Attempting to Test Drive the Nissan Leaf


 Jeff with his one kilowatt array 

Is the Nissan Leaf as green as it sounds? Or is it just a smokescreen, similar to the Chevy Volt? Since our local Nissan dealer had one in the showroom, we decided to test this highly touted car, and see for ourselves if the buzz was warranted.

On paper, and in reality, the Volt concept displays one major flaw. Having lived off-grid for over nine years, I know a little about the subject of which I speak. The design defect with the Volt is the fact that one energy source is converted to another to drive the car most of the time. After the approximate 35 mile initial range on batteries, a gasoline engine engages to recharge the battery pack. Above the 35 miles on a continuous longer trip, the gas engine charges the battery and electricity drives the vehicle. Any engineer will tell you that this extra conversion step introduces losses in efficiency. A strictly electric car is inherently more efficient.

Enter the Leaf. This car sounds great on paper, if it will perform as advertised. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to find the answer to that question. Not being engineers, we will attempt to find an answer, and explain it so that regular folks can understand.

Update: We contacted our local Nissan dealer August 19, 2011, to inquire about a Leaf test drive. Their response was that no one had test driven the Leaf since it had been there. We could drive it, but only in the parking lot. The salesman I bought a truck from in 2005 revealed that if he went along, we could probably get away with a spin around the “block.” My response was that this was unacceptable. I wanted to drive this vehicle for at least 30 miles, which should be about 30 percent of it’s advertised range. I wanted to “test” this vehicle, and a spin around the parking lot would tell me very little. I was informed that my 30 mile test drive would be impossible.

The dealer next expressed concerns about my release of proprietary information through photos. I agreed to allow them to screen the article photos because I did not want to disseminate any info of this type. They also had reservations about my giving the vehicle negative publicity. I informed them that my goal was to promote the vehicle. I discussed with them my opinions about the Chevy Volt and Leaf, with the Leaf being the better vehicle, hands down.

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