far out of the segment. We are expecting a big volume . We want to maintain some mainstream feeling.” Some but not all. “On the interior, we want to give more of a high tech feeling — unique, but not strange. One that people can appreciate as real car.”This point is of particular importance to Nakamura’s team, as he specifically wanted to avoid the negative connotations associated with electric vehicles.”There is a perception in some markets that EVs are toys or cheap. Like a golf cart or city car. Maybe they can’t drive at high speed…they are not a real car. We did not want to create a car that is toy like or cheap looking. Ours is a real car. It can go 140 kph (87 mph) and can seat 4-5 people.”If you like the way the Leaf looks, take comfort in the fact that this is very close to a production ready vehicle — as much as 95% according to Nakamura. The specific paint scheme you see here will not be offered, though a shade similar and more durable will be along with a standard palette of customer friendly colors. A few of the surfaces and materials may change on the inside, but the Leaf as you see it now should be very close to what zips quietly past you starting in late next year.While other manufacturers have tied their fortunes to hybrid vehicles and clean diesels, Nissan has been relatively quiet on the low emissions front. With their new EV offering, Nissan is prepared to make a very large noise, as it clearly intends to be the leader in zero emissions vehicle leader. Whether the noise Nissan’s zero emissions program makes is a boom or a whimper bust depends entirely on the success of a car it calls the Leaf.INITIAL SPECS FOR THE NISSAN LEAF:Dimensions Length: 4445 mm / 175.0 in.Width: 1770 mm / 69.7 in.Height : 1550 mm / 61.0 in.Wheelbase: 2700 mm / 106.3 in.Performance Driving range over: 160km/100miles (US LA4 mode)Max speed (km/h): over 140km/h (over 87 mph)Motor Type: AC motorMax power (kW): 80kWMax torque (Nm): 280NmBattery Type: laminated lithium-ion batteryTotal capacity (kWh): 24Power output (kW): over 90Energy density (Wh/kg): 140Power density (kW/kg): 2.5Number of modules: 48Charging times: quick charger DC 50kW (0 to 80%): less than 30 min; home-use AC200V charger: less than 8 hrsBattery layout: Under seat & floorOFFICIAL NISSAN PRESS RELEASE:NISSAN UNVEILS “LEAF” – THE WORLD’S FIRST ELECTRIC CAR DESIGNED FOR AFFORDABILITY AND REAL-WORLD REQUIREMENTS Event ushers in a new era for Nissan and a new era for mobility YOKOHAMA, (Aug. 2, 2009) – Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. today unveiled Nissan LEAF, the world’s first affordable, zero-emission car. Designed specifically for a lithium-ion battery-powered chassis, Nissan LEAF is a medium-size hatchback that comfortably seats five adults and has a range of more than 160km (100 miles) to satisfy real-world consumer requirements. NISSAN LEAFSlated for launch in late 2010 in Japan, the United States, and Europe, Nissan LEAF ushers in a new era of mobility – the zero-emission era. The car is the embodiment of Nissan’s radical, transformative vision for the future and the culmination of decades of investment and research. “Nissan LEAF is a tremendous accomplishment – one in which all Nissan employees can take great pride,” said Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn. “We have been working tirelessly to make this day a reality – the unveiling of a real-world car that has zero – not simply reduced – emissions. It’s the first step in what is sure to be an exciting journey – for people all over the world, for Nissan and for the industry.”Key characteristics of the LEAF include:1) Zero-emission power train and platform2) Affordable pricing3) Distinctive design4) Real-world range autonomy – 160km (100 miles)5) Connected Mobility: Advanced intelligent transportation (IT) systemThe “LEAF” name is a significant statement about the car itself. Just as leaves purify the air in nature, so Nissan LEAF purifies mobility by taking emissions out of the driving experience. Pricing details will be announced closer to start of sales in late 2010; however, the company expects the car to be competitively priced in the range of a well-equipped C-segment vehicle. Additionally, Nissan LEAF is expected to qualify for an array of significant local, regional and national tax breaks and incentives in markets around the world. As an added benefit, because the vehicle has less mechanical complexity than a traditional gasoline-powered car, Nissan LEAF is designed to be friendly to the wallet as well as to the environment.ZERO-EMISSION MOBILITYNissan LEAF is powered by laminated compact lithium-ion batteries, which generate power output of over 90kW, while its electric motor delivers 80kW/280Nm. This ensures a highly responsive, fun-to-drive experience that is in keeping with what consumers have come to expect from traditional, gasoline-powered automobiles.Unlike internal-combustion engine (ICE) equipped vehicles, Nissan LEAF’s power train has no tail pipe, and thus no emission of CO2 or other greenhouse gases. A combination of Nissan LEAF’s regenerative braking system and innovative lithium-ion battery packs enables the car to deliver a driving range of more than 160km (100 miles) on one full charge*. (*US LA4 mode)Extensive consumer research demonstrates