Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Incredible, InEVitable Leaf

Today Mr. Beale and I went down to Nissan headquarters in Cool Springs to test out the new Leaf as part of their “drive electric tour.” It was quite an amazing experience. If you get a chance to check one of these out, I recommend it.

There were about 25 or so people in our group, from all walks of life: engineers, car enthusiasts, DFH-types, you name it. I was impressed with the intelligent questions people asked; these were clearly enthusiasts. Well, except for the lone asshole in our group who arrived having decided he didn’t like EVs for some reason. Dude, why’d you sign up for the tour, then? He snorted at the battery's 100,000 mile warranty (“What happens if there’s a problem at 400,000 miles? Huh? HUH?!”) Let me add, I heard that same comment when I bought my hybrid. The batteries were only gonna last a year and cost thousands of dollars to replace! Well, wrong.

Most hilariously though was his issue with the “e" logo on the home charging station, which really seemed to tick this guy off. “Will all chargers have that? Even the public ones?” Answer: No. “Well that’s gonna be confusing!” Dude, how do you ever negotiate the plethora of gas station logos? BP, Shell, MapCo, Exxon -- you must be completely flummoxed, you poor dear.

Give me a break.

Anyway, fortunately he was pretty much the only asshole -- though one person snorted derisively on hearing there were just 250 Nissan Leafs on the road right now, as if that somehow implies nobody wants one. Of course, I’ve already addressed that here. But everyone else just seemed interested in learning what the Leaf is all about. And I learned a lot. For instance, I didn’t know Nissan has been making electric cars since the 1940s. The current disaster in Japan has temporarily shut down all of Nissan’s manufacturing but we were told the plant is expected to reopen in a week (though who knows). But the Leaf will be made in Tennessee’s Smyrna plant in 2012 and I think that’s going to be super exciting for Tennessee.

But you know, the car is pretty ordinary. It drives like any other car. It’s quieter, but if you already have a hyrbid you’re used to that. It’s a lot larger than I expected, the same as any other car. Mr. Beale drives an Altima and I’d say they’re about comparable. It drives pretty much the same as any other car, save some interesting electronic shifting and a push-button start.

The strangest thing about the Leaf is that it’s so quiet, they’ve actually had to add a speaker that emits engine noise at speeds lower than 18 mph to alert pedestrians a car is coming. I find that odd, and hope some day in the future pedestrians will have been conditioned to watch out for automobiles, not just listen for them.

But at the same time, the car is rather extraordinary. No tail pipe. No oil changes. No gas stations. This is quite revolutionary and I can see why Koch-types are scared. But it’s also the wave of the future. In 20 years every car will be an EV, it’s inevitable. Mark my words.

The Belly Of The Beast

Best Reason Yet To Buy A Leaf

The Famous Lithium Ion Battery

The Home Charging Station
(With Totally "Confusing" Logo)

Note: I'm not on Nissan's payroll, do not own stock in Nissan, and in no way do I have any financial or other connection to Nissan. I'm just a big believer in the EV revolution. Thought I should make that clear.