Monday, October 25, 2010

Nissan Leaf - 116 miles with the A/C on!!

A new report from Engadget - very encouraging:

Nissan Leaf goes 116.1 miles in first anecdotal test, with the air conditioning on

If there's one thing we've learned from years of toying with technology, it's never to believe a manufacturer's estimate regarding battery life, but it seems like the estimates Nissan provided for itsLeaf electric car may not be too far off the mark. Though the vehicle obviously isn't getting 367 miles to its non-existent gallon, PluginCars did manage to eke out a solid 116.1 miles in the car's first anecdotal test, and all they had to do to go the distance was drive casually and slightly below the speed limit -- "It wasn't like I was driving like an obsessed hypermiler," said the driver, who spent most of the trip with the A/C blasting cold. Nissan recently revised their range estimates for the Leaf to anywhere from 62 to 138 miles depending on speed and weather conditions, so 116.1 is a pretty solid run, but until those charging stations permeate the countryside, we're still going to take the ol' gas-guzzler on our road trips.

And from an interesting article in Popular Mechanics, 10 things you didn't know about the Leaf:

#10: It's Made From Recycled Water Bottles
In fact, 60 percent of the plastic on the Leaf's interior is already recycled material—much of it comes from used water bottles—and at the end of the Leaf's lifespan, 99 percent of the 3375-pound vehicle weight is recyclable and can be transformed back into water bottles or other Leafs. 
#9: The Batteries Have a 100,000-Mile Warranty
Of course, all batteries degrade over time, but the Leaf's lithium-ion pack comes with an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty. According to Nissan's estimates, even after a decade of use, the Leaf's batteries will likely maintain 70 to 80 percent of their capacity. The company also points out that since lithium doesn't chemically change over time, the batteries are completely recyclable. 
#8: The Headlights Actually Make It Quieter
Even some of the Leaf's exterior components serve dual roles. The LED headlights not only illuminate the road using half the energy of halogens; their winged shape actually directs air away from the side mirrors (an innovation Nissan is currently attempting to patent) to reduce interior noise, which is whisper-quiet even at highway speeds. The Leaf is quieter than most luxury cars inside the cabin—so quiet, Nissan had to engineer new windshield-wiper motors. Apparently, the drone of internal combustion engines covers the noise made by normal wiper motors. 
#7: It Gets an 80 Percent Charge in a Half-hour
Ten years ago, Nissan was selling a lithium-battery-powered car in Japan called the Hypermini. With lessons learned, the Leaf's batteries have twice the energy density (the battery power is rated at over 90 kw, with a capacity of 24 kilowatt-hours) and are less expensive to produce, thanks to the use of manganese electrodes. Using a single-phase 200-volt, 15-amp power supply, the batteries can be fully charged within eight hours using a 220-volt outlet, or about twice as long if you plug into 110. Using a three-phase, quick-charging station, the Leaf can attain an 80 percent charge in just 30 minutes. 
#6: The Leaf Can Text You
The Leaf can communicate with the owner's cell phone using an e-mail-based system that manages the charging system. It will notify you when the batteries are charged, at which point you can control the air-conditioning system so the cabin reaches a specified temperature before you get in the car. It will also notify you by text message if charging is interrupted, which alleviates the need to physically baby-sit the charging station or stare at an extension cord for hours on end. 
#5: The Nav System Displays Your Reachable Area in Real Time
The standard navigation system displays the range in graphic form, with a halo around the car's current location, which provides a visual estimate of how much farther you can go before recharging. The navigation system is in regular communication with Nissan's databases using satellite networks, and displays nearby charging stations on the screen. 
#4: It Can Go 95 Miles per Hour
The instant we hit the highway, we throttled the Leaf up to its top speed, which is supposedly electronically limited to 90 mph. The digital speedometer read 95, at which speed the range estimate began dropping a mile every few seconds, which makes speed thrilling for an entirely different reason (this is why GM has coined the term range anxiety). We did not have enough time, or unpatrolled highway, to verify the Leaf's range under these conditions, but would guess that it might go 20 miles at full speed. 
#3: The Leaf Tells You How to Drive
"Turn off Climate Control for +10 miles," the energy menu advised us. Heeding this suggestion (in part because the outside temperature wasn't uncomfortably warm), we canceled the air conditioning, switched on the vents, and watched the range estimate jump from 70 to 80 miles. 
#2: Operating Cost Per Mile: $0.03
A car with an internal combustion engine that gets 25 mpg will require $1,800 in gasoline (at $3 per gallon) over a year of driving (15,000 miles), which works out to $0.12 per mile. The Leaf can be programmed to start charging in the wee hours, when off-peak electric rates apply—a feature that makes consumption economical. At $0.11 per kwh, the Leaf costs $0.026 per mile to operate, or $396 for 15,000 miles—a savings of about $1,400 (per year). 
#1: The Bottom Bottom Line? $19,280
Starting at $25,280 (after a $7,500 federal rebate), the Leaf costs less than the average new car sold in America. In addition, some states offer extra incentives. For instance, California offers a $5,000 clean-vehicle rebate, and Colorado residents are eligible to receive an additional $6,000 tax credit, which brings the price tag down to $19,280. Even for $26,000, the Leaf is a lot of car. Try outfitting a Toyota Prius with a navigation system and satellite radio, and you're pushing $30,000. Lessees can cash in immediately with a government-subvented lease deal of $349 per month (in which case Nissan's financial subsidiary takes the refund). 

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