The 2011 Nissan Leaf is the first of several battery vehicles from the Japanese maker.
Automakers, by nature, tend to be a risk-averse group. No surprise considering a major new vehicle program can quickly run costs up to a billion dollars or more.
Yet, Nissan is putting plenty on the line as it gets ready to roll out its first battery-electric vehicle, or BEV, the 2011 Leaf. Not just money, but prestige, with CEO Carlos Ghosn’s own reputation on the line as he personally champions the breakthrough battery car.
Will the 2011 Nissan Leaf live up to expectations as the first purely battery-driven automobile to meet the needs of the typical American motorist, rather than tech-crazy “first adopters” and enviro-addicts willing to opt for anything promoted as green? To find out, we jumped at the change to drive the new BEV, which Nissan had waiting for us at its technical center in suburban Detroit.
It takes only a quick glimpse to recognize the Leaf isn’t your everyday automobile. Like Toyota, with the popular Prius, Nissan has opted for a unique – and distinctive – design that will blare out, “I’m different,” as it rolls by.
Now, that’s not just to let owners easily show off their environmentalist bona fides. There’s a practical purpose to the sweeping lines of the 2011 Nissan Leaf. Minimizing aerodynamic resistance has yielded a significant bump in the BEV’s range and improved performance as well, the maker claims. It also has advantages when it comes to creature comfort.
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In the plus column when it comes to electric vehicles is their naturally quiet nature. You don’t have a big internal combustion engine roaring away directly in front of you. But that creates what some call the “stumps in the swap syndrome.” All the little tics and pops that are normally masked by the IC engine are suddenly quite apparent.