Environment

Nissan Leaf -- an Electric Car that Sends You Text Messages

| by NRDC

By Osha Gray Davidson

Yes, it's true. The Nissan Leaf all-electric car can guilt-trip you via text message if you don't remember to feed it at night. Don't worry, though. You can retaliate the next morning with a text command: "Wake up, lazy car, and start the danged heater.

Actually, the mood thing is entirely up to you. You create the text messages that come from the car and the ones sent to activite specific functions, such as the heater.

While the Leaf's cool-factor could easily crowd out more basic features -- such as handling, ease-of-use and cost -- Nissan's first electric vehicle (EV) is designed to appeal to the American market even without the bells and whistles.

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As Nissan executive Carlos Tavares told BNET's Jim Motavalli, "Three things converge nicely," in the United States. "Americans commute a limited number of miles, there are a lot of families with more than one car, plus there are many garages for charging at night."

With an estimated range of 100 miles between charges, the Leaf should handle most commutes with ease. Charging shouldn't be a problem, especially in the test markets where 5,000 Nissan Leaf cars will be sold starting this fall. Nissan partner eTec is already installing charging stations in Oregon, Washington, California, Tennessee and Arizona. (With the help of a $98 million grant from the Department of Energy).

Nissan is a bit coy about the sticker price. When I asked a company representative, I was told that the Leaf will cost about as much as a similar non-EV car. That still leaves a fairly large range to guess at, between $25,000 to $45,000.

I test drove a Leaf recently and came away impressed. The rapid acceleration takes some getting use to, primarily because there is no accompanying "V-a-r-o-o-o-m" to put your speed in context. I hadn't realized how dependent I was on sound for gauging speed. (It's a good thing the Leaf doesn't come with a stick-shift!).

Hannah Bradbeer had also come out to test drive the Leaf. She liked how responsive the car was.

"There are all these theories that [EVs] won't accelerate," she said, "but this does great!"

In fact, according to Nissan, the Leaf can go from zero to 60 mph in ten seconds. (But, don't expect to get anywhere close to 100-miles-per-charge with jack-rabbit starts like that).

Bradbeer's favorite part?

"Well, I really like the idea of being able to free yourself from the oil companies," she said and laughed gleefully at the thought.

She also liked that the Leaf can hold five passengers comfortably and has mounting posts in back for three children's seats.

One of my favorite touches is the built-in solar panel on the roof, towards the back of the car. You won't get any extra mileage out of the electricity it produces, but it will recharge the 12-volt battery that powers all the accessories.

So, if you ignore the text message the night before reminding you to plug in the Leaf, the car will still have enough juice in the morning to text you:

You didn't feed me and I died. Thanks. %-(