that this range satisfies the daily driving requirements of more than 70% of the world’s consumers who drive cars.And, Nissan’s approach makes charging easy and convenient. Nissan LEAF can be charged up to 80% of its full capacity in just under 30 minutes with a quick charger. Charging at home through a 200V outlet is estimated to take approximately eight hours – ample time to enable an overnight refresh for consumer and car alike.REAL-WORLD CAR The engineers and designers behind Nissan LEAF worked to create a competitively priced real-world car that would enable Nissan to lead mobility into the zero-emission era. To ensure comfort, spaciousness and cargo capacity, Nissan LEAF employs a completely new chassis and body layout.”Our car had to be the world’s first, medium-size, practical EV that
motorists could afford and would want to use every day. And that’s what we’ve created. The styling will identify not only Nissan LEAF but also the owner as a participant in the new era of zero-emission mobility,” said Masato INOUE, Product Chief Designer.DISTINCTIVE DESIGNEven the smallest details can yield tremendous effect.Nissan LEAF’s frontal styling is characterized by a sharp, upright V-shaped design featuring long, up-slanting light-emitting diode (LED) headlights that employ a blue internal reflective design that announces, “This car is special.” But the headlights do more than make a statement. They are also designed to cleverly split and redirect airflow away from the door mirrors, thus reducing wind noise and drag. And, the headlights provide yet one more benefit in that they consume just 10 percent of the electricity of conventional lamps, which helps Nissan LEAF to achieve its world-class range autonomy.Through bright trim colors inside, Nissan LEAF creates a pleasing and stylish cabin environment. An environmentally friendly “blue earth” color theme originates from the Aqua Globe body color of Nissan LEAF’s introductory model. This theme is carried into the interior through blue dashboard highlights and instrument illumination.CONNECTED MOBILITY IT SYSTEMNissan LEAF employs an exclusive advanced IT system. Connected to a global data center, the system can provide support, information, and entertainment for drivers 24 hours a day. The dash-mounted monitor displays Nissan LEAF’s remaining power – or “reachable area” – in addition to showing a selection of nearby charging stations.Another state-of-the-art feature is the ability to use mobile phones to turn on air-conditioning and set charging functions – even when Nissan LEAF is powered down. An on-board remote-controlled timer can also be pre-programmed to recharge batteries. “The IT system is a critical advantage,” says Tooru ABE, Chief Product Specialist. “We wanted this vehicle to be a partner for the driver and an enhancement for the passengers. We also wanted this vehicle to help create a zero-emission community, and these IT features will help make that possible.”HOLISTIC APPROACH TO ZERO-EMISSION MOBILITY AND ECO-FRIENDLY INNOVATIONNissan LEAF is a critical first step in establishing the era of zero-emission mobility; however, Nissan recognizes that internal-combustion engine (ICE) technologies will play a vital role in global transportation for decades to come. Because of this, Nissan is implementing its zero-emission vision through a holistic approach, which provides consumers a comprehensive range of eco-friendly technologies from which to choose.For some consumers, Nissan LEAF will be the perfect match, and the only car they will ever need. For others, Nissan LEAF will be a logical addition to the family fleet – the optimal choice for the daily commute, for example.While zero-emission is the ultimate goal, the company is committed to ongoing innovation in eco-friendly technologies that increase efficiency and reduce emissions. As a result, Nissan offers a comprehensive suite of automotive technologies, including CVT, Idle Stop, HEV, Clean Diesel, and ongoing research and investment in FCV technology.WORLDWIDE PARTNERSZero-emission mobility programs under the banner of the Renault-Nissan Alliance include partnerships with countries such as the UK and Portugal, local governments in the Japan and the USA, and other sectors, for a total of nearly 30 partnerships worldwide.In these partnerships major efforts focus on three areas: 1) Development of a comprehensive charging infrastructure through public and private investment, 2) Incentives and subsidies from local, regional, and national governments, and 3) Public education on the individual and societal benefits of zero-emissions mobility.ZERO-EMISSION VEHICLE PRODUCTIONNissan LEAF is the first in the company’s forthcoming line of EVs and is a major milestone in the realization of the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s vision for zero-emission mobility. The first of Nissan’s EVs will be manufactured at Oppama, Japan, with additional capacity planned for Smyrna, Tennessee, USA. Meanwhile, lithium-ion batteries are being produced in Zama, Japan, with additional capacity planned for the USA, the UK and Portugal, and other sites for investment are under study around the world.
Source : blogs.motortrend.com/6537775/green/zero-emissions-all-green-introducing-the-nissan-leaf-ev/index.html