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Old 06-17-2012, 11:38 AM   #1 (permalink)
Daox
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Got to drive a Nissan Leaf

The other day I had the joy of checking out and driving a Nissan Leaf. A member of the Milwaukee hybrid group mentioned that he was about to take delivery of one, so of course I bugged him about coming out to take a look at it. I had never seen one up close, only on a platform at an auto show. So, we setup a time and I went over to his house the other night. We talked for a while in his driveway going over the car and then we jumped in and took it for a spin.

Now, I've driven and ridden in a few EVs. I have a plugin kit for my Prius and run around in EV mode quite a bit. But, my first and strongest reaction was still 'wow, its quiet'. You hear a bit of whir from what I'm assuming is probably just bearings, and that is it. There is no Curtis controller frequency whine, there is no whine from a gearbox like the Prius has (Leaf is direct drive, one speed), there really isn't even any significant wind or road noise at the top speed of 55 mph that we had the car up to. Its almost like engine off coasting at 25 mph with your normal car, but its like that all the time.

As we strolled around I was shown the instrument gauges and what they did. MetroMPG specifically asked me to tell what does the car gives you for efficiency feedback, aka what kind of mpg gauge it has. It does give you some feedback, but not a ton, and its kind of in an odd metric too. But, it does give you a miles per kWh reading. Its not the normal Wh/mile that most EV guys use to calculate things, but its not too hard to convert over. Our not too long jaunt around I think we had it mostly around 5.4 Mi/kWh which is a pretty impressive 185 Wh/mile. We did not spend much time at highway speeds though so this makes sense.

The next major thing I noticed were the headlights. They do stick up quite a bit and as I mentioned above they really do their job of eliminating rear view mirror aero noise well. I've seen lots of pics of the Leaf, but I never noticed just how far they stick up until I saw it in person up close.



Other than that I saw the normal aeromods done to the car, spats in front of the wheels, stuff like that. It also has a pretty nice bellypan on it as shown above. I do think that the lower grill (there is no upper so thats a plus) is massively oversized. My Prius runs around with less than half the grill opening and does just fine. For an all electric I'm sure that it can be blocked off quite a bit if one is looking to improve efficiency a bit more.



Lets see, other impressions. Ah yes, the trunk. Why did they have to make it so oddly shaped? This is probably my only gripe/dislike about the car. I think they could have organized the batteries a bit better here. While the Leaf does have fold flat seats and I'm pretty sure they fold flat with that fairly large hump (which is made of batteries), its just a weird trunk layout. I prefer what Toyota did with the Prius where it has the battery hump there, but its not quite as high and they put a lid so its all level in the back.

So, lastly but not least. My driving impressions. After asking a million questions, the owner asked if I wanted to drive and I even waited until he came to a complete stop before jumping out and running around the vehicle. I've been working on my self control. So, really it drives great. I didn't push the vehicle or throw it into any corners, just drove it like I normally would a car (maybe a little heavy on the go pedal in one or two places). Its quick off the line, but its hard to tell. There isn't the usual feedback (noise) to tell that you really are accelerating quite quickly. Road feel is great, the power steering isn't too heavy or light. Go pedal doesn't feel odd and its not hard to get a feel for it. Regen braking is as expected superior to the Prius. With the larger pack you can shove a lot more power back into it. But, if you're going faster than you think, which is really easy when you don't have noises to clue you in, you can still engage the physical brakes.

Overall I think it really is a great car. I look forward to a few years passing so I can consider one after the prices have hopefully come down.

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mechman600 (06-17-2012), MetroMPG (06-17-2012), NeilBlanchard (06-18-2012)