Nissan turns new Leaf over to test drivers

Nissan turns new Leaf over to test drivers

January 16th, 2010 by Brittany Cofer in Green

Staff photo by Matt Fields-Johnson/Chattanooga Times Free Press Nissan presents the electric Leaf car at the Tennessee Pavilion on Friday afternoon.

Staff photo by Matt Fields-Johnson/Chattanooga Times Free Press...

"Quiet" was the buzzword as Chattanoogans got a sneak peek at Nissan's first zero emissions, all-electric vehicle.

"It was very, very super quiet and easy to drive," said Heidi Chapin, of Chattanooga, who test drove the car Friday during a demonstration at the First Tennessee Pavilion.

"There wasn't anything that I noticed that was different than driving a normal car," she said.

About 100 people were there to see Nissan North America unveil its Leaf vehicle, which hits the market this year.

Chattanooga is among 11 cities in five states that will build and test charging stations for the car through a $99.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

"There's not a car right now in the mass-marketing form that is a pure electric vehicle," said Darryll Harrison, manager of corporate communications for Nissan. "You don't have to go to a gas station at all for this car, you just plug it in."

The five-door hatchback can seat five and reach speeds up to 90 mph. A lithium-ion battery pack will power the car for 100 miles when fully charged.

Testing will start this spring on solar-assisted charging stations for the vehicle, according to a Tennessee Valley Authority news release.

TVA, the Electric Power Research Institute and Oak Ridge National Laboratory will test prototypes for three to six months before building additional stations in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville over the next few years, the release states.

Mark Perry, director of product planning for Nissan, said final location decisions should be made within two months in the three cities.

Owners can plug the cars into 110-, 220- or 440-volt lines. Charging times range from 26 minutes to up to 16 hours, depending on the voltage.

Several of the people who tested the car Friday said they were impressed, but John Niemeyer, a Chickamauga, Ga., resident and member of the Chattanooga Engineers Club, said the driving range would be the top factor if he considered buying the car.


* 2,500: Number of charging stations expected in Tennessee

* 11: Cities that got grants for charging stations

* $7,500: Per-purchaser subsidy for Leaf buyers

"It kind of limits (your driving), because if you know it's a 100-mile range, you're not going to drive 100 miles," Mr. Niemeyer said. "So you'll have to be very careful about planning your trips."

Terry Nelson, of Soddy-Daisy, said he commutes 42 miles to work, so he wants to make sure each charge will actually deliver 100 miles.

Mr. Nelson drives a Honda Civic Hybrid now and likes hybrids.

"There's less upkeep. You have no oil changes in these cars and you won't have to buy fuel," he said. "So that's going to save a lot of money in maintenance and upkeep."